Ayurveda Day 5: Witness

Yesterday I said Ayurveda is a science of health. But I need to clarify this point even further:

Ayurveda is a science of personal responsibility.

In order for something to qualify as Ayurvedic, we must know three things:
– the nature of the patient
– the nature of the imbalance or disease
– the nature of the medicine

If we do not look at all three of these criteria, then it is not Ayurveda. There is no miracle panacea that will cure all. Those that proclaim such things are the ones that truly give Ayurveda the stigmas it has in the west. My professor always says, and I am paraphrasing:

“Nothing is right for everyone. Everyone is right for something”.

Without knowing the three natures I stated above, we cannot really help people. What works for you may or may not work for your brother, and what works for your mother may or may not work for you. We have to always look at those three criteria before helping people. In this sense, information from the patient becomes exceedingly important, and knowing our patient is key. This is where it becomes tricky.

It is impossible to truly know another human being. Sure, there are ways I can assess your physical body. But I can never know what is truly going on in you mentally or emotionally unless you are truthful, and you cannot be truthful to me unless you forgo ego and judgment. You have to know yourself by bringing awareness to yourself. You must become an observer of your own health, a witness.

The problem here lies in that we do not like to think about our various shortcomings. We don’t like to admit to our choices as being the cause for our suffering, and when we do, we become apologetic, stubborn, angry, dismissive…judgment rules us.

However, if we can bring awareness to ourselves, we can overcome this judgment. We can witness our own health without blame or credit and simply become more in tune with our true nature. We can find that peace and balance that is so elusive in today’s society. But we must get out of the way of ourselves first. “Man is something that must be overcome” as Nietzsche wrote.

But how do we stop judging ourselves? How do we stop from getting in the way of our own healing? It is so much easier to expect someone to just “fix” us. But what use is finding a cure for what ails you if you continue to do that which gave you the disease in the first place? I will say it again: Ayurveda is a science of personal responsibility.

Our health is largely defined by our choices. These choices come in two flavours if you will: conscious and unconscious. Another way to say that is our tendencies vs our free will.

In Ayurveda we can help assess a person’s tendencies, be it physical, mental, or emotional. These are the responses we tend towards in life, and they are not right or wrong. Some people prefer being hot to being cold. Some people get angry when stressed, others become anxious and worry. The beauty is that we always have the ability to make a choice that overwrites those tendencies which cause us imbalance by exerting our free will. You may tend towards being critical of yourself or others when stressed, but you can still make a choice to let go of that judgment in favour of acceptance and compassion. With physical tendencies that create imbalance, there are Ayurvedic treatments that you can choose to do that will help as well.

Without the ability to take a step back from our tendencies, our habits, our reactions to life, we have lost all free will and are shackled to our suffering, doomed to repeat it over and over. This is what most of us unconsciously do. We make excuses to be unhealthy, be it in body, mind, or emotionally. But if you can understand that your tendencies don’t make you a bad person, can forgive yourself, and exert your free will instead – now you have become that witness to your own existence, and can truly know yourself. You will become more mindful of yourself. Slowly through practicing and creating better habits or disciplines, you will remove those obstacles within you. It takes patience and practice.

Part of our homework has been to slowly incorporate practices of self care into our daily routines. Involving but not limited to meditation, oral and nasal hygiene, self massage, etc. We are taught to journal these practices, even if we only approximate them or rush them, or even to journal the fact that we did not do them. This a tool we can use to bring more mindfulness to our routines, and slowly, through time, that mindfulness will evolve those practices into being as common as brushing our teeth every day. Without practice, knowledge simply becomes a lot of stuff you know how to talk about but always swear to practice tomorrow. Tomorrow is always one day away though isn’t it?

“An ounce of practice is worth a ton of knowledge” – Swami Shivananda

With gratitude,

S

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