WEEK I: "Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of," advised Benjamin Franklin. This warm first week of July, follow this simple, time-tested advice on making the most of your time. To do this, start by rearranging your priorities.
A recent issue of the Reader's Digest points out how misarranged our priorities seem to be: "Our big, complex brains cause us to fret over the more abstract stuff. Like our mortality, and whether the stock market will bounce back so we can spend our retirement years playing golf, instead of working at Safeway asking shoppers, 'Paper or plastic?'"
No doubt these are things that should concern us, and a little worrying can even be a healthy thing. But in mulling over these momentous matters, we often neglect to pay attention to things that silently scream for attention.
Make this week one in which you'll listen to your body and mind, understanding and fulfilling their desperate needs for nutrition, rest, and recharging. Drink more water. Eat more fresh, warm food. Sleep when your body and mind feel they need it. Do light exercises. Fix your body's complaints when they are small. That is the ayurveda way to good health. Once you take care of the small stuff, the big issues will sort themselves out.
WEEKEND I: Hoe, mow, and sow. Go out into your yard — or grow a container garden. Getting in touch with nature will heal your mind and give your body a productive workout. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature — connecting with the birds, flowers, and trees will connect you to your inner self. The effects can be rewarding — bringing you tranquility, good sleep, cheerfulness, and a positive outlook toward life.
WEEK II: Chew on this. The Red Cross warns in its booklet on cardiopulmonary resuscitation that bolting food is a common cause of windpipe obstruction and café coronaries. And, let's face it — America seems to have a penchant for gulping. Besides being less than aesthetic, wolfing down food does unsavory things to the digestion process — especially if the food on your plate is greasy and heavy. Therefore, the next time you go out to dinner, ignore the agitated waitresses and the upbeat music calculated to make you rush. Take small bites and chew them well. This way, you will kick-start your digestive juices even before the food reaches your stomach. Ayurveda says the practice of eating your food slowly has several other side-benefits: you are mindful of what you are eating, you tend to eat less, and you feel less stressed.
WEEKEND II: This weekend, pay attention to the simplest of things you do — just plain breathing. All you have to do is find a few minutes to sit comfortably and tune in to your nose. How wonderful the inhale-exhale rhythm is! Especially when you think of breathing as the movement of the life-force or Prana Vata within you. There's sound energy here, and life energy. There's inflow of cold air and outflow of warm air — a natural, biological symbiosis. Ayurveda believes that breathing right is one of the simplest yet most effective ways you can take charge of your health. Gentle but deep breathing balances all three doshas, and soothes the nerves. It clears your Vata vahi srotas — or air-circulating channels. When you inhale, try to breathe into your diaphragm. This will give more oxygen to your brain and lungs and lend a glow to your skin. Just 10 minutes twice a day, and you will feel the difference.
WEEK III: Review your relationship with the weather this week. Modern medical belief in human biometeorology ranges from "unlikely" to "skeptical" to "convinced" — but ayurveda has always known how intimately we are linked to the everyday weather. To the extent that changes in the heat and humidity levels around us cause our doshic balances to fluctuate, leading to toxin accumulation and discomfort, if not paid attention to. This week, follow some basic weather-adjustment guidelines. Stay cool when the temperatures rise. Wear, comfortable, loose clothing. Hydrate your skin and your entire body with frequent sips of water — surprisingly, drinking slightly warm water even during the summer months can help you cope better with the heat. Spice your foods with Maharishi Ayurveda's blends of dosha-balancing churnas. Spices like cumin and coriander are not only cooling, but also aid digestion.
WEEKEND III: This weekend, zero in on your body's often-neglected zones. Are your toenails trimmed? Are your lips chapped or the soles of your feet cracked? Are your elbows chapped? Is the area behind your ears grimy? These little things are signs you need to pay more attention to personal hygiene. Ayurveda places great value on daily maintenance of body cleanliness. Spend a luxurious hour taking care of these needs. Moisturize your lips with an all-natural lip balm. Exfoliate your skin with a good quality loofah. A good Loofah Back Scrubber does the double duty of scrubbing as well as massaging your skin. Besides making you feel cleaner, spending time with your body will also boost self-image.
WEEK IV: Ayurveda suggests making good use of your senses in order to achieve good health. This you can do in a wonderful, proactive manner by redrawing the lines of communication between you and the world that surrounds you. Instead of watching television this week, why not really talk to someone? Instead of making do with videotaped sunsets and flowers, why not step out under the sky and watch nature first-hand? How about replacing canned beans with freshly-cooked ones? Or replace instant pasta with homemade griddle bread? When you avoid all the junk food and tinsel around you, you are giving wholesome natural nutrition to your body and mind.
Of course, the pressures of work and home don't allow these to be daily choices. But if you are mindful of them during the week, they will pop up as an option at least a couple of times. And you are sure to enjoy the difference they make.
WEEKEND IV: This weekend, your assignment is delicious! Eat fruit. In the morning is the best time to get fruits into your body, but you can have a stand-alone fruit meal any time of the day except late evening. You can churn up some light-and-luscious fruit shakes to beat the summer heat: Date Shake, for instance, makes an excellent summer cooler. Ayurveda recommends the best fruits for each dosha type — visit the foods section and click on the food guidelines links. Not sure what your dosha type and current dosha imbalances are? Arrange an appointment with a vaidya, who will start you on the road to self-awareness.
On this appetizing note, we wish you a joyful July. Look for new healing resolutions in August.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.