Mindful Sleep


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Sleep is one of the 3 pillars of health, according to ancient Indian medicine, Ayurveda. Therefore, good quality of sleep is indispensable for good health. Unfortunately, most of us have improper sleep on most of our nights. There are many reasons for improper sleep, hyperactive brain, stress, anxiety, fear, anger, and other negative emotions can drastically degrade the quality of our sleep. Sleep quality is not great for most of us and the reason might vary from person to person.

Good quality of sleep cannot be compartmentalized as a separate part of our day. We cannot switch on good sleep after a bad day. Ideally, It can be an incidental result of a peaceful day. Therefore, moment to moment mindfulness helps to create a deep rejuvenating sleep at the end of the day. it is better to correct an emotional slip within a few minutes, rather than planting it as a thorny bush in your mind and letting it grow till the night. Therefore, when all religious texts ask us to forgive the mistakes of others, it is more for our immediate good rather than anyone else’s. No one sleeps better than a forgiving person.    

However, sometimes we do have very bad days. Sometimes, it is difficult to forget or forgive some people immediately. But it is always possible to steer away from the sad memory and find a safe emotional place to tackle it. This is not an escapist approach. In case you have your house on fire, you would first get away from the fire and then try to put it off. There is no sense in standing in the middle of the flames and trying to find a solution. Even if you don’t follow mindfulness the whole day, saving emotional stress is a great practice not only to ensure a great sleep but also a very peaceful day. Find more about it under the heading – anxiety and anger management.

You might have ample justifiable reasons for bad sleep. But let’s not dwell on the reasons for long. In order to remove the darkness, we do not need to think of its reasons; we need to focus on lighting the lamp. Let’s make a resolution to improve the quality of our sleep and have a fresh look at the following awesome ways that we all already know about.

Ways to a mindful sleep

The right time to sleep

The best time to sleep is a few hours (2-3 hours) after the sunset. However, we can make our own time table according to our convenience. However, it is important to be punctual for the bed. For many people, night appears to be the most relaxing time, when they can actually focus and work. Many people work at night and sleep during the day. But the long term effects of this unnatural behavior are bad health and rapid aging.

Some workaholic people are not able to stop working or thinking about it even during night time. However, this extra mental exertion hardly gives us anything except the satisfaction of extra time devoted to work. Whatever is important and worth thinking can be worked upon in 5 hours of daytime. All extra hours we normally put in work might results in low productivity over the years. Looks like these extra hours work on the law of diminishing returns. They constantly decrease in productivity as they increase in number. Therefore, it makes sense to halt the work when it is time to rest.
 Consider sleep as important as a business meeting and pay equal respect to it. Let us be mindful of the important role sleep plays in our lives. We are truly in the hands of God, when we are sleeping. In ancient Indian tradition, sleep is considered to be a goddess that rejuvenates all the creatures. When we are mindful of sleep, we can approach sleep as a pious ritual instead of a by-product of daily metabolism.

Gratefulness

In spite of all kinds of problems in my life, I have had a very peaceful sleep for most of my life. This was sole because of a feeling of gratefulness that I had while I went to sleep. I am averse to cold things, cold weather or anything cold. Therefore, when I went to sleep at night and I had a warm blanket to cover myself, I felt that the blanket is actually God’s love that covers me. In childhood and teenage, most of my days were not great. As I used to lay in my bed, I used to feel so happy that the day is over now and I have no liability for tomorrow as no one knows about it. Only when I got a job and I had more than I ever had, I forgot about this subtle ritual and gradually drifted towards sleepless nights. I forgot about the blanket, as I started taking it for granted. Instead, I kept thinking about all the things that have gone bad and all other things that might go worse. I drifted to sleep in a resentful and angry mood. And what followed was even worse. When I hit the worst possible, then I remembered about the blanket and the warmth that I have always had. Now I feel that we invite problems because we fail to learn and improve without them. I could have gone from good to great, but I chose to move in a downward spiral because a few things were not going according to me.  

Bottom-line, gratefulness is the single most important quality that can change your perspective about things, make you happy and peaceful in a moment, and feel abundant and satisfied.

Music

Light cheerful music is a great way to move towards sleep time if you are tensed or frustrated. It makes sense to start playing a devotional song or soft music that you relate with the sleep time. For example, if you have to get into bed at 10 pm, you can start playing the music by 9.30/9.45 pm. Gradually, your body will start responding to that signal and immediately relax on hearing the specific music. This especially works in case of toddlers and babies who have problems falling asleep.

Body Scan

The body scan is an amazing way to relax the body just before sleep. It can be completed in less than 5-7 min. It is another method to become mindful about the body and consciously choose to relax.

Body Massage

A short and gentle body massage with a moisturizing lotion or oil can be very relaxing before bed. Body massage is another great way to become mindful about the body. You can be mindful about a specific part of the body as you move your hands around it. You can feel the soft skin, throbbing of the heart and rigidity of the bones. You can also become more aware of the stress, pain, inflammation or any other mild sensation that was not felt during the day as you were engrossed in your work. You can massage the painful body part and suggest to your mind that the pain is gradually getting healed.

Mindful Sleep

Now let us assume that after your nighttime rituals, you are finally lying in the bed. Normally, most of us are thinking about some random thoughts and we move into sleep unconsciously. However, sleep is a doorway to our unconscious and subconscious mind. If we can sleep mindfully, we can have a dip in greater consciousness. If we are unaware of the sleep process, we might sleep with a negative emotion or a useless thought. Ancient Indians believed that the thoughts that we sleep with get registered permanently and form sanskaras or mental blocks. Therefore, it is advised to remember god or a higher consciousness as we sleep. You can start mindfulness by remembering God before sleep.   

