|Interview series: LivingByDesign|
Recently I spoke to Ananga at Living By Design, a website about making empowering life choices. What caught my eye was its about us page, which states that "We are meant for so much more than to merely exist, to worry over bills, to feel stressed and exhausted. We have the rare gift of a human life, the chance to explore our core potential, to learn, to live with purpose, and to cultivate our spiritual nature". Our lives are the summations of all our daily choices, yet everyday we keep on making choices that diminish our life forces. There is no better way to live a good life than start making choices that help us grow. You can get a free e-book and meditation mp3 clips from the site. After reading this simple yet inspirational ebook, I learned to see the beauty of loving kindness. Here's my dialog with Ananga.
SelfHelpTree: In your ebook Beautiful Calm, you talked about the high price of self neglect. What are the contributing factors to self neglect?
Ananga: I think that stress and rushing about are major factors in self neglect because they hinder our ability to tune in to our own intelligence and make healthy decisions. Healthy doesn't just mean not having a cold or the flu. Healthy means balanced. It means being in touch with your body's intelligence, the world around you, the changing seasons and your own personal needs for functioning at your best physically, mentally and emotionally.
Staying up late, eating on the go, alcohol, lack of sleep etc are obvious contributory factors that many of us adopt as a diversion from stress and anxiety, but these are the very things that will only throw us further out of balance. If we learn to handle stress in a healthy and self-supportive way we can bring ourselves back to centre and that feels so much better than any quick fix diversion can ever make you feel.
SelfHelpTree: You mentioned that 20 years ago you were a stressed commuter working in central London. How did you become a meditation teacher?
Ananga: I don't really think of myself as a meditation teacher, I'm more of a sharer. I've been extremely lucky in finding some very wonderful and practical methods of calming the mind and soothing the soul. My first training in meditation came when I was introduced to the wisdom of the Vedas and shown how to practice japa meditation by chanting the maha mantra on beads. I still chant on my beads every day as my daily quiet time with God, that's spiritual meditation. Spiritual means permanent, whatever progress we make in developing our relationship with God is with us forever.
Then there are more practical methods of meditation that benefit our mind and our health, these I've learned through my study of Ayurveda and yoga, and there are others I've collected that are purely breath and body focused.
SelfHelpTree: How do people achievewhen there are so many distressing events happening in the news?
Ananga: That's a very good question. It's hard to be calm and content in a world where there is so much suffering every day. Real compassion means that we adopt a non-violent life - the vedas call this ahimsa. If we want to experience loving kindness, we have to act with loving kindness and that means that we don't have any part in causing violence to any other living being. Ahimsa means eating a vegetarian plant and grains based diet, we cannot claim to be compassionate if we are sponsoring suffering by buying and eating meat. It also means behaving respectfully towards the earth and our local community.
We cannot avoid distress completely in the material world but we can be sure that we absolutely minimise our part in causing distress to others and that we show ourselves kindness also by simple acts of nurturing and self care.
SelfHelpTree: What is the most important lesson you have learned from practicing meditation?
Ananga: That we easily get caught up in small things, external things that will mean nothing to us when it's time to leave this world, and that when we take time out to be still and be calm we get in touch with our very best self and resources. Meditation puts things in perspective and gives room to grow your heart.
SelfHelpTree: You produced a series ofor unguided meditation, explain why you created those?
Ananga: The meditation experiences I share on my website are designed to offer calm and help people turn down stress and anxiety so that they can free some space to pursue their life purpose. I created them because over the last 20 years I've met hundreds of people whose health and relationships are being ruined by stress. I remember what that feels like and I remember that when you're burned out it's almost impossible to stop and take stock of yourself. So I wanted to offer something that I think can be of genuine help. The Inner Calm Audio meditations are designed for the download and listen lifestyle that is becoming so popular. I made them to be quick, easy and effective, there's nothing to read, nothing to learn, you can just listen and follow along, they start at just five minutes long so even the busiest person can put them on their iPod and take a break while commuting or at lunch.
Our new meditations Natural Release and Beyond the Clouds are a little longer at about 15 minutes each, they are designed more for use at the end of the day to dissolve accumulated stress and tension and help invoke a deeply relaxed state before settling down to sleep
SelfHelpTree:: Is it difficult to learn?
Ananga: Yes and no. The basic principles of Ayurveda are beautifully simple and easy to learn, but to study it at a deeper level can be quite challenging. For westerners to learn Sanskrit terms can seem daunting, but there are some gifted teachers around who convey the concepts of Ayurveda in a way that really clicks with what you know makes sense as soon as you hear it.
Even learning a couple of simple health enhancing habits from Ayurveda can make a profound difference to your day, such as regularly sipping plain hot water to cleanse the digestive system and keep the tissues of the body lubricated, and getting to bed by my website.so you're ready to rise with the sun feeling rested and refreshed. You can find out more about the basics of Ayurveda on