There exists within each of us a natural state of simple and open awareness in which we feel happy, light, and at peace. In contrast, the state of suffering or unhappiness is complicated. Complications take many forms, including an imbalanced lifestyle, toxic relationships, hidden emotional debts, resistance, indecision, addictions, and negative conditioned beliefs. When our life is overly complicated, we’re weighed down by superfluous things at every level.
This week we will begin to let go of the complications that cause us to suffer by cultivating a simple state of awareness. In this process, tiny steps yield big results, in part because simplicity is nature’s default position. Suffering and the complications that fuel it are unnatural; it wastes energy to maintain complexity.
As you focus on simplifying your life, make sure that your approach to the process is a loving and accepting one. Know that you are now doing all that you can do right now, and that is all anyone can do. When you stay in the moment, you have all the time in the world and whatever needs to be done will be completed in the exact right time.
Exercise: Letting Go of Complexity
Here is a practice that will help you let go of whatever is no longer serving you and return to your inherent state of wholeness, happiness, and wellbeing.
First ask yourself, “Is there anything in my life that is causing me to feel a sense of unease, discomfort, or pain?” You can choose a persistent issue that has bothered you for years or it may be something that has recently come up for you. While it’s fine to focus on a chronic physical disorder, don’t approach this exercise as a cure – we’re focusing on patterns of perception that encourage us to hold onto suffering.
Here are some of the most common complications:
Disorder: Consider your physical environment. Is your house a mess? Is your desk buried under stacks of work? Are you letting other people leave clutter and messes in the space you share?
Stress: While the pressures of life are inevitable, if at the end of the day you are unable to completely let go of the day and return to a calm, centered inner state, you are overstressed. Make a list of the major stressors in your life and brainstorm ideas to either eliminate the stressor or to change the impact it is having on your emotional state.
Toxic Relationships: Are you in relationships with people who don’t have your wellbeing at heart? Make a list of these and consider what you can do to protect yourself from their toxic influence. Sometimes setting better boundaries and practicing the tools of conscious communication can be transformative. In some cases, ending a relationship may be necessary. At the same time, focus on nurturing your healthy relationships so that they are even more loving and fulfilling.
Negativity: Health and well-being are the natural state of the body and mind. By dwelling on negativity, we prevent ourselves from living in the simple state of wellbeing. Do you often gossip about others or relish their setbacks? Do you tend to choose friends who like to criticize and complain? Do you feel compelled to watch every disaster or catastrophe unfolding on the evening news? Remember, whatever we put our attention on expands in our experience, so consider where you are focusing your time and energy.
Non-nurturing Lifestyle: Do your daily routine, diet, and overall lifestyle support your health and wellbeing? When we don’t nourish ourselves with fresh, healthy food; restful sleep, regular exercise, a daily spiritual practice such as meditation or journaling, and other mind-body healing habits, we will inevitably feel tired, out of balance, irritable, and sometimes even depressed. What aspects of your lifestyle would you like to transform to bring you greater health and happiness?
For the next week, sit by yourself for at least five minutes each day with the intention to clear away complications. In the time you set aside for this clearing, determine what area you need to focus on the most and work on that. It may be one of the complications mentioned above or a different area that is preventing you from experiencing a state of peaceful simplicity.
Start by thinking of the smallest possible action you could take – and then take it. Then choose the next smallest action, and do that. The action can truly be as small as opening your closet drawer to see if your gym shoes are inside. Then the next day you can commit to putting on your shoes, and the day after that you can decide to walk to your mailbox. Although such small acts can seem trivial, over time they help you build momentum and experience transformation.
Cultivating Your Intentions
One of the most subtle forms of complication is past conditioning – the mental and emotional patterns that keep us feeling unhappy and stuck. When we hold onto resentments, hostility, regrets, or grievances, they accumulate in our body and erode our health and happiness. This seven-step process is an effective way to detoxify at the subtle level.
1. Take responsibility.
Emotions are so powerful that it is easy to believe that we have little control over them. When someone says something rude, we feel justified in reacting with an angry response. But if your emotional state depends on how other people’s behavior and words, you will forever be at the mercy of others. Understanding that you have choice in how you respond and interpret experiences is the key to healing the emotional body.
2. Witness what you are feeling.
Conditioning trains us to feel the same feelings over and over every time we experience the same situation. As soon as an emotion is triggered, we get tangled in our old response. To escape this painful cycle, we need a clear place of witnessing. The best way to witness is to locate where the feeling is arising in our body. Observe the feeling and allow your attention to embrace the sensation. Breathe into the feeling. By allowing yourself to experience the physical sensations without trying to change them, the charge of the emotional begins to dissipate.
3. Label your feeling.
Give a name to whatever sensation you feel in your body. Use simple words such as fear, anger, guilt, frustration, or sadness. Don’t use the language of victimization – betrayed, let down, hurt – any word that implies blame for someone else. By simply labeling your feeling, you avoid the temptation to rehash the long, complicated story. Every story is about the past. Your sensations and emotions are in the present.
