You may wonder what this article has to do with regarding a "health tidbit" that I typically write about but as you continue to read further you will see the point and how this is aligned with the intention of being a health tidbit. This was inspired by recent numerous conversations with my patients around the idea of "spiritual practices." This is a timely discussion and worthwhile pondering during this time of year as holidays are occurring, and time seems to speed up with some much going on. 

     The ancient yogis knew that as time progressed and we evolved that there would be many more distractions that could potentially cause us to lose ourselves even more so. They encouraged the idea of spiritual practices through yoga, that also involved the various aspects of breathing techniques and meditation, along with the asanas (physical exercises), and then some (too much to mention.)  In fact, some of the yogic literature suggests that there are infinite techniques in order to correspond with the varying degrees of human experiences. 

     One of the main points essential to the "purpose" of spiritual practices is to help us to connect ourselves through a focal point that represents/reflects/aligns us with some sense of divinity (sacredness, or what have you). When we get lost between the vacillation of the pendulum involving the past in future we are taken away from the present moment. The basic intention of spiritual practices is to help us become more anchored in the present moment. The more we connect the spiritual practices through continuity and regularity the higher the likelihood we decrease the sense of feeling lost in life or to life and that we could remember who/what we are when we slow down to what is present in the now.  What is useful to know is that religions can serve us as a means to feel connected to something that shows/reminds/reflects/encourages us of something this is "bigger as or than ourselves."

     Essentially, all the major traditions of the world share this philosophy that there is some sort of apex that spiritual practices are designed around, whether we are reading from one holy scripture or another, meditating in a cave or a forest or on a plane or in bed. Wherever we are.

     The understanding is that the continuous practice acts to help us be here now. There is a term in yoga called "Abhyasa Yoga," which is defined as the yoga of continuous practice. Eventually,  as the practice(s) advance, what tends to happen is that life starts to unfold in a way that shows us that each moment is unique and connects to the next moment but in reality, simultaneously, there is only one moment which is now. Time disappears as we know it. There is both a nothingness and fullness, at the same time. These spiritual techniques serve to remind us of the moment, over and over and over again. Inevitably, connecting every experience to a sense of oneness and the simplicity that life is happening. This is how we can see the analogy as a mala bead creating a mala. 

     You may ask "what is a Mala bead?" A mala bead is one of the beads that appear to be strung together as either a necklace or a bracelet. It is commonly seen in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. You could even go as far as saying that the Catholic rosary beads individually are beads like mala beads. Each mala bead is strung together creating a mala. Each rosary bead is strung together connecting as a rosary.  When Buddhists or Hindus use a mala, typically they are chanting a mantra with each passing of the bead. Similarly, a Catholic says a prayer at a specific bead. With the rosary, there is usually a space between a grouping of beads and a single bead but with the mala there is no grouping, simply one whole strung necklace/bracelet of beads. The purpose of using the bead is to focus on the sense of one-bead-at-a-time with a specific intention, called a prayer/mantra/invocation to the divine presence (or whatever.) 

     Moments add up to a day. Many days add up to year. Time passes and suddenly time melts together and years aren't clear anymore. Similarly, one bead, then the next and the next, add up to a whole mala, and suddenly you're engrossed in the presence of time dissolving and your connection to something bigger feels more present. The overall analogy here is that life is like a mala bead/a prayer bead that connects to a sense of oneness. Each moment connects to create a sense of a "oneness of life." The bead is designed as a tool to help us to be present and go one-by-one, to be present in the now, one-moment-to-the-next. Not getting lost in the idea of future or past. Simply experiencing each moment as a connection to a whole. If you are reading, then just read. If you are crying, then just cry. Don't try to fix or alter it. If you're just having a conversation with a good friend, then just be with the conversation. If you're just eating, or just pooping, or just showering, or just walking in the woods, then just be with that in that moment. It may seem that the "just" is just minimal but it is in the mundane that we can have profound experiences if we allow ourselves to be with it.  Whatever you are doing/feeling in the moment be as fully present with it, even if it is uncomfortable. Do you're best, because fundamentally we are all doing our best and we can't push anything faster than it will happen even if we think we can or are. 

     As we approach this holiday season, and beyond, the lesson to take here is that spiritual practices support us in being more present by making us aware of how sacred the moment is. Spiritual practices can help us to find more of ourselves by limiting our distractions to extraneous things that keep us from ourselves. The techniques eventually melt/merge together as the moment reminds us of how its been here all along, and as we continue to take this journey in these vehicles known as the body, each moment seems to become the never ending mala. The practices themselves are no longer being practiced, as the idea of "doing anything" dissolves away and what is left is the sense of being..."Be-In" the moment of now. We go from a doing to a being, which exists free of time in a timeless state and yet so much can be experienced. 

     The gift to take away from this article as a "health/mental health" tidbit is that as things seem to get revved up with life, being in each moment to the best of our ability is important in order to not get lost in the chaos that ensues when we are chasing situations and scenarios around.  In each moment. Treasure it, like one mala bead at a time. Honor the prayer of the breath in the moment, of whatever is present. Accept fully and as much as possible exactly that which is occurring right now, in each instance of now, regardless of what it is or looks like.  Resistance to what is actually happening right now is what perpetuates our sense of suffering. We can all benefit from this "practice of continuous practice." Magic is in the mundane. Slow down. The gifts are revealed however small or large they may appear. Just don't look for them because again that's "doing" something, which prevents us from truly experiencing them because we get in our own way as we seek.                                                                                         

     Showing up and being present with whatever and whoever is a great gift to offer ourselves and others. Slowing down helps us to minimize stress, which can create health issues and spiral out of control.

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.