For mindful sleep, just notice the thoughts passing in your mind. Consider them like cars passing through the road out of a window that you are looking out. You do not focus on any specific car, you do not judge where they are going or coming from, you do not try to imagine who might be sitting inside, none of these. You just watch the cars. They might just make a pretty spectacle to look at that. Zero complexity. In a similar way, you can look at the thoughts passing your mind. As a matter of fact, we might never know why a specific thought appeared in our mind. There is an endless connection of past events that we might be oblivious of. The reasons that we can think of appear as a result of a structured reasoning process of our mind, sourcing facts from conscious memory. Therefore, engaging deeply with any thoughts is as mindless as thinking about who might be sitting inside an unknown red car. So just be aware of the thoughts, no reasoning, no fusing, no justifications; just simple observation. This is mindfulness.

As we become more mindful, strong unresolved thoughts will start emerging at bedtime. It is important to remember this that this is not a degradation of our practice, in fact, it is proof of advancement. Now we are rid of general chatter and have dug deeper into our consciousness. The thoughts can be about a painful past or about uncertain or dangerous future. Sometimes, it might look justified to get involved with the thoughts. 

Consider this example – you are invited to watch a video on a life-size screen. Everything appears lifelike, but you know that it is just a screen. However, you see the image of a very dear friend or your family member approaching. It is quite possible that you might forget for a while that it is just an image, not a real person and you might try to strike a conversation with the image.

I had an experience while meditating. Years back, when I was a little child, my grandfather slapped me very hard for not listening to him. My grandfather was a very strict person. He was visiting us for some time. Till that time, I was almost never beaten at all by my parents. And it was a very stark and painful experience because I did not understand why I was beaten. And nobody said anything about it. But I forgot this experience and never recollected it. However, while meditating I remembered this incident as if it was happening right then and there. I started crying. I could see that I felt lonely and left out. I could feel the situation. I started thinking about the experience again. I felt resentful towards my parents, grandparents and almost everyone around me in a chain reaction. I did wrong. This is not the way such experiences can be handled. They re-emerge to seek an answer. Now it does not have to be a physical or a material solution. In fact, all real solutions are basically threads of acceptance. So what I should have done was to accept that IT HAPPENED. As I accepted that it happened, I could see that my grandfather basically meant good. The thrashing was the only way he knew to communicate something serious. Probably he had a very high temper and was mentally handicapped in that way. This is what he must have been treated like as a child and never grew beyond it. I remembered so many good things he had. He was extremely honest, hard-working person. He was generous and always helped the poor and needy and so on. All these complimentary thoughts can emerge as we open door to them. If I choose to think negative, I will be able to dig out equally potent reasons. The essence is even the good thoughts are not to be fused with. So there is no need for me to reason that since my grandfather was a good person, he did well by slapping me. And probably I can do the same to my daughter. The essence it – IT Happened, period. 

So even painful thoughts that might emerge in your mind at times during the day and esp. before sleep – are just thoughts! They just happened, period. It takes time and patience to achieve this goal and to be honest, I am far from it. But the only benefit that I might have is that I know it when I make a mistake. And it helps to steer in the right direction. So, let’s just focus on the fun with mindfulness every day instead of trying to achieve it as a target.

Other most prevalent thoughts that I face during sleep are thoughts about the future. Thoughts on the future are far more compelling because the future is something that we must prepare for. It can be a fairly compelling argument that if we don’t think about the future, how are we going to be prepared for it? The general procedure to deal with overthinking can be something like this – thinking, esp. overthinking can only deplete your mental energy and leave you feeling drained. How are we going to work in the future if we feel mentally depleted? So there is no need to think, or better stated, worry about the future. These are 2 logical extremes of thought station. You can choose either one of them and you will find yourself to be equally correct. However, with uncertainty and unpredictability of life, this 2 logic will keep changing and you will be oscillating like a pendulum between them. No peace!

In mindfulness, we have the midway, the central stable point when the pendulum is not moving. The power to rest in Mindfulness is the weight of the pendulum. And we all know that heavy pendulum needs more force to get destabilized from its resting position. More mindful you are, the greater the force it will take for any problem to move your mind into chaos. So accept that the future is uncertain, it is unpredictable, it can be even dangerous.

The queries of mind are not real. They are assumptions, like the factor x, in order to solve the equations of life. The conscious mind has limited memory and processing capacity. Therefore, it is not wise to expect the best results from it. It is like expecting a digital calculator to be able to print a document. However, if you accept this limited capacity, you will have fewer reasons to be affected by mental chatter. You will be able to notice it without reacting to it, just the blabbering of a baby. We hear it, we respond to it, but we don’t try to find any meaning in it. Nor do we try to suppress it because it is meaningless. So mind is saying” tomorrow I might get a promotion” – or “ I might get fired”. These might also be practical possibilities for tomorrow. However, there is no need or no gain by fusing your thoughts with emotions. For example, feeling happy at the first thought or feeling sad at the second one is fusing with the thoughts and proving that they are real. Thoughts are like souls, if you acknowledge their presence and believe in them, you can give them body. they can get really powerful if you give affirmations to them over and over again. Most of our phobias and manias are basically strong thoughts. They are so strong that we are not able to handle them. And their seeds can be sown very effectively while going to sleep. So it is extremely important to be mindful while going to sleep, even more, important than being mindful in the daytime. 

