Ayurveda Day 42: What is Love?

What is love? Baby don’t hurt me…

Just kidding. But seriously, what is love? How does it look? How do we practice it?

How can I attain love?

We often equate love with happiness. In today’s society, we also believe that happiness is a product of our successes – the person we marry, the kids we have, the job we work at, the money we earn, the things we buy, etc.

But love is not something to be attained through any “thing”. Love is the end result of cultivating that which will counteract the Rajasic and Tamasic ways of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

Okay, I will admit, that sounds pretty clinical and dull. Who do I think I am, putting love into these compartments?

“You can’t categorize love man, it’s a feeling beyond words”

Look, the thing is, we need practical ways to increase love. Our capacity to love and be loved, along with the quality of that love, are super important. But we all have biases. We all have faults. We all have doshas, and are human. We confuse love for attachment, when it should be about appreciation. We confuse love for passion when it’s about compassion. We have many confusions and it’s easy to get confused.

There are only three real things we need to remember to cultivate:
Faith, non-judgment, and non-attachment.
If you are not cultivating those things, then you will have:
Fear, judgment, and attachment.

Fear causes anxiety and worry over that which we cannot control. Having faith that everything is exactly as it should be will create peace.
Judgement causes anger, hatred, jealousy. Being non-judgmental, accepting that everything is exactly as it should be and doesn’t need fixing will create compassion.
Attachment causes conditions, attaches strings to your love. Not being attached will allow you to love things unconditionally.

Practicing all of these higher virtues will slowly clear the muddied lake we all have in us. It will smooth out the ripples and disturbances, bringing clarity and stillness to the water for depth and reflection. All of these things will wind up creating space for love to enter.

Love is bliss. But not the bliss that comes from ignorance or the ego. It is not the bliss that comes from feeling unique, separate, somehow different or special. It is the bliss that comes from seeing everything as a drama playing itself out, and that we are all connected. It sees the divine in everything and everyone. True love is seeing yourself in everyone and everyone in yourself. It’s not about you, or her, or him, or this or that. It’s about love. And you and him and her and this and that are love.

All of creation is something that is deserving of love. No exceptions. This means even YOU are deserving of it. Cultivate your faith, your non-judgment, and your non-attachment. You truly are worthy of it. Love yourself. It is the highest form of healing. Indeed, if you practiced love in this manner, you would transcend the need for healing. It is this misunderstanding of love, that we are somehow separate from everything, that is the root cause of all suffering. We are all just hurting ourselves needlessly.

So trust me when I say to you, as a student of Ayurveda:

Love is the best medicine.

With gratitude,

S

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Ayurveda Day 41: The Path to Enlightenment pt. 2 – Our Three Bodies

We have three bodies.

Yes, you read that correctly. Not one, not even two, but three. Each body is more subtle than the last, which is why most of us our only aware of the one body we have. In truth, we have a physical body, a subtle body, and a causal body.

The Physical Body:
This one we are all familiar with. It is our meat suit that is framed by our skeleton. The physical body is the densest, most tangible body we have. It is comprised of the 5 elements (earth, air, fire, water, and ether). This body is ruled by the doshas, needs food for fuel, corresponds with the Mahaguna of Tamas, since those in a tamasic state do actions only to please their senses.

The Subtle Body:

The subtle body is what houses our mind. I do not mean the brain, that is in the physical body. Within each of us, we have a mindscape, an imagination, or a mind’s eye – even though we can’t physically point to the mind in the physical body, all of us would agree that the mind does reside within each of us, somewhere in or adjacent to our actual bodies. Even though we can’t point to it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It is beyond the perception of our ordinary senses, much like certain wavelengths of light vibrating at different frequencies are. The subtle body houses our thoughts, feelings, and imagination. It is governed by the subtle doshas (a topic for another day): Prana, Tejas, and Ojas. Because of it’s dynamic and agitated nature, the subtle body corresponds with the Mahaguna of Rajas.

