In yoga philosophy, we speak about consciousness. We refer to yogic texts that offer practices to help us raise our awareness and become more present. This certainly sounds like a good idea, and it really doesn't seem too tough. It just requires some time and effort, along with the ability to remain still—all low-cost and easily accessible requirements. So why isn't everyone feeling the bliss on the awareness-raising, higher-consciousness train of joy?
Our minds need to buy into the whole operation. The yoga and ayurvedic texts tell us that our nature is sattva, or clarity and balance; our mind is essentially joy. This can be a challenging concept. After all, it may not feel like your mind’s nature is joy!
The biological model tells us that our brain’s number one job is to keep the organism (that’s you) alive. Often the behaviors we engage in to survive feel less than joyful. Sometimes the desire for happiness and the need to stay alive feel at odds. This is where we begin to sacrifice our need for joy and focus more of our precious energy and attention on staying alive.
Sometimes the desire for happiness and the need to stay alive feel at odds.
These two agendas do not have to be separated. Through our yoga practices, we can develop support for our survival, building adaptability and resilience while establishing an awareness of our essential joy. For example, when I practice deep relaxation (which feels pretty blissful), I am also supporting my nervous system (resiliency) and cultivating an energy reserve that will help me navigate change without fatigue (adaptability). In ayurvedic practices, the daily routine (dinacharya) offers us a way to start each day with the same self-supporting practices—rising with gratitude, tongue scraping, drinking warm water with lemon, belly-breathing practices, and body oiling before bathing. This daily routine provides an anchor of support, helping us to develop adaptability and resilience by decreasing decision fatigue, as we know what to expect. This provides a solid foundation on which to build every morning, allowing us to approach each day with less stress and more joy!
The purpose of this work is to detach from the limiting and false notion that only who you are in this moment matters. Look at a photo of yourself from 15 years ago—same person? Kinda, but not really.
Whichever school of thought you subscribe to—yoga, ayurveda, Western psychology—the basic tenets are the same: your mind and body are connected, and they are changeable and filled with infinite potential. What you feed your senses and how well you digest the lessons from past experiences are the keys to creating change in your perceptions of your life moment to moment. If you begin to work with these variables, you can turn the mind to your side.
Easy enough in theory, right? We have all kinds of advice from the Yoga Sutra, Charaka Samhita (a seminal text of ayurveda), attachment theory (John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth’s model for describing interpersonal relationships), and modern-day psychology about how to include these ideas in our daily lives. Yet when it comes to actually putting this good advice into practice, it seems we have less guidance available on building a joyful, adaptable, and resilient life.
That is what “getting your mind on your side” is all about—getting some space to view your process. This distance allows us more perspective to evaluate the experiences that have created our thought and behavior patterns, which ultimately leads us toward greater understanding and consciousness.
In order to be more adaptable and create a more mindful, spacious day, you need to support your self-regulation with what I call “little anchors,” or routines. Creating a morning routine will go far to support steadiness and ease without the decision fatigue that results from the “wake-up chaos” many of us call “morning time.” Try including one, two, or three of these easy-to-implement suggestions into a morning routine that will work for your life. Anchors away!
In order to be more adaptable and create a more mindful, spacious day, you need to support your self-regulation with what I call “little anchors,” or routines.
Get up at dawn.
Establish a daily cleansing and nurturing routine (dinacharya).
Allow yourself the time needed to evacuate wastes fully every morning. Rushing hinders the process!
Eat nourishing meals, cooked with nourishing oils, three times a day.
Practice deep relaxation or meditation, or walk quietly in nature.
Go to bed at the same time almost every night (preferably between 10 and 11 p.m.).
Move your body enough to break a light sweat every day.
Offer gratitude to something greater than yourself—for your life and for the people and things that are most important to you.
Become aware of your heart's desire and your innate passion, and explore those impulses!
These are the go-to practices that help me keep my mind on my side. As we build mental impressions (samskaras) around these daily actions, we bring more (life force), tejas (discrimination), and ojas (deep vitality) to our lives. We start to create new neural grooves or patterns in our brains, which will feed our minds in moving slowly and steadily toward clarity and balance—and, ultimately, toward joy.