Sometimes you might face extremely strong thoughts about the past or about the future and you might get swept away. I had a huge fear of death since I saw my father pass away at a very early age. Sometimes, when I was frustrated and scared as a teenager, I would have thoughts about death while going to bed. The negative or positive thoughts that are attached to a real incident in life can be very difficult to tackle. They look quite real and possible. At that time, I did not know anything about mindfulness, but I devised a way to be happy at bedtime. I would shift my attention towards more real things, like the blanket, bed or the fan that I have and I am comfortable at night. I have a home and I have a bed to sleep. Besides, I started to believe that sleep and death are the times when you meet God. So I would imagine a very loving God who is going to take care of me as I sleep. This was super strong imagery. In fact, I was always the happiest as I went to sleep.

The point is that when you have super-overwhelming emotions already attached to some thoughts, you might find it difficult to practice mindfulness. So you can take help of love and gratitude. Ask yourself the question – “is it happening right now?”, we can be grateful that we have a peaceful time right, even if something wrong is bound to happen.  “what are the good things that I have right now?” or “what are the good things that have happened to me?”. Past positive experiences are always the best staff to hold when you are emotionally shaky. These questions will help to bring yourself back to the present. After that, you can practice your normal routine for sleeping mindfulness.

Cleaning

I would like to share one practice that significantly helped me improve my emotional stability. You can find more information about it on

Click to access GUIDED%20CLEANING%20script%20.pdf

This practice helps to clean the impression that we have collected during the day. It is believed that the sanskaras (the mental blocks) formed during the day are processed by our brain during the sleep and they solidify in our memory. If we are able to remove such mental blocks before they become registered in memory, we will have a clearer mind. Now is it possible to remove the blocks by giving yourself a suggestion that they are getting removed. I believe yes, because you can remove thoughts with another thought of cleaning. Hope that the cleaning process helps you as much as it has helped me!

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Mindful Cooking


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Now most of us are drifting far away from cooking every day as more and more ready to cook or ready to eat options are available. There are far more eateries and restaurants that were there a decade back. The food business is one of the industries growing at a very fast rate.

As the families became smaller and women started participating in the workforce, the cooking started to look more like an extra activity that should be avoided if possible. Everyone wants to use the time otherwise spent in cooking for more useful pursuits like more working hours in the office. More working hours mean more money, a better job, promotions and so on and so forth. Cooking became completely dispensable as compared to the latter because cooking for the family was not earning you anything. In many western countries, people now prefer to eat out. Cooking is applicable more to restaurant chefs than to anyone else. 

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Their change was not completely wrong. Initially, as women started working, they had petty jobs with a small income. They could devote enough time to their jobs as well as their household work. But as women started getting better and more time-consuming work, cooking and household took a back seat and cooking suffered.

Most of us face stress because we have lost the experience of basic survival. We unconsciously depend on more and more possessions in order to live. And most of our time is consumed to acquiring and maintaining the same. Unfortunately, now most of these requirements are superficial and complicated. For example, a second car, a larger house with an extra guest room(even when there is no one to visit us), an expensive trendy dress etc. etc.

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We have lost touch with reality. A person can live his full life in a few hours’ time inside a video game but the reality is not like that. When a kid brought up in the world of mobile phone, video games and television is exposed to the real world where one has to work with his/her own hands, where it takes time to cook food and eat it with his own hands, wash his own clothes etc., he might get a rude shock. Most of the people bought up in a virtual world employ most of their time and energy to acquire enough resources so that they can escape the real world. We want a dish-washer, washing machine, automatic cooking systems to save more time. This saved time we will then spend in front of the TV or mobile phone. This orientation is making us oblivious of the world around us and more and more self-absorbed, self-centred. We want more resources to preserve our ignorance.

Anxiety, stress, anger, greed and all most all the mental vices emerge from this state of preserved ignorance. Our desires become unreal, when they are not fulfilled we get angry and stressed. This unreal world creates a secret fear of the unknown.

Cooking is not a woman’s or homemaker’s job. Cooking is an essential process for human survival.  

In ancient traditions, was considered to be a pious or religious exercise. In ancient Indian culture, it is compulsory for the cook to be peaceful and happy while cooking a meal. Also, one should refrain from eating or cooking when anxious, sad or angry. It was believed that the negative energy of the cook is absorbed in the food and reaches the consumers. 
Recent experiments on the concept of water memory confirm the same. Water kept in a certain atmosphere and exposed to different kinds of prayers and music confirm that even water absorb the negative and positive vibrations. 


This is probably the reason why people would eat in religious gatherings and the food was considered to be divine. At the same time, it was considered inauspicious to eat in the local eateries as the cook might have mind on his mind while cooking. It is supposed to drastically change the quality of the food. Also, earlier it was considered inauspicious to eat in the house of a corrupt person because the quality of earned money will attract food ingredients with bad vibrations and such food will bring bad luck and ill health. 

Therefore cooking as important as a religious ritual and should be treated as such.  For most of us, because of a hectic lifestyle, cooking is akin to defrosting a frozen meal or assembling a ready to eat a meal. Or throw in some ingredients in a pot. Most of the cooking is thoughtless and soulless. It creates more restlessness and anxiety. So it is there an exponentially growing spiral of mindless cooking and increased stress. 
 Mindful cooking is something that you can practice. It will result in 2 benefits at the same time – the practice of mindfulness and soulfully tasty food.


 Imagine yourself cooking a simple vegetable curry. As you wash the vegetables, be aware of the dirt and how the water is removing the dirt. This vegetable is getting ready to be incorporated into a higher life form. It is going from plant life to human life.


 These are some of the ideas. You can have your own interpretations. Gradually these interpretations will make you more aware of the work that you are doing. Careful observation will become a habit. It will happen with natural childlike awe that we had once we were toddlers.

