“Self-care” has become somewhat of a buzz word lately. So many people are talking about it, especially online. In most of the discussions, self-care is used to describe taking a bath, getting a massage, having some aromatherapy, and the like. It kind of comes off as prioritizing yourself, maybe to the point of being selfish. But let’s really unpack this, and understand what self-care really means.
This is my definition of self-care: Being responsible for your own happiness and well-being. We can’t “get” happiness from any outside source. That means we can’t buy it, and we can’t rely on anyone else to provide it for us, or give it to us. So, if we’re not happy or well, we can’t blame anyone or anything – the buck, so to speak, stops with ourselves. When we can understand that, then we can make more informed choices about what we do, and how we do it.
For example, let’s look at the three pillars of health in Ayurveda, and how this relates to self-care.
1) Food: Food is anything we “eat” through any of the senses. What do you put in your mouth, what do you smell, what do you touch, what do you watch, what are you listening to? If you’re stressed out, yet continue to watch violent television shows, or listen to argumentative talk shows on the car radio, you need to make different choices. If your digestion is poor, and you’re eating junk food late at night, you need to be doing something different. This is self-care – knowing how to take care of yourself body, mind, and spirit… and actually doing it. No one else can do it for you. You absolutely have control here – so we have to look at our habits, and stop being on auto-pilot.
2) Sleep: You’ve heard me talk about sleep for years as the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council. What could be easier than going to bed at a reasonable time? And yet, we don’t do it! We have every excuse to stay up later than we should. We’re on our screens way too late, we don’t invest in our sleep by making sure we have a new mattress and pillow. It’s like we see sleep as a chore, something more to fit into our busy day. Like a little kid, we don’t want to go to bed because we’re afraid we’ll be missing something! It’s time to change that mind-set and understand how important sleep is in every area of our lives. Self-care means being disciplined about your sleep schedule, and sleep hygiene so that sleep can actually work for you!
3) Activity: Activity is everything we do in our lives – work, exercise, relationships, our daily routine and habits. It’s not just what you’re doing, but also what you’re thinking about. Where is your attention focused? Self-care is also knowing our limits. Are you taking on too much? Are you being too active, is life too hectic? Or are you not active enough, is life too slow? There’s a beautiful “Goldilocks” amount of activity that’s unique to each of us, and “just right” for each one of us. Find yours and take care of yourself in this way. You might have to say no when you feel obligated or pressed to say yes, or say yes when you’re a bit uncomfortable jumping into something new. Tune into your intuition and do what is best for you.
The great playwright William Shakespeare is often quoted as having said: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Do you ever feel like life is just one big drama? We all have our parts to play, and our lines to say, and our days continue like a series of scripted scenes. Yet who is writing this script? Are we automatically reacting to the cues we are given, or are we indeed creating our lives, and our relationships, as we go along?
Ayurveda is the Science of Life. From this centuries old philosophy we can learn everything we need to know to help our relationships grow and flourish. Life is all about relationships. Because we are in this world, we have a relationship with everyone and everything else in this world. Our most important relationship is with ourselves. When we know who we are, when we understand our place in the world, then we see how we fit in, and how everyone else fits in as well. This wisdom shows us our interconnectedness, and how we really are here to help each other in so many ways.
The ayurvedic concept of doshas, or mind/body types, gives us insight into our inherent nature. Our dosha is like a fingerprint, individual to each one of us. And yet, one of the doshas is typically dominant in our personality and physiology. When we know our dosha, we are given some direction as to how to bring out our strengths and overcome our challenges.
Vata dosha is made up of air and space. People who are dominant in Vata generally appear to be long and lean. The skin in thin and dry, and you can often see the veins through the skin. The Vata person tends to have cold hands and feet. Vatas are quick thinkers; they are creative, flexible and spontaneous. They have sparkling personalities and enjoy trying new things. However, when they are out of balance, when too much Vata is present, then they become anxious. People might see them as “flaky” or “air headed” because they have a hard time remembering things. Vatas can be disorganized and easily distracted. In nature, you can see Vata in a hummingbird, flitting quickly from one thing to the next. The hummingbird exerts a lot of energy and gets worn out quickly.
