Health is not merely absence of disease. Health is being established in the *Self. It is the dynamic expression of life. One can be said to be in a perfect state of health when one is physically fit, mentally calm and emotionally steady. So how does one achieve this state of all-round health in today's fast-paced life? As we get ready to ring in 2012, here are a few steps we can take to help improve our health and the quality of our lives.
Know About Your "Self"
We need to know a little bit about the different layers of our existence -- body, breath, mind, intellect, memory, ego and the self. When we understand that the body and mind are connected through the breath, we are in a better position to manage our thoughts and emotions. The awareness that everything changes -- the body undergoes changes and so does the mind -- brings a sense of equanimity within us. The mind is the sense of perception in your consciousness and the thoughts that change all the time. Likewise, the intellect, memory, and ego also change with time. But there is something within us that does not change -- it is the point of reference through which we are able to recognize that everything else changes. This subtlest, unchanging aspect of our existence is the self. The ancient science of Ayurveda deems that a person cannot be called truly healthy, until one is in touch with this subtlest aspect, and there is harmony among the different layers of existence. This knowledge of the self helps one live in the present moment and be in a state of perfect health.
Spend some time to learn about your self. Take a week off one to two times a year and align yourself with nature. Wake up with sunrise, practice yoga, eat light food, and spend some time creatively.
Make Meditation a Part of Your Life
Meditation is a vital ingredient for personal development. It provides deep rest. The deeper one is able to rest, the more dynamic one will be in activity. For sustainable good health, meditation is key.
What is meditation? It can mean different things to different people. It is anything we can do to achieve a mind without agitation, hesitation, or anticipation. It can be a hundred times more refreshing than sleep because it helps us live in the present moment and frees us from anger about the past and worry about the future. It gives us depth and stability.
Spend 20 minutes in the morning and evening in meditation, and make it a part of everyday life.
Learn About the Breath
Our first act in this world is to take a deep breath in, and our last act will be taking a deep breath out. Breathing is life. Yet, we are typically not taught -- at home or at school -- about the importance of the breath and its impact on the mind and body.
Observe how you breathe. There are different patterns that relate to different emotions. Just as your mind influences the breath, you can influence the state of your mind through the breath as well. Breathing techniques like **Pranayamas and Sudarshan Kriya can help us calm our minds and emotions. We can control negative emotions like anger and fear, and manage stress levels using the breath.
The type and amount of food that we consume has a direct impact on the state of our physical body, and consequently our mind. Observe what you eat. Fresh fruits and vegetables have more prana (life force), while frozen and canned foods have very little prana.
Eating the right types and amounts of food promotes all-around wellbeing and can increase energy levels that can help us manage stress more effectively.
Make Time for Yourself
In this modern age, we all seem to be constantly engaged in gathering information, or performing some mental activity all the time. We seldom take time for ourselves to think and reflect. As a result, there is information overload, and we can feel dull and tired.
The moments of stillness in our mind are the moments of creativity and innovation. Silence heals and rejuvenates our minds. Sometime during the day, sit silently for a few minutes with your eyes closed and reflect upon the meaning and purpose of your life.
*Self is meant in a holistic way - and refers to the soul, or the core of our existence.
**Prana means life force, Yama means control. Pranayama means controlling the flow of the life force into our bodies through the breath.