Some ideas and interpretations of small acts of life help us realize the abundance of already existing meaning in life, rather than going in an endless futile search for it. The essence of life is to “know thyself” and not to “make thyself”. Ancient proverbs and precepts very beautifully convey the great philosophies of life. For example, there is ancient Indian saying – karat karat abhyas ke Jada mati hoye sujana, rasari aavata jata hi Sil par parat nisa. The proverb means that through constant practice, even a dull mind can become sharp, like the way even a soft rope can make a mark on the stone by constant rubbing. (Rope of the well can make a permanent mark on the stone wall of the well). Now, thousands of people must have used the rope for pulling water out of the well, but one in millions with an aware mind can observe a philosophy on a stone wall. 

Another proverb from Kabir says that the ones who go in the deep waters are able to get the pearls, but the people who keep sitting on the shore out of fear of drowning, get nothing. These simple sayings underline the wisdom that the eternal truth is all around us if only we are able to absorb it. Mindfulness can make simple things in our lives more meaningful. Such a life is incidentally peaceful and happy. 

This blog aims to bring out some of the subtle beautiful thoughts that are woven in our daily chores. 

Coming up by 4th Sep 2020

My Experiences with Mindful Cooking

Mindful Eating 

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I remember my grandfather peacefully sitting on the ground, sprinkling a few drops of water around his plate and reciting a Sanskrit prayer every time before he started eating.

It is now a prevalent culture to have an orientation session before any kind of educational course. Orientation can induce a sea-change in the reception of everything. Right orientation leads to the right approach and right understanding. And wrong orientation can lead to dangerous misinterpretation.

According to the ancient Indian medicine system Ayurveda, it is believed that the way food is eaten effects the way it is absorbed. According to Ayurveda, food has a soul of its own – it can be satvik (pious), rajasic (hyperactive) and tamasic( ignorance inducing). The quality of the food depends on the way it is earned, cooked and eaten. However, the final process of eating is the most important of all three. Even poison can be used for treating diseases if consumed properly. Similarly, even if the food is consumed with a blissful mind, it can have an amazing effect on the body.

There are multiple scientific pieces of evidence to prove that placebo therapy can produce incredible results in the treatment of diseases, esp. the pain sensations. Therefore eating food in the right way can help us not only to prevent diseases but also to cure and prevent our emotional problems.

It is unfortunate that eating has become a side-process. We have automated the process of eating. We eat while walking towards our office or school, eat while watching TV or while working. The awareness about the food, its natural flavour, its, and smell is lost in a mob of stormy stimulations of electronic gadgets or our emotional turbulence. Even if we are not seemingly doing anything else, we are lost in our daily worries and thoughts. Probably, this is the reason junk food is full of excess salt, sugar, and fat in order to attract our unstable attention, just like heavy beat music does when compared to a delicate classical melody. We have to stop and review this process of increasing senselessness.

Mindless eating leads to all diseases. First is obesity which comes naturally, as we are insensitive to the body signals to stop eating. We don’t drink enough water because we have become unconscious to our natural thirst. Only a sharp pain of kidney stones can grab our attention.  We are leading a fast-track life, leading only towards an early death.

No time for mindful eating

Mindful eating is not about chewing your morsel 36 times. It is about being aware of the eating process as a whole. If you are trying to chew a spoonful of soup 36 times, you must be equally mindless as a person who simply gulps down big pieces of food. In fact, mindful eating is the quickest way to eat because normally we do not need the quantity of food that we consume today, no matter whether we are adults or children. If this were not the case, we would not find any cases of infant obesity. With mindful eating, we know when to stop. And genius is in knowing when to stop! Let me put it the other way round. If you are eating something while watching TV, you might never know when to stop as you will be too engrossed to notice the metabolic signals of a full stomach. But if you are just eating, you might as well finish it in 5-10 mins as you will know when you are full.  Mindful eating is a permanent cure for obesity without any doubt.

Increased focus

Mindfulness is a constant practice. It increases the more it is practiced. Eating mindfulness eventually spreads to other parts of our lives.

Zero diseases

With mindful eating, you will start to notice the quality of food that you are eating. You cannot be mindful and still eat extra cheese pizza and double-decker burger. You will become conscious of the effects that food has on your body and this is the first step of making conscious food decisions. I am not suggesting that we should become hermits and banish all tasty food from our meals. But what is the meaning of eating the tasty food when you are not paying attention and enjoying its taste? So mindful eating eventually makes you so aware of the deliciousness of the food that you feel the same satisfaction with 1 slice of pizza that you would not have felt with 2 boxfuls of pizza. With more practice in mindfulness even the normal rice with salt tastes like heaven, if only we have time and peace to observe that sensation. And since you will be more satisfied with the healthy food, there will be fewer chances of squandering your money on junk food and later on medical expenses.

Increases time on earth

We tend to save our time by multi-tasking. However, the current life expectancy of a normal human being in the developed world is highly threatened by lifestyle disorders like diabetes, hypertension etc. a hoard of psychological disorders also result from the hap-hazard lifestyle. With random multi-tasking, we are only reaching fast towards an early burn-out, and probably as early demise. Suppose if you have an option of 40 years and 100 years of healthy workable life, which one is going to be more productive? And what is the benefit of early achievements if the benefits thus acquired are spent on diseases later.

Death by choking

Death by choking is a rare but probably occurrence if you are inattentive while eating.  Mindfulness can sure save you from this one.

How to practice?

