First of all, a big THANK YOU to everyone who took time out of their day to write a response to last week’s newsletter. Your kind words and insights touched my heart. Please know I will respond to each one of you.
Because of my inquires last week, I found myself in a conversation with an Ayurvedic practitioner discussing “the right use of the senses.” The idea behind “the right use of the senses” is to find a balance between what you are perceiving and how you are responding.
Each one of us uses our senses to take in information from the world around us. Depending on where we live, how we were raised, what we value, and our life experiences, we interpret the information we sense differently. (Something we may want to keep in mind when navigating consent, agreement, or conflict.)
The information we perceive and the interpretation we give it impact the way we make decisions and interact with others. For example, if I think someone is trying to help me, then I respond very differently than when I think someone is trying to impede me.
Another factor which affects my response is the belief I hold about the information. For example, if I believe I deserve something, then I behave differently than when I believe I am undeserving.
Our perceptions, values, and beliefs not only impact our decisions, they greatly influence how we perceive our world. In other words, we create a feedback loop which reinforces our choices as well as how we interpret our world.
In the yoga tradition, of which Ayurveda is a part, there is a practice called pratyahara. Pratyahara is the conscious practice of controlling the senses and often looks like sitting quietly and noticing what arises in your mind. In a word, pratyahara is staying curious as you observe yourself reacting to the world around you.
The hope is by practicing pratyahara one can recognize when one is behaving in such a way that there is excess, not enough, or the wrong kind, and consequently, make different decisions.
One area of our life which is easy to recognize a misuse of the senses is our diet. If we are eating a lot of food or not enough food or the wrong kind of food, then our bodies send us messages which indicate all is not well. (Typically our body lets us know by sending us pain signals, i.e., bloating, indigestion, low energy, hunger pains, stomach upset, etc.)
The first choice when engaging in pratyahara is whether or not we acknowledge the message our body is sending us.
If we are using food, or the lack thereof, to cope with a stressor, then we may not want to pay attention to our body’s message. In the Ayurvedic tradition, a practitioner would describe this scenario as a “misuse of the senses.” The antidote is to make time to listen to your body without judgment.
The second choice is to ask yourself what the underlying need is behind the message.
If you are experiencing hunger pains, then your body is asking for nourishment. If you are experiencing indigestion, then the need is to discover the type and quantity of food to which your body best responds.
As you may imagine, needs can be multi-layered. Yes, hunger pains indicate the need for nourishment and the next question is “why?” Why am I not giving my body what it needs? Or What is getting in the way of giving myself nourishment? (Sometimes we need help unpacking these questions. There is no shame is seeking support. In fact it can be quite lovely.)
The third choice is to explore alternative ways to meet your needs.
Once you have identified what is causing the imbalance and what the underlying need is you now are free to find other ways to address the need. The problem lies in ignoring or denying the need. Recognizing the need and seeking value-aligned, adaptive methods for meeting the need is how we get back into balance.
I recently changed the way I exercise as a result of paying attention to my body and noticing how certain movements made me feel. My new approach feels so much better. The new practice eliminates the discomfort I was feeling as well as honors my need to move. (I suspect this practice is key to aging gracefully and I will need to employ it often.)
I am curious: How do you course correct? What practices help you readjust and get back into alignment? And most importantly, how do you work with any resistance you have toward making change? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where women could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Five years later, Kim is still in the flow of supporting and building a healthy, vibrant community and now guides retreats, teaches yoga, and provides one-on-one services for women who want an immersion experience into the life-affirming, Shakti energy.
Kim’s training as a therapist and yoga teacher allows her to safely and compassionately guide women on a heart-centered journey to Self, where women re-connect with their beautiful, authentic spirit.