By Aruna Purohit, Ph.D., CIYT, C-IAYT, E-RYT
BOSTON–Early morning is my favorite time of the day. My morning rituals set the stage for my entire day. Initially I started them as daily routines. Gradually they became rituals.
Since my childhood I have been an early riser. It has continued to this day. Morning coffee is one of my many incentives for waking up early. The aroma, taste and the warmth of the coffee is one of the joyous parts of the morning.
My morning ritual is while sipping coffee, I like to read philosophy. I relish reading Patanjali Yoga Darshana or Bhagavad Geetha or one of the six “Darshanas” (Shad-Darshanas) of our Indian tradition.
There are six orthodox philosophies in India. They are: Nyaya founded by Gautama Rishi, Vaiseshika by Kanada Rishi, Sankhya by Kapila Muni, The Yoga by Patanjali Maharshi, Purva Mimamsa by Jaimini and Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta by Badarayana or Vyasa. Each Darshana has systematized, codified and correlated various aspects of the Vedas. The four Vedas, Rig -Veda, Yajur – Veda, Sama – Veda and the Atharva Veda are the foundational scriptures of the Hindus.
The next daily routine in the morning is walking. I rejoice in walking outside and being with the nature. During one of my annual physical examination my doctor mentioned that I should regularly walk for 20 – 30 min per day. Even though, I am a serious practitioner of Iyengar yoga (Patanjali’s Astanga Yoga), a highly demanding style of yoga based on the teachings of Padmavibhushan, Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar, I agreed to walk for 20 -25 min as many days as possible during the week.
After I agreed to my doctor’s suggestion, I still muttered under my breath that “once you cross fifty or few numbers go up on the BP monitor, walking will be the normative exercise suggestion from the doctors”. I never liked using any machines for my physical exercises. I never experienced any magical moments on the sliding magic carpet of the treadmill.
Therefore, I decided to do my brisk walks outside in my neighborhood during the morning hours. People call brisk morning walks as power walks. I came to know about this term much later. Since I am not fond of cold weather I began walking during the summer. At one point I thought it was taking away some part of my precious yoga practice time. Later, I shifted some of the chores in my routine to make room for both walking and yoga practice.
As the mid fall came with chilly mornings, I started to find some excuses to skip my morning walks. This is where I experienced my first epiphany. “Being a yoga practitioner, I should be able to bear the cold and walk,” a voice from inside taunted. My philosophical reading nudged me to condition my body and mind to all extremities. I tried to self-counsel to develop the ability to handle dualities in life. With those thoughts, I continued my power walk in the cold, fall mornings. Neighborhood trees were adorned with mesmerizing fall colors, which made my walk along the lorn streets attractive. I occasionally saw some morning walkers and dog lovers. Rarely, came across some wild walkers and runners like fleeing foxes, daring dears and slithering snakes on the path.
One fine morning, I met two ladies on my walk. I wished them “good morning”. I started seeing them more often on my daily walks. They said they had been walking for many years. I admired their determination to walk so regularly in the dire and capricious weather conditions of New England. Occasionally, I had brief chats with them. Gradually, I developed a closer acquaintance with them.
As the winter approached, the layers of clothing increased on my body and I continued my morning routine. I walked briskly for 0.8 miles, whether the weather was cold, raining, or snowing, day after day. I befriended the cold, silent and some time windy mornings. Gloomy and cloudy winter skies did not deter my determination to walk, rather they added new perspective to my morning walks.
I mastered walking on snowy, slippery desolate roads during bone chilling mornings. My eyes were sharpened to identify the smooth and glittery black ice patches and extremely slippery ice bounds. I enjoyed the light, fluffy and caressing snow flurries. I had gotten use to putting my calculated and careful steps through the hard winter conditions. My nose and lungs had gotten used to inhaling that extremely cold air and exhaling warmth. Exposed facial skin became one with the slashing cold wind. Often my ears enjoyed the eolian tones of the morning wind and my tongue bore the tasteless taste of the winter. It was a revelation for me to understand how my sensory organs were adjusting and adapting to the changing weather.
Seasons changed, but I continued my morning walking. The ever-favorite spring was in the air. April showers made my walking paths messy and less pleasant. April showers always unearthed the earthworms. The sidewalks were sprinkled with earthworms of all sizes. I made myself to be extra cautious not to step on them. The fragrance of the moist soil filled the air. The days of spring brought forth the mellifluous singing of the birds. The beauty of the blooming trees and soothing breeze embellished my morning walks. April Daffodils, robust Magnolias, Elite Lavender Rhododendrons, fragrant blooming Brandywine Crabapples, May lilacs and other spring ephemerals made my heart bloom with joy.
I walked admiring the nature, reveled by the beautiful blue skies with cottony clouds. Sounds of the nature, fragrance of the earth, touch of the breeze and taste of the season brought my elemental body in harmony with the elements of the nature. Day after day I merged with the marvels of the nature. As I walked, I did come across some walkers and runners on my way. I observed some of them plugged their ears with headphone buds listening with rounded shoulders and static arms or some with one hand static near one ear with a smart phone and mouth chattering constantly and tripping occasionally. As I walked along, I watched them with empathy. Then I looked forward and continued my mindful and enchanting walk with the rhythmic motion of my arms and legs with clear intent. As I carefully avoided stepping on the little ant hills, I silently thanked nature for turning my power walk into a mindful walk.
The warm and sunny, hot, humid and beautiful summer days kept my ritual lively. Lush green trees, Ox – eye Daisies, New England Asters, and other summer beauties kept my summer walks enchanting.
Seasons changed, years passed, but my ritual did not change. I continued my morning walks year after year. My walking path remained the same with slight periodic changes in the direction. But something kept changing, my mindful walks became contemplative walks. My thinking turned into thoughts; thoughts lead to thinking about the thinker. I started contemplating on the philosophical subject I would read before my walk. New thoughts, new perspectives and epiphany after epiphany emerged.
My knowledge of “Darshanas” and spirituality started to deepen. My mindful walk evolved into a meditative walk. I fell in love with my morning walks. Daily routine became a daily ritual. When my routine walking became mindful and my focus shifted to the experience rather than the completion of it, it changed the routine to ritual. A mere mundane routine became a meaningful ritual with a real sense of purpose. Every day I started waking up looking forward to my morning rituals.
I started to show more attachment to my walking ritual. Whenever, I missed my morning walk I started to feel a little jittery. Here came my inner yogic wisdom for rescue and warned me not to get attached to any routines or rituals. I should have control over my rituals. Rituals should not control me. I purposely skipped my walks some days and especially beautiful days and tried to stay completely calm and quiet.
My beloved ritual adorned my crown of wisdom with many jewels. My morning walk became my treasure chest. It became a quintessential walk. A ritual which kept bringing virtues to my life. Each of us have some sort of daily routines in our lives. When the daily routines become mindful and purposeful, it will become a sequence of conscious actions. They become rituals.
Rituals do not have to be traditions, spiritual or religious. The rituals create opportunity to being with ourselves. Ritual can bring a significant or profound effect on our consciousness. Every ritual has three elements, a main purpose, a boundary and a method or process. These three elements can modulate how our ritual affect us, bringing various degrees of virtue into our lives.
(Aruna Purohit, Ph.D., CIYT, C-IAYT, E-RYT, is Founder and Director of Vaayuyogashala.com)