Some ritual makes it easier to invite an ethereal experience. It is good for beginners to start with some rituals to kindle the interest and maintain a steady pace. Here I am sharing my experience of mindful eating –

Quiet Eating Time

I have communicated to my family that while eating we are not going to talk and look more at the food. And it is ok since it never takes us more than 10 min to finish the meals. Sometimes, people around you might feel ignored if you suddenly start practicing this technique, esp. if you were talking like a parrot during the meals earlier. Harmony with others makes the practice easier and more fruitful.

There might be instances where everyone is talking around you. However, you can CHOOSE to be peacefully quiet. You might answer some important question. However, it is important to realize that others will respect your choice if you respect it and stick by it ardently.

We don’t watch TV while eating. If I am feeling down then I may put some light instrumental music, otherwise, it is normally quiet while eating. However, initially if the quiet appears too dull then you can turn on some light music. Heavy beats or party songs can grab your attention away from the food in your plate.

Initially, start with something that you enjoy eating. It is better to choose healthier options. However, if you are completely addicted to junk food, it can be a suitable option as well. Trust me, if you start to practice mindfulness even with extra cheese pizza, you will grow out of it soon.

It is a very good practice to keep away electronic gadgets, esp. mobile phones while having a meal. Like the way we switch off or silent our mobiles before an important meeting, we can turn away all gadgets during the meal time. It is the respect that we show to our life-giving food and for the ones who strive for it.  Our ancestors ate without mobile phones and survived better than us. 

Family dinner is the time when normally people sit together and connect with each other. it is considered to a time when you can talk about your day and share your thoughts. But if the meal is a short time focused on enjoying the food, then ideally there will be not enough time for any meaning full talk. It will be just like talking while brushing your teeth or washing your hands. Besides, it is disrespect towards the person you are talking to. It shows that you cannot spare an attentive 10 min to talk to your family or a close friend. Initially, it might seem a little weird, but if we are convinced with the essence of the practice, we can joyfully implement it.

The most destructive element to mindfulness, esp. mindful eating is an encroachment on personal freedom. Some people in your family or close circle might not want to experiment with mindfulness. It is absurd and thoughtless to lose your mind about convincing others about following your practice. First thing, you cannot be insensitive to others’ feelings and wishes when you are trying to practice mindfulness. Secondly, you should try to perfect something that you wish others to follow. Leading by example is always the most discreet option esp. in case of mindfulness.

Now, we will not impose eating mindfulness on others. But how to tackle the person who wants to talk to you while eating, esp. if the person is your spouse, parent or child? Now, this is a delicate matter. I remember when I first started meditation; I was convinced that this will be able to solve my problems. So I sometimes ignored the requirements of my family, esp. my younger brother. He would come to play only when I wanted to meditate. My avoidance and cold shoulder turned him away from meditation and now even as an adult he is still reluctant to try it. We don’t want our loved ones to feel bad about something so subtle as mindfulness. Patience is the key, difficult to practice but always bears sweet fruits in the end which are good for all.

Now, it is not always that you are eating with your family. You might be in a business dinner, where people expect you to talk or with a friend. It might work well if you can convey beforehand that you don’t talk while eating or take small pauses between the meals to accommodate appropriate responses. One day of lapses will not stop the constant process of mindful evolution. Flexibility or absence of a thoughtless resolution is the real proof of mindfulness.

This is all about managing the quiet during meal times. However, the most important factor is the quietness of the mind. Here a prayer can bring the right orientation to the mind. It is an excellent habit to say prayers together with the family, before the meals. In this ritual, let us try to be mindful of the prayers and their meaning. 

Grace

Please find some of the mealtime prayers of different traditions in Appendix 1. Each prayer is special and conveys a new dimension of gratefulness and joyful acceptance. Many traditions have a prayer after the meal too. Some of them are –

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_(prayer)

I hope that the grace before the meal creates a feeling joyful acceptance towards the food that we are going to eat now. Nowadays, children are fuzzy and complainant about the food that they get. Grace before meals is a subtle way to teach children and even the adults that whatever food they have is a blessing because many people don’t have even that.

Now let us bring our attention to the food.  Let us look carefully at our food. So many hands go in cultivation, transportation and final preparation of our food. Let us be grateful to the provider of the food, our parents, spouse or guardian. So many hands have worked in preparation of this meal. It takes so much of divine love for all these resources to flow naturally towards us.

Gratefulness is one way to really bring peace and joy in the mind.  One of the most powerful effects of gratefulness is that we realize that we have someone who will help us because he has already helped us. Gratefulness proves that we are not burdened with all the responsibility.  There is someone above us, a parent, a guide and a helping hand. Gratefulness is a reason for us to relax and smile!

Respect for Food and the Body

It is important to eat only when you are hungry. It is the true respect of not only the food but also your body. When we keep munching endlessly, we treat food like trash and our body like a trash-bin. Therefore, let us be mindful of the requirements of our body and eat only when hungry. Also, when hungry we should not stuff ourselves with too much food.  

With all the earlier preparations, we must in an ideal state before we start eating the food.  Let us fill our food in our mouth and feel its texture, flavour and warmth/coolness.  The words fall short to describe the divine feeling of food when you are starving. 

Varsha Ritucharya

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In this blog, we are going to discuss Varsha Ritu in detail.

The best translation of ritucharya is seasonal conditioning of the body as prevention against diseases and aging.

In India, we have well-defined six seasons. However, in many Western countries, they have four visibly distinct seasons – winter, autumn, summer, and spring. An elaborate rainy season(Varsha) or Shishir(late autumn) might be hard to witness.

