Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness. ~ Mary Oliver
I don’t know about you, but I used to open my eyes in the morning, blink…and panic. The panic was unremitting and two-fold. Here were the early AM options:
1. Shoot. I have so much to accomplish. How can I get everything done efficiently and completely? Most importantly, how can I fit a lot of exercise into the day to burn off every calorie I consume?
2. Yikes. I don’t know what this day holds. What if I can’t find anything fun or productive to do? What if I’m lonely/bored/missing something, etc.?
Even in the first daytime moments, there was no way to win. Anxiety was my faithful companion, like a rescue dog with baggage that seems sweet but could turn on me at any second.
Anxiety is a friend because it gets shit done. Anxiety is an enemy because it tortures you constantly. It’s important to begin to quietly mention to yourself the following: being you, you will probably always get shit done.
I always have trouble discerning between hunger and anxiety. Between fatigue and anxiety. Basically, between being alive and being anxious.
There are endless metaphors. Here is one: I am the vehicle; anxiety is the fuel.
There are endless reasons: childhood messages, ambitious Western culture, friends and family who can’t determine either, for the life of them, where anxiety leaves off and life begins.
There’s a reason I found yoga and ayurveda, the two sciences that intertwine around freedom like the ida and pingala nadis around the shushumna, or astral spine. (Sorry, but months of yoga and tantra discourse makes me like this.)
Yesterday in a Goan jungle clearing, a fellow from the University of London described the roots of tantra (from which originated yoga and ayurveda). Tantra was a rebellion against the Brahmin priests’ obsession with cleanliness and purity. To sum up the lecture, yoga began with ash-covered cemetery dwellers experimenting with disgusting practices involving corpses and urine.
To be completely free, those early yogis believed, you free yourself first of social convention
To be completely free, I have to ask my mind to throw off its coils of anxiety. To help with this process, I find myself balking against much of what I’ve ever been taught to believe.
I am not covering myself with ash in a crematorium, but I am changing my eating, waking, exercising and thinking habits. (And to be honest, at this point, if covering myself with ash and growing dreadlocks facilitated the process, I would probably do it.)
The whole basis of yoga is this: The repeated action of mental discipline with building heat in the body is designed to change the brain’s chemistry.
Ayurveda gives you prescriptive methods to support the yogic system by telling you how to eat, how to wake up, how and when to move and rest, all for your specific constitution or dosha.
I have changed the way I wake up because I have changed the way I live enough to begin to change the way I think.
Here, for your benefit, is a recommended Ayurvedic morning for all doshas (meaning I have left out some of the weird stuff – email me if you want to know more specific info.):
1. Wake up 30 minutes before sunrise. Think about how well your body has assimilated the food you ate the previous day. Drink a glass of warm water. Practice alternate nostril breathing to balance the brain’s hemispheres.
2. Brush teeth. Gargle with sesame oil. Wash face with cold water.
3. Practice Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). This is also the time for extended physical yoga practice.
Maybe it is a placebo effect, but my mornings have changed a bit. I open my eyes now, and if I forget to think about my very efficient digestion, at least I have a strong and inspiring yoga practice to begin before the coils of anxiety clamp down at all. And ever since Mataji taught me about true Bhakti, the practice of yoga inevitably draws me, at least for a moment into acknowledging the Divine.
It seems small and ordinary. It may not be full moon rituals in cemeteries. But as Ganga, Santosh Puri’s yoga teacher says about change and progression, “Slowly, slowly.”