Simple Living and High Thinking: Less is More, tips for a healthy and peaceful life
In modern society there is not only a push to do more and achieve more, but a constant bombardment from media to consume more. This is taught by media images and advertisements showing that external consumption of material things will give you greater happiness and peace of mind. However, the truth that the yogis teach is that the way to true inner peace has nothing to do with things on the outside, nor what you accomplish, achieve, obtain or even from what you do. Instead the yogis teach that being in touch with the essence of you are, the inner most Self is the key to inner and lasting peace. This can be realized with a few simple steps a day, practicing some simple yogic tools to connect with our true nature. It is in connection with this part of us of that we can experience the simplicity of just ‘being’.
Swami Vishudevananda, who started the Sivananda Yoga centers and ashrams in the USA said “It is impossible to find peace outside, if you want to find peace you have to look for peace where it is; if you want to find peace you must first of all find it within.” And he said, “If you find this peace within, you will also find it outside. So if you want to have external peace, find, first of all, the peace within.” His Guru Sivananda says “to achieve that state of lasting happiness and absolute peace, we must first know how to calm the mind, to concentrate and go beyond the mind. By turning the mind’s concentration inward, upon the self, we can deepen that experience of perfect concentration. This is the state of Meditation.”
To sit and do nothing but observe the breath, perhaps a sound (mantra) or other tools to calm the mind, brings so many benefits and it is so simple, that many people overlook it and seek external ways to find peace. When you start to meditate, and sit still even a few minutes a day, you may see that truly ‘less is more’ as the joy and peace is obtained not in the ‘doing’ but by the ‘being’ of your true nature. To make your life more simple and create a few more minutes a day to meditate and ‘be’ with your innermost Self you can follow some basic ideas from the yogic way of living.
What is Yoga anyway? Yoga or “union” is an ancient science to help us reach a greater connection with ourselves and the world around us. Yoga includes postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), chanting, relaxation, meditation, nonviolent actions and diet (vegetarian) and healthy, balanced eating and living. Even trying small steps towards greater health and balance in each of these areas can impact your day and life in large ways. Everyone can benefit from yoga as yoga can be modified to suit your needs. The benefits are numerous ranging from pain relief to peace of mind.
A simple way to think of it is that yoga can be summarized as a full lifestyle including 5 main points. “Swami Vishnudevananda condensed the essence of the yoga teachings into five principles for physical and mental health as well as spiritual growth.”
Proper Exercises – asana
Proper Breathing – pranayama
Proper Relaxation – savasana
Proper Diet – vegetarian
Positive Thinking and Meditation (dhyana)
Taking these five principals for a holistic yogic lifestyle for inner peace, outer health and harmony with the animals and earth plus a few other ideas will bring more simplicity, more peace and great harmony to your day.
Try these 10 ideas to simplify your life:
Proper Exercise: Each day do a little bit of exercise (yoga, tai chi, qi gong, swimming, walking, etc.) It is better to practice yoga or tai chi for example 15 minutes day than waiting until your weekend or holiday schedule allows a full hour class or practice time. Modify your routines for exercise so it works for your schedule but try to keep it simple, and be consistent.
Proper Breathing The yogis give techniques for breathing for specific effects such as increasing energy, or calming the mind. There are so many practices but if you just start out by simply paying attention to the breath, or even taking a few slow deep breaths a day, the most simple thing we can do without needing to change our environment, that is a great start. Also when we slow the breath the down, the parasympathetic nervous system is activate, which is the opposite of the ‘fight or flight” response we have when we are under stress.
Proper Relaxation The yogis gives tools for deep conscious relaxation (often done after yoga postures), but you can even practice relaxation during a lunch break, while sitting on a bench or if you don’t’ have time in the day, then spending a few minutes at night to be conscious of the relaxation process before you go to sleep. You can simply watch the muscles in your body relax one by one as you bring awareness to each part of the body. Then observe the breath. Allow the mind and body to unwind and relax deeply.
