The self-help movement has become very poplar since the late 20th century with the renaissance of the new age culture and all those similar schools of thought. The self-help industry has established itself as being very profitable with all related books, products and seminars.
However, my perception and implementation of the term self-help goes beyond time and fashion. To me self-help simply means being able to help yourself when all the traditional medicines, doctors and systems have failed. As the saying goes ‘God helps those who help themselves’. Self-help is a very important tool in our odd age. It is also said that “one is one’s own best doctor.” The duty and responsibility for our health, well-being and happiness lies solely on our shoulders. Instead of blaming one’s parents, peers, friends or the society in general, one has to find the courage and strength to follow one’s heart and intuition.
For me yoga has become a type of self-help. All the practices play a therapeutic and healing role, when one uses them wisely. I will list below various important self-help tools, not restricted only to yoga practices and show some ways for self-help which are free, priceless and immediate.
1. Follow your intuition!
I know how difficult this may be. From the yogic perspective, the intuition is the refined intellect. Due to our ignorance and unconsciousness we suppress, bypass or ignore our inner voice, only to regret it afterwards. Whatever your intuition tells you, even if the logical mind rules the opposite, that’s the right thing for you.
2. Fear, phobias, anxiety: face them.
Try as often as you can to do one thing you are afraid of. For example, if you are afraid of airplanes, fly on one. If you have fear from dogs, walk by one on the road.
This may be a bit difficult at the beginning but let me tell you a secret: when you’re able to do it, your body produces hormones such as endorphins, dopamine etc. You feel as if you’ve done something very brave and this feeling is as good as, if not better than, eating a whole bunch of chocolate. After all, everybody prefers to eat chocolate when feeling happy rather than distressed.
3. If there is anger, lust, jealousy, hatred, greed, anxiety, or other negative passions inside you, don’t kill them.
Accept these qualities, because they are all in YOU. At the same time, try not to express them or by doing so you’ll find yourself even more entangled in their sway and possession.
That’s one of the primary points of tantra (ancient spiritual silence). It accepts you at the level of your evolution not asking you to hate or kill any part of yourself as that may lead to personality splitting, i.e. one part of you plays the sinner and the other one is the punisher. Instead, tantra advises to accept and spiritualize our negative qualities and thus exhaust the karma.
4. Don’t follow the whims of your mind.
Do things the mind doesn’t want you to do and don’t do things your mind tells you to do. This is a huge task but gives your mind strong discipline. However, be careful not to fight with your own mind. Simply observe it. This is the milestone of yoga philosophy.
5. Rise early, do as much work as possible without expecting any results of it, eat simple food, dress modestly.
This may go against our trend-fashioned culture but I really prefer being simple and old-fashioned than modern but someone else.
6. Go to an ashram (a spiritual hermitage with Indian cultural activity such as yoga, music study or religious instructions) and stay there as long as possible.
If you are undisciplined (like me) and the mind controls you, not vice-versa, ashram life is a true life-saving boat. Try at least once in the year to spend time and energy in an ashram environment.
7. Always, always keep the mind busy! You know the proverb “An empty mind is the devil’s playground”.
8. Try to help people in need.
Especially those who are strangers to you and there’s no relationship between you and them. Do not expect to see them ever again.
9. Choose your friends and company wisely.
It may be better to have a few but loyal and worthy friends than a bunch of unreliable and calculating friends.
10. Mind what you feed your body, mind and soul.
You need a variety of quality aliments, enough time for digestion and a working method for waste treatment at all levels—biological, intellectual and emotional.
11. Do something creative. Paint, write, play, compose—It doesn’t matter what as long as you express yourself.
All arts and learning are a form of and come from the Goddess Saraswati, remember? I’ll tell you a secret. When you use any negative quality within you which you cannot negate and you express it through creativity, soon it won’t bother you—it will be transformed for a better purpose.
12. Read inspiring literature about great sages and saints, interesting and provoking novels or simply stay tuned to my blog and my articles (sorry for that shameless self-promotion).
13. Do sports, go to the mountain or simply hug a tree and place your forehead to its trunk, thus you will channel your inner energy.
14. Smile, laugh and play more. Taking things too seriously blocks your potential.
15. Now, with all said above, forget everything and simply follow your heart.
Wishing you a very inspiring and evolving year!
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Apprentice Editor: Lauryn DeGrado / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Gourab Mala/Flickr