"One should cultivate and practice those skills that ensure health,
rather than fall victim to those that perpetuate disease.”
--Swami Rama of the Himalayas
It is a challenge choosing a healing and wellness lifestyle in our current culture. All around us we are encouraged to live in the fast lane, to eat the latest bacon-beef and cheese sandwiches marketed on television, to stop at the local ice cream parlor for an after-dinner snack, or to stay up late watching the latest thrilling, suspense movie. When we feel sluggish, we drink a caffeinated beverage to keep us going. When we are hungry and in a hurry to a meeting or to get the kids to sports practices, we enjoy a fast-food, fat-laden meal in the car.
Science is starting to learn that the hectic, stress-filled way of life creates inflammation and chronic unhealthy conditions in our lives. Because of this lifestyle, we have developed lifestyle habits that nudge us closer to dis-ease with ourselves, our bodies, our family and friends.
It is a challenge to move against these old life patterns that eventually weaken our immune system
s and overwork our digestive systems, our nervous systems, and our minds.
Swami Rama, whose mission was to bring the Yogic and Ayurvedic sciences of the East and the medical, psychological and social sciences of the West together, urging us to slow ourselves down and take note of the way we are living today.
The Yoga Tradition asks us to cultivate the soil of our bodies, minds and spirits so that we can live happy, joyful lives for the extent of our time here on earth. When we make the body and the mind a location for joy and happiness, we are maki
ng ourselves healthy and whole. The interesting thing is that all of us knows exactly what is good for us. We all know what we should do because our “inner voice” or conscience constantly prompts us to eat what is good for our bodies—not highly sugared or fattened and not just what our taste buds desire at the moment. Our mind periodically also tells most of us to slow down or rest a while. However, usually we fail to listen closely to those inner promptings. We forge ahead in our old patterns, following our usual desires for convenience, pleasure and stimulation.
There’s a real spiritual danger in ignoring our consciences. Sooner or later, the inner voice of the Divine speaks softer and softer until it stops talking. When that happens our spirit within takes charge of our physical and/or our mental lives by making us sick. We have no choice but to slow down. Our spirit wants to live, and it realizes that if we continue on the path we are on, we will end up destroying the temple of our spirit sooner than was originally planned for us. We might even have to live in a very painful, disease-ridden state, just to continue living. We develop a chronic disease which makes us suffer until our earthly life ends.
According to the Himalayan Yoga Tradition, this life journey does not have to happen. The disease or chronic condition that we experience is not just attributable to our genetic tendencies. The Yoga Tradition says that there is one skill that is the foundation of all the wellness practices and skills. It is the skill of listening and responding to our inner voice. It will tell us what is good for us. Cultivating that voice within will push us to developing other necessary skills like proper eating, proper sleeping, and proper exercising , to sustain our lives. We will slowly begin to manifest those lifestyle skills that will bring us to a life filled with the gusto and energy—gusto and energy that comes from our spirit within. We will experience the zest-filled sap of life, called “ojas,” that we fed on and maintained us in our younger years.
So, how do we cultivate our skill to listen and respond to our divine inner voice, called the “buddhi?” We start by taking a 10-minute break after we get up in the morning and pay attention to our mental chatter. In the midst of that chatter, we ask ourselves what is one thing that we need to do today that will make us healthy and well. Then, we listen! We go back to the awareness of the breath in our nostrils and allow that answer to fill our mind. We bring the words of that inner response into our body with an inhale and repeat it with our exhale. We continue to focus on the flow of the breath as we hear that inner voice tell us what we need to do.
After a while, this 10-minute practice will enable us to still our mind completely. The clutter of your desires for security, fame, fortune, pleasure start to fade and other inner desires, like peace, love and knowledge of how to eat, sleep and exercise properly, surface. The fruits of those skills grow into total health and wellness.
I pray to the divinity within you!