Before I get into the last body, it is important to note that there are parallels between the physical and subtle body. For every physical aspect we have, there is a subtle corresponding aspect. For example the Brain has the mind, the doshas have the subtle doshas, the nerves have the nadis (channels that affect the mind), etc. Without going into too much depth, the bridge between the body and mind is our breath. The correlation is easy to see, as an unstable breath can cause both the mind and body to malfunction (panic, hyperventilation, etc), and a stable breath can calm the mind and regulate the body’s functions.

The Causal Body:
This is the body that houses the seed of our connection to universal intelligence, truth, or god, if you prefer. The causal body is dictated by the laws of karma (causality, no good or bad attachments here!). This body is the most subtle and impossible to pinpoint. It connects us to that place where there is pure consciousness. If consciousness is an ocean, we are a wave in that ocean, feeling it’s separateness for a brief moment until we return to the ocean again, indistinguishable and whole. It is the brief moment that we are most disconnected, and strive to move closer towards the Mahaguna of Sattwa, or enlightenment. Without the causal body, there would be no way to enlightenment.

Each body we have has it’s own challenges, and true health won’t ultimately arrive unless we address all three. Arguably, addressing solely the Causal body will align the other two regardless, but the path to that health of the Causal body is difficult without striving for health in the other two first. It’s a process. We have to transcend our physical pain via our diet, our mental imbalances via our thought patterns, and we have to overcome our rajasic or tamasic lifestyle by shedding our karma through that sattvic way.

Much like the Physical and Subtle body are connected via our breath, there is a bridge between our subtle body and our causal body whereupon sits the The Buddhi: Our organ of interpretation. This Buddhi is responsible for sorting information either to serve the mind or to serve our higher consciousness. The more we use The Buddhi to move towards Sattwa, the closer we come to our enlightenment. The more we move towards the mind, the more Rajasic we become as we feed the ego. It’s the difference between treating everything as a meditation, or treating everything as a problem to solve.

All our three bodies are connected, and to focus solely on our physical body and forgetting the others will never bring us complete health. But working first on the body can alleviate much unnecessary suffering and pave the way for us to heal the mind and spirit. This is what Ayurveda can help you with as you pursue your spiritual goals. Nothing is completely separate, and everything is connected. What effects the body effects the mind which in turn affects our personal journey, for better or worse.

With gratitude,

S

Ayurveda Day 40: The Path to Enlightenment pt.1 – The Mahagunas

We know of the 3 doshas – the convenient grouping of the 5 elements that represent how nature functions. Kapha being the stable form of matter (earth and water), Pitta being the transformative, active form of nature (fire with a little water), and Vata being the least stable form of matter, decay, and movement (air and ether).

The doshas are a convenient way for us to categorize all of physical existence. We can look at people, diseases, and medicines all in terms of their dosha. But it is important to note:

You are not the doshas.

The doshas represent imbalance. Dosha literally means fault. It is true, all physical things are made up of the doshas. This we cannot deny. Most of us spend our lifes being a slave to them or struggling to transcend them. But there are a few of us who manage to move past the doshas, and rather than be used by them, can use them for our purpose, our dharma. This is what the truly enlightened masters have succeeded in doing. It does not matter if you are a Kapha, Pitta, or Vata type. Anyone can transcend the doshas. But how that enlightenment looks will be different depending on which dosha dominates you.

So how do we act in accordance with our enlightened, higher self? How do we transcend the doshas? This is where the Mahagunas come in (maha meaning great, guna meaning thread or quality or virtue).

The gunas, much like the doshas, divide our path to enlightenment into three stages: Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.

Think of the Gunas as pools of water.

The Sattvic lake will be clear and deep. Looking into this lake will cast not only your reflection but reflect all the heavens above. Still, the pool is tranquil and not agitated, causing you to be able to see deep into the lake as well.

