Revealing Your Joy with Ayurveda
Joy, according to Ayurveda, is a state of being inherent to all of us. It is subtly different than happiness, which can be described as a reaction to something good happening. You win the lottery, you are happy; your stocks go down, you are unhappy—this happiness is based on external forces.
Joy or bliss, according to Ayurveda, is independent of external forces and events. It can never be taken away—just hidden, blocked, or protected. Ayurveda sets out to expose and remove protective blocks, so we can experience joy on a regular basis.
Protective blocks or emotional armor are described as “mental ama” in Ayurveda, and therapies are employed to remove them. While I have written extensively on the topic of Ayurvedic Psychology, and how unwanted toxic emotions can compromise health and longevity, this article describes five action steps that are as easy as a CLICK away.
Whenever you see a prompt to “click here,” use this simple mnemonic as a reminder to practice one of these five transformational action steps.
CLICK: Actions Steps to Joy
- C = Caring
- L = Love
- I = Introspection
- C = Compassion
- K = Kindness
CLICK = Karmic Transformational Action
The definition of karma is action. Actions can have a positive or negative effect on the body. A negative action can cause harm and elicit a survival response remembered and recorded in the white matter of the brain, called tarpaka kapha in Ayurveda. These negative actions can cause unwanted protective patterns of behavior that can develop into mental ama or emotional armor that block access to joy or bliss.
As emotional blocks inhibit access to joy, we often seek replacement versions of joy from external forces, which elicit happiness in just fleeting dosages. It is easy to become addicted to sensory stimulation and reward chemistry as a means of feeling content, but this way of getting happiness doesn’t last.
CLICK are five action steps that pierce the protective armor and offer glimpses of the joy that waits inside of us. By putting these into action, we can facilitate new neural pathways proven to deliver that daily dose of joy.9 Actions based on CLICK are karmic transformation action steps, or actions that will free you from the protective armor of past negative actions and reactions.
One of the common denominators of centenarians (people who live to over 100) is that they all seem to have very strong social bonds with family and friends who regularly care for each other. Fundamentally, as humans, we seek sociality to feel safe and accepted. Once the feeling of love, support, acceptance, or safety is established, there is a relaxation response,2 linked to reduced rates of sickness and death.1
A study with 846 volunteers evaluated the effect of caring for others on longevity. Each volunteer was interviewed to see if they had helped someone through a stressful event in the past year. There was a strong relationship between helping others through a stressful time and longevity. Those who did not help others were at higher risk of mortality than those who offered assistance and support to those in need.1
In another study, researchers concluded socially isolated people, compared to those with strong social ties, were at substantially increased risk of premature death and sickness. In fact, association between social isolation and risk of death was so great, it matched known mortality risk factors like high blood pressure, smoking, and sedentary lifestyle.1
Providing help to others has been found to promote the helper’s health as well. Studies show volunteering for a service activity is linked to health and longevity and providing aid to a relationship partner predicts reduced rates of sickness and death.1
In one report, studies found even when all our basic needs are met, humans fail to flourish without loving relationships.3
Research shows love has important stress-reducing, health-promoting potential, since it can facilitate beneficial motivation and behavior that promotes our survival.4 Further, it has been found that joyful activities (such as love) may activate areas in the brain responsible for emotion, attention, motivation, and memory, and influence the autonomic nervous system, which governs our response to stress.5
Acts of love, caring, and kindness stimulate production of the love and longevity hormone, oxytocin, linked to numerous health benefits, including pleasure, happiness, stable mood, and a better ability to handle stress.6 Oxytocin production is enhanced with all aspects of CLICK. It is increased with social interaction, caring for others, actions of love, sincere interest, compassion, and kindness. Oxytocin boosts the anti-stress response in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), the primary pathway connecting the gut microbiome to the brain. This pathway is linked to the health of almost every physiological function in the body.6
INTROSPECTION / SELF-INQUIRY
Ayurveda describes a practice of introspection or self-inquiry as critical analysis, an evaluation of one’s truth and non-truth. This can only take place when the mind is still, quiet, and established in being or non-thought. Yoga, breathing, and meditation are the classic tools to effectively practice self-inquiry.
My favorite description of this practice is in the Veda of the Bow or Dhanurveda. Dhanurveda is the Veda of Transformation, which uses the bow as a metaphor or martial art of spiritual transformation.
When you fully draw a bow back, in an attempt to shoot an arrow, you must bring the bow and the arrow back fully. You must hold and establish that arrow and bowstring in a state of absolute stillness or silence. The slightest movement of the bowstring will create an exponentially distorted flight of the arrow. To create a profoundly transformational shot, you must establish yourself, the bowstring, and the arrow in a state of Being, silence, or total stillness. In that stillness, the mind can slip into a state of enhanced self-awareness, beyond thoughts and emotions, into a state of truthful self-awareness. Holding the mind in this state—with the bow pulled back—prepares you to take action and shoot. First, we must engage in introspection or self-inquiry to ensure the action originates from truth.
Once established in self-inquiry with the bow and mind perfectly still and fully “pulled back,” the release of the bowstring sends the arrow into a transformational flight. The arrow, the thought, the action released from this state of mindlessness is free of attachment. It is free of judgment. It flies without concern of what people think; it requires no approval or attention from others. When it hits the target, it penetrates at the deepest possible level, eradicating non-truth and ignorance. CLICK actions are transformational.
Follow my self-inquiry guide in my free Kaya Kalpa Cleanse eBook!
New compelling evidence shows compassion is a distinct emotion rooted in evolution.8 As part of our species survival instinct, we are compelled to care for others. But the benefits of compassion are not limited to helping others—self-compassion has been linked to a host of health benefits.
Treating oneself with kindness and nonjudgmental acceptance in response to challenges and failures has been linked to several key health-related outcomes, including lower perceived stress, healthier physiological response to stress, increased practice of health-promoting behaviors, and better physical health.7
Once compassionate with our own shortcomings, we can do the same with others, replacing judgement with understanding and compassion. When someone else’s behavior irritates you or rubs you the wrong way, try to look at their situation through the window of compassion and understanding.
I always say that roses grew thorns because they were constantly being trampled and eaten. If someone has been emotionally trampled throughout their childhood, there is a good chance, like the roses, that they too will grow emotional thorns and not be easy to be around. It is easy to judge such a person, but such a judgment is just us reacting to their thorns—in effect, you are doing them rather than doing you. Such a situation is an opportunity to look through the window of compassion and act on our truth—that place of peace, love, and kindness. In this way, that thorny traumatized person gave us the opportunity to pull back the bow, see the truth, act on it, and do us!
The science of kindness is voluminous. Individual acts of kindness release both endorphins and oxytocin, and create new neural connections. New neural connections allow us to change our behavior, old repetitive mindsets, bad habits, and mental and emotional imbalances. Studies suggest the more you practice kindness, the more natural it becomes—in other words, it can become a self-reinforcing habit, requiring less and less effort to repeat.9
Some researchers believe the chemistry of kindness is responsible for the placebo effect, which regularly outperforms many of the most popular Western medications.9
My favorite CLICK exercise is to practice RAKs, or random acts of kindness. Looking for opportunities to help, give, care, love, or appreciate others lays down new neural pavement in the brain, replacing our need to be loved, appreciated, and cared for by others with the realization that true fulfillment can only come from reaching out to care for, love, connect, and give generously to others.
In Ayurveda, these actions are called sattva. Living a sattvic way of life, in part through the regular practice of these CLICKs, is a prerequisite to health, longevity, joy, and spiritual fulfillment.