AYURVEDA: The Art of Healing 101
Welcome to the first part of the I-don’t-know-how-many-part series of AYURVEDA. This is a relatively short introduction (compared to the 5 page one I originally wrote!) that outlines what Ayurveda is within in a larger framework of understanding. In this post I try to place this ancient healing system within our society today: I do this by understanding it within the context of some other systems of healing which I hope has highlighted the importance of Ayurveda within the context of where we find ourselves on a societal and personal level in todays’ world. I hope for this post to get you EXCITED to delve deeper into this system that is, to date, the most inclusive and transformative system of healing I have come across. No exaggeration or hyperbole here when I say it literally saved and changed my life 100%.
One of my biggest intentions of 1) sharing this information 2) making it as accessible as possible and 3) widening the understanding/scope of healing is to bring forward the immensely empowering knowledge of self-healing. And this is one aspect that is the cornerstone of Ayurveda. Another hope of mine in sharing this is for this information to transform your ideas and understandings of health, balance, wellbeing and LIFE. In the following posts to come, I am going to go deeper into the JUICY DETAILS and specifics of what the practice of Ayurveda looks like, the underpinning principles & theories & applications of how Ayurveda works with illness, health & integrative healing. AND, more importantly, why this ancient system of healing is still so relevant and how we can begin to use it within our daily lives to make wise, intuitively-sound and informed decisions regarding our lives in order to best support ourselves on our healing journeys. I cannot WAIT to share more with you. I hope that by keeping the posts smaller and more brief, they will be accessible nuggets of healing information (instead of essays that you need to dedicate an hour to read & digest the information!). Having said that, I am hoping to post once weekly within the Ayurvedic section of the blog and then once weekly in the recipe/wellness section to keep the collective sharing of wisdom, interacting with you all and also to keep the delicious food rolling.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Ayurveda emerged from the spiritual texts of Ancient India (which are known as the Vedas. The Vedas date back literally thousands of years!). Over the years, Ayurveda has gone through many phases, but has withstood the trial of time. This is evident in the simple fact that Ayurveda is currently one of the most popular alternative medical healing systems in the world today. To my absolute joy, Ayurveda has made a huge step into the Western world. In my opinion, this speaks to its’ great capacity to bring healing and wellbeing to ones’ life: reaching beyond the confines & limits of cultures, religions and traditional systems into all corners of the world today. For any one system of healing to be so highly regarded and valued that it has not only been passed down for thousands of years, but has touched the lives of so many people from completely different cultural and contextual upbringings speaks volumes to its’ innate healing wisdom. It really makes one step back and recognise that it must have a wealth of compelling and completely relevant wisdom to share – wisdom that touches the essence of existence with immense potency and transformative power.
Ayurveda as an INTEGRATIVE healing SYSTEM:
Ayurveda is an entirely non-exclusionary system – this essentially means that Ayurveda does not exclude other healing systems (such as the Western medical system or the Eastern Chinese medicine system). Instead, Ayurveda aims to work in conjunction with any other healing modalities as long as the primary goal of maintaining and striving for balance and optimal health of the individual comes to the forefront. Ayurveda focuses on the route of healing that best serves the individual in the long-term and not solely a “quick fix” which is often where Western medicines’ and approaches fall short. The Western systems of healing often negate the long-term health & wellbeing of the individual in its’ multiplicity; instead there is a greater focus on quick fixes – which is wonderful in the case of traumas and accidents that need immediate medical relief. But from the view point of preventative, integrative and multi-modal healing or general health this can be limiting. Another issue with the Western medical systems is that there is often a negation of the potency of other profound systems of healing that bring about a more holistic and integrative sense of wellbeing. Many “alternative” systems of healing work consciously with the multi-faceted components of what it means to be a healthy and balanced and how to bring about vibrant health (as opposed to just treating illness and injury). This way of thinking and engaging with ones’ health is a completely different process than that of simply providing relief from ailments or pacifying the symptoms of an underlying illness or disorder.
How does this multi-modal perspective look in practice?
Ayurveda would look at all of the myriad of techniques to prevent illness however if illness does emerge, as it inevitably does when there is imbalance of some kind, it would look at trying to deal with this firstly from a more natural and holistic approach (addressing things like lifestyle choices, food choices, herbal supplements & problem-specific tinctures, looking at where ones’ energy is moving & how, looking at life experiences and how/where one is holding emotional hurt or trauma etc.) but if this doesn’t work because the illness is too far progressed, (or if there is a trauma like a car accident that needs immediate medical intervention) Ayurveda would look at working in conjunction with more immediately relieving modalities like Western medicine to provide some short-term relief until the underlying causes and roots of the illness are pin-pointed. Matter & energy are simply different sides of the same coin, so by including both the energetic/spiritual/alternative modalities of healing which take into consideration the subtle energetic influences within life and pairing that with the more science-based Western modalities we can begin to work towards a more integrative approach to understanding health, preventing illness, curing diseases/disorders and maintaining vibrant health so that we can live our best lives. Can I get a holla!?