However, seasonal changes occur due to the movement of the earth around the Sun and changes in the distance from the Sun. Lunar months keep on changing with respect to the solar calendar. However, solar months are stable. Therefore, we have a leap year to adjust the difference between the lunar and the solar calendar. I find solar months to be more reliable as a base for ritucharya. This concept can help people in the west to accommodate the food and lifestyle according to the changing seasons.

It is essential to note that the seasonal do’s and don’ts differ according to the land, climate, and culture. Below are some of the guidelines that can help everyone to formulate their ritucharya. In case you have any confusion, feel free to contact me anytime.

According to the Solar calendar, this year rainy season starts with Mithun Sankranti – 15th June 2019.

Ideally, the complete practice of Varsha ritucharya should start with Mithun Sankranti. Gradual changes can be induced one week before Mithun Sankranti.

Please find more information about dosha balance in Varsha Ritu here.

Dos and don’t of Varsha Ritu

Sattu dissolved in water
It is important to note that sattu can be used in many ways. However, Charak prohibits the use of Sattu dissolved in water particularly. Sattu made in the form of paratha, mixed with spices like garlic, is warming in nature. It does not cause excess cooling effect during the rainy season in the body.

Sleeping during the daytime siesta
If you sleep during the daytime in the rainy season, it might lead to an excess of kapha Dosha in the body. Since the body metabolism and digestion is retarded during the rainy season, excess kapha dosa can further slow it down and cause multiple disorders and aggravate existing diseases.

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Exposure to morning dew
Many people practice walking on the morning dew early in the morning. This practice is beneficial in the summer season but can be highly harmful in the rainy season. It can trigger cough, cold, and other kapha related disorders in the body.

Sleeping Outdoors
Many people practice sleeping outdoor during the summer season. However, sleeping under the open Sky even when there is no possibility of rain is an unhealthy habit during the rainy season. This practice leads to the high exposure of morning dew.

Besides, it is believed that sleeping under cloudy Sky can severely vitiate the vata dosha and lead to paralytic attacks. This belief is not scientifically proven. However, there are many instances of such paralytic attacks.

All these practices are opposite to health practices recommended in the summer. The transition from summer to the rainy season is the most significant transition of the year as the weather fluctuates drastically from dry and hot to wet and cold.

Swimming in rivers Swimming in rivers is strictly prohibited during the rainy season. This recommendation Works great as a health practice as well as a safety measure as the rivers might get flooded during the rainy season. As the rainwater joins the river, lots of impurities from the land can get dissolved in river water and can cause diseases; especially the skin disorders or digestive problems in case this contaminated water is swallowed during a swim.

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No sunbath
Sunbath is also not recommended during this season. Sunrays passing through the clouds are not considered safe in Ayurveda. Scientific evidence for this practice

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190530141443.htm

This study shows that the organs can independently react to exposure of light without interference or guidance by the central nervous system.
I have a hypothesis that Sunbath diverts body’s preparation for the rainy season when there will be no or minimum Sun exposure. Exposure to Sun activates the sweating mechanism, which is not very useful during the rainy season.

Minimum sexual activity
Excessive sexual activity is also prohibited during the rainy season. In the rainy season, overall body strength is below average. Sexual activity requires A lot of energy and produces an immediate feeling of exhaustion in the body. Therefore it is not supportable in the rainy season. Sexual activity during the rainy season risks severe vitiation of vata Dosha in the body. Zero sexual intercourse is an excellent option during the rainy season, especially for middle-aged and older people.

Use of Honey
The must-use substance in the rainy season is honey.

Honey is one of the elixirs of Ayurveda. Charak Samhita recommends the use of honey every day for good health.

Use of honey is especially recommended in the rainy season according to Charak Samhita
According to Charaka, honey causes vata vitiation. Cyclic water vitiation in the rainy season is a natural apart of natural annual biorhythm of the body.
However, Charak highly recommends the use of honey during the rainy season.

Honey is a natural kapha balancing substance. When kapha dosha blocks the natural Pathways of vata dosha, we experience pain in the body. Lack of Sunlight during the rainy season can aggravate kapha dosha. There is a possibility that the use of honey helps to dissolve the excess mucus and clear the vata channels in the body. This kapha elimination helps to alleviate several disorders like body pain, pain joint pain, headache, depression during the rainy season.

However, honey should be used in a limited quantity. Two to three teaspoon is the right amount for everyday use. Excess use of honey can cause severe indigestion.

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Time for pakora
Sometimes people feel body pain, joint pain, headache, etc. during the cold weather caused by excess rain. During this time you should use sour, salty and slightly oily food, for example, poha, upma, fermented food like Idli Dosa, paratha, fried savories like pakoda, mangoda, chilla et cetera.

Sour, salty, and oily food helps to balance the vata dosha. Sweet food is a little heavy to digest as compared to sour and salty food. Sour and salty food is naturally digestive in nature. Oily food helps to prevent the dryness caused by vata dosha.

However, it is crucial to consider the digestive capacity of the individual. Young people with healthy digestion can have fried food items like Pakoda, samosa, aloo Vada extra whereas older adults with weak digestion can have shallow fried food like paratha,cheela or slightly oily food like dosa et cetera.

Aged grains It is highly recommended to use aged grains of jowar, wheat, and rice, to protect the digestive fire during the rainy season. These aged grains are very easy to digest.

Non-vegetarian soups Acharya Charak recommends Non-vegetarian soups prepared from the meat of jangalya animals and birds (creatures found in the plains with moderate climate). These soups help to prevent vata vitiation in the body due to their heavy and oily nature.