Vata types often have a difficult time traveling. Because there is so much movement, there becomes an excess of air and space, so Vata gets out of balance easily. This shows up as anxiety, nervousness, and even nausea. They might have a hard time getting to sleep, and become constipated. The best thing that Vatas can do to stay in balance is Abhyanga, a warm oil self-massage. Warm and oily is the opposite of cold and dry, so this is the perfect remedy. Abhyanga can be done in the morning, before a shower, or at nighttime, before bed. It’s also a good idea for Vatas to sip warm water with lemon throughout the day. Vatas need to eat warm, cooked foods, especially while traveling, because their digestion is sensitive.
Pitta dosha is made up of fire and water. Pitta dominant people have an average build, and are more athletic. Because fire is present, Pitta runs hot. Pittas have warm hands, and often have some reddish qualities to their skin or hair. They can have freckles, or can have grey hair or go bald at an early age. Pittas are highly intelligent. They make good business people because they are discerning and they have strong leadership skills. However, when too much Pitta is present, they come off as critical and bossy, and an excess of fire brings out anger and impatience. In nature, Pitta is represented in an eagle. The eagle soars, thinks, and plans. When it sees what it wants, it goes after it without hesitation, with determination and precision.
The hot months of summer are known as Pitta season. Because of the heat, Pitta is more likely to get out of balance. This can show up as anger, judgment, or irritability. We want to cool down the fire without extinguishing it. Cooling foods like cucumber and mint are very good during this time of year. It is also important to protect the skin from the sun, and to shade the eyes, as Pitta eyes are very sensitive to light.
Kapha dosha is made up of earth and water. Those with a dominance of kapha are bigger boned, and a bit heavier than average. The skin is clear and moist, and the hair is thick and lustrous. Kaphas also tend to have big eyes and full lips. They are beautiful! Kaphas are loving and loyal. They make wonderful teachers, doctors, and parents. Kaphas have an easy-going nature and are very patient. When Kapha is out of balance they can lack motivation. They can seem lazy, stubborn, and possessive. In nature, we can see Kapha in a swan, gracefully taking its time gliding across the water. The swan is relaxed and comfortable in its surroundings.
A Kapha imbalance can show up as weight gain, depression, or as allergies. To keep Kapha in check, exercise is vital. Kaphas need to exercise daily, to the point of sweating. They also need to be around people – socialization helps them to be happy, they are energized and stimulated when surrounded by good friends and engaged in lively conversation. When Kaphas feel the urge to sit on the couch and eat, they should really call up a friend and go for a walk.
We would never expect a hummingbird to behave like an eagle. And yet, with our loved ones, we often find ourselves asking another person to change – to do something that is contrary to his or her nature. Expecting a swan to suddenly get up and flit around the flowers is absurd – just as it is to want a Kapha person to get skinny and multi-task a dozen projects.
It takes all of the doshas to make the world function. We each have qualities that enhance our life here on earth. For example, in a business setting, it’s good to include each of the doshas on a team. The Vatas will brainstorm and come up with the big ideas. The Pittas will come up with a plan to manage the team so that the ideas can become a reality. And the Kaphas will shore up morale, and make sure that the project is seen through to its fruition. We can work with our strengths to create an environment that serves everyone and achieves the best possible outcomes for the company.
First, Ayurveda teaches us how to be the best that we can be by staying in balance. When we are in balance we think clearly and make the best decisions for ourselves. We are better in our relationships because we are confident in knowing who we are. In our personal relationships, Ayurveda can teach us to love and accept people as they are. We can strive to help them stay in balance, and to be their healthiest and happiest.
There is a natural order, and balance to the Universe. That is often why we choose the partners we choose. We help to balance each other out. A Pitta person can help a Vata person to be organized. A Vata person can help a Kapha person to lighten up and have more fun, just by being around. A Kapha person can help a Pitta person to remember what is most important in life. When we learn to love and accept our partners for who they are, to recognize their nature, then our relationships will thrive. Ayurveda shows us the beauty and benefits that happen naturally when we release any unrealistic expectations and learn to love “as is” with an open heart.
