WALK THE MODERN MONASTIC PATH.
We are infinite possibility. Cultivating mindfulness and walking the modern monastic path brings a sense of peace to our lives and helps us live our dharma (meaningful purpose). One of the best ways to find this inner peace is to create positive daily rituals that literally fire neurons together to create new brain maps (neurotags). These maps bolster the release of positive neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin and decrease the release of stress hormones such as cortisol which results in a greater level of contentment. Neurons that fire together wire together, and it is well researched that regular practice of positive rituals, such as expressing gratitude, can have a huge effect on how we think and feel.
Lucky for us, mystics of many traditions have offered us tools and practices to help set our internal rhythms. These tools are simple and available to everyone.
Perhaps of the greatest importance, is setting a regular sleep and rising schedule. In the most traditional yogic sense, the pre-dawn hours are believed to be the most peaceful, or sattvic, time of day. This is considered the easiest time to quiet the mind, and the ideal time for meditation. That said, I also believe that our bodies have their own natural clocks, and if you are more of a night owl you will need to adjust the schedule below to fit your needs.
Regardless of when you wake, consistency of practice is the key to being able to "walk the path." It takes 66 days to make a new habit. But trust me, the reward is worth it the effort.
The following process was originally taught to me by my guru, Baba Harihar Ramji of Sonoma Ashram
- Upon waking, take at least 3 deep breaths calming your heart and gently opening your eyes to the new day. This is an excellent time to say a mantra or express a moment of gratitude.
- Check which nostril is more open and put that foot on the ground first to start the day on the right foot.
- Drink a glass of warm water mixed with juice from half a lemon. This helps alkalize the stomach to prepare for the day. I also like to add fresh ginger to mine to help bring down my regulate any high morning glucose, strengthen my immune system, and to prepare my stomach for food.
- Brush your teeth and clean your tongue with a tongue scraper. Move around straightening your home until you are ready for the toilet. If your digestion is feeling slugglish, try gently rubbing your lower abdomen in circles from right to left to help stimulate peristalsis.
- Do yoga or exercise followed by meditation.
- Dry/Wet Brush & Shower. To save time, I do a wet lymphatic massage in the shower with a sisal mitt. Use long or circular strokes always moving towards the heart to help stimulate the flow of lymph. Begin the process at the feet. When I have extra time I do a dry brush outside the shower, followed by the wet brush technique in the shower.
- Finish with Abhyanga (anointing the body with oil). Sesame oil is the traditional Ayurvedic choice, but I prefer coconut oil. There are many ways to do this, but most texts suggest working from the head down to the feet. Let the oil sink into the skin as you appreciate each part of your body.
- Eat a balanced breakfast.
- Two hours before bedtime make a cup of tea to mark the end of your day and clear your desk. A clear desk equals a clear mind. All that work will be there tomorrow and trust me, you won't forget where you put it. Here are 9 easy steps on how to get it all done.
- Prepare for your next day. Prep all food, pack your bags, get your clothes ready. Take the time to make your morning transition easy.
- Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed time. The blue light that is emitted by most electronics is terrible for melatonin production, and it keeps your mind overly stimulated.
- Take the last hour of your day to bathe, stretch and read a book. My typical evening ritual includes a long bath in magnesium chloride flakes from the Zechstein sea, followed by Abhyanga for the second time and gua sha or jade rolling for my face. Then I roll out my yoga mat and do three Rasamaya moon salutes, ten minutes of postural exercises, and some deep tissue massage using balls, foam rollers, and bands. If time permits I climb in bed and read a book.
- Before falling asleep take a moment to express gratitude. Several years ago my husband and I started a practice we call, "Tell me something lovely." We use it at the end of the day and also when we are going through difficult or disappointing moments in life. The practice is simple.
- Tell me something lovely about your day.
- Tell me something lovely about someone else.
- Tell me something lovely about you.
- Set a calming alarm for the morning, and maybe use an aromatherapy diffuser by your bed. Lavender is always a good choice, but scent is deeply personal.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night don't panic. Some researchers, including myself, believe that if you are truly in touch with nature's rhythms this may be a natural phenomenon called "second sleep."
- Rest Well.
CREATE A SADHANA PRACTICE
IN THE TIPS OF MY FINGERS ARE OPULENCE, WEALTH, AND CREATIVITY.
IN THE PALM OF MY HAND IS WISDOM
IN THE ROOT OF MY HAND IS CREATION
IN SUCH A HAND I COME FACE TO FACE WITH THE DIVINE.
- BABA HARIHAR RAMJI
This prayer was taught to me by my Guru. I have looked at my hands every morning for the last 10 years. To even talk about it makes me tear up, as I have watched the beauty of my hands age and been awestruck by taking the time to notice what they have accomplished. Sadhana translates from Sanskrit as "daily spiritual practice." It is something that you do daily that is simple and can be done regardless of place or circumstance. It serves to be a moment of pause in your life that connects you to something larger than yourself. Maybe you call "that thing" God, inner voice, guiding intuition, or the soul. Whatever "IT" is, creating a sadhana not only offers you daily reminders to stay present, but also can be leaned into during the tough moments as it reminds us to take a deep breath, and recall previous more peaceful times in our life. For me, using my sadhana when my heart is aching reminds me that, "this too shall pass."
Over the years my students have created sadhanas around daily journaling, a single sun salute, lighting a candle, listening to inspirational music, reading a poem or an old letter. It has been transformative for so many of them. Whatever sadhana you choose, keep it simple, and let it's beauty manifest.
HAVE A DAILY, WEEKLY OR MONTHLY INTENTION
The nine core emotions (rasas) lend themselves beautifully to holding a daily, weekly or monthly intention. Every emotion we experience is neither positive or negative, it just exists. Working with an intention helps us to remain present moment, and stay unattached to outcomes in a healthy manner. At Rasamaya we tend to work with one rasa a month making sure to rotate through them all at least once during a year:
Jan, May & Sept - Wonder (Adbhuta Rasa) or Fear (Bhayanaka Rasa)
Feb, June & Oct - Joy (Hasya Rasa) or Disgust (Vibhatsa Rasa)
Mar, July & Nov - Courage (Veera Rasa) or Anger (Raudra Rasa)
Apr, Aug & Dec - Love (Sringara) or Compassion/Sadness (Karuna) or Shanta (Peace)
In my own personal life, I keep a bowl of our Rasamaya Intention bracelets. I normally wear whatever intention we are working with for the month, and then pick a few more randomly and let them serve as my intention for the day.
FIND YOUR OWN BELIEFS & RITUALS
Obviously this topic is loaded and we could devote an entire website to just to this, but this is my top 15 guiding life principles while stumbling down the path. We must search deep inside for our own beliefs, but it may be helpful to try on some of these. Once you define your own core beliefs carry them in your heart with conviction but allow space for them to grow and change. Stay curious.