The Rajasic lake will be agitated. There will be disturbances, called vrittis, that are like pebbles. We throw these pebbles into our own lake based on our karma, our choices. When the lake is disturbed in such a way, it obscures the clarity of its depths, and distorts the reflections of ourselves and everything else.

The Tamasic lake is darkness. It is completely dark, because we are poisoning it. Imagine a truck that we are driving, backing up to the lake’s shore and dropping it’s sludge into the water constantly. Often those who are tamasic will be in such ignorance that they have convinced themselves that they are right in their being, and need not change. So dark is their lake they forget that Rajas and Sattwa even exist. No light can penetrate it’s blackness.

Most of us exist in the Rajasic state. We want to do better by ourselves, but struggle. We make some choices that move us towards Tamas, and other choices that move us towards Sattwa. It’s not easy. The closer we get to Tamas, the more we are a slave to our senses and the doshas. The more we move towards Sattwa, the greater our ability to utilize the doshas and to move beyond the senses.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to go and reinvent the wheel on enlightenment. The struggle you will face in moving towards Sattwa will be difficult enough. Even if you know the path, which I am about to detail for you, you will still struggle. Maybe you will struggle even more! But understanding how the doshas interact with the gunas can help you to cultivate your highest forms of healing. From an Ayurvedic perspective, this is the primordial cause of all disease, and addresses the root of our suffering.

Vata and the Mahagunas
A Vata’s greatest challenge in this life is to overcome their fear. Cultivation of faith (that everything is exactly how it is supposed to be), is their highest healing.

Sattvic Vata – inspired, enthusiastic, healer.
Rajasic Vata – fearful, anxious, worrisome, over-reactive, ungrounded
Tamasic Vata – paranoid, pyschosis, addictions, self-harms

Pitta and the Mahagunas
A Pitta’s greatest challenge in this life is to overcome their judgmental attitude. Cultivation of non-judgment (acceptance that nothing is separate), is their highest healing.

Sattvic Pitta – clear perception, spiritual teacher
Rajasic Pitta – judgmental, critical, intense, envious, willful, aggressive
Tamasic Pitta – violent, hateful, vindictive, extremist views

Kapha and the Magagunas
A Kapha’s greatest challenge in this life is to overcome their attachments. Cultivation of non-attachment (not about letting go, but about not attaching in the first place) is their highest healing.

Sattvic Kapha – unconditionally loves, nurturing, compassionate
Rajasic Kapha – overly attached, desirous, controlling, stubborn, overly emotional
Tamasic Kapha – melancholic, apathetic, dull, severely under-reactive, lethargic

It all sounds so simple yet obviously it is more complicated in practice. Amongst all of this, one can generally live a more Sattvic lifestyle by starting here:

– Spend time in nature
– Have a meditation practice
– Do Raja Yoga (a topic I may touch on one day)
– Avoid excessive or intense media
– Take a sattvic diet (Consult a CAS!)
– Take sattvic imppressions through ALL the senses

So that’s the ideal, but most of us are probably Rajasic: we are too busy, travel or move a lot, over-expose ourselves to media, use too many stimulants (sugar and coffee!), eat too many hot, greasy, salty, spicy foods, and in general have too much sensory stimulation.

If you’re reading this blog at all, you are probably thankfully not Tamasic. But it helps to know the signs, as you may have been or will be in this stage at some point. A Tamasic person will be dirty or messy, use drugs to dull the mind, spend all their time indoors, consume lifeless and old and stale foods, and have too little sensory stimulation.

We are all on a ladder, either moving towards or away from Sattwa. This is really the secret to all of existence, the meaning of life, or why we are here. Yes, that may be debatable, but you will note there is no discrimination. You don’t need to be a theist, a specific race or gender, have a certain upbringing, are a specific dosha, or any other such limitation to be Sattwic.
All you need to do is act in accordance with the highest, most virtuous version of yourself:

That which is without fear, judgment, or attachment.

Remember, “There’s love and forgetting about love and that’s it!” – Marisa Laursen

With gratitude,

S