That’s the title of one of the chapters in “From the Boxing Ring to the Ashram: Wisdom for Mind, Body and Spirit.”
My self-help book features time-honored wisdom, with simple steps to living life to its fullest, from 12 of my teachers on four continents. One is Chaitanya Charan Das, a Vaishnav monk, with whom I traveled in India in 2019 and again in 2023. I have written many other blog posts over the years about his teachings.
In “From the Boxing Ring to the Ashram” we focus on the importance of healthy living and a sattvic lifestyle.
It’s not so easy to translate the word sattvic. It refers to pure and balanced, but not necessarily all organic, and following the food pyramid. Pure and balanced refers to something less tangible, for Westerners, on an energetic level. Additionally, sattvic food and drink are cruelty-free and non-mood altering. That means no meat or factory-farmed eggs or dairy, no drugs, alcohol, or even caffeine.
Before I adhered to a completely sattvic diet, I would tell my doctor that the only harmful substances I ingested were an occasional cup of coffee. Now, I stick to herbal teas or pure cacao.
According to my mentor, we need to make intelligent choices and listen to our internal voice. Some pleasures may lift us up, and others pull us down. They can be uplifting or degrading. The problem arises when we listen to those urges that are not in our best interest.
Chaitanya differentiates between the far-sighted intelligence of the brain and the short-sighted awareness of the mind. The first is objective whereas the latter lets emotions rule. He compares the brain to the hardware and the mind to the software.
The key function of intelligence is to go beyond appearance. People can elevate their consciousness through spiritual practices. Chaitanya says “The divine descent is to inspire human ascent.”
Unfortunately, in our society, too often people’s minds lead to unhealthy and unsafe practices. Those actions can result in violence, self-inflicted pains such as alcohol or drug abuse, or greediness that upsets the balance surrounding you.
Chaitanya believes one of the underlying issues with improper priorities or decisions is the lack of self-awareness. And a focus on spirituality often creates a greater sense of self-enlightenment and awareness.
The purpose of life is not just to live in a nice house and be successful at our job. There’s a difference between what we live with and live FOR. The purpose of life is to raise our consciousness and connect with a higher source.
He likens his concept to the idea that what at first tastes sweet, can be poison. We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by what we think is enjoyable in the short term. Sometimes, we need to redirect our vision.
“Everyone needs to be pushed at times. We need to be observing ourselves. We need to be aware of how our actions are affecting others.” It seems so simple. A mother teaches her youngsters about boundaries and causes and effects. Yet, for many adults, there’s a big chasm or void. Regardless of our age, we need to be aware of how our actions affect others. And vice versa.
Chaitanya cautions that people need to be aware that “at every moment, the mind, or mental chatter, can create a hundred options, and turn something of minute importance to weigh us down. There are times when we may go against our own standards.”
The mind is like a commentator sitting inside us, too often with negative thoughts like, “Why am I here,” or “This is boring,” Chaitanya says. The speed of the mind can be an advantage or disadvantage. For example, impulse buys are quick and too often not intelligent choices. “It’s like a little child instantly raising his or her hand up in school without having considered what the appropriate answer may be."
Make a difference in your next playbook. Take a pause. Slow down to allow for discernment to arise. “Evaluate if your expectations are your own or influenced by others.”
There are various voices inside us, the monk acknowledges. Some may come from a place of darkness. The mind and the intelligence are often in conflict with each other he notes. “The soul has to choose one of these voices.” Fortunately, we can learn to turn the volume down on the ones that are not giving us proper guidance and amp up the more intelligent reflective voices that are giving us important messages.
Then, when the voice of the short-sighted mind tries to take over, we can let our intelligence rule and refuse to listen.
“Sometimes we need light to see how much darkness we have."
That's essentially the concept of the Sanskrit word "guru." From darkness to light. And that's why I consider Chaitanya one of my gurus. He elucidates concepts of daily life and helps to enlighten me.