Throughout my years of teaching at the Chopra Center, one of the questions that I am most frequently asked by students is, “What do YOU do to stay balanced?” The stress-producing assumption buried in that question is that balance is a static state that we can reach and hold onto. In reality, balance is a dynamic state. In every moment our body and mind are changing as we exchange energy and information with the environment around us. Cultivating balance is about nurturing this dynamic exchange, allowing vitality, joy, and wellbeing to flow into our experience.
The core of what we teach at the Chopra Center is consciousness-based practices that promote this dynamic state of balance and wellbeing, helping us to be responsive rather than reactive, to be flexible rather than rigid, and to stay centered even when chaos is swirling around us.
Cultivating Balance Through Meditation
The cornerstone of the Chopra Center’s teachings is the practice of Primordial Sound Meditation. Meditation is not just about obtaining spiritual enlightenment, though that is a potential and profound result of a committed meditation practice. A few of the benefits that we tend to emphasize more is the expansion of awareness and our capacity to consciously and consistently choose what nourishes us rather than react from our habitual and conditioned patterns.
Meditation helps us to “flex the muscle” of our mind – giving us more control over what we focus on, and a greater ability to quiet the mental chatter that can be distracting, self-sabotaging, and sometimes toxic and destructive. Having struggled since early childhood with low-self-esteem and depression, I can personally attest to the power of meditation to focus the mind and enhance wellbeing.
Meditating daily fosters a deep sense of self-awareness that offers a larger perspective about ourselves, others, life’s situations and challenges – and ultimately brings us more love, peace, happiness, freedom, creativity, and inspiration. With an increased ability to focus and direct our attention, we can strengthen all areas of our life, including spirituality, health, relationships, family, and work.
Another means of cultivating balance in mind and body is through balanced nutrition. Next to breathing, eating is our most vital bodily function. We nourish ourselves by converting the energy and information of our food into the biological intelligence of our body. At our weekly Perfect Health program, we teach that ideal nutrition results from consuming a variety of foods that are deliciously prepared and eaten with awareness. A balanced diet containing a medley of tastes provides nourishment for our body and mind.
Eating all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent) at every meal helps us feel satisfied and ensures we’re getting all the nutrients we need. In the United States, the sweet, salty, and sour tastes – found in meals such as a hamburger with a pickle and catsup – tend to predominate. We need to eat the other three tastes in greater proportions. Foods containing the bitter taste include green and yellow veggies and leafy greens. You can find the pungent taste in foods and herbs that have a heating effect on the mind-body, such as hot peppers, ginger, salsa, radishes, basil, and thyme. Foods with the astringent taste include beans, legumes, lentils, tea, cranberries, and pomegranates. Learn more about the six tastes here.
When we mindfully include these six tastes into every meal, we will discover that our appetite is satiated – our cravings will decrease and we will use food as it was intended . . . for true nourishment.