The change of season, whether you’re moving from winter to spring or summer into autumn, is always a good time to reassess your life and clear out what no longer serves, making way for new exciting opportunities to enter. This can be done on all levels, physical, mental, and spiritual.
The physical includes both the inner and outer. Starting on the outer, when did you last check what’s at the back of your closet? Do you have a garage or storage space that’s bursting at the seams? How cluttered is your workspace? Maybe it’s time to let go of a few things. If a major purge is too much for you, make a commitment that you’re going to throw or give away at least one thing every day from now on. Don’t worry, just think of the wonderful new things with which you can replace them.
Keeping the body healthy and vital is important for everyday activities but, remember it is also the vehicle that carries us on our spiritual journey. In India, many people use this time of change to undergo the Ayurvedic treatment known as Panchakarma or five actions. This program traditionally lasts for three weeks and is a flushing out of the toxins and imbalances accumulated during the previous season. It always concludes with a period of rejuvenation therapy, so the squeaky-clean recipient is ready to fully enjoy the season ahead. While most of us won’t be able to indulge ourselves to that degree, please consider taking a few days of cleansing for your body.
Nowadays, there’s a whole range of at-home detox programs available to us. Find one that’s comfortable for you or create your own. Here’s a simple suggestion you could follow for 3-5 days, preferably when not working:
- Start the day with a glass of warm water and lemon juice, drink lots of room temperature water throughout the day.
- Have a light breakfast, maybe a green smoothie and or fruit, avoid caffeine.
- Make lunch your main meal with lots of colorful vegetables, eat the rainbow.
- Avoid processed and packaged foods and heavy proteins, minimize sugars.
- Get some light exercise such as walking, yogic stretching.
- Eat an early, light dinner.
- Do some form of meditation twice daily.
- Minimize screen time, instead read uplifting material.
- Get to bed early for 8-9 hours sleep.
It’s been said that it’s hard to be happy if you refuse to throw away the things that make you sad, but how much of the time do we get stuck in the past, reliving the same old miseries? Take some quiet time to look at your thoughts and emotions. Are they mostly happy and optimistic or are you mostly recycling the same worries, doubts, and regrets? Wayne Dyer said, “Progress and growth are impossible if you always do things the way you’ve always done them”. Isn’t it time for a change, a mental cleanse?
Letting go of old mental habits is often more difficult than cleaning out the closet. We get attached to emotions even when they are painful. Holding on to things is like holding your breath, it becomes uncomfortable. We have to learn to let go, making space for the opportunities the next breath will bring. As the English novelist George Eliot said, “Wear a smile and have friends, wear a scowl and have wrinkles.”
Here’s a simple exercise to help you release what no longer serves you. It is best done with eyes closed but it will also work with eyes open.
Again, be aware of what’s happening in your mind, your thoughts, any emotions
What are you feeling?
Is there any sadness, frustration, guilt, confusion, something else?
These thoughts and emotions block the free flow of love and joy in your life
When we try to process our emotions at the level of the mind, we often end up creating more chaos. It’s much easier to process them at the level of the body.
Bring your awareness into your body.
Be aware of any sensations or discomfort in your body.
Now breathe into those sensations, slow steady breaths.
Imagine that you’re breathing love and light into the discomfort.
As you exhale, allow it to fade effortlessly away.
Notice how the mental emotion too, is starting to fade.
You can do this any time, to cleanse old emotions or if you find yourself becoming attached to a new emotion.
Most of the time, we look outside for our happiness, for our fulfillment and for our joy. We look to possessions to fulfill us. We search outside for our happiness and peace when really, we have lost it inside.
The reason that these external things don’t bring happiness is that, although we may have some new clothes, they are still being worn by the same person. We may be driving a new car, but the driver is the same. If we want lasting happiness, we have to look within. This takes us to our final level.
Our spiritual journey is one of cleansing the individual soul or Jiva. This is the aspect of the soul that carries our karma, manifesting as memories and desires. This doesn’t mean we should eliminate all memories and desires but that they should align and support our true purpose.
There is a beautiful story of a temple in Thailand where for years people worshipped what they thought was a clay statue of the Buddha. One day, one of the workers who was cleaning the statue accidentally dislodged some of the clay and discovered that beneath inches of tightly-packed clay, the statue was actually solid gold. Centuries before, to hide it from invading looters, the monks had covered the Golden Buddha with clay. Those who knew its true form had fled the invasion and its true identity was forgotten. All worshippers thereafter assumed the image was one of clay, until the day, hundreds of years later, the pure gold core was discovered. Unfortunately, most of us have allowed our true identity to be covered over and forgotten. Our spiritual journey is to remove the clay revealing the magnificent Being inside.
Your breath can never be in the future or past, it’s always in the present.
Your breath can never be in the future or past, it’s always in the present.
This journey can have many aspects – love and devotion, selfless service, study and deeper insights, and techniques such as meditation. Whichever path we choose, an important aspect is awareness. Whatever you do, do it with awareness. Be conscious of your choices, your actions, and your words. Are they serving you? Are they supporting the rest of humanity? When we live our lives with awareness, we live in the present moment. We connect with our truth, our essence, the Golden Buddha within. The American clergyman Phillips Eliot said, “Be such a person and live such a life that if everyone were as you and every life was such as yours, this earth would be God’s paradise.”
Use your breath. When you find yourself getting drawn to all the worldly distractions, slipping under the clay, be aware of your breath. Your breath can never be in the future or past, it’s always in the present. Take a few simple breaths now, notice how it immediately calms and centers you.
And meditate. Meditation is the tool that takes us beyond all memories and desires and washes them clean at the Source. Having a daily meditation practice, which leads us from external activity to inner silence, is critical to purifying the soul and safeguarding us from creating new impurities.
Regularly ask your heart the following three questions:
- Who am I?
- What is my deepest desire?
- How can I serve?
Listen to the answers and use them to guide your life.
Let’s finish with a cleansing prayer from Swami Chinmayananda:
May my life be simple and pure so I know only beauty
May my mind be clear and quiet so I speak only of Truth
May my heart be filled with love and compassion so I radiate Light to all I meet
May all I do be blessed with Divine Grace.