Meditation is really the best thing we can do for our overall health – and all it takes is our commitment to actually do it. Seriously – you don’t need any special gear, or any special place, or any special time to do it. We just have to make the slightest bit of effort to sit still and be quiet. But yet – even though we know how great it is for us, somehow we find every excuse not to do it. What’s that about? Here’s hoping this list of just some of the amazing benefits will motivate us to carve out just a few minutes of time in our otherwise busy day to embrace the bliss of this beautiful practice. This is the best habit you could ever adopt!
– Meditation is a great antidote for stress. With our hectic schedules our nervous system runs high on adrenaline. Meditation gives us a time to pause and just chill. Meditation lowers levels of cortisol, the hormone that makes us feel stressed. With reduced cortisol we feel less anxious, less depressed and generally more calm.
– Meditation puts a smile on your face. When you meditate, serotonin is produced in your nerve cells. You feel a little more content, a little more centered, a little more comfortable in your own skin. And this good mood shows – you look better, too!
– Meditation helps with focus and concentration. With a calm mind you can handle tasks with aplomb. You can pay attention, and be more aware of what you are doing so you can do it well. This also helps to improve your memory, you remember what you did!
– Meditation is good for the body. Studies show that it lowers blood pressure, and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It can even boost your immunity, so you can stave off illnesses more easily.
– Meditation helps you to be more patient, and more present. When in a long line at the store, or stuck in traffic, you can approach the situation with a sense of “this too shall pass.”
– Meditation helps you to release negative emotions more quickly. Instead of hanging on to anger or upset, you can process the feelings and let them go more easily.
– Meditation helps you to manage pain. With less anxiety, you can tolerate pain better. You learn how to breathe through the pain with meditation so you feel it less acutely. Meditation teaches us to self-sooth.
– Meditators have an easier time falling asleep, and often sleep more soundly than most.
– Meditation can improve relationships. It’s easier to communicate when you are calm and can think clearly. It also teaches us to look at our thought patterns so when emotions arise we can identify and deal with them.
– Meditation helps us to connect with who we really are. That space of silence is where all the wisdom is, and we can download it where we give ourselves the opportunities to do so.
– Meditation is good for the brain. Research shows it can slow the aging process and even reverse brain aging.
– Meditation can rev up your metabolism. We feel better so we have more energy and move more. All this helps with weight loss, too.
– Meditation helps you to forgive and let go of past issues with people. You feel more peaceful and can see the bigger picture. It allows you to feel more empathy. It allows you to let in gratitude.
Here is a list of DIY Natural Cleaning products for just about any job in your home! Follow the recipe and you’ll be amazed by how great your own natural products smell, and how great they WORK! Once you try them you’ll never go back. Saves lots of money, and helps the planet!
Most of these ingredients can be found at your local grocery store. You can make them easily right in the spray bottle. Be sure to label the bottles when you’re done so that you can tell them apart.
½ cup white vinegar
10 drops essential oil (tea tree, lavender, or lemon)
2 Tablespoons baking soda
Water to fill up a 12 ounce spray bottle
Combine vinegar, essential oils, and a small amount of water in a clean, 12-ounce spray bottle. Add baking soda, then fill bottle to the top with water. Shake gently to mix ingredients.
1 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
15 drops of lavender essential oil
Combine vinegar and water in spray bottle, then add salt and essential oil. Shake to mix ingredients. Spray on carpets and shake in between sprays. When carpet is dry, vacuum all the areas sprayed.
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup white vinegar
30 drops essential oil (lemon or orange)
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to mix. Spray directly on wooden surface and wipe down with a clean, dry cloth. Shake before use.
Mirror and Glass Cleaner
¼ cup rubbing alcohol
¼ cup white vinegar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups warm water
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake to mix. Spray on glass surface, wipe down with a microfiber cloth. Shake well before use.
1 cup vinegar
½ teaspoon tea tree essential oil
½ cup baking soda
Mix vinegar and essential oil in a spray bottle. Spray on toilet bowl, base, seat, and lid. Add baking soda around bowl, scrub with a toilet brush. When all clean use paper towels to wipe down all areas sprayed with the solution.
“The Four Friends” is an ancient fable that the Buddha repeated to teach the value of respect for one another. The lesson we can learn from this is that when there is harmony, there is also happiness.
