While living in a monastery might seem a stretch too far, many of us would prefer our lives to be at least a little more Zen. But how should we go about it? Gaur Gopal Das is an Indian monk and lifestyle coach and knows how.
Straight after college, he left his job in engineering to spend 26 years in an ashram in Mumbai learning about ancient philosophy and contemporary psychology.
His motivational speaking has since earned him a combined global following of 16 million across his social media platforms.
Gaur says that besides navigating the complexities of relationships and finding passion and purpose, people are most keen to learn how to find peace. ‘In the midst of all the chaos and mayhem of life, people want to know how to keep one’s mental health in place when dealing with all the stress and pressure of the real world,’ he says.
Mental health charity Mind states that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year.
Mental health plays such a big role in wellbeing and that’s why it is important to take charge of your mindset. Gaur’s new book, Energize Your Mind, is a monk’s guide to mindful living. But what exactly is a monk’s mindset?
‘One cannot see what’s at the bottom of a pot of water if the water is agitated,’ he says. ‘When we allow the water to settle down, we can see what’s at the bottom with great clarity. A monk’s mindset is about seeing with clarity. It’s about a deliberated response, rather than an impulsive reaction to what’s happening to us.
‘We are sentient beings and can take in billions of sensory inputs in a second and turn them into an intangible, unique emotion deep within. We cannot stop those billions of inputs, but we can start building our capacity in a way that we can process those inputs rightly and thus lead a life of better mental and emotional wellbeing.’
The brain is the organ that never rests and while it is constantly ‘on,’ Gaur says that how we react to what we are perceiving is how we maintain equilibrium. ‘We are the biggest cause of mind overload,’ he says. ‘We feel the need to react to every little thing happening around us, but not every problem in the world belongs to us.’
From gratitude to exercise: Inject peace and positivity into your day
According to Gaur Gopal Das, the morning is a great time to supercharge your mind.
‘A morning is the universe’s way of starting afresh after the darkness has ended,’ he says.
‘Mornings are full of fresh energy. They are in alignment with the circadian rhythm of the universe. A morning started well gives confidence, assurance and hope.’
Here are five practices that Gaur starts his day with:
‘It is said that either we run the day, or the day runs us.’
‘A good workout or yoga session is to the body what meditation is to the mind.’
‘I listen to a talk given by one of our monks in the ashram. There’s always so much to learn from others.’
4. The practice of gratitude
‘This provides me with the positive energy required to navigate through all that is happening throughout the day.’
‘This helps me with focus, clarity and peace.’
Unsurprisingly, his suggestions for reducing stress and anxiety are to take exercise, give up smoking and alcohol, stay away from social media – ironic, considering his huge following – get a proper night’s sleep and seek help when it all gets too much. ‘Studies show that people who do not know how to express their emotions exhibit lower levels of wellbeing,’ he adds.
‘Seeking help is the magical wand that can help us find peace again.’
According to Gaur, kindness and affirmations also play a part in good mental health. ‘We are called humankind and we need both human and kind. Everyone is going through challenges that we might not be aware of. A kind word, or gesture, can not only brighten someone’s day but may give them the confidence tofight a challenge of their own and be victorious.
‘In the same thread, we manifest our self-talk, so positive affirmations can help us overcome negative thinking and have the power to rewire our mind.’ Gaur adds that life is a journey, and we don’t need to have everything figured out right away. ‘We don’t need to have all the answers right now. A lot is revealed with time. We call that experience, wisdom, realisation.’
In this latest book, Gaur fuses his own personal mental health struggles with practical advice and exercises to improve your mindset and happiness. But does constantly helping others take its toll on him?
‘It can be overwhelming when you are constantly giving, but I always prioritise my own emotional and spiritual wellbeing,’ he says. ‘We can’t pour from an empty jug so I prioritise on filling my jug daily in a way that I can help and serve others.’
Never a truer word said. So if you really want a more Zen life, start by filling your own jug.
Energize Your Mind: A Monk’s Guide To Mindful Living (Rider) is out now
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