The Case for Moderation

Namaste. The summer before I started my freshman year at University of Texas, I distinctly remember seeing the infamous “choose two” triangle. Of the three necessities in college—studying, socializing, and sleeping—one would have to be sacrificed. It seemed a rather blunt ultimatum, but now that I have completed my first year at UT, I understand how easy it is to neglect one of the three.Moderation-website-300x225

As if by coincidence, I was thumbing through the shlokas of the Bhagvad-Gita at the library a few days ago when I encountered these lines, “There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough” [6.16]. The principle of moderation proposed by the Gita is familiar to most people, but how exactly does one achieve the ideal balance? Surely, yogis and Olympic gymnasts are not the only ones who have mastered this skill.

One should not be discouraged if this task seems difficult and tedious. Even Arjuna, the famed warrior of the Mahabharata known for his discipline and focus, said to Krishna, “O Madhusudana, the system of yoga which You have summarized appears impractical and unendurable to me, for the mind is restless and unsteady” [6.33]. Here are a few easy tips to conquer the “restlessness” of the mind:

1. Spend ten to fifteen minutes every night planning what needs to be accomplished the next day, especially during busy periods of school or work. Keeping a goal in mind makes the completion of a task much easier. Personally, I use a short “laundry list” with time-sensitive tasks listed first. I also enjoy writing an inspirational quote at the bottom of the page to keep me motivated throughout the day.

2. I have found the best way to socialize is to share a common activity or interest. For example, playing basketball at UT’s Gregory Gym helps me keep in touch with friends who I do not normally see on campus. HSA meetings not only provide an excellent opportunity to learn about Hinduism, but also create a social setting that is ideal for discussing the latest episode of Modern Family or complaining about organic chemistry. A common interest makes it easier to meet with friends on a regular basis and maintain one’s social well-being.

3. In regard to sleeping, a daily nap can greatly enhance one’s efficiency. According to WebMD, a 20-30 minute nap is ideal for regaining energy lost throughout the day; anything over this amount can cause further fatigue. For complex tasks, REM sleep would prove more beneficial, but this stage of sleep requires 60-90 minutes of nap time. For most people, a short nap is probably the best option, especially after a tedious day of work.

The enduring wisdom of the Bhagvad-Gita clearly answers one of life’s persistent questions by asserting that true fulfillment requires mental, social, and physical health. I am still in the process of understanding the “choose two” triangle, but reading a few verses of the Gita has motivated me to continue the search for balance. Hopefully, there will be a “choose three” option one day. Namaste.