What is Wellness?
Maybe the better question is what does wellness mean to you? Is it happiness, health, a tranquil mind, time to just be, consistent creative outlets, stable self-esteem, access to opportunities for growth, deeper connections with others? It could be any or all of these things balanced with the ability to distinguish between inputs (pleasurable or not) from your surroundings and your reaction to those inputs. All of these elements depend on how each individual reacts to stressful situations, how they interpret situations and how they choose to react on a daily basis to inevitable fluctuations in stimuli.
The more one learns to control his or her mind and reactions, which is truly the only thing in our lives we can control, the more wellness will seep into day-to-day life. Focusing on the present and not dwelling on the past nor yearning for the future or desired objects brings a calmness to life that allows life to unfold moment by moment without expectations.
The intimate daily interaction with the earth at Finca Exotica facilitates a surge of well-being, which can be enhanced through yoga or massage. The morning yoga class on our yoga deck overlooking the ocean encourages self-knowledge and observation and a massage stimulates a release in blockages on all levels of your being.
Natural Inspiration – getting in touch with the wisdom of nature
Many of the most well-known philosophers of last century got their inspiration from nature. So what’s the secret? Getting away from day-to-day distractions facilitates observation.
It is so easy and even common to focus on what we do not have at this moment and what we want to have. In order to get out of this rut of thinking it is necessary to begin to appreciate what is right in front of us! Being immersed in nature is the perfect opportunity to begin to appreciate what surrounds us. That’s what our wellness retreat is all about.
Have you ever been so engrossed in your internal dialogue that you failed to notice something amazing around you – a chickadee singing in the morning, a deer frolicking in the field, a bunny hopping around the flowers in the backyard? If we begin to engage our senses with our natural surroundings we begin to truly see what is there. And the ego – sense of separate self– begins to fade, and the interconnectedness of everything becomes more vividly understood. This leads to a reevaluation of what is really important and an understanding of the principle ‘less is more’.
There are scientific studies showing that gardening, contact with nature, especially trees, and contact with other animals, is therapeutic. Contact with nature soothes the soul in an abstract way that may be felt but not explained. As your nervous system recalibrates , your energy level and creativity increase and you may begin to feel a resurgence of prana (life-force) flowing through your body.
Spiritual Purity through Meditation
Indian society often refers to the mind as the monkey mind. It is common today for people to have many things on their plate at once and find it difficult to calm a mind that is constantly reviewing to-do lists, jumping from one thought to the next and all the while being distracted by the array of technological devices so prominent in hands and pockets today.
What may be less prominent is the knowledge and understanding that immersion in this lifestyle is also leading to extreme stress, chronic health issues, mental health problems and much more. Taking even 5-10 minutes a day to calm your mind and focus only on your breath can have multiplier effects in your life.
The word meditate has a certain tone of being something very formal that you need to be led through, and only if you are a yogi. But really, what is meditation? If we break meditation down into its fundamental form, the overwhelming technical concept loses its exclusive tone. Meditation is simply a practice of calming the mind … whew – feel better?
Then, perhaps the next hesitation surges wondering if am I capable of that and HOW I achieve it. First, let go of any expectations! Beginning to practice anything is exactly that – practice. There is no such thing as meditating perfectly. Each individual is different and our society has inculcated us so deeply that we constantly have to do something, that the Art of BEING has been lost and even considering it may create anxiety in some.
Hatha Yoga – the physical postures – was introduced to prepare the body for meditation. It may be useful for you to first do yoga or some kind of physical movement that will allow your body to settle into a seated position. However, it is not necessary.
First, come into a comfortable seated position – this may be half lotus, but many people are not comfortable in this position, so you can also try sitting over a cushion on your knees or even in a chair with limbs uncrossed. Close your eyes. Begin to drop into your seat, releasing any control of your breath or muscles. Scan your physical body first and notice any sensations, releasing further into the gentle pull of gravity. Then bring all of your focus and concentration onto the flow of your breath into and out of your body, without trying to control it. Keep your concentration here. As other thoughts arise (trust me, they will), simply step back from the thoughts and imagine that you are up on the bank of a river watching your thoughts flow by like a river with an uninterested tone, noticing without judgment.
Begin by sitting in meditation for a very short time – this may be between 3-5 minutes in the morning or perhaps after your afternoon workout. As you come out of meditation note the effects on your physical, mental and emotional body. The eventual goal of meditation as you deepen your practice is a balanced, serene and tranquil mind. So just give it a shot and start by calling it “my five-minute relaxation” if the word meditation intimidates you.
Outside the Thinking Mind
I find sustenance outside the thinking mind.
As the thought stream quiets, awareness comes
to focus on a single point, then moves –
shooting through me like the light from distant stars.
Focus follows energy, rides like a feather on the breath,
flies to the source of ecstasy and life force.
Focus carries me everywhere and nowhere,
flowing like water in a fountain.
Is it any wonder I return morning after morning,
to the still point at the heart of motion?
– Kripalu Yoga
Relax Right Now
The natural remedy for stress that zaps you of energy and motivation is relaxation. If being told you should relax adds anxiety to your daily life because you believe you don’t have time or don’t know how, you’re not alone! But, relaxation is more a state of mind than something you need to DO. Bringing awareness into your body throughout the day no matter what you are doing is a great step towards a healthier and lighter path in life.
In addition, here are three 3 minutes practices that will begin cultivating the mindfulness that leads to relaxation becoming a way of being rather than something you have to make time to do.
- If you are at home or somewhere you can find a wall, lie down and walk your legs up the wall placing your entire leg from your butt to your feet flat against the wall (or at an angle if this is too intense for your hamstrings). Relax your torso, neck and shoulders into the ground. Close your eyes and begin to notice your natural breath. An inversion such as this is great to do every day. It reverses the flow of blood, stimulates the movement of immune fluids that keep us healthy and allows us time to notice. Spend the next 2 minutes noticing the weight of your torso pressing into the floor, the breath flowing through your body and any sensations in your legs. After the 2 minutes are over, get up very slowly to avoid any potential dizziness.
- Push back from your desk or work. Close your eyes. Begin to imagine a scene that relaxes you – maybe the crashing of waves on the beach, a trickling waterfall or a relaxing Sunday morning. Deepen your breath – this is your life force and altering it in any way will also alter your mood. Begin to draw the breath into your belly, inflating it like a balloon, and then up through your rib cage, allowing it to expand, and finally all the way up into your chest, allowing it to rise slightly. Then exhale slowly back down through these three parts of your body and squeeze your abdominal muscles at the bottom of the exhale to get all the old, stale air out and prepare your body to take in a longer deeper breath with the next inhale. This breath called ‘dirgha’ in yoga, or three-part breath, increases your oxygen level and calms your mind. Continue this breath for 3 full minutes, even if your mind is getting distracted.
- From the Heart Math Institute: find a space without distractions and place the palms of your hands over your heart center. Bring all of your attention to the warmth of your hands and allow that to center your focus on your heart. Deepen your breath into your heart center. Even doing this for just 2 minutes will help open your heart and reopen channels of energy in your body.