What Ayurveda essentially provides us with is a very detailed and experiential framework through which we can understand health, wellness & balance. It is not a prescriptive lifestyle, it is not rigid, it is also not dogmatic. Ayurveda is a very wise and intelligent system that provides an in-depth energetic understanding of how all the facets in life affect us on all levels. Every single thing in life can be seen from an Ayurvedic perspective. People often misunderstand Ayurveda and think that to live according to Ayurvedic principles they need to eat curries and lentils until the cows come home and that that is what the system of Ayurveda says will bring balance to the system. This is sorely misguided. Every single food item, every single lifestyle choice or activity can be seen through an Ayurvedic lens: this is why I refer to it as a highly intelligent framework of deepening ones’ understanding of the innate energy of all that comprises the world around us. This system doesn’t recognise certain things as “bad” or “good”, but simply observes the energetic qualities of particular choices and how those choices effect our physical, mental, emotional & energetic body. Once we know the innate subtle energetic qualities and their effects on our subtle energy bodies we become empowered to make choices that support us and make our dynamic journey of moving towards balance easier through the deepening of understanding.
THE KNOWLEDGE OF LIFE & YOGA
Directly translated, Ayurveda translates to: ‘Ayus’ à Life and ‘Veda’ à knowledge or science. Thus, Ayurveda is the ‘science/knowledge of life’. In Ayurveda, the word/concept of ‘life’ extends far beyond physical health, age, mental health and such. From the viewpoint of Ayurveda, ‘life’ refers to the eternal life force energy, the union of mind, body & spirit. This is one of the reasons as to why Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences and go hand-in-hand. Yoga is such a powerful medium for spiritual evolution - it is a science/art that directly unifies the body and mind with Spirit. It is the science of going from the known world (i.e. the physical world: the world of gross matter), to the subtler world (i.e. the world of subtle energy and refining ones’ capacity to become sensitive to these very real energetic aspects of our beings & of life itself). Yoga works very consciously with refining ones’ capacity to tune in, tap on and connect to ourselves on much deeper levels and by extension, connects us to the greater world of the “cosmic soup” where we can recognise that we are not all separate beings having individual and isolated experiences. Yes, there is a degree of variance and individuality (thank goodness! Otherwise life would be pretty boring) and we are all reborn to learn new lessons as a direct consequence of where our soul is in its’ spiritual journey of evolution – but ultimately, we are all connected through the fundamental, primordial energy that comprises reality. Ayurveda, like Yoga, works intimately with understanding this energy and the effects of different sensory experiences in our lives that affect our own expressions of this vast, expansive &omnipotent energy. Merging a steady yoga practice with the principles and understandings of Ayurveda has been the most important key in my personal journey of coming to health, deepening my compassion, understanding what health really means and what balance is. More importantly than simply cognitively understanding these frameworks or principles, is the application and integration of these principles into your life so that you can begin to embody the fullest expression of your potentiality.
HEALTH: A BROADER UNDERSTANDING
Health is not just about what you do and don’t put into your mouth, how much you exercise or don’t. It is not even about receiving perfect lab results. Rather, it is about all of the interlinking factors that contribute to either supporting your Self and your health or diminishing it. These factors are so varied & multiple; they essentially recognise that every single aspect of our lives (every interaction, every experience, every sensory input) affects us on some level - and that balance and harmony on all levels (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and energetic) is what brings about true health. Some more examples of these factors include: social, psychological, cultural, historical factors, the environment you are brought up in, the lived experiences you have experienced and how you have assimilated and integrated them into your being and your life, your capacity to receive love and give love, your capacity to be with yourself in stillness, your spiritual life, the activities (both work and play) that you participate in, the thoughts you think, behavioural and familial aspects of life, the level of accumulation of toxic build up both physically and emotionally/energetically and very fundamentally: how you relate to and attend to yourself. Every single aspect of our lives, influences our wellbeing in one way or another. This is why the process and journey towards balance is so entirely idiosyncratic and unique to each individual: we all have different life experiences, different sensory input, different levels of energy dispersion and different levels of energy coming in. Therefore, what works for one person might not work for you. And I take this even further to say that what works in your favour to bring you into balance yesterday morning is going to be completely different to what might bring you into a state of balance this morning. No other system I have ever come across, fully recognises this dynamic interplay of the process of health in its’ depth. When we begin to understand this, we come to realize that balance is not a destination or a fixed point. It is in fact, a constantly dynamic, ever-evolving, highly participatory process. A process where you never truly “arrive” but are rather constantly engaged with/in. This can seem daunting, but once I’ve delved a bit deeper into the cornerstones of this Ayurvedic framework of understanding you will see how it is actually very easy, and that often the principles or knowledge given through Ayurveda is actually very accessible and can be said to be rooted in “common sense”. Why common sense? Because a lot of this knowledge is innate within us all but through various societal constructs and a pervasive disconnect to our intuitive compasses we have become detached from this knowledge. So, coming to this deepening of your health journey through an Ayurvedic lens gives you the tools and means of understanding the signals, signs, symptoms & clues that the innate intelligence of the body & mind are always feeding you in order to support your individual blueprint for health and vitality. Health is not simply the absence of disease. It is the ability to step into your fullest expression of health and vitality within each day, within each moment and within each choice.
