Om Namah Sivaya, Dear Blessed Friends
Right now, I am floating in rural South India outside Coimbatore about 7km from the Kerela boarder. Tucked into cozy farmland amidst a 3 week Ayurvedic process of purification called Pancha Karma. I couldn’t be further removed from the world, with a prescription for complete rest… minimizing external stimulation by withdrawal from reading, games, excessive talking, computer and cell phones… But then as good fortune would have it, my dear friends in Chennai sent me an Indian Sim card in the mail.
You see, this is the first time in my life I have had a smart phone with internet. I have been firmly attached to my indestructible flip phone for the last 6 years. Yes, it has worked perfectly for six years and still works great! But alas it cannot be used out of the US. So with a hand me down smart phone from my generous brother and a sim from Chennai, I instantly became more connected to the world in rural India than I had been living in the US.
Now, I understood the relationship nearly all my friends had with their phones. Any thought, any time, anywhere can be acted upon. Witnessing this relationship and quick to form habit, all while in a place that prescribed complete rest, allowed me to do some deep reflection on Proper Relaxation (See the Five Points of Yoga) and my own presence.
Our teacher Swami Vishnudevananda defines true relaxation as a state of conscious awareness where we expend little to no energy, relaxing out of body mind consciousness to rest in our true nature of the all peaceful, blissful spirit. Only then do we recharge ourselves. This means quite often our favorite pastimes, though rewarding in their own way, do not in fact leave us with more energy or a calm peaceful presence.
I myself had spent the previous week and a half settling into doing very little to stimulate my mind; reading, writing, walking, talking very minimally. I had even taken a break from my daily Asana an Pranayama practice to give my body a solid vacation (also on the doctor’s orders). My mind was finally coming to terms with being happy in what would normally be considered a boring situation. The days pleasantly passed with the punctuation of herbal medicine, tea, meals and Ayurvedic treatments. My mind was calm with a focused awareness of my present situation. The planning scheming and general mayhem of the monkey mind were subdued.
Then came the Sim…
Its not all bad mind you. Calling my family, taking the opportunity to check my email, communicate with my teacher and move forward with some business opportunities to teach are all positive things. But they aren’t aids in relaxation. Just like that, within an hour my mind was back wandering into plane ticket reservations, website planning and a whole host of other thoughts that didn’t belong in this setting. I had plenty of time to figure all these things out later. I told myself this over and over again, but the dam had burst. It wasn’t until I had placed my phone on airplane mode and flipped it over hiding the screen did I become aware of the almost dizzying experience of my mind swarming outwards.
We all take it for granted today that everything is always available to us through the phone. Though we don’t understand the impact so much connection and information has on our peace and well being. It has also removed some of our notion of patience and forbearance, in the face of nearly instant everything.
But does this make us happier?
Does this make us more content?
Or does this simply give us the opportunity to speedily jump from one item of our desire to the next when its gratifying value is depleted?
We must take rest. We must have a “Daily Dose of Down Time” to give our mind and body time to recharge and refocus on what is present. When we can be truly present with a concentrated mind, contentment and joy are already there. Nothing else to do, search, order, receive or download.
So at least once a day you should Practice Savasana, this will give you a natural recharge without the jitters of caffeine or the fuzziness of a power nap. Even if you aren’t practicing asana (taking a yoga class) you can still do Savasana as a stand alone activity. Spending ten minutes a day relaxing should be a breeze, but most of us will not take the time to do proper relaxation. Change your mind, change your priorities and take some time to relax and recharge each day.
But on top of that, I challenge you to undergo a little information Tapas to reign in the wandering mind and allow it to concentrate on something beautiful, Yourself in the present moment. Pick several times throughout the day to turn off your phone or place it on airplane mode and put it out of reach, shut down your computer and turn off the TV. I promise everything will be ok 🙂
During meal times is a great opportunity for this. Then you can connect with your body and food; awareness allowing you to chew completely, digest your food better and enjoy it more thoroughly. Plus you may notice something wonderful happening around you that would have been missed completely lost in a screen. Take this time to watch your thoughts, if something important comes to mind you can write it down on a to do list, but then come back to your meal or whatever other activity you are focusing on.
As time passes your mind will find calmness and peace in the daily dose of downtime, then you will feel more at ease and able to focus in the rest of your day. Our teachers use many analogies to describe the mind. In one the mind is like a wild horse. We must be patient and kind with the mind as we tame its wild nature, making it our strongest ally. Yoga is not about extremes, so take your time, but be steadfast and constant in your practice. You will soon see your nature is already the peace, happiness and bliss you are chasing.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi and with Love,
P.S. I wrote this post in my notebook with my cell phone and computer turned off. I am now typing it sometime later when I can properly devote my energy to the process without it being a distraction. Find the Right Time for everything you need to do, this is a very powerful practice in yoga.
Some other times to consider taking an information down time:
- First thing in the morning, at least the first 30 minutes you are awake. Try to wake up and meditate then get ready for your day without getting too caught up in the outside world.
- While driving… this is time to be with yourself and the road. Listen to some uplifting music, chant or repeat mantra.
- While eating meals.
- When having a meaningful conversation with someone.
- At least one hour before bed, allow the mind to slow down before going to sleep. Plus hopefully you meditate at night before bed.
- While you do your asana, pranayama and other spiritual practices.
If you can’t bring yourself to turn off your phone, start with airplane mode and turn off the speakers or consider turning off the data.
We have recorded Savasana clips you can practice with here.