No matter what happened or changed in my personal circumstances in the last few months, this pandemic (Covid-19) has taught me one simple thing: To Celebrate Life Everyday.
In a world where we constantly want (with strong earthly desires), grasp, possess, rush and keep ourselves deliberately busy (with the things that mostly don't nurture us), we forget how short our journey on Earth is. In fact, to compare human's life span with a bowhead whale (~200 years), Greenland shark (~300 years), a giant tortoise (~150 years) or even in relation with the advent of mankind, our time is incredibly short.
Let me ask you this: Would you waste a minute from your life if you knew that you don’t have even a single day left before you leave?
I know! Hearing this question from me right here - right now may sound discomforting, worrying or even horrifying. However, in return, your honest answer may be much liberating, comforting or inspiring for you! Shouldn't we live LIFE fully, genuinely and freely not only in an individual, but also in communal level? Don't we deserve a LIFE to celebrate every and each day?
... and I will now even dare to say that it is YOU who can change this flow, make it possible and create real wealth – happiness and good health- on Earth through simplicity, ethical living and greater balance in your daily routine.
I HEAR YOU ASKING, "HOW TO SUSTAIN IT THEN?"
Here are my suggestions of 10 ways to cultivate the sense of LIFE within (and without);
Wake up to your day with a sense of gratitude! Every morning choose one thing -if not many- that you are grateful for, and perhaps one more thing (or few) that is related to your family, community, nations or to the entire planet to remember what you actually appreciate most in life.
Follow a regular self-care routine by including a smile on your face each morning. How you start to your day often defines the rest of the 24-hour-cycle together with a good night's sleep. An example of a stimulating and nourishing morning schedule may be:
Wake up early (ideally right before dawn),
Drink a glass of warm water - no lemon to protect your teeth and stomach enzymes but ginger or fresh mint infused perhaps. It depends on the season and your body-type,
Open the windows to ventilate the rooms and exchange night-energy with a renewing day-energy (may not be an option if you live in a highly polluted area),
Empty the bowels and bladder fully (never hold, take your time and stay off any distraction such as your phone during this job - mindfulness everywhere),
Brush your body (skip if you have a dry skin) and take a refreshing (cool) or relaxing (warm) shower,
Brush your teeth, scrape your tongue, use jala-neti (nasal cleansing by using a neti pot - especially good for those who have heavy inflammation in nasal passages during pollen months. This may help to breathe easily and deeply),
Skin care (face & body) with an ayurvedic oil application,
Dress in colours that represent nature and in simple garments made from sustainable, natural, breathable materials (not polyester, silk or spandex),
Set a positive intention (your sankalpa) for rest of the day,
Plan your agenda ahead (below are few ideas) and DO NOT get engaged with your online platforms at least until you complete your AM-Ritual. This is the time of the day that you prepare your body, mind & soul for a celebration after all!!
Meditate and breathe in full of awareness every day, for at least 5 to 30 minutes. In time you will realise how significant and powerful every single breath is to maintain a great balance & harmony in life; invite calmness, clarity and serenity to the mind; develop a strong immune system and boost your creativity. Conscious living is the only way to celebrate our unique, one-off lives. Meditation helps us escape from this rat race, understand what is real and find the right attitude with inner courage and ease to work with the life's true challenges. As a result, we start to feel whole again, connected, pure and content.