Long, long ago, there was a pheasant would eat fruit, and then spit out the seeds. A small sapling grew from one of those seeds. That sapling then grew into a small tree that bore fruits, and the pheasant happily ate them.
Then, as the tree grew bigger, since the pheasant had difficulty flying, he could no longer reach the fruit.
A rabbit arrived, and said to the pheasant: “Neither of us can reach the fruit. Let me lift you so you can pluck the fruits, and we can share them.” The pheasant agreed, and the two enjoyed the fruits of the tree.
As the tree grew bigger, the fruit became out of their reach.
A monkey came by and agreed to help the rabbit and the pheasant. The monkey lifted the rabbit, and the rabbit lifted the pheasant, and the three all shared the fruits.
But then, the tree grew even bigger still.
Finally, an elephant arrived on the scene, and joined in to help the other three. The elephant lifted the monkey, the monkey lifted the rabbit, and the rabbit lifted the pheasant. Now, however high the tree grew, they could always reach the fruits!
These four friends became good examples to others in the forest. The bird taught other birds to be good. The elephant taught those with fangs to help others, and the rabbit taught the creatures with paws to do their part, and the monkey taught those with fur to do good for others. Eventually, the small group influenced even human beings by their example of cooperation, despite differences in size, strength or even species. By working together, the four friends learned the value of unity, integrity, friendship, generosity, and selflessness for the greater good.
The Four Friends, or Thumpa Punshi, is a familiar theme in paintings, curtains, thangkas and walls in Buddhist temples and homes. It is thought that wherever this picture is displayed harmony will increase. The picture acts as a reminder of how we should stay together and help each other. We all have various strengths and challenges, and yet we can complement one another to accomplish those things that we cannot achieve alone.
The Four Friends. I got this picture from allposters.com – I have a canvas print hanging in my home!
“Respect should be freely given to all simply because all have Buddha-nature, because all can become Buddhas.” – Stonepeace
What’s keeping you up at night? Chances are it is worry. Let’s face it, in our hectic lives there’s always something to worry about, even if it’s the state of the world. Worry can contribute to insomnia, or trouble falling asleep. Worry can also cause what is called “maintenance insomnia” or difficulty in staying asleep. This is when we wake us up in the middle of the night, and then have a problem getting back to sleep.
Why does worry affect our sleep so much? During the day we might have all the same worries – but we’re engaged in other activities that take the mind elsewhere. At night, when it is quiet and the mind isn’t distracted, all those same worries come to the forefront of the mind, and we can’t seem to quiet them. It is important to give ourselves that “wind down” time to help settle the mind before hitting the sheets. Read, meditate, listen to soft music, or take a warm bath. And of course, make sure your mattress is supportive and comfortable as this is the key to having a cozy bed to climb into.
Worrying is nothing new. It happens to everyone, all over the world. Generations ago, the indigenous people of Guatemala created “Worry Dolls” as a remedy for their stress. These are tiny dolls, hand-crafted with fabrics from Mayan costumes twisted and tied around little pieces of wood and wire. It is all held in place with colorful yarn, which makes up the doll’s head, hair, feet and hands. At just two inches high, the dollars are small enough to tuck under a pillow. The tradition is that when worrying keeps you awake, you tell your worries to the doll, who then does the worrying for you so that you can sleep peacefully through the night.
This is the traditional story of how the worry dolls came about, and it is a wonderful way to introduce worry dolls to children to help them get to sleep.
The Worry Dolls
In the hills of Guatemala there lived an old man, his daughter, Flora, and Flora’s two children Maria and Diego. Their home was a small hut made out of mud and wood. The grandfather was a farmer, as many of his ancestors were, and as he taught his own family to be. One year there was a terrible drought. Without enough rain the crops could not grow well, and they had very little food.
The whole family would wake up with the sun and tend to the fields in the hope that the rain would come. Then Maria and Diego would go to school for the day. At night, Flora would make tortillas for dinner with what corn they had, and then weave colorful cloth to sell at the market. Grandfather would tell the children stories before tucking them into their hammocks at bedtime. One of the children’s favorite stores was about a magical doll that could grant wishes.