Proper Diet: The yogis have taught that there is no need to harm any living being, including the animals. A simple plant based diet, including fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains does not harm the animals, nor our health and is best for the earth as well. It is so simple to prepare fresh salads and steamed vegetables with rice. Simple eating is easier as well on the digestive track.
Positive Thinking It takes no time at all to change a thought. When you realize your mind is too busy or being negative, you can try the yogic technique called prakti paksha bhavana where you replace a negative thought with a positive one. You can choose which thought to focus on when you meditate as well. “Everything that happens in your mind is reflected in your body” says the yoga master T.K.V. Desikachar
Meditation Sitting in silence a few minutes or more a day allows the mind to settle, the body to relax and creates a better sense of well being. Even when life is hectic and busy, allowing a few minutes a day to just ‘be’ is so useful for the immune system, the mind to gain clarity and the body to relax and restore energy. Keep it simple. Find a quiet place in your home or outside to just pause, sit and observe the breath. Allow the thoughts to come and go. Over time the mind will get more quiet and peaceful.
Proper Sleep Each day get proper sleep and rest. The amount of hours needed will vary for each person but to create a soothing nighttime ritual may allow for deeper sleep. A nighttime ritual can include herbal tea, or reading a yoga book at night instead of tv or internet that may create disturbance in the mind or emotions.
Take time away from cell phones and computers. Unplug from technology each day: Although cell phones, internet and modern technology in a way are designed to make our life’s more efficient, and even easier, they often become more of a distraction from the present moment or being with other people and noticing our surroundings. Each time you go to exercise, before bedtime or when you first wake up, try to take some time to be with your breath, body and surroundings and take a break from the computers and cell phones.
Let go of things you don’t need: A simple and zen like environment will help the mind focus and be more at peace. Try to get rid of clothes you don’t need, donating them to a local homeless shelter and books you no longer want by donating them as well. See what you can let go of to create more room for simplicity in your home, office and life. This includes not only our material belongings that you no longer want or use, but excess thoughts that no longer serve your greater good and inner peace. When we let go of the old, we make room for the new.
Spend time in nature: Nature is healing and brings so much joy. Watching the birds, feeling the sunshine on your face and enjoying the change of seasons is so simple, yet we are often so busy in our minds that we overlook it. In fact physicians in San Francisco and other areas are now prescribing park time to patients. Each day find some time to breath in the fresh air. This can be while you walk to your car, to work, or if time allows when taking a walk through a park or on a beach. Even if you are unable to get outside, you can take 3 slow deep breaths right where you are and notice the trees and sky outside and come back to the present moment. Feel your body, as you inhale and relax the mind as you exhale.
Joy is within: Go within to find joy, peace instead of finding it on the outside. It is much more simple to sit a few minutes in silence, to notice the breath or enjoy a walk outside than it is to need an external way to find the peace. When you tap in to the peace within, it is always there to return to. Regardless of your circumstances, relationships and outer world, the mind can always rest on the breath.
Here is a little song of theYoga of Synthesis for daily practice from Swami Sivananda:
Eat a little, drink a little,
Talk a little, sleep a little,
Mix a little, move a little,
Serve a little, rest a little
Work a little, relax a little,
Study a little, worship a little,
Do Asanas (yoga postures) a little, Pranayamas (yogic breathing exercises) a little,
Reflect a little, Meditate a little,
Do Japa (mantra repetition) a little, do Kirtan (devotional chanting) a little,
Write Mantra a little, have Satsanga (gathering of spiritually like minded people) a little.
Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize.
Be Good, Do good; Be kind, Be compassionate.
Enquire ‘Who am I?’ Know the Self and be Free.
Author Bio: Stacie Dooreck, is a yoga a instructor since 1995 and owner of SunLight Yoga (onsite wellness programs at work ), author and creator of SunLight Chair Yoga: yoga for everyone! books and teacher trainings. She is also a lifelong vegetarian, and daily meditator. www.sunlightyoga.com