Once, while driving from Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar, our car encountered several rumble strips. We’d go bumpity-bump-bumpity bump… No one grumbled, no one even thought of grumbling. Every time we sighted one more rumble strip in the distance, we’d laugh and hail it and go bumpity-bump-bumpity-bump… Life does have quite a few rumble strips, doesn’t it? The trick is to keep those bumps where they belong — on the road — and not pick them up and place them in our mind. Keep the mind free — our mental and physical health remains robust in freedom.
The Wise say: even a drop of poison can draw you nearer to death and even the tiniest seed in you can grow into a giant tree. Haven’t we heard how a small spark in a cable burnt down an entire building? For the same reason, we don’t need to entertain even a wee spark of anger in our mind lest it burns us up. Good, positive thoughts are welcome. Even a simple “How lovely!” a heartfelt “Thank you” or a sweet gust of laughter soothes the mind and body. There’s nothing like a rumble of good-humoured laughter arising from a belly to lift our spirits as we tumble over life’s rumble strips. Ripples of mirth win over raised eyebrows every time.
Essentially, we have to watch our attitude that begets thoughts. Let’s not be ready to find fault, to complain, rather, let’s be ready to be pleasantly surprised, sporting and grin widely. My sister Pushpa sent me a beautiful message: “Time does not heal everything but acceptance does.” As I read it, I felt something like a prayer rise in me. It’s so true because from acceptance we can build a wonderful life full of understanding, harmony, empathy and peace. We have to be careful, really watchful about the kind of fire we build in our mind. The fire of anger destroys, whereas, the flame of acceptance is steady and the flame of inspiration is…well…wow!
No news is the best news. Take it from me, you will greatly bless yourself when you stop reading the newspaper and listening to the news on TV the first thing in the morning — these activities build a reactive mind, quick to get agitated, quicker to get angry, fearful and depressed. You also create a belief in the mind that everything is going wrong in the world which itself is an erroneous notion. There are good and bad things but, as you know, the news focuses purely and starkly on the bad, the horrifying and the ugly. What you are doing is rudely and violently shaking your mind from the naturally restful state it was in all night with the alarmist, “Wake up! Everything is collapsing!” It’s a terrible way to wake up, don’t you agree?
The strength of a mountain. First thing in the morning, please give the mind peace, give it strength and poise so that it can face the world, the new day calmly. There is a wonderful body-posture to keep the mind steady, stable, unshakable — the posture of the mountain. Stand with feet apart so you know you cannot be easily thrown off balance. Draw yourself to your full height. Stand with natural ease, with rock-like steadfastness. Keep your spine straight like a bamboo so that the natural energies can run up and down without any bends, blocks or hindrances. Square your shoulders and raise your lower back so there is neither slouch nor slump. Keep your head balanced on your neck. There is no tension in such a posture, only strength and grace. If this mountain shakes, it only shakes by the power of its own humour, its own laughter.
Close your eyes so as not to be distracted. Stand where you are, unmoving in body, unmoved in mind. Shut your ears to sounds. If you can’t tune off, let the sounds flow around, ignore them, remain unperturbed, undisturbed. Be a mountain in mind, heart and spirit.
When you feel you are well anchored, beautifully established, relaxed and rested in your pose and strength, open your eyes slowly. Everything will appear bright yet quietly ‘respectful’ towards you and you will feel your gaze as calm, peaceful and level. This is the way to wake up the mind to its own power and radiance.
Inspire the mind. After this practice, ‘feed’ the mind with inspiring thoughts or do some work with peace and joy. As the great Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Planting a seed, washing a dish, cutting the grass are as eternal, as beautiful as writing a poem.” He advises eating, sleeping, working and living everyday life in “the sunlight of awareness.”
Being alert and aware are necessary for understanding what is really happening. Once I witnessed two people disagreeing. At one point, the woman raised her hand in a peace-making gesture and said, “It’s fine. You are right too.” The man, prone to anxiety and agitation, perceived the raised hand as a threat, as “Shut up, I don’t want to listen to you.” Agitation creates stress and the true meaning of a gesture or words can be completely misunderstood.
I learnt from Dr Hansaji Yogendra, who heads the Yoga Institute, Mumbai, that, “it is the mind’s nature to think. If you don’t keep it busy, it thinks negatively,” she said. “It thinks ‘who cheated me’, ‘how hurt I am’… it goes in the past. Bring it back to the present.” “How do we do that?” asked a listener. She answered, “Concentrate fully on every task. If you are brushing your teeth, focus on every tooth as you brush. Keep the mind busy and it won’t be negative,” she advised.
It is true. A busy mind knows no agitation. If you observe, most people groan about the tedious process involved in filing tax returns. But, when they sit down and actually work on their income-figures, they become quiet and calm. On a day-to-day basis, the mind would enjoy noting down expenses, looking at investments, assessing them, renewing or changing them. As I’ve experienced, mantras, maths, music and meditation are great mental processors. They allow our mind to peek and participate in dimensions of rhythm, order, beauty and tranquillity.
Daily healthy practices. Hansaji also advises being “constructively occupied in duties to ourself and others.” She explains, “Physical activity is required to generate energy in our system. A person bubbling with energy will never be negative.” My sister Deepika is a prime example and proof of this truth! Though a busy doctor, she has time for everything — trans-creating the Bhagwad Gita, cooking up a storm, baby-sitting and playing with her grandkids, not to mention scores of active hobbies. I’ve never heard her complain of traffic jams and potholes on Mumbai’s roads or anything even once.
Some more beautiful ways to live by are:
- Eat balanced meals. Overeating depletes energy. Spicy and salty foods drain energy too. The body has to struggle to keep its equilibrium.
- Cut down, by at least 50 per cent, unnecessary thoughts and talks. You will feel the positive difference!
- Nurture good thoughts, nourish the mind by always keeping something joyful in it.
- Observe sweet, happy scenes such as puppies frolicking, colourful flowers swaying gently in the breeze.
- Be useful to somebody — service done is joy earned.
- Be aware of being blessed. When you count your blessings, you court more blessings.
As the Sadhguru puts it so aptly, “Create a good chemistry within you.”
The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme.