It is one of the greatest and most rewarding attributes you can work on — attentiveness. There is a slight yet significant difference between mindfulness and attentiveness. Mindfulness is maintaining a sense of awareness, a sort of consciousness that you are watching your own thoughts, your actions. With greater practice, your level of mindfulness rises to a degree that it becomes effortless. Mindfulness is the basis of a graceful living, a stable life, a sound mind. It is also the essence of meditation. That reminds me: a while ago I had recorded a discourse on dhyana yoga, meditation. It is in Hindi. You can watch it here.
Getting back to my present topic, attention is a conscious effort. You are paying attention and you are conscious that you are trying to be attentive. If you pay attention to yourself, your actions, environment and your body, you naturally inculcate an effortless and rewarding discipline and order in your living. Attention leads to mindfulness eventually.
My focus today is predominantly on paying attention to your body. Fitness of the physical body is more important than any religious ritual, in my opinion. We enjoy all pleasures through the body, however transcendental they may be. It is through the body alone that you experience what you do and it is your body that puts up with the good and bad results of any action you perform.
This world with all its whims and fancies, joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains, exists for you as long as you have the body. A lot of people do not treat their body with the same care as they would treat their money, relationships, work etc. Or perhaps, it is a question of priority. Your physical fitness, regardless of your age, deserves to be on the top.
Nothing happens instantly in the play of nature. The same goes for your body too. I have observed countless times that often small ailments, when not tended, turn into major problems. Many a time, your body shows symptoms and signs long before anything is diagnosed. If you choose to ignore its nudges, it expresses in the form of a disease later on.
Imagine running on the tread-mill at a fast pace for an hour and then simply getting off it without cooling down. It might do you more damage than good. Similarly, in life after you have caught up pace, when you wish to stop, you need to give yourself time to slow down, to cool down. You cannot afford to keep running at the same pace throughout.
Evolution over numerous lifetimes has helped your body develop a sophisticated mechanism of survival. When you are eating a wholesome meal, no matter how delicious, your body tells you when you should stop. It makes you feel sleepy when it wants rest, it wakes you up when it has got enough sleep, you feel thirsty when your body needs water, you feel hungry when it needs food. The easiest way to keep your body fit is to listen to it, to pay attention to it. If you do not ignore it and exercise, your chances of keeping your body fit and healthy sky rocket.
The human body can take a lot when young, that does not mean it is justifiable to abuse it. Often the results of such abuse show through in the later years. If someone smokes a lot, lives off junk food, the body may still remain fit when young but sooner or later, the perils of such living catch up. Is it any coincidence that all yogic scriptures give great importance to eating right and physical exercises!
Ripu ruja paavaka papa prabhu ahi gani’a na chota kari ॥
An enemy, disease, fire, sin, master, snake should not be taken for granted, no matter small they may appear at first. Attend to them at the first sign.
(Ram Charitmanas, Aranya Kand, 21)
It is never too late or too early to adopt a healthy lifestyle. And what is a healthy lifestyle? A balanced life is a healthy one: balanced diet, work and exercise. Your body is an instrument of life, of living, of experiences. It is not a cage for your soul but a potent vehicle of knowledge and insight. All acquisition of knowledge is through the senses. There will be no senses if not for the body. Befriend it, treat it with care. Love thyself.