Mindfulness, whilst a very ‘trending’ word, is one that I have truly been able to harness, appreciate and value since embarking upon my studies in Ayurveda.
We grew up in a home where meditation, pranayama (breathing), yoga, prayer and many rituals were a huge part of our lives. It planted a beautiful seed of seeing it used in practice, daily…despite the chaos of life, it was always the anchor for my Dad and I feel so blessed to watch him in practice and demonstrating such glorious discipline!
I know that in our home, with 2 little boys and our fur-baby, there is a lot of mess, chaos and noise so knowing my Dad did his practices twice a day despite having three children, is very inspiring!
My days, despite all good intention, are not filled with as much routine and structure or for the better word, discipline as what I saw…but definitely #goals to aspire to and definitely motivation to keep trying the next day!
Their place though, became even more understood and revered with my Ayurveda and yoga insights.
Utilising all of our 5 sense organs, are all means by which we can add or incorporate this all-elusive mindfulness into our lives, hearts and homes.
What does it bring to us?
From a scientific perspective, mindfulness can help to re-wire our neural pathways to be more calm and centred; allow us to respond rather than react to stimuli that presents in our life. Dr Joe Dispenza and Jay Shetty are great resources if you want to investigate more into this.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, our whole body and all of life are made up of the 5 basic elements;
Our body’s system associated with movement throughout occurs by our Vata dosha (or energy system) and is comprised or made of the elements air and space.
It is responsible for our nervous system and mainly lower parts of the body, though is present throughout. When it is imbalanced, (or there is Vikruti), which can occur through too much movement, a ‘hustle bustle’ and stressful life…then there is an excess of this air and space elements that then causes;
+ Erratic thoughts
+ Fast speech, fast movements or jittering
This can happen to everyone of course! Moving back to Sydney…I feel this way a lot with the vortex of busy-ness that exists here; especially on the roads!!
Yet, after having a baby, there is also an extra stress upon the Vata dosha; specifically, the Prana and Apana Vata sub-doshas due to birthing our babies. The very act of our womb now being empty (sorry for the visual!), it creates more space and air in our system and thus it needs to be balanced.
This is where, grounding and slow practices form the foundation of mindfulness…because they can bring the opposite elements of fire, earth and water that brings balance to this aggravated nervous system. The theory of like enhances like, forms the foundation in Ayurveda in creating balance and harmony within every system that exists!
We take it further and utilise these effects with each of our 5 senses, to bring in so much healing!
This becomes a very MINDFUL and CONSCIOUS way to live…because we are always thinking about what qualities are needed in order to bring balance.
What does this mean?
So, if you think of bringing these earth, fire, water qualities into our body…imagine what subtle qualities certain acts bring, and how living mindfully with our choices creates balance within our beautiful body:
- standing on grass, the dirt and ocean whilst being bare foot and being at one with NATURE (touch)
- smelling earthy tones such as frankincense, sandalwood, bergamot (smell)
- wearing sunny yellow, orange and red clothes or flowers in the room or paintings (sight)
- eating ginger, black pepper, root vegetables i.e. sweet potato; all bringing heat and earth (taste)
- listening to mantras or certain frequency music; like OM, HRIM or RAM (sound)
ALL practices of mindfulness work to SLOW the system and to pacify or balance this Vata dosha, which is the Queen of the doshas!
Anything that will quieten, soften, heat, ground and slow this excess movement that occurs with too much air and space…will work to bring peace into your body, mind and soul.
The beauty is that it can be done in any or all of the sense organs and any practice will have an effect! Making even one conscious choice, is being mindfully living and attuned to what will best serve your body in this moment.
Calming the mind, slowing and watching the thoughts…will help to reduce the movement within our nervous system. It will bring grounding through connecting with the floor beneath you, being aware of all of your sense organs…
Guided meditations where you visualise heat or a flame travelling through your body; will no doubt bring about the earth aspect that your body needs.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to meditate;
- walking meditation where you mindfully take in your environment
- washing the dishes and feeling/watching and observing each dish consciously rather than thinking of your next job or ‘To-Do’ list…is meditation!
I refuel so much just sitting and people watching with a coffee or just sitting in front of the water, just taking in all the surrounds. It allows me to slow down and catch my breath, bring in observation and a sense of grounding, back into the earth again.
If you catch yourself noticing how you are breathing when you are stressed; you will find that it is short, shallow and very much in your chest.
What we want in yoga, or translated in action in mindful living, is to focus on breath; Pranayama. This is an energy clearing practice that works to clear our entire body and add Prana or life-force into our being.
When our nervous systems are short-circuited, our breathing will be fast, shallow and we won’t be getting enough ‘deep’ breathing into our ‘fight-or-fight’ sympathetic system! (I’m holding my breath just imagining feeling this way!)
What we want to do, is to bring in SLOW, DELIBERATE and FULL diaphragmatic breaths that work to SLOW our bodies down…as it is bringing Prana (life-force) back in and slowing down the movement.
I just wanted to explain the ‘science’ or rationale from an Ayurvedic perspective as to what these practices bring about and do to our body…to help you understand the benefits that they can bring
ANY activity that is done SLOWLY, CONSCIOUSLY, with full focus and attention with thoughts and breath IS MINDFULNESS. It does not need to bring overwhelm into ‘needing’ to do it, or being another item on your ‘To-Do’ list and can be done;
+ whilst you’re driving (taking in all that you see and can hear vs thinking about work)
+ having a shower; feeling every drop of water on your skin and slowing your breath
+ playing with your kids; without thinking of the time, or making dinner; but just being present and grounded on the earth with them undistracted is being mindful (and connected)
If you just imagine bringing in the earth, fire and water elements in through any or all of your senses, then it will bring about balance into your body.
Try it and see how you makes your body feel!