Simple Solutions

Mira Manek, author of Prajna: Ayurvedic Rituals for Happiness, shares some of the practices and recipes she’s incorporated into her lifestyle for health and happiness
L to R: The striking cover of Prajna; Mira Manek; Home-made chai
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L to R: The striking cover of Prajna; Mira Manek; Home-made chai
April 28, 2020
By Karen D'Souza

What inspired you to write Prajna?
I’d actually thought my second book would naturally be a cookbook to follow the first. It was my literary agent who suggested that I do something different that combined my passion for wellness, health and food. I spent two months in India writing about my spiritual journey, which is largely tied in with the experiences I’d had while travelling across India as a teenager and in my 20s, along with my ideas on health and wellness. It took a while to give it a solid structure and create a book about Indian lifestyle concepts that would speak to readers and inspire them on a daily basis.

You’ve included a section on morning rituals – why are they important?
For me, mornings represent an opportunity to sow the seeds for the day. Therefore, waking up and starting off with a few rituals that instil positive energy within us should help set the tone for the rest of the day. There are a number of rituals we can try such as writing our thoughts down in a diary as soon as we open our eyes, showing gratitude for anything that sparks joy within us or listening to a morning playlist that will lift our spirits. Adding breath work to a morning routine will increase oxygen flow within the body and kick-start the digestive fire. Making a concoction with lime, turmeric or ginger and drinking that is beneficial for people who suffer from poor gut health. So create a system that works for you. Add or subtract rituals. Do it for five minutes or 20 minutes. Over time you will notice the positive impact these rituals have on your overall well-being.

Mira’s Morning Playlist
• Summer Breeze in India – Buddha Vibes
• Nectar Drop – DJ Drez
• Rebirth – Midival Punditz
• Rama Bolo – Ben Leinbach
• Ha-Tha (Sun Meets Moon) – Chinmaya Dunster
• Tangerine Thurmi – Prem Joshua
• Gajumaru – Yaima
• Baba Hanuman – Krishna Das
• Seven Chakra Gayatri Mantra – Deva Premal
• Surya Namaskar – Michael Mandrell and
• Benjy Wertheimer
• Improvisation on the Theme Music from Pather Panchali – Ravi Shankar
• It’s Life – Niraj Chag
• Nothing Else – Shammi Pithia
• Making Music – Zakir Hussain (with Hariprasad
• Chaurasia, John McLaughlin, Jan Garbarek)
• Raghupati – Go-Ray & Duke

There are 3 types of morning meditation in your book – speckles of inspiration, connecting to earth and instilling calm. Is there a particular one you keep going back to or do you mix it up?
Often when I’m at one of my events, I’ll go back to speckles of inspiration because I like the way that I’ve written it. I visualise these particles of glitter entering my mind and body as I breathe in.

Speckles of Inspiration Meditation

• Sit upright in bed and visualise yourself and your body as entirely empty; a vessel of nothingness.
• Imagine that you feel the sunlight above you, even if it is winter or it’s dark outside, and take a deep breath,  inhaling the energy of the sun.
• As you take this deep breath, imagine the energy of ideas and inspiration as little specks of light floating around  you, glittering as they catch the sunrays.
• With your next long inhale, imagine these wonderful particles flowing inside you.
• Take more deep breaths, slowing down each one as much as you possibly can and feel the particles of light move through your being, filling the emptiness.
• With each inhale, visualise more and more bright specks entering your being and with each long exhale, imagine them fluttering into your brain and further inside.  
• Allow them to extend through you and into your fingertips.
• Then, move your fingers, smile, stretch and yawn; then move your hands around your face with a massage-like motion, and open your eyes.

How do you define mindfulness? And why is it important given the crisis we’re all living through?
I feel like nature has forced this time upon us to make us tune into the present more than we have ever done before. It has made us realise that we were rushing around, almost as if we would be missing out if we didn’t attend events, go out to meet people or eat at restaurants on a regular basis. We’re being forced to connect with our surroundings, our families and with ourselves. This situation has made us realise the value of simple, home-cooked meals not just for our bodies but also our souls. Every single process that is happening in the world right now is making us more mindful. At the same time, we are all also keeping an eye out for more information on the current crisis and that could create fear in our minds, so we must be mindful of that and tune out when required.

What are some of the simple things people can do to create a sanctuary for themselves within their homes?
Right now our homes are literally more important than ever before. I think it’s really essential to create a peaceful space that you can call your own – it doesn’t have to be big. Think about the colours that you like and use them to your advantage. Use the walls as a canvas and hang a beautiful painting or photos of loved ones. Add a snug rug, a plant or a Buddha statue to the space. Look at Pinterest for inspiration. There are so many things we can do to make a little sanctuary which offers an escape from the daily grind.

Is there any particular ritual you’d recommend before one turns in for the night?
Yes, I think it’s really nice to do a bit of simple stretching, especially for those with desk jobs. Stretches help to open one’s shoulders, heart and hips and release tension. Do it for two to three days in a row and notice the difference in your body.

What baby steps can someone take to turn towards healthier eating habits?
I actually struggled with that myself because my main weakness is snacking. Obviously one’s discipline will come into play and the willingness to eat better. It is vital to understand the importance of home cooking and planning your meals, so when you reach that hunger point, you don’t reach for a snack or order in your favourite meal. Including carbs, protein and fat in each meal will keep you satiated for longer periods of time. Begin by setting small goals such as cutting back on takeaway meals by 50 per cent or having a smoothie in the morning and then eating a big lunch. Figure out what makes your diet unhealthy – is it the type of food you eat? Is it the quantities? Or, is it because you’re getting bloated? Slowly change those things.

Try Mira's recipes for Yellow Dal with Spinach and Extra Ginger and Kichri with Garlic, Peas and Spinach

For more, visit miramanek.com and @miramanek