Mindfulness, Vata Dosha, and Commuting

Posted by on May 5, 2017

Mary, from Canada writes,

“How should I counter the movement aspect for a vata? I am vata dominant and must travel daily to and from work about a 45 min drive and 20 min walk. I find the walk relaxing and during my car ride I listen to soothing personal development like Eckhart Tolle but cannot deny that my anxiety has increased since this new job and all this travel. Also, travel for family occasions such as Christmas is across the provinces. I practice daily meditation on my yantra mat, yoga, consistent sleep, have eliminated caffeine (I don’t drink alcohol) I’m doing everything else but if the movement is very big there is nothing I can do to eliminate it right now. How to counter it? Just continue everything else?”

I would like to rephrase Mary’s question slightly,

How Can You Prevent Vata Dosha From Being Elevated by the “Wind” of Commuting and excessive Travel?

I have re-phrased Mary’s question a little because any one, regardless of whether they are Vata, Pitta, or Kapha dominant can, and probably will, have their Vata dosha pathologically elevated by excessive movement and travel.

Human beings evolved to travel by walking. We did not evolve to hurtle through space in a fiberglass box at 70 miles per hour, or in a steel tube at 500 miles per hour. I am quite sure even travel by horse or camel elevates Vata, just as long distance running, or any kind of excessive aerobic exercise can.

Its not that we should live in the stone age, but if you do have to travel a lot for work, whether its commuting, or flying from city to city, then you have to take special measures to deal with your special situation. And the keywords for pacifying Vata, for keeping Vata balanced, no matter what your lifestyle entails, is to warm, moisten, slow, and calm.

The article Mary was responding to Vata Dosha and Anxiety already details in the section on “Tips for Vata”  how to warm, moisten, and calm Vata.

So what do we do when our work forces us to have an unhealthy lifestyle that elevates Vata dosha?

Warm more, moisten more, slow more, and calm even more.

When you are forced by work to have an intrinsically Vata elevating lifestyle of commuting long hours, or working the graveyard shift, or being a flight attendant, or flying to distant cities and staying in hotels,  how can you remedy that “excessive movement” or “wrong lifestyle.”

Mindfulness, Vata Dosha, and Commuting

The answer is not complicated. You just have to do an even better job of accomodating the situation you are in.  Make sure you make the best food choices for Vata when eating at the hotel restaurant like warming cooked foods and soups and foods with some mild spices. Carry Vata pacifying tea with you everywhere. Get snacks that are Vata pacifying, like nuts and hot beverages. Don’t rush everywhere all the time as if its an emergency like USA folk tend to. Enjoy the process.  Breathe. Do yoga pranayama. Meditate.

Here are some specific answers for commuters who like Mary, are Vata dominant.

  • Drink Warming, moistening Vatta Pacifying Tea in Your Car, Especially in Winter.
  • Drink Vata pacifying tea during the day at work.
  • Eat Warming, Moistening Food
  • Do not eat any Vata elevating food, like raw food, salads, cold energy or refrigerated food, iced drinks
  • Have a daily meditation practice, and I don’t mean guided meditation, but meditation that you yourself do, self generated

And I would like to address one subtle point that Mary’s excellent question generates:

Again, Mary writes:  “…during my car ride I listen to soothing personal development like Eckhart Tolle but cannot deny that my anxiety has increased since this new job and all this travel.  I practice daily meditation on my yantra mat, yoga, consistent sleep, have eliminated caffeine (I don’t drink alcohol) I’m doing everything else but if the movement is very big there is nothing I can do to eliminate it right now. How to counter it? Just continue everything else?”

 

First I would say to Mary to pay close attention to how you feel when you are driving. Are you rushing inside at all, or stressing inside. If you feel anxious, what does that feel like and where do you feel it? See if you can experience the physical symptoms of your anxiety, and at the same time ground yourself in the pleasurable nourishment of your breath sensations. One of my Vippassana teachers, Goenkaji, instructs how to practice mindfulness while driving–

” While keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel, pay close attention to your breath sensations and also the sensations of your body–your feet, your legs, your buttocks, your back, your shoulders, you face. Notice what all they feel like. Are they tense, relaxed, sped up? What does your nervous system feel like?”

Second, I would suggest alternating your inspirational Ekhart Tolle tapes with this mindfulness practice, because while inspirational lessons are valuable and have their place,  thinking is itself a Vata function.  And your mind is already working hard on the task of driving. Listening to books and lectures while driving is a kind of multi-tasking that elevates Vata. If you can, don’t do it at all, and try something non-linear like music instead. Either way, try resting your mind on the breath, not on words.

Listening to Mr. Tolle or any speaker while driving may actually increase or vitiate your Vata, because thinking is a Vata function, what Vata needs is non-thinking.  

Same thing with that 20 min walk. Ask yourself if you give enough time for it to be leisurely or, even healthfully brisk, or do you rush and walk in a stressful hurray. What  does your mind do while walking?

In Chinese Medicine it say that the mind leads the Qi. Thich Nhat Hanh describes mindful walking as taking each step as if it were a royal decree. Walk like the Buddha would. Mindful of your breath as it circulates through ever fibers of your being, aware of your surroundings, your pleasure in walking will increase as your senses sharpen when you are not lost in thought. You will really hear and enjoy the sounds of your feet, the sounds of the birds…So as you walk, each time you discover you are losing yourself in thinking, simply return to your natural breath, and the sensations of your steps, and this will also help to pacify Vata. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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