Karin Stephan's Twelve Recipes for Health: Spiritual Tips for the New Year

The following steps for health come from a handout I received in an Iyengar yoga workshop in NYC in 1996. Karin Stephan is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor. I’m sure you’ll find that incorporating these tips into your life will bring health and spiritual fulfillment: an auspicious start to the new year.

“The body is my temple, the asanas are my prayers” BKS Iyengar

“Beauty is where the self is not” Krishnamurti

I. Have a daily spiritual practice with a physical foundation:

Have a daily spiritual practice of some kind which makes you fell better physically. Some practices which directly affect the physical body are yoga, meditation, walking etc.

I do yoga, meditation, and affirmations daily, morning or evening, regularly including pranayama, or yoga deep-breathing exercises. I begin my day, and often end it with qi gong breathing into the 3 Jiaos, or regions of the abdomen. This year I’ve begun reading “The Path to Tranquility” by the Dalai Lama daily. There is a contemplation for each day of the year. I have a yoga/meditation room in my home for spiritual practice. If you do not have a room to spare, find a corner in which to create a sacred space. You could screen off an area. KB

II. Eat only when hungry. Prepare the body to receive the food you prepare:

Eat only when you’re hungry. Think that each meal should bring you pleasure. Visualize ahead of time what would satisfy and try to prepare that meal at least once a day.

Yogi’s suggest eating only until you are 80% full to prevent overeating. KB

III. Visualize meals. Prepare them with the pleasure principle in mind:

As you’re going through the day, visualize what dishes would give you the most satisfaction and then cook those foods with that image in mind.

IV. Seek pleasing environments for yourself:

Always search for the correct physical and aesthetic environment which gives you pleasure. Learn to recognize which activities and places give you the most pleasure, satisfying as many parts of your physical, psychological and emotional being as possible.

This might be a favorite walk or waterfall, and return there often. The buddists say these types of magical places are full of ‘drala’ energy. Dralas are spiritual beings, but not buddhas or bodhisattvas. Kind of spiritual fairies.

Make daily life an adventure. KB

V. Friends of like mind:

Seek the company of like mind. If you’re a mental person and if you enjoy literary people in the arts, spend time with them. If you’re a film or opera buff, find a friend to see movies or operas with. Mental and artistic activity is also a form of food.

Google for a “Meet-up” group of a special interest, such as hiking or dining out. Or go to the “Meet-up” site and start a “Meet-up” group of your interest. KB

VI. Recognize sources of negative behavior:

Learn to recognize sources of negative behavior and work on those sources. Do not just treat the symptoms. Find the root cause. “Seeing is acting” says Krishnamurti. Once you see it, you can modify it.

VII. Resolve internal conflict right away:

Seek resolution of internal conflict as soon as it arises either through self reflection, reading, working with a therapist, direct dialogue.

Or journaling. KB

VIII. Develop an inner sense of independence:

Develop an inner sense of independence not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. That way people around you are free to give or not to give, be with you or not be with you. Do not set up situations where people are dependent on you either.

IX. Develop gratitude:

Learn to develop gratitude for all that comes your way, even the tiniest gift form a tiny child.

I say my gratitudes daily, usually at meal time: expressing appreciation for the organic nutrititious and satisfying meal I’m about to eat, my home, my life in Asheville, my practice and so forth. When I fall into a wave of negativity or self pity, I quickly remind myself of all the blessings in my life, and all the people through out the world who have a much more difficult life than I do. This never fails to pull up my vibration and put events into a healthy perspective. KB

X. The body as a vessel for the well being of others:

Nourish and heal the body not as an end in itself but in order to bring health and happiness to those around.

This would be a buddhist perspective. I have found that I get a great deal of pleasure in helping others. Simply: doing deeds for others makes me happy. This is partly why years ago, when I did the soul searching, I decided to enroll in acupuncture college so to become an acupuncturist: I wanted to devote my life to the well being of others, as I determined that this pursuit would be emotionally and spiritually satisfying and nurturing. I find the pursuit of personal pleasure for its own sake to be too narcissistic to provide any kind of lasting or eternal happiness. KB

XI. Know that everything is constantly changing and that conflict is naturally seeking resolution, war, peace, confusion, order, bondage, freedom.

The buddhists emphasize that nothing is permanent (like this recession), and that the only thing we can depend on is change. Trying to maintain the status quo will only lead to unhappiness, because everything will eventually change. We can never fulfill a pursuit to maintain events on a permanent basis: the act of attempting to do so will inevitably be futile and will therefore lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. So if you are rich, trying to maintain that status will inevitably bring unhappiness because that state cannot be maintained because everything changes. However, when things are down, remember that that too is not a permanent situation, so it will change according to the natural law. The key is being able to maintain a sense of peace of mind no matter what the exterior events may bring. This is buddhahood. KB

XII. Seek your own freedom in this lifetime and free others in the process.

Everyone dances to the beat of a different drummer. Find your beat and allow others to dance to theirs. KB

*70. “Regard your body as a vessel
A mere boat for going here and there;
make of it a wish-fulfilling gem
To bring about the benefit of beings.”

“We should use the body, which is made up of impure ingredients, to support our intention to help others. If we use it properly for our spiritual growth, combining wisdom and means, we shall be able to develop a new realization and attain the omniscient rupakaya of the Tathagatas, which is like a wish-fulfilling jewel.”

71. “Thus with free, untrammeled mind,
Have an ever-smiling countenance.
Rid yourself of scowling, wrathful frowns;
And be a true, sincere friend to beings.”

from “A Flash of Lightening in the Dark of Night, A Guide to A Bodhisattva’s Way of Life”.
The Dalai Lama

*from the Bodhicharyvatara