Ambrosia: “elixir of life”; “food of the Gods, conferring immortality and vital energy”; “a tasty dessert made of oranges and shredded coconut”
Imagine yourself spread out on a large, soft picnic blanket in an open field full of luscious green grass and sunflowers. Butterflies float around your head as you take in the fresh air and colors of nature. The sun is at its brightest but the light wind keeps you cool. You are lounging under a strong oak tree for shade and get whiffs of the delicious ambrosia cookies you made for your day of rest. These cookies are round, warm and placed enticingly on a plate on your picnic blanket. You reach for one of them, sink your teeth in and enjoy the bursts of flavor on your taste buds. Mhmmm, you murmur as you savor that single bite fully before taking another one. You smile after each bite because you are amazed at the variety of flavors each bite offers you. This is a good day.
I have found myself conjuring up scenes like this at the end of a jam-packed week, silently wishing there was a nearby field where I could lay in and escape my crazy schedule. Often times, I fall into auto-pilot in my busy schedule and when I finally have a break, I am too tired to move. I forfeit activities that I love like yoga, taking walks or spending time with my friends because all I want to do is travel far away from all the boring, routine things I have do and sit. I love to travel and can easily become lustful of other places and discontent with where I am currently. It is only until recently that I have been discovering that I have the tools within myself to find renewed vitality right here at home; my personal ambrosia.
According to Lorin Roche, a renowned teacher of meditation, meditation opens up space in our bodies for “elixir moments”, moments that give us a deep feeling of energy, love and physically releases blissful chemicals in our bodies. In science, these ambrosia-like hormones have been named endocannabis after the cannabis plant as the chemicals produced in the brain are close to the active ingredients in marijuana. Activities such a traveling, yoga, running, music, meditation and breathing exercises have been shown to have such an effect on our brains. As Roche teaches, “meditation is the practice of being in love with the essence of life, and you get better with practice.” Pretty neat that our brains have the inner ability to create these happy hormones that guide us back to contentment and vitality without smoking (no judgement, though).
So, how can we begin to uncover the ambrosia, that inner high, while living our daily lives?
1) Discover What Excites You, Then Be Present With It
I found it so freeing to learn that I did not have to sit still and meditate for five hours non-stop in order to feel more energized, nor did I have to seek a new adventure in a new town or country to continue to feel the “high” of life amidst the rush of day-to-day. Each of us has it within us to invite these moments through specific activities that personally work for us. What works for me might not work for the girl I sit next to at lunch, and what works for her might be something I would never enjoy. Personally, an hour of yoga or Buti Yoga each day brings me great joy, and it’s easy for me to make time for them. It is more difficult for me to take time to sit with friends, so that is something I am working on growing in. I have discovered that photography brings me these ambrosia moments as well. I decided to take pictures of the buildings around the area I live and really notice what is in each picture while I’m editing them. This has allowed me to see new beauty in places that previously had grown stale. Being present can mean meditating. But find out what that means to you. It is making the conscious decision to participate in an activity or conversation with limited distractions. It can be spending time with a loved one, your pet, taking a walk, eating chocolate or dancing. It’s easy to be present while doing things you enjoy that take you away from busyness and can make hours pass like seconds. Find these things, practice being present in them and work to transfer that same type of presence to something that is more difficult for you to enjoy. Continue to be kind to yourself. Being present grows with consistent practice, just like abs and joy revealing themselves with consistent Buti practice. Discovering love for new things is part of the fun of growing more present right here and now. Set an intention each day that encourages you to be present. Mine is often “Erica, be kind to yourself”, or “Breathe” because I forget to slow down to enjoy what I am doing.
