I have been enjoying the sunshine this weekend. The last couple of months have been either cold, or rainy, or both and even I had started to feel a little despondent about the prospect of another wet summer. However all it takes is a few days sunshine and we are all looking and feeling brighter. I feel the British weather mirrors life in this way. Even when the foreseeable future is nothing but cold, damp & depressing we need to remember the sun is always there. OK sometimes it is very well hidden by clouds but it is always there ready to brighten our days and warm our hearts. We just need to learn to move the clouds out of our way so the sun can shine through.
Times of depression and feeling low can creep up on all of us. One of the great skills yoga teaches us is the ability to see the sun beyond the clouds. The clouds of our mind can be both external and internal. Social expectation, family pressures, internal self doubt or fear are all clouds that hide our sun. Yoga practice allows us to see the world with clearer vision and more open hearts. Yoga allows the right frame of mind, focus and time to experience calm, joy and wonder at our world in this moment. It is this that allows the chinks of sunshine to peep through however thick the cloud cover may initially appear!
This weekend I have spent in the company of some wonderful people and this has also reminded me of how the quality of what we ingest from the world affects our moods. What we eat, who we spend our time with, the media that we come into contact with…all the things that we take in through our senses are ingested and processed and affect our moods and our potential for living in the moment.
I am currently on a new path of non caffeine…a novelty for a coffee lover like myself and not undertaken out of choice. After a deep meditative experience my body very kindly told me that caffeine doesn’t suit me and that I am better not having it…to the point that if I try to take a cup of coffee to my mouth my whole body reacts negatively. Imagine the response we have to the smell/taste of a substance (such as an alcoholic drink) that has made us violently ill in the past and you get the idea. Now I had accepted I was a coffee drinking yogi and I quite enjoyed the buzz it gave my mornings or when I was flagging. I never intended to stop drinking it. However life as a non coffee drinker is great. Better for it not being an intellectual choice but a lesson I am learning in interpreting my body’s needs. I have even more energy, an amazing choice of interesting teas and a new respect for my body knowing better than my mind about what it wants to ingest. I also don’t want to use a microwave any more…don’t ask me why in particular, but I am trusting in my body knowing best on this too! So I am being more aware generally of what I am ingesting in terms of food and drink. Although I don’t diet and enjoy a varied and balanced variety of food, just non that is microwave prepared any more and no caffeine!
Those that know me are aware that I don’t watch TV or read newspapers or popular magazines. I feel that ingesting the information they provide with the constant pressure of advertisements, negativity and social pressures can be extremely draining for the soul. I had also already cleared out most of the ‘toxic’ people from my life. Including those that drained me, left me feeling less motivated or questioning the validity of my dreams and ambitions. This feels like another step on the same journey. Being aware of what we ingest in every way; knowing that everything we allow in through our senses will touch us in some way.
Unfortunately society provides more opportunity for negativity to be ingested than in healthy for mental or physical wellbeing. Media portrayals of what we should look like are often based on skinny rather than healthy, what we should aim to achieve is often based on financial success rather than doing something that brings joy or satisfaction, and internal well being is less important to most than external trappings of success.
Luckily many in the yoga community spend enough time quietly enjoying peace and calm that they understand the actual priorities in obtaining well being. Trying to ingest more positively from the world around them & observing the effects of doing so. Emotional discipline, physical discipline and mental discipline are all necessary in maintaining a regular practice but it’s so worth it. It can bring balance & strength to the physical body and the mind plus a calmer and more peaceful mind more able to appreciate every possible moment with joy and wonder. This allows our hearts to open to love and positivity and to close to the negativity often present in the modern world. Yoga practice brings such rewards, such joy and such long term changes in how we live externally that it is more than worth learning to make time for. It also may provide more lessons for living off your mat than you ever expect!! So take a moment to look at what you are ingesting through your senses, not just in your food, but the company you keep and the activities you spend time on.