No greens Use of green leafy vegetables is not recommended during the rainy season. All the green vegetables like spinach, methi, lal saag, etc. cause vata vitiation in the body. All the non-seasonal fruits and vegetables should never be used during the rainy season.

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Mangoes in varsha ritu

Mango is a gift of nature. It is a complete detox package for the summer season

However, according to a common folk belief, you should not consume mango after Devshayani Ekadashi.
Devshayani Ekadashi falls typically in June.

According to the traditional belief, mangoes that ripen after Devshayani Ekadashi are particularly acidic and harsh in nature. These mangoes can vitiate pitta and vata dosha in the body. They can also aggravate all kinds of digestive and skin problems.

According to my personal experience, the mangoes that come after Devshayani Ekadashi are peculiarly sour. There is no scientific evidence for this belief. Therefore we should experiment on a personal level.

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Beverages for varsha ritu Use of mahua based alcohol(for vata and kapha Prakriti people) and plain water (for pitta Prakriti people) mixed with honey, helps to accelerate the digestive process during the rainy season.

All kinds of alcohol stimulate the digestive system and produce more heat in the body — this excess heat help to compensate for the lack of Sunlight during the rainy season.

Charak recommends the use of boiled underground water during the rainy season.

Stay dry with herbal skincare You must avoid exposure to moisture in the rainy season as it can Trigger multiple skin disorders like fungal infection etc.

The rainy season has a very high level of humidity in the air which is ideal for incubation of pathogens, especially fungus. Charak Recommends that you should rub your body with a thick towel and apply medicated powders on your skin as prevention against pathogenic infestation highly prevalent during the rainy season. This health practice is especially applicable for people with excessively dry and malnourished skin.

In case of non-availability of Ayurvedic medicated powder, you can use powdered turmeric, sandalwood, aguru, etc.

You can you use medicated Herbs for Ubtan and bath as well.

The sequence of a sutra is important as it indicates the priority or importance of the recommended health practices. All the above health practices are in appropriate sequence as mentioned in Charak Samhita (Sutra Sthana-6/35) except the point mentioning green vegetables.

Hope this information helps all! Please feel free to comment or contact me for any doubts/queries.

Zero Time Meditation


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A most common problem that people have while following any kind of meditation is that they are not able to find time to do it. Meditation is advertised as a physical process in which we have to sit quietly in a certain position for some time. It is natural to feel awkwardness and futility of such a process when 20 other jobs are pending. I realized this after my daughter was born. I have been an ardent follower of meditation for the past 20 years. I joined the meditation centre as a teenager. And meditation really brought the magic in my life. All the best decisions that I have made in my life can be dedicated to the effect that meditation had on my mind. Also, meditation helped me reconcile with the things that went bad or the mistakes that I made. However, I was stuck with this idea for a very long time that I need to find some quiet space and sit for some time with my eyes closed. And with my daughter, it was next to impossible. Leave alone closing my eyes, I could not even sit in one place for a few minutes. It must have been my inexperience in managing babies that led to my woes. But even with all my inexperience, I would have managed things pretty well if only I were more present. I used to worry endlessly about every other thing, right from finances, the future of the family to the rip in my shirt. If you decide to worry, there is absolutely no dearth of plausible reasons. I would often think that if I am able to meditate all my problems would vanish, but I was not able to do that. Even when my daughter was sleeping, I would fret over what to cook as my daughter was severely underweight. Besides, I took it on myself that since I am at home I should become the wonderful mom and the wonderful wife and the wonder chef etc. etc. I have always been a target oriented person and such people are always able to find some or the other target to fret upon.

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For some time, I tried to chuck away the other work and meditate. I thought that this will improve my efficiency and I will be able to do everything quickly. But the impossible load of work that I took on myself did not reduce. In another attempt to find a way, I left meditation completely and started trying to finish the unending house-work. Nothing improved. I was short of time, short of money and full of worry. If I were more mindful at that I time I would have realized what I did realize after I learned mindfulness. I declutter my house, reduced my possessions to the really necessary once, stop collecting trash for some use in the future, and reduced the unnecessary chores. Instantaneously, my life became more manageable, and more importantly, more meaningful since now I was spending more time in things that I loved. All this was only because of mindfulness. But because of mindfulness, I started accepting the right advice that was always present around me.    

I was always anxious that the food will be awful, it will take more time, I have so many other things to do. And as a result, the food was always awful, it was never done on time and I was always confused while cooking and ended up redoing my dishes many times over. I believe that I could have finished my cooking in ¼ time than what it actually took me to cook a few years back.

Since childhood, I had a notion that cooking is a very difficult thing. At the time I got married, I hardly cooked anything except instant noodles. Besides, I feel that the discomfort and lack of confidence was the only culprit for all the troubles that I have facing regarding cooking. I always feared some or the other mistake while cooking. Therefore, I had no enthusiasm while cooking. Instead, at the time of cooking, I would always think about all the things that went wrong and that can go wrong in the future. And obviously, my food lacked the attention it deserved; hence it always carried a terrible taste. I am very grateful to my kind and loving husband who ate my highly unpalatable food for so many years, without any complaints!

My cooking transformation started with a habit to listen to motivational videos during cooking. I was finding it very difficult to focus on cooking without thinking something negative. It was a very difficult time as I was facing serious emotional problems at that time. So I decided that instead of thinking something negative while cooking, I would try to focus on some sermons that I liked a lot.

As I started listening to all the inspirational videos, I started to look forward to my cooking time, as it was an opportunity for me to do something that I liked, instead of something that I feared. After a few months, I became more relaxed. There were certainly ups and downs. I would hate anyone to watch me listening to videos or make any remarks because I was already fired up at that time. So I would wake up early morning and cook for the whole day. There were multiple benefits to this approach.