Be more active in a structured way by being grateful for the job that your joints, tissues and body systems do for you. No need for a fancy physical activity everyday if you are not particularly a sporty type or have limited options and abilities to move. Even 5 minutes of joint freeing yoga practices or walking few lengths indoor or outdoor with gentle movements around the main joints, such as shoulders, spine, hips and knees are enough to bring the sensation of Life (ancient teachings call it Prana) to the body and mind. In a world where desk- & chair-bound way of living becomes a serious cause of chronic illnesses, WALKING MEETINGS are now being prescribed by public health departments as a potential cure to chronic sedentarism in workplaces. Dr James Levine, one of the US’s leading obesity experts, has warned the public and government once “sitting is the new smoking”. So, “Move more. Get up and walk about. And I don’t just mean in the office,” reads PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie in an annual conference in September 2017, according to the Times. “Go out for a walk, get some fresh air for a meeting.” . Whether you are working in an office environment or not, make walking (or any other variation of it inc. running, swimming, cycling) and especially structured somatic movements such as yoga, dance, pilates, tai-chi, aikido, body balance a part of your life. Somatic exercises involve performing movement for the sake of movement rather than the external appearance or result of the movement itself. Throughout exercise, you focus on your inner experience as you move and expand your internal awareness. Take every single opportunity to combine these activities with your daily actions: Have your business meetings by walking in one of the local gardens; meet with friends in a local park, leisure centre or in a yoga class rather than in a cafe shop, pub or restaurant (you can have this always as an option to chill out after a nourishing work-out); take your kids to school on foot; include 10-30 min movement practices to your family weekend activities; take your dog for a walk more often and a little longer; commute by walking, cycling or getting off from the public transport one or two stops earlier and walk to the office / home; use stairs rather than using a lift; have a habit of walking few rounds of lanes back and forward between the rooms or offices or around the block few times a day. I promise, you will notice the positive difference in only few days time.
Rest deliberately when possible, and after every 90 minutes of hard work claim this very natural and humanly right at home, in the office, in your workplace or at school. To maintain vitality, creativity, good health and resilience in the body & mind, some scientific researches suggest 90:20 minutes ratio between work and resting periods and not having more than 3-4 times of 90 minutes working sessions a day. Implementing a work-life balance is not a privilege or a utopia. Regardless of your gender, age, ability / disability, social status or social class, occupational or parental identity, RESTING is your birth right. It's a MUST that one should take very seriously in daily basis, especially in our profit and success orientated, competitive societies where constant and hours & hours hard working is greatly honoured. Without daily, structured and deliberate REST, we invite ill health, dull life, shorter life span, miserable moodiness and lack of inspiration on problem solving, strategic thinking and life planning. When we talk about resting, we are certainly not talking about Netflixing, sleeping, holidaying twice a year or scrolling lazily on social media by lying down on a sofa. Rest is a more complex and configured layout that must be practised methodically. Although we say it's complex and one should learn how to apply it in daily life, once we learn how to consciously rest, it becomes a natural habit. If you choose to do only one thing in a day to celebrate life, do this one: REST wherever you can, whenever it's possible.
(*Another blog post about WHY & HOW TO REST? in 9-to-5 working societies will be posted soon. Follow the space by subscribing your email here!)
See also "the benefits of Restorative Yoga"
Journal to learn from your daily experiences and feelings without being judgemental or critically harsh toward yourself. Journaling is a great way to document your life-journey on Earth as we tend to forget easily what's actually most important to us, what our values are and what our dharma (purpose) on Earth is. A journal is also like a mirror where we can see our own reflection made from words, scribbles, doodles, picture collages, and showing us who we are, how we think and how we act. This is always extra helpful to comprehend our past and present thoughts, emotions and actions, and to transform our attitude for a future life that deserves joyful celebrations. Reading, too, can be a great component of your journaling time as we dive into someone else's journal to be inspired. You can divide your days of the week between writing & reading to extend your imagination and wording with a single focus at a time.
