It has taken many years for me to recognize within myself the amount of energy it can take to do relatively simple things. I believe it was reading Caroline Myss several years ago which first introduced the idea to me that we only have so much energy within ourselves to maintain our own physical, mental, and emotional health. Because of this, it is our responsibility to draw back that energy that we expend on anything or anyone that does not support our journey in living our best life.
So what does that even mean? It wasn’t until discovering Ayurveda and putting its principles into practice as much as possible on a daily basis that I really understood it myself.
Ayurveda is a sister science to the philosophy of Yoga. With these practices, we learn how to use a self-care lifestyle to maintain a healthy state of being. It teaches us–or reminds us–that we are all made up of some degree of all of the elements as is everything else on Earth. Each of those elements function in a variety of ways and then work together within us which is then reflected in our daily life.
Our goal when practicing Ayurveda is to consistently find and maintain the balance of each of those elements and their functions within ourselves. This is where our Western mindset can get tripped up with this practice. Because each of us have a different elemental make-up, both in nature and in any current balance or imbalance of those functions, there is no blanket rule to say what one can or can’t do for optimal health. There is no way to generalize that one should only eat/drink/do/etc. ____________ and shouldn’t ever eat/drink/do/etc. ____________ because it’s going to be different for everyone, even at different times from day to day.
This puts the onus back on ourselves as individuals to get to know exactly who and where we are at every given moment in order to work towards our own version of what optimal health looks like for us. One simple way to implement this without countless hours of studying such an ancient practice is to begin to pay attention to and learn to protect your own energy.
If we can accept the concept that we are more than just physical beings, we can begin to observe the use of our energy in a variety of situations. When I was at my unhealthiest state I was also the most disconnected from myself and my body. I was in relationships with people who I could feel drain my energy away from me just by being around them but I didn’t see that as clearly as I do now–hindsight being 20/20 and all.
Oftentimes we’ll have to learn to deconstruct the use of our energy after the fact to recognize if something or someone energized us or left us feeling lost or depleted. This is where awareness and then acknowledgment comes into play. When it comes to the work you do, the activities you engage in, and the connections you have, consider how you feel afterwards and what that might mean. Again, there aren’t any hard and fast rules to say “If this, then do that.” You have to decide for yourself what is worth your energy and what isn’t.
Keep in mind, this isn’t to say that there is anything to judge as we make these discoveries. It isn’t that some people, places, or things are either “good” or “bad” for us necessarily. Life isn’t that black and white and neither is Ayurveda. What we can do is determine, objectively, what is happening with our energy (physically, mentally, and emotionally) in any situation and then decide what that is saying about where we are. Only until we have a clear picture of that can we determine if it is in line with who and where we want to be.
Barring any extenuating circumstances that are truly out of our control, there are plenty of ways from day to day, even moment to moment, that we can conserve and ultimately protect our energy:
- In Ayurveda we learn that a consistent daily routine that fits our current lifestyle to the best of our ability is key. Trying to wake up, go to sleep, eat and drink at the same times every day will go a long way.
- Remember that if something becomes stressful–even the attempt at doing something “healthy”–it is no longer beneficial. The ability to minimize and manage stress well is an integral part of Ayurveda and an individualized self-care lifestyle.
- We can observe our body’s physical reaction to conflict and challenges to begin gathering the data we need to learn about ourselves. Signs like our heart rate increasing, or palms becoming sweaty, or even lethargy can tell us a lot about how we are receiving an experience.
- Once we recognize physical sensations, we can turn our attention to our mindset and how we feel about something in our hearts. Is my heart rate increasing because I’m excited and anxious to do something that I really want to do? Am I over-thinking/worrying/feeling lethargic/etc. about something because the habit/experience/relationship isn’t really serving me anymore?
- Being truthful with ourselves and then taking action as often and as much as we can will help us create a lifestyle that protects our energy. Once we are able to set up and maintain those boundaries with compassion for ourselves and others, only then can we truly be there for that which we choose to invest our time.
These are about the broadest strokes that can be made on a practice as vast and expansive as Ayurveda. Just as the practice of Yoga requires us to simply show up and do what we can, so is the practice of self-care.