By Myra Lewin
I speak with a lot of people about the value of a daily meditation practice. Much of the time I get an initial response of, “I just can’t turn off my head.” My response: This is exactly the reason you need meditation. From this place, you can begin to connect with your heart.
Humans have the powerful ability to think and reason, and some valuable results come from this. For instance, my ability to share the teachings of Yoga and Ayurveda with thousands of people around the world happens because many people used the power of thought and reason to create the Internet. But while the Internet was created with the mind, the connection that we experience from my screen to yours would not be possible without the heart.
On the surface it may seem that the head and the heart are two opposing entities. In fact, they are meant to work in concert with one another. The head is logic and analysis. The heart is universal love and peace. In Ayurveda, we know that opposite qualities bring balance, so when we are balanced in using the head and the heart, we can move into magnificence. The challenge comes from the notion that modern society demands that we guide our lives from the head alone and ignore the heart’s teachings. This leads to anxiety, fear and mindless action.
Yoga offers us meditation, asana and pranayama to open our hearts and give our heads a break. We refer to them as practices – that means you aren’t expected to perfect them on the first try. If you find yourself thinking otherwise, you’re doing just that – thinking. Don’t let the mind’s fear of failure keep you from having a playful attitude toward your practice. Lead with your heart here and it will soon become second nature in other aspects of your life. To get started, work with a heart-opening backbend, like ustrasana preparation.
In Ayurveda, overthinking is a sign of excess pitta dosha. Pitta’s fire essence is responsible for transforming worldly experiences in the same way it contributes to digesting your food. When pitta is in balance, you can see the positive aspects of the head – organization, efficient approaches and greater awareness in your daily actions. If you experience the negative side of the head – irritability, an inability to stop thinking or a desire to control outcomes – it's time to calm pitta by eating foods with a cooling nature (try this recipe for cooling adzuki beans) and enjoying pleasant experiences, such as gentle walks at dusk or enjoying a vase of fresh flowers on your desk. By relishing in the beautiful things in the world, you will create a stronger connection to your heart and let your head take its place in the passenger seat.
The next time you sit down for your practice, whether it is meditation, asana, pranayama or simply preparing a delicious Ayurvedic meal, take a few moments and be in appreciation for your life. Even if things are not going the way you had hoped, you can be grateful for having access to the powerful teachings of Ayurveda and Yoga so that you can shift your life in the direction you would like to go. This practice of gratitude will allow you to move out of the scarcity and fear in the head and into the abundance and joy of the heart.