What's the one thing that's a must in this world?
Compassion. There is an increasing body of academic research proving the importance of compassion for mental health. Ayurvedic sages, however, have always known this. Ayurveda is defined as a science of healthy living that teaches you how to distinguish between actions that bring you joy and those that bring your sorrow (as our mental states greatly impact our physical wellbeing). And the sages proclaimed happiness-giving actions to be those that benefit you and society. In other words, individual health has always been equated with having a compassionate attitude in all that we do by Ayurveda.
What is the best purchase you've ever made?
Marigold flowers. I love having them in a planter on my balcony, and have developed a deep relationship with them. As with many things in the Ayurveda tradition, there's a spiritual, psychological, and practical component to their healing potential. Marigolds are the color of the sun. Because the sun is considered a symbol of the bright, shining spirit within you, marigolds are the color of spirituality in India. They represent inner spiritual fire. I love making marigold garlands to honor the spiritual dimension of my teachers and ancestors. At a psychological level, marigolds imbue you with a quality known as Sattva, or clarity, optimism and cheerfulness. They are tremendously helpful to smell anytime you experience grief. My teacher shared how she had received a marigold garland from her own teacher the day her mother died, and how wearing it in the following days helped her to cope with grief during childhood. I have also experienced the healing power of marigolds when experiencing sadness. At a practical level, marigolds are a medicine for all of your five senses. They are a truly amazing gift from Mother Nature.
What brings you the greatest joy?
Sharing the healing power of Ayurveda, the world's oldest healing system, with people who've never heard of it before. Ayurveda has changed my life in countless ways, helping me overcome years of eating disorders, insomnia, anxiety, stress, digestive disturbances, and so much more that I could not find solutions for anywhere else I searched (and believe me, I looked far and wide!). Today, nothing gives me more joy than sharing what I have been blessed to learn from my teacher, Acharya Shunya, with all those seeking ways to take health into your own hands.
What's your favorite smell in the whole world?
The scent of jasmine flowers. I love going outside and smelling jasmine flowers. In Ayurveda, flowers are connected with the earth element. When you smell beautiful flowers like jasmine, it immediately grounds you and imparts a deeper sense of stability. I also find that simply smelling jasmine flowers is one of the best ways to immediately come back to being fully present in the moment whenever my mind starts to wander into the past or future. As the gift of living unfolds here and now.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
Give from a place where you feel full. I used to give a lot when I felt empty inside. I sought fulfillment from the outer world, which I quickly learned couldn't give me the deep fulfillment that ultimately comes from cultivating a relationship with my own higher Self. When I gave while feeling empty, I often felt even more empty and depleted afterward. I was deeply affected when my teacher advised to "give when you feel full." To me, this means regularly devoting myself to activities that give me a sense of nourishment, including all the 108 simple Ayurvedic practices I have introduced in my new book, The Ayurveda Way. Giving from a place of inner fullness means being able to give from a space where I feel completely satisfied - and don't need anything in return. Not even a thank-you. I find that giving from fullness allows abundance to multiply and grow in beautiful, often unexpected ways in my life.
Ananta Ripa Ajmera is an ayurveda practitioner and yoga instructor who studied with Acharya Shunya, an eminent traditional Vedic teacher whose lineage stems back to ancient India. She has taught ayurveda and yoga at Stanford University, Stanford Health Care, California Probation Departments, ABC News, and leading business conferences. Her writing has been popular on MindBodyGreen, Elephant Journal, and Huffington Post. For more on Ananta check out MotherEarthNewsFair.com!