One night a robber snuck in and stole all of Flora’s cloth, everything she had worked so hard to make over many months. She cried that she had nothing to sell at the market and didn’t know how the family would get the money they needed.
The next day Flora came down with a fever, and Maria knew that she had to do something to help. She got an idea. She went through her mother’s weaving basket and found scraps of fabric in odd colors and shapes. She brought the basket outside, and told her brother to collect small twigs for her. With the scraps of cloth and the twigs Diego and Maria got to work. They worked late into the night, and kept their project a secret. When they ran out of cloth they saw that they had made dozens of tiny dolls in tiny clothes. Maria hoped that these dolls would be magical like the one in her Grandfather’s story.
That night Maria lined up a few of the dolls and spoke to them of her worries: “My little friends, we need your help. My family is in trouble. The fields are dry, my mother is sick, and we have no food or money. Please help us. Good night.” She placed the dolls lovingly under her pillow and lay down to sleep. Maria slept well that night, confident that the dolls would somehow help her.
In the morning, Maria and Diego packed up all the dolls and walked a very long way to the market. The family was so poor that the children didn’t even have sandals, they had to walk barefoot. When they finally got to the market they found that it was crowded with people. They had never sold at the market before, and she had never seen anyone else sell tiny dolls there, but she was determined that her plan would work. The two finally found a good spot near a shoe seller.
Maria and Diego laid the dolls on the sidewalk. The shoe seller saw them and wondered by anyone would want such tiny dolls. Marie explained that there was magic in the dolls. The shoe seller just laughed and said that the magic in his shoes doesn’t help them to sell. Marie was firm and said: “We shall see.”
It was a long day, and no one had bought any of the dolls. The children we getting sad, and worried. As Maria was packing up the dolls to go home, a man in fine clothes and a large hat came by and asked what they were selling. Diego piped up: “These little dolls.”
“Magic dolls!” Maria corrected her brother.
The man looked impressed. “Well, I could use a little magic. I’ll take all of them!”
Maria and Diego excitedly wrapped up the dolls for the man, who then handed them a stack of money, without asking the price. Maria thanked him and the man was gone before Maria could say anything more. She counted the money and found that there was enough for the family to live on for a year.
The two bought some food at the market and then excitedly headed for home to tell their mother and grandfather the news.
“We sold the dolls we made!” Diego exclaimed.
“Magic dolls!” Maria emphasized, and she told them the whole story.
“This doesn’t sound like any magic,” Flora said to her children, “It sounds like you worked hard and it paid off.”
“Ah,” the grandfather chimed in, “but you are feeling much better, Flora, how do you explain that?”
“And look! It’s raining!” Diego jumped up and pointed to the fields. Sure enough, it was raining and the fields were getting the water they needed. The drought was over.
That night as Maria got ready for bed, she noticed something in her pocket. She reached in to find a pouch that contained the same dolls she had slept with under her pillow the night before. She was surprised because she was sure she sold all of the dolls to the man. Inside the pouch was a little note that read: “Tell these dolls your secret wishes. Tell them your problems. Tell them your dreams. And when you awake, you may find the magic within you to make your dreams come true.”
“You are feeling sleepy… verrry sleepy…” Those are the words that we think of when we imagine being hypnotized. You may have seen a stage show where a hypnosis performer gets people from the audience into a trance, and then gets them to act silly. But could hypnosis really be used to help us sleep better? For many, the answer is a resounding yes!
I studied hypnotherapy and got my certification years ago. I’ve found that this is an effective tool to use in many areas of our lives.
Hypnotherapy has been used to treat various ailments since the 18th century, although hypnosis itself dates way back to prehistoric days. Hypnosis isn’t magic, or brainwashing, it is actually a heightened state of concentration. There are many times we’ve been in a state of hypnosis and not even been aware of it – for example, when we are engrossed in a really good movie, or super focused on solving a problem. That’s when the rest of the world somehow goes away. We might be called for dinner and not even be aware of it. That’s how hypnosis works.
Hypnosis is often performed by a certified hypnotherapist who guides a person into a trance-like state where suggestions can then be given to the subconscious mind to help that person improve a golf game, increase their confidence levels, decrease anxiety, overcome a fear, or attain other goals such as getting a restful night’s sleep. But we don’t necessarily need a hypnotherapist to achieve these results. We can use self-hypnosis, a technique very similar to guided meditation.
