By Myra Lewin
I recently worked with a woman who had experienced great health all through her life. Yet she had recently begun to experience symptoms associated with menopause -- hot flashes, weight gain and a scattered mind. After talking through her relatively balanced diet and lifestyle, we centered upon one small, but significant factor that was getting in the way of a balanced transition to maturity: an insulated bottle that she always kept filled with ice cold water.
From a distance, drinking out of an insulated bottle seems far too insignificant a factor to cause menopausal symptoms. But cold beverages restrict and weaken agni, digestive fire. Over a few years of using this bottle daily, the ice cold water had reduced her ability to digest food and life experiences. This created dosha imbalance and her health issues.
Many people who experience the healing power of Ayurveda and Yoga are surprised by the simplicity of its remedies. Some of my clients don’t believe me when I tell them that such powerful results can come from drinking room temperature liquids, chewing your food thoroughly, going to sleep on time and maintaining a moderate pace in life. But we’ve been using the simple approach for many years at Hale Pule. The transformations are profound and plentiful.
The expansive power of simplicity
Life has become quite complicated in the past few decades. It seems that most people have forgotten how to be and focus and instead are running from one activity to the next. If this describes you, I pose this question: What do you really want your experience to be in life?
When life is complicated, it becomes difficult to manage. Then comes a sense of overwhelm and exhaustion, followed by confusion about what direction one should really take. There is a different way to live. Ayurveda offers us the art and science to guide us.
The path to healing is a simple one. By scaling back your activity to what is most important, your experience of life will greatly expand. This is where the Ayurvedic concept of dinacharya, or daily routine, is so helpful. By aligning your day to the rhythms of nature (not the rhythms of your job or to-do lists), you can live with greater connection to yourself, the seasons and the world around you.
We have a full post on the life-changing practice of dinacharya, but here is a short overview:
Sticking to a simple daily routine ensures that your priorities don’t get pushed aside by the busy pace of life. It takes the guesswork out of the day and helps you focus on what is most important.
The role of sattva, rajas and tamas
The path of simplicity is sattva, balance and harmony. The path of busy-ness is rajas, activity leading to disturbance. We all need some rajas in life, and when it is pointed in the direction of sattva, it will bring you peace and joy. For instance, rajas is what gets you out of bed in the morning. Rajas is what allows you to cook yourself nourishing Ayurvedic meals. Rajas is present in activities that allow you to express who you really are.
Too much rajas leads to tamas, or inertia and darkness. When rajas is prominent, it looks like running from one activity to the next, focusing on the “next big thing,” over exercising, eating for entertainment or spending a lot of time in stimulating activities and environments. As you expend your energy on activities that serve your ego, you become exhausted, mentally fatigued and ill. At any point in time, all you need to do is turn around and point yourself in the direction of sattva, the light.
When you move away from a life that is defined by what you accomplish and toward one that is defined by how you grow, you start to see that living simply and being present in each moment is far more fulfilling than reaching goals. Slow down and allow your true nature to open up.
Less is more
When you do less, you enjoy more. When you eat more simply, you can become more aware of how different foods affect your body and more easily choose the sattvic food. When you live in a way that honors the rhythm of the day and allows for quiet moments of self-reflection, you will feel more whole. This is what we mean when we say “less is more.”
Strip away complication and make room for sattva. This can come by reducing your belongings to what you truly need, removing unnecessary activities from your day (and, if you have children, simplifying their schedules) or making the commitment to eat freshly cooked food at home more often than you eat in restaurants. It’s not just learning to say “no”; it’s learning to say “yes” to the right things.
This doesn’t have to happen overnight. Make the decision that tomorrow will be simpler than yesterday. Start with a simple, delicious breakfast of steamed bananas. Untangle a complicated Yoga asana practice and focus on a few powerful poses, such as utkatasana, chair pose. Pause in the middle of your day to take three slow, conscious, deep breaths to bring you back to yourself. And find a few quiet moments in the evening to reflect on your day. Though you are doing less, a simple life will bring more rewards than you could ever imagine.