And this, dear friends, is a round-up of rousing reminders. Please follow these practices diligently. They make life feel like a gift to be savoured every day. And as we’ve seen, in fitness and health, life’s beauty improves vastly by leaps and bounds.
Exercise enthusiastically. Make exercise a festive event with music, love, fun and laughter. Saturate your body systems — respiratory, cardiovascular, muscular, nervous, immune — with effortlessness, vitality, flexibility, stability, and strength respectively. And feel yourself coming together like pieces of a puzzle falling neatly and sweetly into place. Make a routine. Exercise for one hour at least six times a week. More specifically, walk/ cycle/ swim five times a week; weight-train three times, do abdominals five times, stretch six times. On the seventh day of rest, please don’t overeat. Rather, allow your digestive system to rest too. Never run down your body. Always think, “My body is a beautiful and healthy vehicle, every miraculous detail designed with loving care.”
Eat to nourish and flourish. Vegetables provide nutrients and help eliminate toxins due to their high-fibre content. Make roasted cabbage-capsicum-green beans your main dish. Have it with a whole-grain roti — ragi , for example, curd, sprouted moong or other pulses. Think low-fat and high-clarity. Healthy food promotes a clear mind and light body. If you feel mentally low or are beset with body-aches, know that, normally, the culprit is fat in the food. Develop a taste for oil-free foods, ghee-free rotis and brown rice, fat-free baked potatoes… Having said that, there’s nothing wrong in giving in to the occasional craving as long as you don‘t allow the pleasure you derive from it become an obsession and upset your mental equilibrium.
Practise contentment. The phrase “It’s all in the mind” is spot on. An extensive study on quadriplegics came up with some gratifying conclusions. A year after being paralysed, 90 per cent considered their lives as good. It truly is a matter of perception. The lesson? Anchor your mind in enduring contentment rather than passing pleasures. Try this: Invoke a past experience of any physical pleasure — like eating a fat-filled ice cream. Remember your first moments of pleasure, and then how it faded where you just continued eating to finish rather than to savour it. Did it bring you a sense of lasting fulfilment, or lassitude in mind or body?
Next, remember an occasion of deeper joy and satisfaction. For example, when you brought a smile to your mother’s face, enjoyed a sweet bonding with your sibling, or watched a heart-stoppingly beautiful sunrise with your beloved. Consider the lasting effect of this experience. How it still brings a warm, tender rush of joy, of fulfilment. Compare the quality of this state of being with the fleeting pleasurable taste of ice cream. And deeply value these special moments of great well-being. Think in terms of creating such moments and developing that sense of contentment.
Develop harmonious relationships. Competitiveness and one-upmanship toss peace, health and happiness out of the window. Whether with a friend, sibling, spouse, neighbour, or a company in the same line as yours, change rivalry into revelry. Envy, hatred and greed create painful inner pressures and illnesses. When you have nothing to gain for yourself, when your expectations are zero, believe me, a whole new charmed world of lightness and serenity opens out to you. It’s true what the Masters say: “When you want nothing, everything is yours.”
Live in active meditation. Over all these years of experience, I’ve learnt that meditation does not suit everybody. Some people become dull and lethargic even under expert guidance. However, living-in-active-meditation suits everybody. So, actively pursue your interests. If you love reading, extend it into writing; if you’re passionate about music, extend it to singing; if beauty turns your light on, create things that express your inherent spark. For example, my student started making garlands of fresh flowers. She told me, “It takes me two-and-a-half hours to make a garland and I’m so rapt in it, I don’t know how the time has passed! And when I’ve finished, I feel so fulfilled, I don’t even feel like eating!” Pursuing your passion touches unexplored depths and brings on a lingering magic in your day-to-day reality. The Master says, “If there is a way to free ourselves from suffering, we must use every moment to find it.” Living in active meditation is that way.
Believe you are special. Yes, believe you are extraordinary. In your extraordinary state, you constantly learn, continually blossom inside, perceive the best in every person and every situation. You cannot be dragged down by mundane thoughts. But, please do keep your ego in check. Pay no heed to where the credit goes, and your life will be unique and deeply interesting. Remember, work done in this spirit purifies, cleanses, elevates us. Yet one more secret: Never work for happiness but out of happiness; never play for happiness but out of happiness. That’s what separates the extraordinary from the ordinary. Stay fit. Stay strong.
The writer is co-author of the book ‘Fitness for Life’.