The journey toward perfect health and the journey toward enlightenment are in many ways parallel paths. As we grow and evolve as spirits, we learn to live in ever-greater harmony with our environment. According to Ayurveda, harmony brings peace of mind and perfect health.
The term for perfect health in Ayurveda is Svastha. Literally translated, Svastha means "to be fully established in the Self". Hence, when we are fully established in knowing our true nature as God, we express our full potential. This represents optimal health.
Ayurveda is a journey to perfect health, peace of mind and, ultimately, enlightenment. By the very laws of Sankhya philosophy, human incarnation is disharmonious. Once incarnated, humanity forgets its true nature as spirit and lives as a physical being, guided by the senses. This journey is one regarding the pursuit of pleasure, as well as the avoidance of pain and suffering. This simplistic and animalistic existence brings about pain and suffering, both physical and emotional. The process of healing is the process of remembering. When a person remembers their true nature as spirit, they become empowered to master the senses and make choices that bring not pleasure or pain, but harmony. The fruit of this action is peace of mind and well-being.
When we live out of harmony, we suffer. In the physical body, suffering takes the form of pain as well as symptoms of disease. Ayurveda understands that these symptoms are simply the body’s voice communicating that we are living out of harmony. When we change our life and re-create a life of greater harmony, our bodies reflect this change. There is less suffering. The greater the change toward harmony, the more radiant the body becomes.
The mind is no different. It is subtler, but the same laws apply. Symptoms of a diseased mind include unhappiness, depression, sadness, anxiety, anger, and any other emotion other than peace of mind. These symptoms are also communicating that we are living out of harmony, and that some aspect of our life is disharmonious.
Healing is the process of returning to harmony. Once back in harmony, the body and the mind have no reason to communicate symptoms. The body becomes at ease, the mind becomes at peace. In this state, awareness reawakens to its true nature as spirit. Self-realization has occurred and the individual soul continues its advance toward enlightenment. When self-realization occurs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the door opens to becoming a Jivan Mukta; a liberated soul, and enlightenment ensues.
Ayurveda teaches us that we are all unique individuals. We were conceived with a unique constitution or fundamental balance of energies that define who we are on the physical level. It defines what we are naturally attracted to, what causes us to move out of balance, and what makes us experience disease. Depending on our constitution, we thrive in a particular environment. We take our environment in through the senses, which are the portals to our body and consciousness. The energies we take in either blend with us or disrupt our harmony. Proper diet (taste), aromas (smell), sounds (hearing), colors (vision), and touch are essential to maintaining internal equilibrium. When harmonious impressions are taken in, the body is healthy and the mind peaceful. When disharmonious impressions are taken in, the body and mind suffer. Hence, Ayurveda focuses on helping individuals understand themselves as unique beings. With that understanding, a person can become empowered to make choices that are in harmony with who they are. Ayurveda teaches us that nothing is right for everyone but everything is right for someone. Ayurveda is the path of understanding what is right for you.
Ayurveda also teaches us that it is not only the intake of sensory impressions that determines our well-being; it is our lifestyle as a whole. Proper daily regimens are essential to bring about good health and peace of mind. A regular schedule includes: Meditation, yoga practices, abhyanga (morning application of body oil), proper eating habits, and proper hygiene. When combined with proper intake of sensory impressions, the depth of the peace and well-being we experience is infinite.
The Three Constitutional Types and Their Path Toward Health, Harmony and Peace of Mind
The constitution of vata individuals contains a great deal of air and ether, which means they tend toward the qualities of coldness, lightness, dryness, and instability. These qualities may be experienced as feeling cold easily, having a thin body structure, dry skin, a tendency to move quickly, difficulty staying focused, and frequent changes of interests. These individuals have a lot of interests and often drift from teacher to teacher, job to job, and relationship to relationship.
It is important for people with this constitution to follow a lifestyle that emphasizes opposite qualities. Warm or cooked heavy foods provide nurturing and grounding. Oil, both in food and applied to the body, alleviates dryness. Regular routines and disciplines create stability and improve focus.
The constitution of pitta individuals contains a great deal of fire and a small amount of water. These people tend to feel hot, have oily skin, and are of a moderate body build. They tend to be focused, goal oriented individuals with a competitive and intense nature. Pitta individuals tend to complete what they begin before moving on to the next goal. They enjoy the satisfaction of completion but experience emotional and physical turmoil when failing or losing.
People of pitta nature are balanced by a lifestyle that emphasizes cool and dry impressions through the senses as well as greater spontaneity and playfulness. For example, raw salads and foods that are not too spicy are best. These individuals find it easy to adopt routines, but more playfulness and less seriousness is needed to bring balance.
The constitution of kapha individuals contains great amounts of earth and water. These people tend toward the qualities of heaviness, coldness, oiliness, and stability. They tend to move slowly, act slowly, and stick with the routines they develop. Their challenge can be in adopting new routines, as change is difficult. These individuals also have a tendency toward becoming overweight and lethargic.
People of kapha nature require the qualities of lightness, dryness, and warmth to bring them balance. Light, spicy cooked foods are best. Oils are to be avoided. A routine emphasizing spontaneity and movement is essential.
Creating a lifestyle in harmony with our constitution is not easy, but it is the most important thing in life. The difficulty associated with the task causes many seekers of good health and peace of mind to give up. But why? Do we expect peace of mind, perfect health, and enlightenment to be easy? If it were easy we would all have it and then why would we be here? Sankhya philosophy teaches us that we are only here to experience creation and re-learn about ourselves as spirit. The journey of our learning is the journey of the soul finding its way back to God. If we knew everything, what would there be to experience and learn? Each of us must simply do our best and realize that growing toward perfect health and enlightenment takes time. With this attitude, wherever we are on the journey is perfect. We can love ourselves in spite of our perceived imperfections. With self-love comes patience. Patience is a peaceful tool to carry on the journey toward both perfect health and enlightenment.
Dr. Marc Halpern is the founder and President of the California College of Ayurveda. An internationally respected expert in the fields of Ayurveda and Yoga, Dr. Halpern received the award for Best Ayurvedic Physician from the Indian Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. A. Ramdas. He is a co-founder of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine. He is on the advisory board of Light on Ayurveda Journal in the United States and the Journal of Research and Education in Indian Medicine in Varansi, India. Dr. Halpern has published articles in popular journals and magazines of Ayurveda and Yoga including Yoga Journal. He is also a contributing writer in several popular books on Ayurveda and has written two textbooks. Dr. Halpern is a regular speaker at Ayurvedic and Yoga conferences and teaches regularly at the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers where he received his Yoga Teacher certification. Read more...