In my personal healing journey, it was important and beneficial to begin in the spiritual realm by exploring my relationship with myself. For me, this was through learning about ayurveda and applying its principles to my life.
Ayurveda, which translates vaguely to "life knowledge," is the ancient art and science of life from India. It goes well beyond doshas and into the truly holistic genre of spiritual healing.
Subscribing to ayurvedic beliefs and practices helped me transform years of eating disorders, insomnia, and digestive disturbances. Once I began to do this, I was able to make myriad diet and lifestyle changes that have given me sustainable health. Now, as a teacher of ayurveda, it brings me joy to share some insights as a foundation for deeper healing.
Here are what the ancient ayurvedic sages discovered as best practices of truly healthy people. All of these have changed my own life, as well.
1. Live in the present moment.
Life happens in the moment. So much of my mental suffering came from living in the shackles of my memories of the past. Or traveling into the future, speculating about "what will happen if" and projecting different scenarios of moments yet to come.
It's incredibly helpful to pause, close your eyes briefly and tune in to the sensation of your breath whenever you observe my mind traveling into the past or future. You can simply ask, "What is happening right now? What can I do right now to be more present?" Doing this has an amazing way of connecting you with the power you have—which exists right here and now.
2. Practice forgiveness.
It's said that holding on to emotions like anger is like drinking poison and expecting the person(s) you're angry with to die. It is we who actually suffer when we hold on to past wounds. We can't change the past, but we can change how we respond to challenges instead of unconsciously reacting to them. Therein lies the key to real freedom—and health.
To really forgive, we have to feel our emotions—anger, pain, grief. It takes vulnerability to feel, and you have to feel to heal. By asking "Who do I have anger toward?" and "What wounds do I refuse to give up?" you're taking brave first steps toward forgiveness.
3. Go outside.
Nature is the ultimate healer. One of ayurveda's purposes is to restore your harmony with nature, as doing so is the key to great health. The ancient Indian sages, the very ones who the science of ayurveda was revealed to, spent their entire lifetimes observing nature.
Nature is a great teacher. The seasons constantly change: Flowers bloom and then wither away, leaves that come in with their bright colors and drop just as easily, and birds migrate from North to South and back again. So, too, are we advised to adapt gracefully to change without stating too many preferences.
With nature as our teacher, we can invite all things in our lives to come and go so that we may remain as supple as the wind and face new challenges with courage and strength.
4. Tune in to the sound of your inner voice.
It's so easy to get swept away by all the noise that exists in the outside world, figuratively and literally. There are so many voices out there that can sway and distract us—whether it's the media reporting about all the atrocious things happening in the world, or just the pessimistic opinions of the person you work with. Then, of course, there's your sonic diet: the radio, telephone, television, and loud music.
In ayurveda, silence is intimately connected with the element of space. Like space, silence is as expansive as the sky. It's an essential ingredient for your spirit. Taking time to tune into the sound of your inner voice helps you receive insights and clarity about issues in your life that may have blocked you and where you may be standing in your own way. Awareness is the first step to making healthy change.
5. Seek your own approval.
With the help of nature, silence, and living in the present moment, we have the opportunity to seek our own approval. When we are able to hear the sound of our own voice, we can then have the freedom to seek the approval of our own spirit instead of getting stuck in the trap of wanting to just please others.
I used to be a huge people pleaser. And I can say from experience that to even follow ayurveda's life-changing practices, I needed to give myself my own strokes of approval for following through on my own good intentions. Approving yourself means saying yes to yourself, to health, and the kind of life you want to live.
6. Keep good company.
The company you keep is one of the most important contributing factors to your mental health. Make sure to surround yourself with people who support you in your desire to live a truly healthy life. I felt supported in making changes in my life due to all the community support I received—and continue to receive—while studying at the school I'd ultimately work for.
Reading uplifting books is a great way to keep good company regardless of who is around you. Even when I'm unable to be with people who are committed to healthy living, I give my mind the company of positive thoughts in this way.
7. Free yourself from the shackles of shame.
There's a difference between guilt and shame. Shame is when you feel bad, broken, or unworthy. Guilt, on the other hand, is remorse for something you have done. It can actually be a constructive emotion, empowering you to make important behavioral shifts. Shame makes us feel stuck while guilt can motivate us.
It's important to try to identify and then channel feelings of shame into healthier feelings to fuel you toward acting for your own good more and more each day.