How did this happen, you might wonder?
It was a completely natural progression of events, I say!
We came in from lunch and the first thing I noticed as I walked through the kitchen was the coffee pot, with another cup left. I poured myself the cup and went to reheat it in the microwave. (I don’t normally do this after lunch BTW, but with last night’s full moon energy and 2–3 hours of real sleep, I decided not to waste the caffeine.) When I set the cup down in the microwave, I noticed several little wisps from ears of corn on the cob —heated in there at least a week ago.
And so we begin…I walk to the pantry to get the step stool…to set it up and get the rag and cleaner…to do a couple passes (have to get that scraped on, hardened nasty brown liquid goo too — which I’m not sure is OURS or the prior tenants, yuck!)…and only then I realize that oh right:
I came home intending to write a blog post. Instead, I cleaned the microwave!
Can you relate? Squirrel!!
What is it about focus that’s so challenging? Why do we have an idea in our mind about something we’re going to do, and then get distracted into doing something completely different? (This happens in real life as in my example above, but it’s likely even more prevalent when using a computer because, well hey, the Internet is a vast web of interesting and distracting stuff, right? One link leads to another which leads to cats and…) I digress….
In Ayurveda —an ancient system of medicine related to yoga — this excessive mental movement is an aspect of Vata. Vata is a blend of air and space elements. When you think about air and space, it makes sense that the qualities of Vata are cool, light, dry, rough, subtle, and mobile. These qualities manifest as Vata within people: those with a predominantly Vata constitution tend to have cold hands and feet and thus prefer warmth; have trouble sitting still, have dry skin, hair, and nails, tend not to gain weight very easily, etc.
More relevant for our discussion here is that Vata-types are the people who are always mentally moving from place to place, or trying to keep 100 balls in the air at the same time. They have lots of ideas; few are implemented. There are many “half-completed” tasks lying around.
Of course this is a negative perspective of Vata, or rather, excess Vata: without movement and creative ideas, nothing much would happen, would it? We all need some Vata, but what we often have (and see around us) is an overflowing cup.
Ayurveda states that “like” things are aggravating, “opposites” pacifying. So if you take someone with a Vata-leaning constitution (i.e. someone who has a natural tendency toward these qualities anyway) and have them frequently travel for work (e.g. create a lifestyle that is mobile, light, and dry as the experience of flying often is) then that person might have an even harder time focusing.
In other words, our lifestyles often add more Vata to our systems. Think about your work (and sometimes even home) life: commuting, rushing from meeting to meeting or activity to activity without breaks; continuous checking of MOBILE devices; being interrupted; not getting enough liquids (either in the form of water or most often, by dehydration through things like… ahem…too much coffee); watching videos or TV shows where every few seconds the camera moves to some other scene…. Eating while standing, walking, or meeting also smells of Vata. So even if your system doesn’t naturally lean this way, it’s likely you’re being bombarded with too many Vata-like experiences regardless!
The thing is: the more we aggravate the Vata in our mind-body system through our lifestyle choices, the more and more Vata we become.
That feeling of “overwhelm” when we have too much to do and don’t know where to begin? A sure sign of excess VATA.
Of course there is more to this — I haven’t even mentioned the other two constitutions at play in us and our world, or how the seasons and times of day play into it. However, it’s important to recognize that IF we truly want to be more focused in our lives, we have to reduce the Vata in us and around us.
This often means setting firmer boundaries on our time, attending to grounding self-care practices, and finding foods and activities that nourish us by helping us be more still (inside and out). And the more we do these things, the easier we will find it to focus. With more mental focus comes increased productivity, sense of accomplishment, a leg-up on our competitors, etc.
Sound like a catch-22? Definitely. Worth it? Definitely. Start now.
Here are some simple, physical things you might try (daily) to pacify excess Vata:
- In the morning: Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart, arms down by your sides. Without looking down, lift and spread your toes out. Feel the four corners of both feet and press them firmly down. Soften your knees! Keep this sense of pressing down and relax the toes. Imagine gravity taking the whole lower half of your body down. From the sides of your waist, feel your upper body lengthening up away from earth, the crown (top) of your head gently reaching to the sky. Every exhale, focus on the downward energy; every inhale, maintain that downward energy in the lower body while stretching your spine taller. Close your eyes and continue for at least 10 long, deep breaths.
- During your day: Bend your knees a lot and slide your hands down your thighs to the floor. Place your full palms on the floor — bend your knees as much as necessary to allow this to happen. (If this isn’t comfortable for any reason, place your palms on a sturdy shelf or table instead.) Relax your shoulders and your head. Feel the surfaces beneath your hands and beneath both feet. Notice their temperature, their texture, their firmness. As you inhale, imagine as though you could take in strength and stability from the floor or surface through your hands and feet. As you exhale, imagine that steadiness moving throughout your body — from the feet to the hips and simultaneously, from the palms to the hips.
- After work / in the evening: Lie face down on the floor, and take your arms out to your sides shoulder-height, like wings, with the palms facing down. Turn your head to one side so you can breathe comfortably. Feel the sensation of the floor underneath your body. Imagine as though through your outstretched arms, you could hug the earth. Stay here for at least 10 long, deep breaths, changing the turn of your head halfway through.
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