Breathe-Observe-Smartphone fasting — Just add these three principles to life and see the difference it makes to your inner world, says Venugopal Acharya
There are some things that we have known since we were kids, and then there are others that we realise intuitively that guide us to what is good for us and what is not. Yet we never give it a serious try. And that could very well be the cause of our distress. Here are three known but least-tolerated life-changing principles to achieve happiness and contentment
B: Breathe. Just pause
We all breathe but are we conscious of it? In my seminars, I often ask participants to place their hands on their stomach and feel it as they inhale and exhale. When you breathe in, does your stomach come out or go in? What happens when you exhale? The class is often divided with half the students claiming that their stomach goes in during a deep inhale and the other half is unsure. The point driven home is emphatic: we don’t even know how to breathe, something which even animals do so naturally. Our disconnect with our self and nature is acute; we could therefore first learn to breathe normally and consciously.
A simple technique is to inhale deeply to the count of four, hold the breath to the count of eight and then exhale slowly to the count of eight. Focus on the sound of your breath; listen carefully as you inhale and exhale. In no time, you’ll catch your mind wandering. Gently bring the mind back to breathing and in 10 minutes you’ll be surcharged with fresh energy. A five-minute break a few times during the day or even a ten-minute breathing break could make your day more productive.
O: Observe more, judge less
Secondly, you could try simple ‘observations’ where you gently pull the mind back to the present and remove judgements. Once I was on a flight and saw a passenger stand up from his seat. He looked around, his face twitching, and then with a sudden grin, he hurriedly sat down again. A few seconds later, he rose again and paced up and down the aisle, murmuring to himself. He’s definitely angry with his wife, I thought to myself. Then I instantly realised I’d made a judgement. After all, how could I say he was ‘angry’ or she, his ‘wife’? Then I admonished myself for ‘judging’ the man and that again was a judgement! This time I gently said to my mind, “Please come back dear mind and observe without judgement.”
When you observe without attaching labels, you release yourself from your disarrayed mind and enter a higher dimension of reality. This is a platform beyond your own prejudices. Often we err because we observe little and analyse a lot. Instead, if we observe more and judge less, it’s likely we’ll see the real picture and paradoxically, improve our judgement! Observation practices are like bright sunshine; they help us remove the fog of confusion and bring clarity.
S: Smartphone fasting
The overdose of social media and the virtual world could potentially throttle their individuality. An inordinate time on the electronic world tends to disconnect one from his or her feelings and needs.
A modern variant of traditional fasting is giving up your gadgets for some time in a week. In many monasteries, monks occasionally fast from cooked grains and rice. Besides the spiritual benefits, this gives rest to our digestive system. The body releases toxins and you feel an overall sense of wellness. Likewise in our internal world, a lot of clutter gets flushed out when we ‘fast’ from social/electronic media. We could for a change experience ‘real’ exchanges.
More than ever before, we need to now pause, disengage from the loudness of it all, and look at the vast expanse of the sky above our heads, rather than on our gadgets. Let’s connect deeper to our own inner selves and catch the grace around us.
The writer is a motivational speaker and author of the book Mind Your Mind: Three Principles for Happy Living