20 Oct Ayurveda Life: Using Love and Focus To Change Our Lives
This article by Dr. Claudia Welch was originally posted on prAna’s website, in partnership with Banyan Botanicals and reprinted here.
Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences that developed together and repeatedly influenced each other throughout history. Yoga and Ayurveda work together to enhance their great benefits on all levels .
The link between yoga and Ayurveda is prana, or the life force. Yoga is the intelligence of prana seeking greater evolutionary transformations, while Ayurveda is its healing power. ~ Dr. David Frawley
Using Love and Focus To Change Our Lives
One of the powerful tools of healing and change in Ayurveda, is dinacaryā, or a healthy morning routine. Ayurveda recognizes that, when we change our mornings, we change our days and….voila! our lives change.
But for morning routines to really serve to transform us on a deep level, we can’t…er…hate them.
A healthy morning routine can feel boring. Like a forced march. Like one more component of a life already too filled with obligation and chores.
There are many places a student of Ayurveda, or of life in general, may learn the important physical components of a healthy daily routine, but all too often, she may find herself temporarily adopting all these healthy practices, becoming overwhelmed, and ultimately choosing, instead, to hit the alarm, turn over and fall back asleep and continue in the momentum of her life…even if it is a life she is not enjoying. A life tainted with attachment to mental, emotional or physical habits that serve her poorly. Habits she knows she had better break, lose or change, in order to improve and enjoy her life, but finds she simply cannot.
Replacing unhealthy habits and patterns with boring ones is…not likely to work for long. The unhealthy ones are stubborn and the boring ones are…boring. Why are the unhealthy ones so stubborn, and what can we do to support the new, healthy habits to supplant them?
When we experience stubborn patterns of behavior, thinking, or illness that, despite a great deal of effort, won’t budge, it is like these were etched in cement. They’ve been with us so long that they might as well be. Often these are patterns that reach back into our early childhoods or even infancy.
In our formative years—when we are infants and young children—the matrix of our consciousness is like wet cement, into which patterns are easily etched. During this entire time, a part of our brain called the nucleus basalis, related to efficient creation of new neural pathways, is turned on 24/7. Somewhere around puberty, the cement dries, and the nucleus basalis turns off. This is useful, as keeping all those pathways alive requires a tremendous amount of energy. By preserving active patterns and pathways, and pruning away ones that are dormant or rarely, we are able to conserve more energy. However it also makes it harder both to erase old patterns and to create new ones.
Hence the difficulty in changing stubborn emotional, mental or physical patterns when we are older.
Wouldn’t it be great to have some magic softening serum that we could pour into that cement so we could more easily change our patterns?
There is such a serum. It is called oxytocin, and it renders the matrix into which impressions are made in the brain, more vulnerable to new impressions. It is precisely like softening the cement.
Oxytocin, sometimes called the “love hormone,” or the “cuddle hormone,” is a hormone that increases when we feel a loving connection to someone or something. When we love, we get softer, and so do our brains.
When oxytocin rises, our neural pathways are rendered more receptive to new impressions. Love makes us more receptive to change.
Almost every time my guru would put us into meditation in the mornings, he would say, “Do your meditation lovingly. Don’t think of it as a burden.” As with anything the saints say, there are secrets to this that go deeper than the obvious meaning, but my guru said it so often that I stopped hearing it. That is, until many years after His passing, when I learned about oxytocin.
Once we have softened the cement, we need to consider how to make a new impression. Wouldn’t it be great if we could turn that nucleus basalis back on?
Ahh, but we can. Through focus. Concerted focus is one of the few “on” switches that reactivate the nucleus basalis, allowing us, once again, to more efficiently create new neural pathways.
The combination of love, which stimulates oxytocin and softens the matrix into which impressions are made, and focus—which reactivates the nucleus basalis—is therefore a powerful combination that makes real change more within our grasp. If we employ this duo in our morning routines, we create an even more powerful agent of change.
If we are tense, rushed, distracted, or result-oriented while we do our morning practices, oxytocin is not flowing and the nucleus basalis is dormant. When we apply love and focus, the combination has a calming effect on the nervous system, body, and spirit and allows us to more efficiently create new patterns. This dynamic duo can help us truly replace stubborn patterns. A loving and focused morning routine serves as medicine to remedy old patterns and establish healthy new ones.
So, it is not sufficient to go through the motions of a healthy daily routine. We need to be willing to fall in love every morning. This could be with a piece of music, a representation of the Divine, a pet, a parent, a child, a spouse, Nature…the object of our love is not as important as the act of loving itself. It may be useful to pick something impersonal to love, like nature or a representation of the divine or the Good Orderly Direction (the G.O.D.) of the universe, so that it is a stable recipient of our love, unable to be threatened, but the most important thing is that we fall in love. Every morning.
A healthy morning routine, the most important component of a dinacharya - a healthy daily routine - may eventually become habit, then nature, and change our lives, but it will do so more quickly and enjoyably if we employ love and focus. ~ Dr. Claudia Welch
Dinacaryā: Changing Lives Through Daily Living is a little eBook by Dr. Welch that goes more deeply into these ideas, and explores a healthy daily routine as outlined in Ayurveda.