As I mentioned last week, we really begin our journey to happiness by turning up the heat. We accentuate our intensity to feel the fire within our own bodies. This develops our will power and gives us the strength to continue on our spiritual journey.
But just getting hotter and even just working up a sweat is not enough. We need to do the second part of the threefold journey. We need to MIND OURSELVES. What I mean is: WE NEED TO BE MINDFUL OF WHAT IS GOING ON IN OURSELVES, as we intensely practice our breathing, or our yoga postures, or our self-disciplines or even our daily lives. In the yoga tradition, this studying of self is called svadhyaya.
We need to “pay attention” to our body, senses, samskaras (those habits we talked about last week) and “see which aspect of your life is demanding urgent attention,” says my yoga teacher, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait. Is our back hurting this morning? Are our hips sore? Or maybe we feel a bit of congestion in our wrists or ankles? Whatever part of our body seems a bit distraught, as we approach the day, we must “attend to”; we must “mind” our bodies, knowing that they are directly connected to our mind and our spirit. When we notice our bodily “unhappinesses,” we can then respond to them and can begin to do whatever it takes to make them happy again.
How do we make ourselves happy?
Let’s look at the body first and then we can address the rest in a later conversation.
What does it mean to pay attention to our body? It means studying ourselves by attending to what we eat, how we eat, what the proportions of our meals are, what our attitude is when we eat, even the time of day that we eat. We need to “watch” even how we are digesting our food. Even in the mundane sense, are we having a bowel movement every day?
Different foods have different effects on us. What does it feel like to eat a meal of vegetables with fresh lemon juice as the dressing compared to a bratwurst or hamburger and French fries? How do we feel 30 minutes later? Noticing how those different foods affect our alertness and our energy will give us very valuable information.
Also, sleep is an important part of our lives. Paying attention to when we are sleepy gives us valuable information in our decision to rest or sleep or to actively work at fighting the sleepiness. It also may help us decide whether we should just rest and take a nap or drink some caffeinated drink to fight the sleepiness or do some yogic practice like agni sara to energize ourselves. Then using tapas (deciding to develop some will power over the Coke or the Mountain Dew), we bring ourselves to do what could be truly healthy and joyful for the body and its needs.
Studying our interaction with our body is important and will help us become strong and energized followers of our spirit. This will help us on our spiritual journey.