FOOD FOR THOUGHT: SAUCHA

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Saucha is one attitude included in the Niyamas, the self observances “recommended” by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

Nurturing these niyamas can help us live in harmony with our inner self and others.

Within the Niyamas, there are five attitudes to cultivate so that we can work towards emotional stability:

– shauca or purity (more on that topic in the following text),

– santosha or contentment

– tapas or a strong desire to commit to self-transformation (being eager to sweat to purify our inner thoughts and our body for instance!)

– svadhyaya (being eager to know who we are deep inside, reflecting on ourselves)

– Ishvara – pranidhana (surrendering to the universe, trusting life)

All these behaviors and attitude patterns are linked somehow. Observing at least one of them helps us observing another one.

 

 

Saucha can be translated as purification or cleanliness.

We can consider the physical aspect of purification :

  • keeping the body clean inside by eating healthy. We should all become more aware of what we put in our body : Can we really call a coke a drink? Why is this cookie made of more than 50 ingredients (most of them being preservatives, additives and crappy sweeteners)?? Just start by paying attention to the ingredients listed in the food you eat. Avoid eating too many ingredients you cannot pronounce… That’s already a good start!
  • keeping the body clean out as well by taking showers and taking care of oneself (“pampering”, keeping the body fit and strong). It’s the same thing here: The things you put on your body matter! So many cosmetic products are made with hazardous ingredients. Here are some clean and easy tips : What about using pure coconut oil as a body moisturiser or maybe this more sophisticated DIY body cream recipe? Is your face dry? Try this natural honey and aloe vera mask or this DIY carrot and calendula mask. Do you need a body scrub: Mix together powdered coffee, sea salt, coconut or sesame oil and an essential oil… hellooo rejuvenated skin!

Believe me … it matters. We rarely nurture our health until a disease comes and slams us in the face!

 

But we should also consider the cleanliness of our mind.

Let’s strive and work on developing our own positive state of mind:

  • Be kind to yourself and to others. Kind words often lead to a peaceful mind. Small displays of caring goes a long way: So do not hesitate to send a card to your mum, to call a friend, to give a back massage to your partner, to keep the door open for a stranger, to help an old lady go up the stairs, etc.
  • Be optimistic. Stay positive. It’s said that people who have confidence in life and in themselves can really act on their own potential. They dream big and do believe that anything is possible. And you know what… they are often up to magical stuff! I know I have to work on that one… but I’m sure it’s really worth it! What could we achieve if we knew we could not fail?
  • Be patient an enjoy the ride. No need to rush!
  • Strive to keep an equanimous mind.

 

 

A third aspect of Saucha that can be regarded is the cleanliness of our surroundings.

Keeping our home clean and free of clutter. Cluttered surroundings often offer too many distractions! And this often leads to a cluttered mind.

Buying buying buying… vs decluttering… mmm… this is tricky in our consumer society. We should maybe start small: Next time you want to buy a white T-Shirt, ask yourself ‘Do I really need this fifteenth white tee-shirt?’. If the response is ‘well… not really… but…’, do not even bother listening to your ‘but’, just move along and forget about this T-shirt.

Turn off your phone at night. Turn off the wifi when you sleep. Do not charge your phone next to your head. Minimise the exposition to all the waves created by electronic devices. I am even considering investing in an Himalayan Salt lamp for its air purifying properties and as its negative ions are said to neutralise the positive ions created by devices such as TV, phones, computers, etc. (NB : Please notice that I wrote “invest in”… and not “buy”… ahah!).

Try to disconnect from social media (Facebook, Emails, Instagram, etc) from time to time: You will be able to connect with your inner self, tune in with your creativity and better connect with the people next to you as well.

And well… also… be aware of the people you surround yourself with. Don’t let toxic people drag you down. Wait wait! It does not mean that you should disregard friends asking for help or going through a difficult time in your life! No. It means that you should not let anyone tell you that you are worthless. You should not let anyone push you into doing things you do not want to do. Don’t let anyone destroy yourself.

Nurture honest and healthy relationships with your family, friends and partner.

 

To sum up: stay heathy, stay simple and stay happy!

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HEAL YOUR HEART

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When your whole world seems to collapse, when you are overwhelmed by doubts and pain, when you feel at a loss… close your eyes.

Go back to your inner child.

Go back to your inner self.

Be amazed by simple things: food, sun and nature.

Breathe there.

Time will do the work.

You will heal.

Your heart will heal as well.

Have faith.

Lessons are to be learned.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Karmas, Samskaras and Vasanas

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Karmas are said to be our thoughts and actions. With the time, our karmas turn into samskaras, aka habits. Those habits will also turn into vasanas, aka personal qualities.

Now … if we nurture positivity, kindness and honesty, our actions and thoughts will be positive and good. Our samskaras or habits will be full of love and kindness. And subsequently our personal qualities will change for the better.

