Many of us lead very busy lives in these modern times. We multi-task in ways that just a couple decades back were not imaginable. We are over extended, over committed, and overwhelmed by our obligations and the expectations we place upon ourselves. We’ve even created political and economic choices that result in most of us working longer hours or multiple jobs just to keep up.
Life has gotten complicated in many ways. Technology and its continuing creep into every aspect of our life makes us more distracted and disconnected. Perhaps the goal of technology making us more efficient is not being realized. On some level we may feel a yearning to simplify things, but that seems much easier said than done. Afterall we are soccer moms. We are the master multi-taskers. We are the sandwich generation. Being busy in the new normal, we wear at times like a badge of honour.
As we struggle to stay afloat we need only look around at the many different physical and mental ailments that are on the rise in our society to see that something is awry. We are at a place where we’ve normalized doing more and more and even more – continually pushing ourselves. The way many of us exercise or even the way some yoga is practiced is about pushing hard, perhaps in ways that are not healthy and lack balance.
With all this activity we might think that we’ve become super efficient. In reality when the mind is continually pushed and pulled in all directions, over stimulated, and overloaded by the ongoing onslaught of information received through the senses, it actually becomes less efficient and diffused.
Yoga and tantra to the rescue
Because we can’t necessarily step out of our modern reality, it becomes important that we use tools, techniques and practices to counter some of its effects. Yoga, when practiced in a balanced manner – including stillness, meditation, pranayama and yoga nidra – will provide our body, mind and spirit with needed balance.
One of the things that struck me most when I began my studies in tantra was its emphasis on efficiency. Some of our digital technologies may delude us into believing that they are helping us be more efficient. Are they?
The worldview of tantra is that life is a gift to be honoured; this is lost on most of us. If we can get more people into this thinking, the world will be a much better place.
Here are some principles of tantra that will help us out:
Doing more with less
This principle teaches that we should emulate the efficiency of nature. We are nature so we can embody more efficiency if we choose. This might look like choosing not to do something, doing tasks in a more orderly manner, exercising in a more balanced and targeted way, or taking a “fast” from things that don’t serve our highest purpose – foods, activities, habits, etc. In the yoga asana context this involves doing fewer poses that are more intelligently sequenced and have a specific targeted output (rather than doing a set routine every time).
Take time for stillness
The yoga tradition teaches that all the answers are found within, but if the mind is in a perpetual state of chaos this will not happen. We will be stuck in the perpetual reaction mode of the lower mind.
Our minds are so busy that they can’t even think straight. One of the traits of our modern fast-paced life is that fleeting moments of happiness are trumped by an ambient deep-seated sense of malaise or disconnection. Part of this is because our mind is too cluttered to recognize the state we are in. Our constant going and doing, where stillness is anathema to the body, means the mind can’t be still. An active body begets an active mind. Stillness in the body does not come naturally, it is something we need to practice. Why not start there!
Once we cultivate stillness of the body, meditation is the technique to still the mind. With regular daily meditation practice the discerning faculties of the higher mind are awakened. This will facilitated making better choices.
Take time for relaxation
We are deprived of relaxation as a society. Not the lethargic remote-control-in-hand version of relaxation, but real systematic relaxation, where the body and mind are made quiet. In yoga we practice corpse pose at the end of physical practice to relax. But more importantly yoga offers us yoga nidra, sometimes called yogic sleep. It is a systematic approach to relaxation that gives us an opportunity to achieve homeostasis – the state in which our body recovers and heals from its activities.
Take responsibility for your emotional well-being
This one is tough. Sometimes for many of us it is just easier to keep in the pattern of blaming others for our “stuff”. When we get clear by applying some of the above principles and practices it is easier for us to accept responsibility for our emotional state and make necessary changes. It’s hard and uncomfortable work at times, but in the end it leads to much greater happiness and joy in our lives.
It may seem that doing more with less is out of our reach. But there are many ways that we can practice it. Stepping out of our current habits and patterns is the first step. Saying “no”. Establishing boundaries. Take time to be, not just do. Simplifying your life, doing more with less, will help you to appreciate being in the moment rather than catapulting into the future at break-neck speed. Give it a try. You ARE worth it!