There's an interesting allegory about a group of 10 travellers who come upon a river. They wade across to the other side. Since the water comes up to their necks and they struggle with undercurrents, when they reach land, they decide to take a headcount. Each of the 10 counts and finds only nine in the group. They are devastated. A farmer passing by sees their woeful state and stops to help. They tell him tearfully that 10 of them crossed the river but only nine survived. It's a tragedy, they moan. The farmer counts and finds there are 10. Then he explains that each one had omitted to count himself.

In our rushed life, we have a long list of things to do, people to contact, brainstorming sessions to attend… but we forget to put that all-important ‘I' on the list. Please let ‘I' head the list. If you don't, you lose something precious in spirit as demonstrated by this incident: When Michael Christensen took his brainchild Big Apple Circus Clown Units to a children's hospital, a busy doctor came up to him and snapped, “Clowns don't belong in hospitals!” Retorted Christensen swiftly, “Neither do children!” It's important not to lose one's perspective. There's nothing wrong in being on the go. But what is the quality you are bringing to your body, mind, spirit, to your people, your environment? Are you truly using your waking hours wisely? Are you doing anything to improve your health? Are you doing any one thing with deep passion, with love? Have you been completely peaceful for at least five continuous minutes in the day? When was the last time you laughed?

If your immediate reaction is one of acute irritation where you want to shut your eyes, your ears and say, “Stop bothering me” it's okay. Just know that joyful living with a free spirit is possible. Even sitting with your eyes and ears shut is a beautiful beginning. When we shut out thought, we are fully in our body. We feel it breathing, each breath so peaceful like the flow and ebb of the ocean. Take your time… you're becoming more aware. When you come out of this silence, please come as one who went in as an ordinary person but emerged as an extraordinary being. From being half awake, you emerge fully alive.

Over the next few days, start noticing things which you may be doing but should not do:

Eating hastily, on the run. Going for long hours without any sustenance and then bingeing on a big meal at night.

Straining your eyes on the computer and TV without giving them adequate rest and lubrication.

Living in an air-conditioned atmosphere sans sunlight.

Not having leafy greens and salads with your meals.

Not exercising for long periods of time.

Doing lots of intense cardio and no weight-training.

Overeating sweets, drinking too much tea/coffee.

Ignoring acidity or at the most chewing antacids.

Not making time to be by yourself.

Ignoring a back pain.

Taking constipation lightly.

Not giving time for a hobby.

Worrying about the future and not enjoying the present fully.

Taking painkillers and/or antibiotics too often.

Taking what's good in your life for granted and complaining about or bearing stoically (that's passive complaining) what's not good.

When you live in this way, the mind loses its clarity and becomes a blur. And when things don't occur as per your expectations, you become irritable, impatient, officious, smart-alecky, sarcastic or plain indifferent and depressed. Each time your expectations are not met, inside you something goes ‘twinge'. These are micro-traumas. Sometimes your back aches, head throbs, digestion gets upset, you feel tired, feverish, listless. You don't pay attention to these recurring minor ailments. Yet, you must. If you don't, in time they become a little more intense, then a little leap from minor to major, and farther into some kind of serious illness. So, dare to make changes:

Do healing things as revealed above. Things that matter. Things that give meaning to your life. Things that build up your body, mind, spirit. Do them your way. Example: if you're not a morning person, go for an evening walk/run. But, do them!

Try the 21-route. Choose one bad habit you genuinely want to be rid of. Decide to do it in 21 days. Fill up 21 lines of a sheet with the relevant affirmation: Example: “I quit smoking” or “I let go anger “. Again, do it!

Realise and act accordingly: In some things, the middle path is the best, in some the one-fourth, in some the three-fourth path , in some you need to go all out and in some, completely renounce. This is how you live a balanced, fulfilled, fit and healthy life.

Rest copiously, think peacefully, positively and be as relaxed as a meditating monk in whatever you do.

As an old Spanish proverb goes: ‘How beautiful it is to do nothing-and then to rest afterward.' It's beautiful indeed.

The writer is co-author of the book Fitness for Life.