My cooking was done more patiently

My mind was geared up with a motivational speech for the entire day to come.

I would make a new positive resolution each day and try to stick to it.

I was free of frequent cooking the whole day and had more time to play with my daughter or do things that I really loved.

This was the positive spark that stimulated a chain of positive changes. I started reading and listening more often to positive and useful videos. One of my main problems is that my house was always untidy. But while browsing endless videos about cleaning, I found Marie Condo method of decluttering. It was there online all the time, but I was not looking for it. I was able to keep my house clean with hardly any effort. I started registering all the positive things that I did each day. Every day I would read my past entries and they would make me more and more confident.

Since I had more confidence, I started to be more aware of my surroundings instead of cowering into my imaginary world for protection and comfort. This is the first step to mindfulness that I learned. This sequence of events worked for me as sometimes you might be too deep in your woes to have willingness or space to try out anything new. You will have a unique sequence of positivity, just be mindful of the positive signals from the cosmos.

As I became more positive, I became more attentive towards the sermons. The negative voices in my mind became fainter. They are still there but much weaker than before. I became mindful of their triggers. I decided that these thoughts are like advertising links on a website and I can choose not to click on them. 

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The first step towards mindfulness for me was to avoid fusing my identity with an undesirable thought. For example, if I get a thought “I should throw my trash in a public area”, there are 3 ways in which I can react to it.

  1. How can I think of such a mean thing?
  2. It can be done as many others are doing it.
  3. Dismissed as useless thought

Mindfulness is about choosing the right response. I still struggle to choose the right response. But at least now I know which way I am heading.

If I choose the wrong thought, there will be a current of similar thoughts. It is exactly like the way the internet works. If you view a spiritual video, it will suggest more of them. If you view a porn video, similar suggestions will start floating. And sometimes, similar thoughts can stir your emotions and provoke you to fuse with the thought process. So when you fuse yourself with a thought of anger, you become angry. For example, if you choose to fuse with a thought “all blacks are criminals”, instantaneously your mind will supply you with enough evidence and information confirming the given fact because there is always enough supporting information for all kinds of beliefs.

If I choose a positive thought, for example, “all blacks are kind and generous”, I will be equally at fault. The only difference in this perspective is that previously I would be creating troubles for the black people, but now I am vulnerable to the few wrong black people because of my blind faith in all of them. 

Mindfulness helps me to be more in touch with the current reality. In a mindful state, I will be able to get out of my cradle of prejudices and see a person as he is. So I will be cautious of a malignant person, whether black, white or yellow. At the same time, I will respect a benign person, whether young or old and mellow. The mindful state is the ultimate blessing that God can bestow on us.

Gradually, I started noticing my process of cooking without being anxious or nervous. I started getting a better estimate of salt, sugar and other spices. It is still far from being perfect, but now I know it better than before. I could cook faster and better. The food was tastier in general.

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With mindful attention, after a few months, I no longer needed sermons to get rid of the negative thoughts. However, I was still anxious about the time I was spending over cooking since I had many other things that needed urgent attention. Mindfulness still helped me here in an incredible way. I was trying to find a fast way to cook elaborate meals. Mindfulness helped me see a clearer and more comprehensive picture. No one needed elaborate 5-course freshly cooked meals in my family. But I took it on myself as an essential criterion for being a good wife. Also, I unconsciously blamed my husband because I assumed that he might want that. In reality, he wanted a simple easily cooked and tasty meal after which we could watch TV together. Dreamlife! Only it appeared too good to be true. Sometimes, we develop strong prejudices as children that might leave us logically handicapped for a lifetime. It took me a long time to accept and absorb that life can be much simpler and pleasant. Fortunately, I am able to see the truth with the help of better observation and more acceptability. The practice of mindfulness really helped me get over this and many other mental blocks that I had in my mind. 

And the most important and enabling discovery of all was that I was able to practice mindfulness without closing my eyes in a separate quiet place and specific time. I realized that the only condition for life to proceed smoothly is flexibility with balance. This is a practice which can become as habitual as breathing itself. And the permanent state of mindfulness can elevate us to the level of divinity, just as breathing (potential of an active energy exchange) distinguishes living things from the non-living.

This discovery set me free. Now I could meditate anytime, anywhere and without any physical limitations. The only thing truly required is the willingness to practice. The moment you desire, you are in the state of mindfulness. One of my spiritual teachers Babuji used to say that for spirituality, you just need to turn your head from one side to the other – from material to spiritual direction. And yes, it is really so easy!

So now I don’t think that I don’t have time to meditate or a quiet place or enough resources or a meditation guide. I don’t need time or anything else to meditate. I just need to be ready and I am there.

It might take time and it might require some patience. But it is like an experience of a really good coffee. Once you have it, you will be able to replicate it in your own kitchen after some trial and error. But just keep trying. It is true that troubled people are blessed ones. I kept trying because there was no other way, no other option than to try. And because of the igniting fuel of all the emotional problems I had, I was determined to find a way out.

I have not reached a stage of perfection. I still fall, but now I get up and get going faster than ever before. My growth has become multi-dimensional. After mindfulness, I started better house-keeping, trimmed my work, read multiple motivational books, implemented kaizen and Kanban techniques in personal life etc. Thanks to my husband, we have completely changed to organic vegan food.  Now I note in my diary one positive change that I made every day and fortunately, I do have many positive changes to record every day. I suffered to find out that there is no need to suffer. Hope that this book helps you to skip or reduce the unnecessary suffering and open your eyes of wisdom.