When we have trouble getting to sleep, it’s likely that we are having trouble relaxing for one reason or another. We may be stressed, worried, or feeling anxious. Self-hypnosis is one way that we can help fix the relaxation response that triggers sleep. Hypnosis helps us to refocus our thoughts by focusing instead on certain words, music, or a soothing voice. In this way we basically retrain the brain to once again relax when it is time to sleep. We provide the mind and body all it needs to calmly drift off into a pleasant sleep state.
The benefit, of course, is that when we awaken from a great night’s sleep we feel more energetic and focused. So, we are naturally more productive and motivated!
There are many self-hypnosis apps and recordings available and you can try some to see what works for you. Some of these programs use “binaural beats” as a background “white noise” kind of sound. Before sleep the brain must achieve the delta frequency. Binaural beats, a combination of sound frequencies, are used as a tool to help sync the brainwaves to that delta frequency.
Autogenic training, also called Autogenic therapy, is one form of self-hypnosis. This relaxation technique was developed by Johannes Schulz, a German psychiatrist, in 1932. With Autogenics, through a series of sessions, we gradually learn to relax the limbs, heart space and breath. The idea is to induce a feeling of warmth throughout most of the body, and a feeling of coolness in the forehead. It is a way for us to influence our own autonomic nervous system to counterbalance the effects of stress. The Autogenics technique creates a physiological response, preparing us for sleep.
To practice Autogenics follow these guidelines:
– Practice alone, in quiet, or with soft background music or environmental sounds.
– Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and no shoes.
– Practice before meals so that the digestive process doesn’t interfere with the relaxation process.
– Take your time, do not rush.
– Sit comfortably in a chair, or lie down.
– If you are practicing at bedtime, make sure your room is conducive for sleep, and that your mattress is comfortable and supportive.
– Now follow these six steps:
1) Warm -up: Begin slow, deep breathing. Inhale for one beat, exhale for two. With each breath, increase the duration of the inhales and exhales, always doubling the length of time for the exhales. Breath to six counts in, and twelve counts out. Then reverse the process all the way back down to one count in and two counts out.
2) Heavy and Warm – Heaviness and warmth represent muscular relaxation. Visualize and actually feel your limbs becoming heavy. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My arms and legs are” and on the exhale: “heavy and warm.” Repeat two more times.
3) A Calm Heart – Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My heartbeat and breathing are” and on the exhale: “calm and steady.” Repeat two more times.
4) A Warm Stomach – this helps you to add a central warmth and peace to your body. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My stomach is” and on the exhale: “soft and warm.” Repeat two more times.
5) A Cool Forehead – This helps you provide a calm, stabilizing coolness to the forehead. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My forehead is” and on the exhale: “cool.” Repeat two more times.
6) Completion. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “I feel” and on the exhale: “supremely calm.” Repeat two more times.
It is important to memorize this “script” so that you don’t have to spend energy trying to remember the words. Many people find it beneficial to record their own voice with the prompts, and this may be a good way to start. The repetition of the words helps to get the body and mind into a calm, relaxed state, which in turns promotes peaceful sleep.
When you are first learning Autogenics, practice this routine three times throughout the day. Before breakfast, before lunchtime, and then right before bedtime so that it helps you to fall asleep. Give it some time to see the best results. Most people notice a big, positive shift in their sleep patterns after a few weeks of practicing Autogenics.
Important note: Never listen to any hypnosis recording or try to use self-hypnosis while you are driving or operating heavy machinery. Also, hypnosis is not recommended for those with epilepsy or for those with any kind of psychosis. Always follow the advice of your health professional.
Here is a sleep hypnosis recording I made just for you!
Valentine’s Day has us all thinking about love. We can’t escape the ads, the decorations in the stores, the promises of chocolates and roses at every point of purchase. We get caught up in the celebration and romance of this holiday. And yet, we know that there is much more to love than cards and candy.
Love is all there is.
Really. There’s nothing else. It’s what we’re made of. It’s what we live for. It’s who we are. Love is at the source of all creation. It’s something we all strive to understand and that we all have in common. It’s what connects us.