With that being said, let us not focus on the end result. As for everything: Let us enjoy the journey. If we want to change a bad habit or a “fault”, let us try to change our daily actions, words or thoughts. Step by step, we will manage to “shade off” or erase our bad habit.

 

An example, you ask?

If we want to stop gossiping or judging a book by its cover, we shall be more aware of how we treat and consider people. We can work on stopping ourselves (or apologising) everytime we tend to be too judgemental or mean. Little by little, we will become more aware of our behaviour.

Then, this “positive” mindset will turn into a habit. We will be listening to people and feeling their struggles or pain, instead of judging them or being malicious.

Our “newly-acquired” quality will then be understanding and broad-mindedness, instead of contempt or rigidity.

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: NON-ATTACHMENT

Chin Stand - Champ Fleuri - Butte

When you do yoga, you will happen to hear the words Abhyasa (Practice) and Vairagya (Detachment). In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says that we have to develop practice and detachment, in order to progress on our yoga journey.

We should always practice consistently and with enthusiasm. It can be about our yoga practice, about implementing yoga in our everyday life by being a better person (working on ourselves every single minute of each day) , about our life dream (doing something towards our dream everyday without giving up), about our relationships (we should try and practice being a better friend, a better partner, etc).

But, we should not be attached to the outcome (of the practice or effort). We should learn to enjoy the journey of the practice, learn to remain consistent no matter how slow the progress is coming or no matter how quickly good we become.

This philosophy can help with a lot of things. Here are my “work-in-progress” elements:

  • I practice yoga almost everyday with curiosity: I’m trying to improve my forearm balances, my handstands and my “leg-behind-the-leg” asanas. But I try not to be attached to the results: Even if I don’t remain long in my forearmstand, or handstand, I’m satisfied with what I’ve dared to accomplish. I am enjoying the journey. I won’t be grumpy if I’m not arriving at the destination.
  • I practice being a good friend or partner but I try to stay detached from the way the other person feel about me (yay… I try). I know I do not own the other person, I cannot force him to care more, I cannot wish for her to change. I want to love the people close to me exactly the way they are.
  • I’m trying to work towards my dreams without any expectations. Doing a little bit of research on that, networking with one or two people, lauching a little personal project, etc. I’m not expecting it to work right away. I try to be patient. (Well, to be honest, I should work a little more towards them… :p ).

But, as we learn, being detached does not mean not caring … hence the importance of practicing everyday.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: PRESENCE

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We seem to be all so busy today. We crave for multitasking and achieving more and doing everything quicker.

But in this race against the time, we often forget to nurture the moments spent with people, may them be our family, our friends, our partner, our acquaintances or even ourselves… (How much time a day are we REALLY spending on self-care, i.e. on CONSCIOUSLY doing something we love, something we are passionate about?)

To me, the biggest gift anyone can give to somebody (or to oneself) today is the gift of presence: Being totally there – physically and consciously- for the person in front of us, the person we are spending time with.

So, for the week to come, I challenge us (yep! That’s right, I’m challenging myself as well!) to:

1- Make time for ourselves or a friend, a family member, or another person we care about. Let’s give our precious time: Schedule a date. Maintain it. Show up.

2- Pay attention to what the other person says. Pay attention to our interaction. Turn off our phone, email, WhatsApp, and all the other social media apps. Let’s focus on the individual in front of us. If we decide to make time for ourselves, we shall do the same thing: UNPLUG and enjoy the time that we are giving ourselves.

3- Be authentic. Let’s listen. Let’s ask questions about their well-being, their dreams, their plans and their fears.  Let’s show genuine interest. Do the same thing if you have decided to focus on self-care: What is our biggest dream? What does make our heart soar? Why are we afraid to go for it?

4- Have a positive attitude. Show the other person his own worth and strengths.

5- And as always… never forget to laugh… Keep it simple, keep it natural. It’s not healthy to be too serious all the time!

And… let’s see the difference our conscious interactions are making in our connection to ourselves or to the people we love and care about.

NAMASTE

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: SMILE

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Guess what guys! Smiling and laughing are a good way to balance our hormones and make us feel happy!

I’m reading a book about health and hormones by Dr Jacky Thouin in which he explains how laughing helps the body release “happy” hormones such as serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin. These chemicals are also the ones produced when you are in love or when you are doing something you like (such as doing sports, soaking in the sun or enjoying a spa day).

And even when you “force” yourself to laugh or smile, the same effects are produced: Your body will secrete the very chemicals produced when you are experiencing pleasure. Being happy makes us smile. The other way is true as well: Laughing or smiling helps us feel good.

So go ahead, and move the corners of your lips up… Here you go! You’re smiling lovelies! Take the time to feel all the alterations of your biochemistry. Slowly and slowly this will help you fall into a state of wellness and happiness.

