- By Sw Yogatirthananda Saraswati, From YogaMag (Nov 2001)
After the hard month of sincerity I was looking forward to an easy time with simplicity. In regard to the previous ITIES simplicity meant not to complicate or overdo the study and practice of the ITIES. Simplicity implies spontaneity.
Simplicity in regard to life itself meant a simple yogic lifestyle - I use italics as it is such a wide concept. I think I do lead a simple life, trying to do with the minimum of consumer goods required in Western Europe and by a teenage son.
I do consider myself a simple-minded person. My interaction with people is spontaneous and honest. If it gets complicated, I withdraw. So with this view of myself and the lifestyle I lead, I was very confident about the month of simplicity.
Yet, as I soon found out, the test was not to be simple, as comes easily to my nature, but the challenge was to live up to the reactions of others. Simplicity in our society is equal to stupidity. It takes great humility to accept the mockery and sneers with which simplicity is met in the world today. Scheming and doing things in a twisted way is the more accepted way of interacting. At work, I realized that simple, unpretentious interaction is considered as silly or even stupid behaviour. Gossip, behind-the-back plotting and manoeuvring are the tricks and methods that are accepted, highly regarded and rewarded.
The test for me therefore was to keep on being simple, and above all to accept in all humility the judgement of others. Not wanting fortune or fame, or career or a smart car is an attitude that is considered by many as downright stupid. I got hurt, laughed at in many ways, taken advantage of without even noticing because I did not know the game that was being played, or if I did, I refused to play it.
So, the month of simplicity was anything but easy. It was the first time I had to defend quietly an ITY in the face of the social environment I live in. It was a painful experience and an incredible challenge to humility. I could see that for others a month of simplicity might be completely different, might imply giving up ambitions, cutting down on luxuries, relating more frankly with friends and colleagues.
For me it meant upholding an idea, an ITY, I believe in. Of course, this is based on the values and priorities I have set in my life. Simplicity is one of these values, and at the same time living simply gives me space and time to work on other values. Simplicity is an incredible energy-saving and stress-preventing ITY.
- By Sannyasi Shivani Howe
As we fully come into the depths of Winter I wanted to share with you a few thoughts on Self-care. Firstly defining what Self-care is: Self-care how we care for ourselves, not how we get others to care for us. This takes a high degree of self-awareness, kindness and a fierce commitment and responsibility to our own health; mental, emotional and physical.
Self-care means creating a life where we care about and prioritize (!) what is going on inside of us, and take responsibility for how we are contributing to the health and well-being of the world around us. So Self-care is really an aspect of LIVING Yoga.
Sometimes, even if we have been blessed enough to create a life where we love what we do, and are financially supported to do what we love, (as I hope most Yoga teachers out there feel) it’s still important to recognize that feeling burnt out and tapped are a very real experiences. These feelings are great signposts that we are no longer living in the flow of Divine will. The reality is that, if we are not strong, healthy and connected with our cup runneth over then, we don’t have a lot to offer the community.
The key is to learn to pick up on our subconscious cues early so we can make small adjustments to our day and routines to help us stay on track. As opposed to waiting until we are frayed at the seams and about to crack before we take a step back and recalibrate. It’s all about moment-to-moment awareness and adjustments. The little efforts add up considerably and when put together create a Sattvic lifestyle.
This means having a toolbox that we can refer to to help recalibrate, and reorientate our internal world to a state of harmony so that we can hold that space effectively in the community.
Here are a few gems in my toolbox that keep me inspired, present, my eye on the light and my cup overflowing.
MOUNA - By far this is one of the most profound and strongly recalibrating practices I have ever practised as a Yogini. Challenging if you have small children, but it's more about prioritizing it than making excuses. 2 hours. 4 hours. 6 hours. Block it off. Prioritize it, prioritize YOU. No books. No phones. No social media. No talking. (obviously Mouna is much more than no talking but let’s start small ) - IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE and literally changed my functional paradigm, especially if I can block off more than 6 hours. Not an easy practice, but nothing fills my cup faster.
UP BEFORE DAWN - Even if it is 10 mins before the sun rises, stepping into my day while it’s still dark outside is a real gift. To have the first light be a candle of remembrance and mantra rather than the blue rectangle of my phone is imperative to my mental health.
STARTING MY DAY WITH AJAPAJAPA or internal MANTRA - I’m not much of morning person. I love the mornings but I’m not always a big fan of other people in my mornings. So starting my day with my first words to be in gratitude to the Divine through mantra is really important for my orientation. My first words really need to be “Akhand-Mandalakaram” and not “Must have coffee”.
PUT THE PHONE AWAY - Seriously. It sounds do-able until I go to do it. Then I remember someone who is supposed to call, an email that I forgot to do three days ago… All of these things are Vata high (too much mental stimulation and anxiety - not enough grounding or presence) I try and keep my phone on silent or do not disturb outside of regular business hours. I love the practice of leaving my phone in the kitchen so that I can’t keep checking the time in the middle of the night or reading the online newspaper as I am known to do at 3am.
BALANCE THE WANT-TOS AND THE OUGHT-TO’S - Hopefully we are able to create a life where the ought to's and the want-to’s are one and the same. But even though I absolutely love what I do, sometimes even teaching feels like an ought to rather than a want-to. And this is my alarm bell that its time for some self-care.
Once we have established a baseline of Sattva (and I mean established - so that our wants are not just Swadhisthana self-sabotage desires holding us in Avidya) Our want-to’s will actually be showing us what we need to do to come back into balance and health so that we can serve.
And lastly, about four times a year I like to GET BORED. That’s right - I strip away any activity (sometimes I can combine this with a Mouna practice). No clocks, books, obligations, or plans. No cleaning. Just sit there. No chores. No hiking/forest walks. Nothing. I go outside, if I can, until I get utterly bored. So bored that cleaning or chopping wood or some other ought-to seems appealing. THAT’S when I know I have been reset, that my cup is full and I’m ready to serve.
I hope that some of these tools will also help you prioritize your self-care.
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