Love is our greatest teacher. It is so big, so all-encompassing, that individually we could study it throughout our entire lifetime, and as a society we have studied it throughout the ages. We can learn about love, we can learn from love, we can learn to love.
Bhakti yoga is the path of love. Bhakti yoga teaches us to love everything and everyone, because all of it is divine. Each small thing is a part of the greater whole, and that whole is divine. So when we practice Bhakti, we experience the feeling of love in the recognition of divinity, with everything we come across.
We experience love the most profoundly through our relationships. Although there is only one love, love is expressed in many different ways. There have been sonnets and songs written about love throughout the ages, yet it is still difficult for us to define, because it is so vast. The Indian sages have come up with terms to help us understand some of the many aspects of love.
-Santa: Santa is peaceful, calm, and slow. This is a love we might feel for ourselves. It is gentle, steady, and natural.
-Dasya: Dasya is the love that we might feel toward a teacher, a mentor, someone we respect and want to serve.
-Sakhya: Sakhya is the love we feel for a dear friend. In friendship, there is a kind of equality, a give and take, an exchange of feelings, a sharing of ourselves.
-Vatsalya: Vatsalya is the love that a parent feels for a child. A baby is so innocent, and we can’t help but to want to give love to that child, without demands or expectations for anything in return. Children are pure and completely lovable. We recognize this without hesitation.
-Madhura: Madhura is the love of our beloved. This is the “in love” feeling when we are swept off our feet, blissful, devoted, and intense.
Bhakti yoga continually reminds us to “love the highest.” When we find ourselves infatuated with our jobs, our cars, any material thing, Bhakti tells us that we are misguided. When all of our human desire for what is new, fun, novel or beautiful is instead directed toward love, we then experience the greatest delight.
In our human experience, love is not all hearts and flowers. Sometimes it’s messy, it can be complicated, and it can hurt. Love itself is pure, simple, and perfect, but we tend to muddy it up with our humanity. We question, we expect, we desire, we need. And in our attempts to understand, we come up with definitions, we analyze, we discuss, and then we filter all of this through our past experiences to come up with what we think love should be, would be, could be. And every one of us is doing the same thing, with oftentimes very different results. Jealousy, temptation, broken hearts and bitter break-ups are the inspiration for many songs and screenplays.
But the basic truth is that love is. It just is. Love is beyond definition, beyond space and time, beyond any relationship. Love is a true constant in this world. It does not need to be created, it is always here, it has always been here, and it always will be here. We have only to know this to notice it. Eyes open, mind open, heart open, love is available to us in all of its myriad forms, essential simplicity and spectacular glory.
“Namaste” is a Sanskrit greeting that means: “The Divine in me recognizes and honors the Divine in you.” That recognition of the divine is Bhakti, or love. On Valentine’s Day, and every day, let’s try to practice Bhakti a little more often. Not just with our valentines, but also with everyone we meet. Let’s love the highest, starting with ourselves. This is where we start. This is where the seed is planted, where love can grow, and thrive, and blossom within each one of us into a delightful bounty that can be shared. We can feed our souls on this banquet of love. No one need go hungry.
“Tantra” means “instrument of the body.” It sounds exotic, but it is actually very simple. Tantra teaches us to use all five of our senses consciously, because our senses are how we are connected with the physical world. And of course, it is with our five senses that we connect with each other, too. If you’re looking to up the romance quotient in your relationship, here are a few tips from ancient India. And for good measure, let’s use the romantic rose in each example. Red roses were said to be the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Red signifies desire!
Touch (“Sparsa” in Sanskrit)
The skin marks the visible limits of the body; it is where we make contact with the world. Our skin is our largest organ, and 16% of our body weight. With touch we experience much of our environment: temperature, clothes, sheets, shower, etc. Wake up the sense of touch with massage. Use different materials and textures, such as a feather, a velvet hat, baby powder, a silk scarf, or rose petals. Infuse sesame oil, or unscented body lotion with rose petals, or rose essential oil for a wonderful massage oil.