Eat fresh, seasonal and warm variety range of food to allow your belly enjoying life as well. Food is, beyond doubt, one of the huge and important part of our life celebrations, and extensive enough to merit its own blog post. Eating is a part of enjoying life with pleasure and bliss. However, it may cause long term pain and suffering, too, especially when not done mindfully with wisdom and awareness. When you follow a diet, it is incredibly vital to know what you are doing, because there is no "one fit for all" type diet. I am certainly NOT talking about type of diets which help you for weight loss or muscle building like the Atkins, Ketogenic, Paleo, low-carb, weight watchers, intermittent fasting, south beach, slim world diets etc. These types of diets mostly don't have a holistic and scientifically evident approach to the human body and may cause irreversible harm and damages in our physical and mental well-being. One's diet, the way of eating, should be tailored according to the body type, strength and the weaknesses of the body & mind, season, environment that we live in, our activity level, sleep pattern, age, gender and even our genes. The functioning of our digestive system and metabolism (agni) constantly changes from sunset to sunrise, season to season, with the weather, in stages of our lives, according to our lifestyles, when we have a health issue or experience chronic stress, during menstruation, pregnancy, stages of menopause etc. Remember these old sayings,"you are what you eat!" and "food is medicine". Putting the right food in the right time in a right form and amount into your belly would only nourish and nurture your life, not simply in physical level but also in mental and emotional levels. The more fresh, seasonal, warm, ethically prepared sustainable food you eat, the more ease, energy and stability you generate. Food that you eat should be also in a diverse extend including seasonal herbs, fruit and vegetables, spices, legumes, seeds and definitely away from any kind of processed productions - like frozen and tinned food, microwave and ready meals, fast food, sauces, savoury snacks, fully refined food and food & drinks contain excessive salt, sugar, fat etc.. Our eating responses should be guilt free too which I mean here when you eat a bar of chocolate just ENJOY it, rather than feeling "naughty" about it. Because guilt creates different chemical reactions in the body which tend to slow down a good digestion (agni) alongside many unhelpful responses of it. Choose to limit them gradually rather than stopping to consume them completely. As always when we adopt a certain diet - vegan, ayurvedic, mediterranean etc.-, it's always about creating balance and eating in harmony with Nature. So that we allow our internal ecosystem to configure itself in unity with the outer ecosystem.
Act with kindness and give a reason to someone else for waking up with something to be grateful for. Compassionate kindness is tremendously rewarding for human beings and one of the key elements for our lasting happiness. Latest researches show us that random Acts of Kindness also keep the body and mind healthy and young (yes! It’s anti-ageing!) through stimulating PSNS and Endocrine System, effects the body in cellular level for good and promotes its natural healing ability and enriches sense of positivity. Kindness is a vast phenomenon that you can experience in more than one direction. It is not an act that can be applied towards others only by offering the last parking bay to the other car across your one, leaving a small thank you note in people’s pockets, giving random compliments or letting the stranger behind you to take your turn at the store-till. It’s an act that should be done more often towards yourself, too. Forgiving someone who hurt you before, feeding a gentle and compassionate inner narrator, giving yourself permission to do things that you enjoy or need most such as a self-massage or 10 minutes me-time by listening to your favourite podcast, cooking your favourite food, allowing others to share their vision, insight and wisdom with the assurance of no fear, alienation or hesitation can be just few of them. It's more about allowing others to celebrate their LIFE.
Give & Receive! We are not designed to be born, and then grow and decay alone. Man is a dependant and social animal and can only stay happy and healthy through interactions with others. Giving & receiving material, emotional and spiritual support is a beautiful way to celebrate our own lives as well as others'. However, either in our actions of kindness or giving to others, there is a very thin line between a selfish desire of moral satisfaction and helping others wholeheartedly without any expectation. Whatever we do, we can celebrate life only when we do it for the sake of this action itself (Karma Yoga). Regardless of whom the action of giving is benefiting - a person in need, a family member, friend or colleague, entire humanity or the animal kingdom or the planet itself- the tiniest bit of gloating negates the celebration that is life. It becomes a task, a duty or a source of suffering. Do it and forget it! That should be the mantra. Receiving is also as important as giving, but for some people allowing themselves to receive is harder than giving to others. This may be the case because of some significant childhood or adulthood experiences, the society that we grow up in, some cultural habits, our belief system or some traumatic events that we had in the past. It certainly requires practice. The more we give and receive, the better we become in these both actions. The better we become at it, the more bliss (Ananda) we find in life.
Connect with the world around you and most importantly with yourself. Walking in the nature, stroking a pet, having zero-work family & friends time, going away for retreats, taking part in local organisations, voluntary work, having occasional tech-detox days or even weeks, joining activity classes where you can meet local like-minded people and learning a new skill are different ways of building up true, long lasting and nurturing connection. Each of these brings us closer to the sense of living a full and wholesome life in an artificial world. With this awareness, we naturally choose what's simple, what’s sustainable and fair, what's necessary and what's kind in life and we live along with a greater contentment (Santhosha).
Life is a GIFT! It's your treasure! Phrase every moment of it as this anonymous wise old saying tells us: “We think there is endless time to live but we never know which moment is last. So, share, care, love, and celebrate every moment of life.”
Breathe well, flow well, connect well! With infinite Love and Gratitude! Aslihan, the Crow