Have you ever experienced the slowing down of time? -those moments when minutes seem to collide and seconds are infinitely longer than the breaths you take? The slowing down of time can sneak up on you, catch you off guard when you were busy tumbling through the race of tasks and deadlines. A moment of illness can bring your awareness back into your body. A moment when you are told that a loved one’s life is measured can shock you awake. And you move into molasses, your life frighteningly more still than before.
Can you and do you have the courage to stand still? To feel all the emotions that beckon to awaken you? Do you need a significant, frightening moment to make you slow down or will you take the time to enjoy and be in every moment?
When life is so hurried and the goal is on success in every aspect, the concept of slowing down can seem foreign. That’s where I come in- to give you a bit of help and a taste of the simple, ancient wisdom of Ayurved.
Slow down. Breathe. Take the time.
Simply: Slowing down will counter the often erratic and imbalanced Vata in our body-minds which has become so due to the fast-paced, undernourished nature of the demands of everyday life today. Vata (space and air) has qualities of dry, rough, and moving while Kapha (water and earth) has qualities of stability, nourishing, slow, and soft. When you are worrying, hurrying from place to place and your mind somewhere among the clouds, when you are eating with one hand and busy with another task, you are increasing both the drying and moving qualities of Vata. “What? Dryness? How am I supposed to comprehend that?” you may be asking.
Have you ever seen an elderly man bent over his cane, shuffling to get to where he wants to go? He looks fragile doesn’t he? If he fell, what would happen? Generally, at least one bone in his body, possibly his hip, would break. Osteoporosis: dryness. Alzheimer’s Disease: dryness. What happens with Alzheimer’s Disease? Among other aspects, the neurons become demyelinated, meaning they lose that fatty, insulating sheath around their bodies which would generally ensure that a signal is quickly propagated down its axon, like an insulated cable cord. What happens when your skin gets dried out? Wrinkles. Your skin has not received or has been stripped of the appropriate nourishment that keeps it healthy.
How to slow down:
- Take the time to wake up. When you wake up are you scrambling to quickly shut off your alarm clock? -like a fly swatter crushing an annoying fly- WHACK! Okay, okay… maybe it’s more like a lazy scavenger hunt for the phone that got tucked somewhere among the covers… in any case, either after the fly swat or after the lazy hunt, you’re most likely rushing and already have a sense of, “I don’t have enough time in my day!” Take the time to stretch when you wake up, recognize that you are AWAKE and smile with appreciation. SIT DOWN for breakfast. No, not on the train- in your kitchen.
- Eat your food, not your thoughts. According to meditation masters and gurus, meditation does not need to be a specific time of your day when you close your eyes and shut yourself away from the world. The meditation that is true is that which you can live in your everyday life. Before eating, many monks and nuns will chant a blessing of thanks, acknowledging from where the food came and the opportunity to make this meal yet another experience of awakening. Food is chewed with focus on the taste and the feel, all the while recognizing how it is giving health and strength to the body. Now perhaps you are not seeking enlightenment, but your body and mind can surely benefit from completely digested food. How else is your body going to make use of all that protein? It’s not so strong that your stomach grew teeth…
- Breathe. Breath can bring awareness so that your mind rests in your body. As adults we breath significantly more shallow than we did as children. Allow your breath to fill you. Whenever you feel stressed, come back to the breath. Breath in and out through your heart ten times. Then open your eyes. How do you feel?
- Live through your senses. Try an experiment: either today or tomorrow pick a sense you would like to focus on and then live your entire day through that sense. For instance, with hearing, what do you hear when you wake up? What do you hear when you get into your car or get on the metro? And on. See how you feel and what you noticed by the end of the day.
The basics of Ayurved, including how to life a healthy life, are really simple. They are so simple that they are actually the most intuitive aspects of our being. It is when illness arises, as it does when we fail to heed these simple factors, that this science rises to the call and also becomes increasingly more complex yet still systematic (and yet still intuitive) to meet the need and the disrupting nature of imbalance.
Physical health aside, life tends to feel more fulfilling when we actually take the time to enjoy it. Don’t wait until you have a drastic reason to make the most of your time, the time with your loved ones, or the time with your dreams. That’s the thing with life- it’s measured but we never know how or when. So live- in slow motion.