4. Express the feeling.
When we resist or suppress emotions, they only become more toxic. Expressing a feeling leads to release and purification of the body and mind. The purpose of this step isn’t to express how much you hate or blame someone else but to experience release, clarity, and insight. First describe the situation and your feelings from your point of view. Then express what happened from the other person’s point of view. Then describe the situation as though you were a reporter writing an objective news story. When you describe all three perspectives, the intense emotions lose their grip on you and your awareness expands.
5. Share your feeling.
Choose someone you trust and share your feelings, including the whole process you’ve been going through and all three points of view. You should now be able to share without blame and without trying to get the other person to take “your side.” The aim is to be heard and get a true reflection, which the right listener can provide.
6. Let go through ritual.
Create your own ceremony for symbolic release of the toxic emotion. Every culture since ancient times has used ritual, and you can invoke this age-old power by creating a ritual that has personal meaning for you. You may want to write down what you’re releasing on a piece of paper that you then burn and release to the Virgin Mary, Buddha, or any spiritual being. You could also wrap your note on a rock and jettison it into the sea or a lake. You can make your ritual private or invite others to witness the release and help you remember its significance.
7. Celebrate and move on!
Honor your release by doing something nice for yourself. The celebration doesn’t have to be showy or elaborate. You could simply listen to your favorite music, buy yourself a special present or enjoy a delicious meal. You may want to invite others to share in the joy and gratitude.
In today’s meditation led by Deepak Chopra, you will be guided to put your attention on the divine qualities of love, gratitude, compassion, joy, ecstasy, peace, and equanimity. In this expanded state, the immune system is strengthened as the body repairs the damage caused by toxic experiences, relationships, environments, and substances. You’ll experience the bliss of present moment awareness and deep renewal.
Consciousness in Motion
Simple Steps to Cleanse and Detoxify
The healing tradition of Ayurveda teaches that the key to vibrant health and bliss is a strong inner digestive fire, known in Sanskrit as agni. Agni represents the elemental force of transformation. It allows us to fully digest our food, experiences, and emotions, assimilating whatever is nourishing and eliminating the rest.
The product of a strong agni is known as ojas. When ojas circulates, we experience a sense of wellbeing as every cell in our body expresses its unique talent in support of the entire physiology. When our digestive fire is weak, we fail to completely metabolize our experiences, resulting in the accumulation of toxic residues known in Ayurveda as ama. One sign of ama in the system is an unpleasant white “furry” coating on the tongue, which is particularly noticeable in the morning.
When the level of ama becomes excessive, it overrides the value of ojas. As a result, our cells lose their vitality and we experience toxic build-up. Some signs that you might be experiencing toxicity include ongoing headaches, skin problems, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, low energy, poor digestion, and constipation.
Ignite Your Inner Fire
To keep your inner digestive fire burning strongly, Ayurveda recommends that we cleanse and detoxify on a regular basis. The Chopra Center’s Perfect Health program offers the opportunity to experience a deep 6-day or 10-day detoxification and rejuvenation process that includes daily Ayurvedic massage treatments to cleanse and purify the bodymind, as well as instruction in meditation, yoga, and other Ayurvedic practices for balance and wellbeing. We also suggest a gentle cleanse that you can do at home. Here are the guidelines for your home detox:
- Follow a simplified diet for five days, eating plenty of steamed vegetables, grains, and lentil soup. Eliminate fried foods, fermented items, dairy and other animal products, and refined carbohydrates. The key is to keep meals small and simple to give your bodily systems a break.
- While detoxifying, it is critical to stay hydrated in order to flush toxins and waste out of your system. Drink at least eight glasses of water daily. Ayurveda recommends drinking plenty of gingerroot tea – at least one liter per day – to help purify the body and boost your digestive system. To make the tea, add one teaspoon of freshly grated gingerroot per pint of hot water. Sip the tea throughout the day.
- You may also want to include fresh fruit juices in the morning, mixed fruit and vegetable juices during the day, and vegetable juices in the evening. If possible, prepare them using fresh organic produce.
- Lubricate your digestive tract and encourage elimination by eating a mixture of sesame seeds and golden raisins. Prepare a one-to-one mixture of ⅛ cup sesame seeds and ⅛ cup golden raisins. Take a teaspoon of the mixture one hour before each meal, or two hours after each meal. You can substitute ½ teaspoon of sesame oil with three or four raisins if you have trouble digesting seeds.
- Each day, give yourself a self-massage using therapeutic aromatherapy oils. Regular massage and loving touch detoxifies the body’s tissues, increases circulation, calms the mind, and enhances immune function – and it feels blissful!
- Exercise is a cornerstone in a detoxifying program. The increased heat and sweat generated through exercise helps to purify and detoxify your body. Each day, aim to engage in at least twenty minutes of aerobic activity that is vigorous enough to leave a light layer of sweat on your skin. Also take hot baths or go to a sauna or steam room to encourage the removal of toxins through your skin.
- On the fourth evening, just before you go to bed, take a teaspoon of yogurt with a dose of standardized senna extract. Most people will get a good elimination with four tablets before bedtime. You can expect a few loose bowel movements within the next six to eight hours.
- Always end your cleanse with a gentle transition by gradually reintroducing more complex foods into your diet, such as meat, nuts, starchy vegetables, and whole grains into your diet