MIND AND MATTER:
The mind & body are completely unified in the field of consciousness and therefore mind helps to create & renew the body continuously. This is why what we think matters as it effects our energy body as well as (eventually) our physical body on a cellular level. In essence, we begin to embody a physical body that is a complete reflection of our inner state. If there is continual disharmony within, it will begin to show in the physical – in small ways at first such as a postural misalignment or small ailments here and there and then if we don’t begin attending to those disharmonies within, they will begin to find greater expressions within our physical beings. By Ayurveda deeply acknowledging this very core connection between mind & body, Ayurveda offers a very integrative system of healing that always always always acknowledges and investigates the inter-connection between the un-manifest and the manifest, the energetic and the physical, the mind and the body. I firmly believe that physical symptoms always have an energetic/emotional/mental component, and therefore, working with a healing system that acknowledges this connection one can begin to understand its’ potency and its’ absolute relevance in todays’ world where the physical world is the only world that is given importance. This is why we tend to simply rely on Western medicines that give us immediate relief instead of coming to an understand where the illness is coming from deep within. This is why it often takes immense traumas, near-death experiences or severe illness or injury to make people stop, take the time to breath and stop with the fixation of “going going going” and instead become quiet enough within ourselves to sit with what is truly there and begging for tender attention and inquiry.
Ayurveda essentially empowers you to address an illness or disease at the level of the imbalance because from an Ayurvedic view point all disease is a symptom of imbalance somewhere.
Going deeper …
Ayurveda offers a complete guide map of how to live in harmony with nature: teaching us (or reminding us, rather) to live in tune with the natural cycles and the elements therein. It is a philosophy that awakens our deepest healing potential as individuals by emphasising the innate capacity of each individual to self-heal through listening to the highly bio-individual cues of our own beings which are constantly feeding us information about our state of health as it is currently, in this moment. All we need to begin doing is to start slowing down enough to truly listen, hear and act in accordance with what the bodies are telling us. There would be no point in becoming receptive to this vital information that the body and mind are feeding us and then not taking the corresponding corrective action. Ayurveda, being the amazing system that it is, then provides deep understandings of how to take these corrective actions in accordance to what the body and mind have brought to our attention.
WE ARE OUR OWN COMPASSES: reclaiming our intuitive compass
By truly tuning into your own being, you will find and know all of the answers to what will bring you to your truest expression of health. How? Why? Because this system recognises the fact that we all have an acutely unique blue print for health. What works for one person, will not always work for the next person. I really learnt this the hard way: I religiously followed other peoples’ diet & lifestyle plans to the detriment of my own healing and quest towards balance. HOWEVER, don’t fret: I know the thought of “one way of living/eating etc doesn’t fit all” can seem very daunting because sometimes it seems easier to just follow guidelines of what has worked well for other people (such as the Paleo diet, the raw vegan diet, the Keto diet etc.). It can feel overwhelming to realize that you are the only person who will ever fully know what will bring you to the highest point of vitality and health because there is so much conflicting information out there and not many people feel they have the time, energy or dedication to constantly work on checking in with themselves to figure out what will bring them to this fullest potential and expression of balance. Also, another complication is that with the multitude of conflicting information out there it can be confusing to come to a deep internal understanding of what you need because naturally, all of this information can obscure our inner internal navigation system and override our ability to actually connect with our intuition more truthfully. Not to worry though – this is another reason why practices like meditation & yoga are so powerful and more relevant than ever before: they help us to tune out the fluff and come into direct communion with what is true and real for us.
It is sad to me that many people are willing to give up their highest expression of health, for the convenience of following what has worked for someone else. I MUST say, until I experienced what true health and vitality, I was much the same. I just wanted the quick-fix answers: that’s why I kept looking outside of myself for the answers: to people, to systems of healing, to lifestyle choices that worked for others. It wasn’t until I discovered Ayurveda and understood for the first time the completely idiosyncratic determinants of health that I realised how truly EMPOWERING this information is. WHY? Because it made the realisation of, “YOU ARE YOUR OWN COMPASS. YOU ARE YOUR OWN GURU” land very deeply in my being.
AYURVEDA & FOOD
Ayurveda recognises that food is one of the most potent and profound ways of restoring or maintaining balance. As such, there will be much exploration into the energetic qualities of particular foods and how these effect our mind, body & digestion within the posts to come!
In concluding this post, I hope that this small introduction to the relevancy and potency of this system has hooked you, made you excited and highlighted the importance of bringing systems of healing that have worked and healed for thousands of years back into practiced reality in our world today. With the extensive prevalence of illnesses, diseases, chronic diseases of lifestyle, mental health and injuries pervading our culture and world today; it is more important than ever before to start working with systems that bring us back to realising our WHOLENESS.
I am SO looking forward to exploring deeper into this healing system with you all!
For, now, WELCOME to this SECTION OF THE BLOG!
Yours in health & healing,