In addition to making dietary, herbal, and daily routine recommendations, Ayurvedic practitioners also give behavioral rasayanas. These are recommendations that prolong life and increase vitality. Behavioral rasayanas are ideas, habits, and attitudes that promote health.
One of my favorite behavioral rasayanas is to pause, rest, and reset your mind and body in the midst of activity. In the modern world, and particularly in American culture, we’re always on the go. Even when we are taking a break, our minds are still plugged into some form of technology (whether it’s our phones, laptops, or tablets) and we are actually never giving our minds a chance to stop and relax.
Just like other healthy habits, such as exercising and eating right, it takes a conscious effort to take pauses in your life. It may sound strange that you have to schedule downtime into your life but most of us are living in the momentum of so much activity that slowing down is actually going against the grain. The reality is that resting enhances activity and makes you more productive.
I recently really put this particular behavioral rasayana into practice by taking a month long pause to rest and reset the course of my life. I wanted to take inventory of the past decade and I wanted to intentionally set the theme for the next decade of my life. Taking a month for myself was not easy! Between being a mom, wife, and doctor a month of time to myself seemed like an impossible feat for someone who was always taking care of other people. But there were several changes happening in my life—physically, emotionally, mentally, professionally—and I really needed some time to step back and look to see which habits and ideas were serving me through these transitions and which ones needed to be thrown out. It felt like I needed a spring cleaning for my life.
I decided to go to India for four weeks—no cell phone, very limited Internet access, no television, no distractions. It was just my thoughts and I most of the day. For the first week, I spent time meditating and focused on who I wanted to become over the next decade. For the last three weeks of my trip, I went for a series of Ayurvedic treatments called panchakarma, which are intended to help you to detoxify your mind and body. I only spoke for about 30 minutes a day and focused on meditation, yoga, and the healing effects of my panchakarma therapy.
The results were profound. I was surprised to see how many thoughts and activities that I was involved in were just habits that really no longer fit the path I was on. Once I was out of my usual environment at home and work, it was easy to take a look at myself and choose the thoughts and actions that I wanted to continue verses the ones that were now past their expiration date.
I hadn’t spent this much time alone since college and it was enlightening to review who I had become over the course of over two decades. I was also so surprised how much I enjoyed the silence of not talking. There is a constant dialogue going in within our own minds and when we’re always talking to people around us it’s hard to hear the internal conversation with ourselves. This internal dialogue is actually the most important conversation that you’re having all day long.
The one-month experience left me with such a deep appreciation for the benefits of pausing, resting, and resetting my life that I’ve incorporated it as a top behavioral rasayana into the treatments for my patients. Below are some of the ways that I teach my patients to pause/rest/reset so that they can intentionally direct the course of their lives rather than getting pulled into a riptide of frantic activity.
Invest at least 20 minutes a day in silence.
Examples: Do 20 minutes of meditation or yoga daily.
Invest one hour a week to see how you can reduce the clutter and improve the flow of your home or work.
Examples: Plan a weekly dinner menu at home verses always eating unhealthy meals out at the last minute (when you’re already starving and don’t know what to cook). Make a list of household chores so everyone in the family understands their responsibilities rather than leaving them to chance, which typically results in arguments and misunderstandings.
Invest at least a half-day each month in nature.
Examples: Go on a hike with your family. Visit a local botanical garden.
Invest at least one week a year to give your body and mind a tune-up.
Examples: Do an annual cleanse/detox. Go on a health retreat.
Decade Pause/Rest/Reset (highly recommended once you enter your 40s)
Invest at least two weeks every decade to take notice of the direction you’re going in life.
Examples: Take a trip alone to allow yourself time to review the past decade and envision your goals for the next decade. Look at your bucket list; update it and finally cross something off.