The Vedic teachings (Ayurveda is a branch of the Vedic teachings) remind us to cultivate presence—the kind of awareness needed to live a full, whole, intelligent life. When you hear the word ‘presence’ what do you feel? Does it trigger memories of when you felt completely present with what you were doing, or make you reflect on how often being present has eluded you?
As human beings, we navigate through present moments and distracted moments, and are hopefully learning to experience more of the former than the later. It’s hard though! Especially nowadays where technology and our busy lifestyles can make it easier to multi-task, zone out, rush around, or get sidetracked by social media. Don’t get me wrong, technology can be a life saving too and helpful in so many ways; however, on the whole, it can also be a big reason why so many of us struggle to be present throughout the day.
If we really think about it, when we’re walking around with our eyeballs fixed on our screens or picking up one phone call after another, how could we ever really be present exactly where we are in the moment? Our present moment isn’t happening on the phone, it’s happening right here right now, in whatever room or natural environment you find yourself in. With the people or animals or plants right in front of and around you.
Because it’s so easy to forget to pay attention to the world around us and within us in the present moment, it’s helpful to look at our lives through a Vedic lens. The Vedic texts offer us a plethora of teachings, knowledge, and practices to help us become more present, and ultimately, from that presence, more connected to ourselves, to others, to the world at large, and to the source of our lives. The Vedic teachings are so vast that Yoga and Ayurveda are only just two parts—and that’s really saying something, since Yogic and Ayurvedic teachings are so extensive!
To make it simple, some of the Vedic teachings that can help us lead present, balanced lives are:
- Know ourselves—observe our actions, our desires, our mind, and our environment so that we can begin to understand our nature and nature at large.
- Spend time in nature. Get to know the environment, and look to nature as a source of inspiration, knowledge, healing, and connection.
- Meditate and cultivate one-pointed focus—practice giving the mind (and then our bodies through action) one thing to focus on at a time so that we can be fully present and our energy can grow instead of spread thin.
- Make time to withdraw your senses and attention from the outside world and turn it inwards—this is done through meditation and through taking periodic breaks from indulgence (cutting out coffee and alcohol or anything that stimulates us for periods of time, fasting, engaging in kriyas or cleansing exercises and practices, panchakarma—Ayurvedic detoxification protocol, etc.), and learning to discern what’s real from what’s unreal—when we can withdraw from our senses and the identity we’ve been clinging onto long enough and often enough, we can begin to see how much we “make up” about the outside world based on the sensations of our bodies or on our past experiences; like the saying, “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Then, we can start to gain perspective and not get so taken over by our emotions or what we choose to believe about certain situations.
- Take action for the sake of engaging in that experience, learning something new, or of being of service; not to reap future rewards. Be concerned with the action, not the fruit of that action, and this will allow for presence, joy, and contentment.
- Live life in a balanced way; all things in moderation! Take care of your body (individual home), the earth (collective home), and do your best!
- Always look deeper; instead of taking things at first glace or face value, cultivate the ability to see deeper—into yourself/your experience, others, and the nature of Reality.
- Expand your mind and cultivate a flexibility of body, mind, and spirit—living in a receptive, flexible, curious leads to humility and contentment; living a rigid life leads to attachments, expectations, disappointment, highs and lows, instability, etc.
- The mind is more powerful than we realize, and it has the ability to make the body sick or to heal the body depending on how we use it; thoughts become habits, actions, things.
- Get in touch with the source of your life, and all life.
Those are just some of the profound teachings of the Vedas; there’s so much more to the teachings. However, it’s a total game changer when we start to contemplate and integrate even just those few teachings and live our lives with more presence and depth. To support you in cultivating more presence throughout your day, we’re excited to share a really simple meditative practice you can do at home:
Step One: put away your phone and computer; commit to being out-of-touch or offline for at least 10 minutes every day—the longer you can do this, the better!
Step Two: find a comfortable, quiet, cozy space in your house or in nature where you can sit or lay down for an extended period of time (again, leave your devices behind!)
Step Three: find a comfortable cross-legged seated position or lay flat on your back. When you find what works for your body, take a few minutes to do some gentle stretches. If you’re sitting, maybe take some gentle spinal twists, or gentle neck rolls, or reach one arm up and over (side body stretch) and then the other. If you’re laying down, maybe lift your arms up over your head and stretch your legs out long. Sway gently from side to side to get a nice stretch into the spine and side bodies.
Step Four: after some gentle stretches, find a place where you can be still. Once you find that place, you can bring your hands to rest on your knees/thighs if you’re seated, or bring your arms by your sides or onto you belly if you’re laying down. Close your eyes and start to focus on your breath.
Step Five: this is where we practice one-pointed focus; as you’re bringing your awareness to your breath, keep your mind focused on the quality of your breathing. Notice how you’re breathing — are you breathing through your mouth or your nose? Into your belly or your chest? What happens throughout your body as you breath—are there parts of the body that move or expand? Are there parts of the body that feel stiff and tight and does that sensation change as you breathe? Start to become focused on and aware of your breathing and how the breath changes your physical and emotional state. Notice how you’re feeling, notice how your body feels seated or laying down in relationship to the ground beneath you. Become aware and present to every subtle sensation you can feel or sense—including any smells or sounds around you as you breathe; just notice, and stay focused on the breath.
Step Six: when your mind wanders—we say when because it will!—come back to your breath. Don’t worry too much about the mind wandering or what thoughts you’re thinking; just notice them, acknowledge that your mind has wandered, and bring yourself back to your breath. Breathe in, feel that breath in; breathe out, feel that breath out.
Step Seven: after a few minutes of focusing on your breath, you can stay here and continue for as long as feels good and maybe practice focusing on different parts of the body (bring your awareness to your neck and shoulders and pay attention to how they feel, and how the feeling/sensation changes the longer you observe and breathe).
Step Eight: once you feel complete, take a few deep breaths, letting each inhale and exhale be longer and slower than usual. Maybe count to 4 or 6 for each inhale and then that same number or higher for the exhale. When you’re ready you can start to open your eyes and look around you. Notice where you are, observe the colors, the animals, the plants, the objects, etc. Notice how you feel and if your breathing changes as you come back into the world.
Step Nine: give yourself a little extra time to stay present in the moment before you hop back into your phone or email or rush into another activity. Just let yourself observe and enjoy the experience of being present exactly where you are. You can stay tuned into your breathing, and let yourself take deep breaths as you just hang out for a little longer where you are. Not needing to do anything or fix anything or change anything; just being exactly where you are in the moment.
Ah, the joys of being present!
Let us know how you liked this exercise. Send us an email or give us a call! If you want extra tips and tricks for lifestyle and dietary recommendations that will help you live a more present, balanced, healthy life, check out our online gut healing protocol: https://santacruzayurveda.thinkific.com