Smell (“Gandha” in Sanskrit)
Women are particularly sensitive to smells. Our pheromones are the scents that we give off without even realizing it. These pheromones train us to recognize and desire our partners. When people stop smoking, they are amazed by how much they rediscover their sense of smell. Studies have shown that the loss of the olfactory sense is often accompanied by a loss in sexual interest, so it is a good idea to keep our noses functioning optimally! Fragrances have quite an allure to them. Roses just smell like romance. Use rose-scented candles, and sprinkle rose petals in the bathtub. Shower together with rose-scented shower gel.
Taste (“Rasa” in Sanskrit)
Is it any wonder that we say we have a certain “taste” in partners? The tongue is super-sensitive. By blocking out the other senses, by closing your eyes for example, you can focus on the taste more fully. Love is sweet — there’s a reason why we call each other honey and sweetie and cupcake! Savor and delight in the tastes and textures of various foods and drinks: whipped cream, chocolate, a strawberry — and, yes, rose! Sweet rose tea is made for romance! It smells wonderful and tastes divine — and it is the perfect way to end a romantic meal. Tulsi Rose Tea has the added benefit of helping you to relax, and de-stress…to get you in the mood for romance! It is easy to make your own blend of rose tea with dried rose petals, or dried rosebuds, steeped in hot water.
Sound (“Sabda” in Sanskrit)
Sounds have a profound effect on the body. Studies have shown that sounds can open up our inner pharmacy and balance our physiology. They can help us to be healthier, and to generally feel better. What sound do roses make? They’re silent. Sweet and soft. Whisper sweet nothings to your loved one. Play soft, sweet music. Dance with the rose between your teeth, let your body move to the rhythm, breathe gently into your partner’s ear.
Sight (“Rupa” in Sanskrit)
For romance, it’s all about lighting. Think pink — use rose-colored light bulbs, so you naturally see things more rosy! Dine by candlelight. Spread rose petals on the table. Make a trail of rose petals that leads to a surprise. Do a few Bollywood shimmies, put on a show. Look into each other’s eyes until you get lost. Feel the intense connection that you create.
For couples having trouble under the sheets, improving their relationship could be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep.
Catching extra winks together in bed can significantly help improve a relationship. A good night’s sleep is restorative to the mind and body, gives us energy and improves our mood—all attributes that can make us better partners in romantic relationships. On the other hand, a poor night’s sleep —often the result of a couple’s mismatched sleep styles— can be a major problem for a relationship.
Many couples can live happily together, but they can’t sleep well side-by-side, which can negatively impact their relationship. Sleeping together is an important way for couples to feel connected with each other. And not getting enough sleep can leave us feeling sluggish, cranky and hard to get along with.
If your partner’s sleep style is keeping you up at night here are some tips to bring harmony back to the bedroom and into your relationship:
1. Problem: Your partner kicks in his or her sleep, waking you up. Solution: Make sure your bed gives each sleeper enough sleep surface to move around comfortably. For couples sharing a bed, the mattress should be at least queen-sized.
2. Problem: Your partner likes it hot, you like it cool. Solution: Ideally, your bedroom should be a cool 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. But a few simple adjustments can make it possible for a person who craves heat and a person who craves cool to sleep side by side comfortably.
• Double-fold the blankets so there is more coverage on one side.
• Invest in a dual-control electric blanket or a twin-sized electric blanket on one side.
3. Problem: Your partner snores, keeping you up at night. Solution: Snoring can be a serious health concern, so make sure to consult your physician. If your partner’s snoring is not a serious health condition, try alternative treatments like investing in anti-snore pillows, sprays or nasal strips that are designed to help people breathe more easily.
4. Problem: Your partner tosses and turns. Solution: It may be your mattress. Mattresses should be evaluated for optimum comfort and support every five to seven years.
5. Problem: Your partner loves to cuddle, but you like your space while you sleep. Solution: Compromise. Before falling asleep, spend some time snuggling together and then agree to sleep apart.
6. Problem: Your sleep schedules don’t match. Solution: Try finding a bedtime that works for both of you. Be considerate if you are a night owl or an early riser compared to your sleep partner. Keep overhead lights off and use minimal lighting while you are awake and your partner is asleep.
A bad night’s sleep affects your mood, work and relationships with others. Sleep, like proper diet and exercise, is essential to overall well-being.