2) Make Space For Your Growth
Besides being present, we need to make space for these elixir moments to show up. We may never experience impactful change while in our comfort zones. There is no room for fresh water if the cup is filled to the brim! A few weeks ago, I began my yoga teacher training journey with Yoga Buzz in St. Louis. We have been delving deep into the philosophy behind Yoga and why we cultivate certain practices on and off the mat. One such lesson focused on how the Hindu tradition includes chanting mantras to invoke the gods and goddesses into their lives. For example, chanting Aum Aim Saraswatiye Swaha, which translates to “I offer myself [into sacred fire] to the flowing one whose essence is wisdom and the power to manifest”, is said to invoke the goddess Saraswati. Saraswati imparts knowledge and unblocked creativity in those who reach out to her. Her essence is akin to a flowing river that is calm and able to move freely without obstacles that change its course. There are specific mantras to chant for each deity that deals with the array of issues in which one may seek growth. Such chanting can be related to offering thanks and requests in prayer as in the Christian faith, or might be similar to sitting in a field admiring the flowers and sending the universe your dreams and wishes. Putting sincere requests into the universe seems to be a common trait of human beings no matter what spiritual beliefs they adhere to. This is part of being present with yourself. Alongside these insightful chants, we learned that the deities will not bestow their gifts on us if there is no metaphorical and sometimes physical room for those gifts within us.
Imagine a fridge full of old food. This old food was delicious and served a purpose in its time. But right now, it is not allowing newer, healthier food to be placed on the shelves. The process of going through this old food and getting rid of what has expired is the first step to creating room for your new choices. It might feel gross to sniff through stale food but cleaning the fridge is priority. It is similar to what is needed in our hearts and minds. Though going through unhelpful thoughts, habits and practices may be a difficult and painful experience, it is necessary to create space for the healthy habits you are forming currently. The brain lets go of memories that no longer serve us automatically to make space for new ones. It’s amazing! I have had to take time to clear my space, which included going to therapy, beginning yoga and starting to face old fears and emotions before I began feeling the benefits of my new practices. It is scary. I wanted to give up many times if not for a strong support system. I am still cleaning.
You have ambrosia inside you waiting to burst through the doors but they need space in order to open them. No two person’s spaces look exactly alike. I strongly encourage you to create space, with compassion for yourself, and at a pace that feels good to you. Buti Yoga is a great way to create this room for elixir moments – that Buti Bliss feeling. “Shaking your Shakti” as we often do while in Buti works to detox your body of unhelpful toxins and creates space for the good you are inviting through your practice. Shakti means energy, power, movement, change, and nature. It is the maternal principle – the provider, abundance. You are already practicing being present by making a commitment to face the shit in life and spiral it out. You have provided your body space for your Shakti to rise. Keep going.
3) Take A Trip (no, not THAT kind of trip…)
Taking the spirit of traveling and becoming a tourist at home encourages contentment and increases energy. When in travel-mode, one becomes curious about sights, sounds, people and culture. It is often easier to relax and sit in a moment while traveling as there are constant new experiences to get. Adopting this attitude of travel-curiosity while driving to work or interacting with people I see everyday has improved my mood and energy each day. The more I am curious, the more present my mind is becoming without me worrying about finding a quiet place to meditate (Although that is more helpful on some days)! I love practicing this curiosity with friends and loved ones and often feel deeper connections being made because I have become more present with those I am with. That being said, travel if you have the means and time to. It is another beautiful experience that can ignite your inner energy and should be done with enjoyment. If I am focused on living in the present and becoming content with my home place, traveling can become even more of a joy because, instead of dreading the return trip home from my Roman holiday, I can be excited to share my adventures to those at home in a place I love.
The ambrosia within you is unique to you, and is already there waiting to be uncovered. I hope you find your ambrosia daily. With patience, dedication to healthy activities you love, practicing being present where you are, and continuing to be curious about what is around you, I know that is entirely possible. I wish you well on your journey.
Resources for uncovering your ambrosia
- Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
- The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris (more resources at https://www.thehappinesstrap.com/)
- Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga by Sally Kempton
- ACT with Love by Russ Harris (An insightful book about the power of staying present in our relationships)
- Meditation resources by Lorin Roche, PhD. (https://www.lorinroche.com)
- Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self by Anodea Judith
- The Mindfulness Summit: www.themindfulnesssummit.com
- Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body by David Emerson, David. Emerson, and Elizabeth Hopper (foundations of Mindfulness and being present are discussed in this powerful book)
Erica Lee is a new Yoga Buzz Teacher Training graduate,