How do most of us react when the temperature starts to climb out of the frozen zone? We throw open the windows, shake out the winter dust, and stagger into the sun again. The spring in our step leads us to the yoga studio with the fervor of a vortex. We strive to make up for lost time now that the days have become longer. It suddenly seems easier to establish and commit to a schedule uninterrupted by the cold. Yoga classes, gym memberships, and beauty salons all climb in attendance as we prepare for the stripped-down summer.
The pursuit of a beautiful body is relentless. We spend an immense amount of our resources on the exterior. Think about all the time, money, and energy that can go into the maintenance of our physical body. Clothing, cleaning, exercising, and feeding the body consume such a large part of our lives. We may be obsessed with the upkeep of our hair alone—from head to toe, the cleaning, styling, and removal of it all require many hours and a great deal of money. Standards of physical perfection brought on by cultural demands can also breed stress and anxiety over our appearance.
Stress is a sure sign of an imbalance in our lives—and a perfect way to ruin our summer fun. (The yogis that race out of the class before savasana to make it to the hairdresser are in serious need of balance in their lives!) When we ignore everything on the interior, we're out of balance. As suggested by Eckhart Tolle, we must “get the inside right and the outside falls into place.”
We have an immense interior world made up of thoughts, feelings, imagination, peace, love, and prana. These subtler energetic levels of our being vibrate within and are just as real as the bones in our body. To ditch judgment and balance your inner and outer lives using kindness and self-compassion, just follow these three easy steps. Think of it as three inner workouts to bring wholeness in time for spring.
1. Set an intention.
You don’t need another to-do list. What you need is a to-be list. Wake up in the morning and think about—or even better, imagine—how you want to be on this day. Do you want to be peaceful and loving today? Do you want to be productive on this day as you allow your intuition to become a larger part of your decision-making, so you can flow from task to task with ease? Do you want to be healthier? Then, for example, you can plan to be more mindful with your eating habits.
Make a commitment to choose love in every situation. It is better to be happy than to be right all the time. Consider all the options for being a certain way and let the doing part follow rather than lead.
2. Show some gratitude.
A gratitude practice is a daily acknowledgment of the many miracles that surround you that you take for granted. There are scientifically proven benefits of writing down in a journal one new thing a day you're grateful for. These include increased physical and mental health, a shift from negative to positive thinking, goal attainment, better attitude, less envy and jealousy, an increased willingness to be helpful to others, and a will to dissolve compulsive wanting. As the Buddha said, “Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate that which they already have."
You could be happy right now by putting the desire to consume on hold. Be grateful for the real and valuable things in your life like relationships, experiences, and your health. Remember to thank your body for all the silent work that goes on behind the scenes to keep it functioning day to day. You don’t even have to think about breathing, or your heart beating, or all the other ways it keeps us alive. Fill yourself with gratitude for your amazing body.
3. Go within: Meditate!
Any kind of meditation will lead you within—to a place of authenticity, past all the labels you identify with. You are so much more than your hairstyle, gender, occupation, marital status, height, race, or politics. As Wayne Dyer put it, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Try his way of defining yourself more as a spirit within a body than a body with a spirit. The best way to do that is via a meditative practice.
Start by closing your eyes to leave the exterior behind. Begin relaxing the body by becoming mindfully aware of all parts, from your head to the soles of your feet. Once you release stress that has been hiding there, you can calm your emotions with some deep breaths. The constant stream of thoughts can best be handled as clouds floating by, as you just watch them come and go without attachment. This will start to slow them down to the point where you become aware of the presence of peace. You can then literally experience the peace that is within us all. You'll feel a deep thaw occurring within. It is time to melt the walls you have built around your heart and exercise the finer, subtler dimensions of your body.
Taking equal care to balance the outer body with your inner world by using more of your intuition, imagination, and love is the recipe for year-round happiness and health, and a perfect way to greet the spring in a new way.