The Lessons of Ayurveda

The way we talk to ourselves, the way I talk to myself in particular, has been on my mind a lot lately.  EVERYTHING has been on my mind a lot lately, since I’ve been sitting still and letting the healing treatments of this Ayurvedic clinic Ayur Dara take their course.

I’ve been watching my thoughts, in between watching the menagerie of goats, chickens, stray dogs, crows and chipmunks in the jungle outside my cottage window (and the geckos and mosquitoes crawling inside on my window).

My thoughts tend to cycle.  First, I wonder why I think I deserve to be still for two weeks, just focusing on my health.  Other people work harder, my thoughts say.  The staff here can’t afford these treatments.  I’m not actually sick.

My thoughts want to convey the ideas that I am spoiled and that I should be accomplishing something.  Write, my thoughts hiss, as I lie in the hammock, staring at the lagoon.  Meditate, they practically scream as I take a post-lunch nap.

I should be chanting the Maja Mritynjaya mantra 108 times with the rudraksha-bead mala necklace I received after the holy Ganga Aarti Ceremony in Haridwar.  I should work on my novel.  I should plan the next leg of my travels.

I tell Dr. Subhash about these thoughts when we meet this morning, almost like I am confessing.  I am supposed to be more peaceful.  I am supposed to want to meditate.  I have all these tools from yoga training now, to combat a restless mind.

“It is a Vata imbalance,” Dr. Subhash tells me.  He doesn’t look condemning.  He looks like a doctor diagnosing a treatable ailment.  I am filled with hope.

I should take time here to explain the most basic fundamental structure of Ayurvedic Medicine.  I stole this explanation from another travel blog because I’m excited to get to my mid-afternoon nap:

If yoga is the path to develop the mind and spirit, Ayurveda is the way to keep the body healthy so that each person could focus their energy on their higher purpose in life (dharma). Ayurveda offers a way for each person to balance their body, mind and spirit and tune it to the rhythms of the natural world.

There are several tools or lenses that Ayurveda uses to both diagnose and treat each person. According to Ayurveda, our bodies, just like the earth, are composed of five basic elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. When they say that, however, they do not mean these words in the limited sort of logs in a blazing pile, water in a riverbed way, but instead with a more expansive meaning. When they speak of air, they mean more the quality of air, such as movement, drying and separating things. When they speak of fire, they mean heat, metabolic processes, transformation. And when they speak of water, they mean lubrication and mediums.

Based on these five elements, the sages outlined the above three processes of the human body: movement, transformation and lubrication/medium. They called these processes “doshas” and named them: Vata (movement), Pitta (transformation) and Kapha (lubrication). The primary reason for this organization, beyond its veracity, was its ease in translating into diagnosis and treatment. For example, its very easy to see when pitta (the fire of transformation) is out of balance. Reddened skin, hyperacidity, heartburn, ulcers, skin rashes, constant overheating, very active and emotional mind are all signs of this condition. It is also very simple to treat: cool the body down both on the inside and the outside. I am walking a tricky balance here by presenting the simplicity of this medicinal art, as this approach is backed up by thousands of tomes on different herbs, procedures and treatments, so don’t let this simple overlay fool you. The art of balancing the human body’s processes is an incredibly specific undertaking that requires a constant dialogue between doctor and client, dedicated aherence to medical regimens and an expansive knowledge of all things relevant (and the drinking of brutally horrible tasting medicines).
Anyway, now that most of the work has been done by this talented other-blog-writer, I shall continue my little story.  Dr. Subhash explains my recycling, anxious, condemning thoughts are due partially to a physical imbalance.  Also, my chronic, legendary tiredness that everyone, from boyfriends to roommates, comment upon.  The tiredness is a Kapha imbalance.  Both the tiredness and the recycling thoughts are connected to my (always blocked) sinuses.  So I spend hours a day having toxin-removing sesame oil rubbed on my body, having drops administered in my nose, inhaling burning turmeric and drinking brutally horrible tasting medicines.
In case you were wondering how I am spending my times these days.
But even more than experiencing the physical treatments of Ayurveda, I am experiencing a shift internally.  A few more kind words, here and there, pop up in my thoughts.  “Relax.  Enjoy,” they have lately been known to whisper.  There is a reason Ayurveda and Yoga go hand in hand.  This lesson I’ve been learning here – to allow myself time to receive and not strive, is the whole point of my winter journey, in essence.
What do you need to allow in your life?  It can feel foreign, strange, lazy, crazy, at first.  But take the first step forward and see how immediately (almost) the blessings arrive!

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