Thanks to friend and yogi, Rukmini Ali Shevlin, BestYOULife followers will be treated to a series of Guest Blogs. I hope you will enjoy reading the series on balance that comes out once a month. Ali also offers special services in Ayurveda and crystal healing.
For more from Ali Shevlin, check out her website http://purepranaayurveda.com.
“In order to keep our balance, we need to hold the interior and exterior, visible and invisible, known and unknown, temporal and eternal, ancient and new, together……it is one of the tragedies of modern culture that we have lost touch with these primal thresholds of nature. Fashioned from the earth, we are souls in clay form. We need to remain in rhythm with our inner clay voice and longing”. (John O’Donoghue, Anam Cara).
If you read my last article on the concept of balance (and if you didn’t, you can read it here), you’ll know that, to me, one of the most fundamental means of achieving balance in everyday life is to live in harmony with nature.
It’s not a new idea. Well before the advent of the modern industrial age with its electric lighting, production machines and food factories, we were dependent on the rhythms of night and day to know when to sleep and when to get up; on the weather for our everyday activities; and on what we could grow or gather seasonally for food. We had no choice but to adapt and flow in harmony with Mother Earth, and yet we didn't just survive against the elements. We celebrated them. Nature found its way into our poetry, song, art, and prayers, one of the most beautiful being the ancient
Celtic prayer St Patrick’s Breastplate, also know as The Deer’s Cry:
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
Today, many indigenous peoples still hold the same to be true - that there is no separation between man and nature. The Achuar people of the Amazon have no word for nature, and believe animals and plants to have souls in the same way as humans do. To them, there is no difference between nature and culture, animal and human. We are all one.
In more industrialized societies, however, we have lost touch. If we want to, we can stay up all night and still have light to see by. We can build on flood plains, travel through snowstorms, and eat oranges all year round. We have the gift of intelligence and the luxury of free will, and we use it to conquer “the outside world”, creating a wall of separation between us and nature. We are capable of controlling our environment for our own convenience. We have it all, and yet we are more disconnected and unbalanced than ever.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that interest is growing in those cultures and healing systems that offer us back the old ways. Ayurveda, for example, the traditional healing system of India, is growing in popularity in the West, as are Traditional Chinese Medicine and Shamanism. And while these practices might be seen as exotic and exciting, the concepts underpinning them are not really new to us, no matter where we live or where we come from. Instead, they simply remind us of what we’ve forgotten.
Both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) take the elements of nature as their basis. The elements they use are slightly different - Ayurveda takes the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, while TCM uses earth, water, fire, metal and wood - but both are based on the same underlying theory: that these same elements that make up the Earth and the universe also make up human beings. We are made of exactly the same building blocks as every other life form, and of the same matter as stardust. We have the same qualities and tendencies as the matter that surrounds us, from the ideal quality of Sattva or balance, to the energetic tendency of Rajas and the inertia of Tamas. There is nothing, beyond our own preconceptions, that separates us from nature. We were not designed as a species apart.
It follows, then, that if we want to be healthy and happy and balanced - the way we we meant to be - then returning to a state of harmony with nature is the best and simplest way forward. Our bodies and minds were designed to function with the natural rhythms of the Earth, and the more we return to those, somehow the easier life becomes. By battling nature, we battle ourselves…and that’s an exhausting, unhealthy way to live.
Obviously, we can’t return to the days of mud huts in the forest - tempting though that might sound! But there are some simple things that we can do. While going to sleep with the moon isn’t always practical unless you want a 4pm winter bedtime (does this sound tempting to anyone else?!), we can make the effort to rise with the sun. We can begin to eat more consciously and seasonally, and become aware of what nourishment our bodies ask for at different times of the year. We can take the time to be in nature, in woods or alongside a river or by the ocean, without the distractions of cell phones and wifi. We can exercise, in healthful ways that work with our bodies rather than against them (yoga, tai chi, qi gong, gentle walking, and swimming are all perfect for this). And we can start to notice the elements around us and within us - the solidity of the earth and the tissue of our bodies, the flowing of water and the flow of our fluids, the fire of the sun and the fire in our bellies - and perhaps make a conscious effort to bring those elements into our everyday lives.
Some of my favorite ways to do this are to cook myself nourishing food with home-grown herbs (earth), drink fresh water and herbal teas (water), use candles and essential oils (fire), practise deep, controlled breathing (air), and to allow myself the physical and mental space, for a few minutes a day, to just be (ether)…you’ll find your own ways. It doesn’t need to be big or fancy. Even tiny changes and a small shift in thinking can make all the difference on the journey towards wholeness and balance.
Although if you do happen to take it all the way and up and move to a cabin in the middle of nowhere - let me know and I’ll join you!
How would you bring more of nature and the elements back into your everyday life? I’d love to hear your ideas! Next month, I’ll be starting to look in more depth at some of the practical ways you can move toward balance, including through food, exercise, creativity, and, simplest of all, the breath.
Thank You to my dear friend, Ali!
Loving Life and Living Love,
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