Side note: The chemicals produced when you are happy are the very ones that would attract potential love mates. Yep! Happiness is attractive!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: FINDING BALANCE

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Yoga can teach us how to find balance.
Throughout our yoga practice, we ought to find balance between flexibility and strength, between fluidity and stability, between letting go and holding a pose, between being compassionate with ourselves or challenging and pushing ourselves.
These yoga lessons can also be translated into our everyday life so that we experience balance in things we do or say.

Let’s take the example of the edge between compromising and unyielding. Being mindful and putting things into perspective can help us know when to take a step back and make compromises, or when to be firm and take charge of our beliefs and convictions.

If you feel you’ve entered a pattern of complaining about a person or a situation in your life; stop and think twice.Turn your complains around. Have a FLEXIBLE mind. Look at your own behavior and see if you are not to blame or judge as well. Then, start to give the universe or the other person what you “wish to get”.

You wish people were friendlier? Just go ahead, be friendlier yourself first and smile at strangers in the street.

You wish people were more “social”? Stop criticizing them about using their iPhone all the time and be the one to turn off your phone when you are on a date, at a family dinner or with friends.

You wish people were more helpful? Go and help this woman carrying her suitcase up the subway stairs. Positive vibes are contagious!

But, your core values -may that be honesty, integrity and respect eg- are your foundations. They are what make you grounded. Be FIRM and don’t let anybody make you doubt those convictions. You can be unyielding about those fundamental values: Don’t let anybody disrespect you, abuse you, play you, or whatever. Even if the people who are doing this to you are your (so-called) friends, partners, boss. You will forgive them at one point. But first, stand up for yourself and leave them. Don’t let anyone attack or use you in any kind of way. You are worthy of love and respect.

Namaste.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: BROKEN THINGS

Spring Mannheim - March 2014

I’ve read an interview of a couple that has been together for more than 65 years. When asked about their secret for a long-lasting and happy love, they answered: “We made it work because we were born in a century in which when something was broken, we actually fixed it instead of simply throwing it away.”

I find this quote quite inspiring and full of wisdom.

It also reminded me of the Japanese art and philosophy of Kintsukuroi or “repairing with gold”. Kintsukuroi is the art of fixing ceramics by joining the broken parts together with something precious such as gold or silver. This aesthetic method is also a poetic philosophy of existence: Kintsukuroi means embracing the imperfections by emphasizing the cracks of an object. The breaks and the repair belong to the life of the object: They make the ceramics even more beautiful. The damage actually turns the pottery into a unique treasure.

Kintsukuroi

It makes us wonder, right? Our generation is more about wanting everything shiny and perfect. We want the latest trend: The latest iPhone, the latest iPad, the coolest car. A hole in the shirt? Throw it away. A mark on the iPhone? Buy a new one.  And it often goes the same way when it comes to:

– love: The relationship has just become a little bit too difficult to “handle”. It’s easier to stop here and start something fresh and fun somewhere else…. for a while. And then, it gets weird again.. so we go and look for something even more entertaining. Easier that than actually working on overcoming a “plateau” in a relationship…

– food: When a tomato is too ripe, when a banana is a little brown or when a pear has too many brown marks, we are likely to throw them away. We have so many more perfect fruits and veggies, right? Why eating those weird-looking products?

But did you know that it’s actually healthier to eat the bananas that are really ripe (and therefore the ones that are black/brown) and that we made the best jams out of the ripest and softest fruits.

Did you know that you could turn a broken glass into a romantic piece of jewelry or a torn scarf into a (decorative) sailing boat? It’s also all the philosophy behind Hermès petit h collection. When I used to work at Hermès, I was mesmerized by all the beautiful objects that Pascale Mussard designed out of broken materials, left-over leather fabrics or defective ceramics. She is gifted to give all these damaged goods a second (and wonderful) life. She is the queen of upcycling and treasure hunting. She knows how to look at things differently and how to breathe life into items that seem to be discarded. She sees beauty everywhere and in the little things.

So next time, we want to throw something away, we should wonder how to give the object a second life. Next time we want to throw a ripe banana away, we should consider throwing it into a blender and just make a cream out of it: We won’t even see the brown marks anymore. Next time we want to throw a torn jeans away, we should just think and see if we cannot turn it into a cool summer shorts.

And… next time, we want to give up on somebody, on a relationship, we should see how to bring a new life into the relationship, how to work TOGETHER on making this connection grow stronger. I guess everything is a practice. Our partner will never be perfect. And we are far from being perfect as well. So why not making this work by seeing our life as a piece of art in the making. It will take consistency, courage and strength to work on it, but I’m sure it will be a unique and wonderful artwork to stare at afterwards!

Let’s shine today and open our heart.

NAMASTE