Love is such a mysterious subject, right?
This one invisible thing is what makes the whole world go round. We do incredible things in the name of love. We use this word so easily and often, and yet, what is love, really?
Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, and the world’s oldest healing system, offers inspiring perspectives on the true meaning and expression of love in our lives that go beyond our traditional notions of love.
That is because, in its fullest expression and application, Ayurveda extends far beyond mere physical practices to include ways to allow us to connect with—and free—our spirits. As a holistic system of health and healing, Ayurveda teaches us how to lead healthier lives with practices that feed our minds, bodies and spirits.
Here are four Ayurvedic practices you can try today to begin putting love into action. These practices will nourish you and those around you physically, mentally and spiritually—not just today, but every day.
1. Slow down.
1 Corinthians 13 famously proclaims, “Love is patient, love is kind.” It’s interesting that this beautiful passage begins by defining love as patience.
My teacher, Acharya Shunya, says that love is dharma, or a universal path of noble living by certain ideals. Of the 10 qualities or attributes of dharma recommended by Ayurveda for leading a healthy and happy life, patience is the first.
Practicing patience is a key ingredient of love, health and happiness.
In today’s busy world of immediate gratification, we are used to wanting things to happen and get done quickly. This fast-paced existence, however, can be harmful to our health.
Ayurveda teaches how vata dosha, or the bioforce made of air and ether elements in our body and mind, is responsible for the majority of imbalances. The nature of the air is to move fast. And motion and speed in excess naturally lead to decay and destruction. That’s why traveling a lot can wear us out and excess commuting can cause symptoms of early aging.
Slowing down our activities, movement and even speech is a great way to practice self-love. Doing so increases the bioforce of kapha dosha, made of earth and water, which gives us a feeling of grounding, stability, nourishment, and contentment.
I was not born a patient person by any means, but putting patience into practice has been a big boon to my own sense of well-being and feeling of self-love. Not to mention how it has improved my physical health! Since slowing down my life as a fast-paced New Yorker, I feel younger as I grow older.
Practicing patience with others in our lives is a great way to promote harmony in all of our relationships. Listening without interrupting is a great way to do this.
Ayurveda psychology teaches us that the quality of sattva, or balance, peacefulness and contentment is the true state of our mind. The Ayurveda sages discovered three main qualities that pervade the universe around and within us—these are sattva (balance), rajas (agitation) and tamas (inertia).
Tamas, when in balance, helps us rest and sleep. Out of balance, however, this force of inertia can cause us to experience darkness, depression and denial. Tamas is stagnant energy.
It is the opposite of rajas, which is associated with action, passion, and motion. Rajas helps us get up, get moving and get things done. But it can also lead to exhaustion and burnout, as well as tamas.
The great news is that sattva, which is synonymous with a compassionate, loving state of mind, is our true nature. Love, in this sense, is who we really are.
One of the best ways we can access our true nature as love itself is by practicing meditation. The practice of meditation allows the compassionate quality of sattva to strengthen in our minds, allowing us to experience love, and radiate it to all those we meet.
3. Go outside.
Ayurveda is all about restoring our connection with nature—our own true nature, as well as the natural world around us. Nature, indeed, is the greatest healer in Ayurveda. We work with nature when we seek to heal ourselves and others with this science, and spending time in nature is one of the best ways that my teacher recommends we recharge ourselves with self-love.
It’s as easy as taking the time to step outside. When I go outside, I try to really observe nature, and contemplate all the lessons nature has to offer. From becoming as expansive and forgiving as the sky above, to remaining as sturdy and steadfast as the trees rooted in the ground below, there is much we can learn from nature.
Because Mother Earth is in danger in many ways, with all the developments of modernization, doing our part to clean up litter on our streets and rivers is another great way to express love for the planet we live on, and all its residents. As is recycling.
4. Give back.
I’m always amazed by how the Vedic sages who have revealed to us the science of Ayurveda recommended service and giving back as an important practice for our own health and well-being. Indeed, when we can do something simple as serving soup in a soup kitchen one day a week, we are able to connect to our inner, abiding source of love.
The spiritual law of karma is inherent to the practice of Ayurveda. The more we give back, the more we generate positive karma that comes back to protect us when we most need it. If we want more love in our lives, the best way to generate it is by giving our love to others by offering something to benefit someone else.
In giving to others, it is really we who benefit. Whenever I find myself overly concerned about something or someone in my life, taking the time and putting in the effort to give back is a wonderful way of returning to my inherent state of wholeness, balance—and love.
Wishing you much joy as you put love into action with these four practices this February.
~Originally posted on elephantjournal.com.
Learn more about Ayurveda in my book, The Ayurveda Way: 108 Practices from the World’s Oldest Healing System for Better Sleep, Optimal Digestion, Less Stress and More.