The biggest secret to self-care

A new series on Netflix which shows the applied knowledge of Marie Kondo on clearing our living spaces is yet one more acknowledgement that our lives have become cluttered.  From smartphones to social media, to detox diets and beyond, many of us are drowning in a deluge of products and trends that compete for our attention.

It seems that we are under constant pressure to improve ourselves, our lives and the way we live through yet more and more wellness products. I recently read in an article in the NY Times about procrastination, “It’s almost like you have this moral imperative — if you’re not trying to improve, you’re failing at some level.”

So, how can we cut out the noise and instead, sink that one step deeper into our own innate wisdom, a step that will bring deep healing rather than simply racing to keep up with each and every new ‘wellness’ trend?

By taking care of ourselves and cultivating a healthier mind and body, we are better able to enjoy life more fully. Our relationships with others also benefit, we become clearer about the things that we love and our own personal ‘calling’ (dharma) is revealed.

Let me be clear: spirituality and wellness are not the same things. The promises described above can only result from following a spiritual path. Although tempting, a wellness path means to remove only the stalk from the root of the malaise. It can only provide some temporary relief.

Most of us are familiar with various ‘wellness’ treatments on the market, eg Ayurvedic massage, a gym-based yoga membership or perhaps an Ayurvedic bath with more chemicals than can be digested. Too often, these simply serve to alleviate the symptoms in the short-term but don’t provide any real substantial healing.

It is true that we all have to start somewhere. And certainly, those free yoga classes, easy gym memberships and other wellness products can be a first step in the right direction. At the same time, it is important to be wary of the whole marketing-led wellness industry. For more inspiration on this, see Dana G’s latest article ‘The self-care paradox‘. True healing asks us to cut out the noise for real.

My teacher would often say, ‘We tend to overrate the mind and intellect. While they have a place in our lives we give them far more credit then they deserve.’ In my own teaching, I often advise students to beware the monkey mind.

After more than 2 decades of practising Hatha yoga, I can confirm that it is a path that teaches one gently to turn inwards, with no short cuts or self-deception. It curtails over-dependence on the everyday mind and intellect by asking that we open to the wisdom of the body and all its layers /shadows.

What do I mean when I speak of those layers/shadows?

In both Yoga and Ayurveda, a person is viewed as having different layers through which we act.

There are five of these layers:

  • the physical body,
  • the energetic body,
  • the mental body (lower mind),
  • the intellectual/ intuitive body (higher mind)
  • and the bliss body.

In Sanskrit, these are known as the Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vijnanamaya kosha and Anandamaya Kosha.

In the modern world, we have achieved much through psychology by becoming more willing to listen to the body and to the emotions.  However, this approach only just scratches the surface.

To access our intuition (Vijnanamaya Kosha), it is essential that we develop self-trust and -love and a way of quietening the mind so that we can hear the inner voice.

It is only when those five layers are balanced and can communicate with each other that our inner wisdom can be revealed. The answers that then come from deep within mean that we no longer feel the need to chase after the latest new wellness fad. This is true healing (to be ‘made whole’).

 

What practical steps can we take to embark on our path into wisdom?

 

  1. Spend time each day noticing what the eyes are seeing, the hands are feeling, the skin is touching. Our senses connect us to the world. To spend even a few moments each day being clear of what we are tasting, touching, hearing and smelling is a way of noticing how we perceive the world.
  2. When making a decision, step back for a moment out of the rational mind and take time to slow down, breathe or even better, practise some yoga and then ask yourself what solution is needed to move forward with ease.
  3. Notice the effects on relationships with other people after your practice – what kind of answers or actions are coming up.
  4. Be clear about where you want to go and establish a goal.

 

If you want to deepen and connect your sense of intuition, you can get a taste when immersing yourself in a retreat. Maybe you even feel like coming to Greece with me.

Have a look to find more about The Greek Escape Yoga Retreat and make yourself a gift.

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