One very cool thing I had a chance to do while I was here was meet with Karen's lovely Ayurvedic practitioner for a consultation. She gave me some very cool insight about my Vedic astrological chart and also some very useful tips about how to care for myself in the midst of my travel and how to bring myself into a deeper level of balance. It was really great to get re-inspired about Ayurveda and its wonderful healing protocols. Karen and I will be doing 3 weeks of Immersion Studies here and 3 weeks of Teacher Training here in 2011 and so I am very excited that in addition to the wonderful work I will have a resource for Ayurvedic advice and treatments. And I am happy to report that I am in a much better state of health now than I was three years ago when I first began incorporating Ayurvedic principles into my life and my advisor told me: "Well, imagine a candle that has burned out all its wax and has begun burning its wick. That is you." So, I have improved since then which is good news! Of course, there is more to do also.
One thing that has been fun for me about Ayurveda studies is that in my case it has never really been about cutting things out of my life or doing anything really extreme or unsustainable. The emphasis has always been about adding things in. For instance, Patricia told me to eat whipped cream with honey! (Okay, not every day, but my task is building ojas, not detoxing. And building ojas is a very fun thing- think rich, warm foods with plenty of good fats like cashews, whole milk, ghee... oh an some dates and cooked, spiced apples... can you say YUM!?) Other protocols include walking in the moonlight, sesame oil massages and sleeping a lot. Not bad, eh?
So the thing is that central to this vision of health is really nurturing ourselves and really creating a sense of deep nourishment in the tissues. So I love that. I love thinking about my health care regimes not as some kind of punishment-based scheme of depriving myself in the name of "being healthy" but as a way to tangibly care for and love myself according to what my particular system need to function better. So often modern naturapathic methods emphasize detox and so on to the point that many people, in the name of getting healthy, are depleting themselves and wearing themselves down further and reinforcing their deepest samskaras of "I am bad and wrong and I must repent, renounce and so forth in order to make up for my original flaw. The more I give up the more pure and deserving I must be, etc." (Seriously, scratch beneath the surface of a lot of us well-meaning yogis and you can hear this quite easily. We will often, unconsciously equate what we have given up and what we can live without as evidence of spiritual fortitude and so forth. Its an insidious samskara, in my opinion. Of course, this is just my observation, obviously, not everyone will see it this way!)
Ayurveda does have wonderful systems for detoxing when appropriate (and detox is appropriate in many cases) but even still, it places equal emphasis on building, restoring and cultivating an alignment with the very essence of lifes' nectarian bounty. And as I am reflecting on this notion of aligning with nectarian bounty I reminded of some of Paul Muller Ortega's teachings about Tantra.
Tantra, he told us once, has never been a path of denial. It is a path of fulfilling one's desires. The fine print, of course, is that as you go along, what you desire changes. We start to desire a resonance with what is wholesome and life-enhancing over and above a resonance with that which poisons, destroys and diminishes our Light. We start to desire a life of higher principles like service, integrity and unity and our disciplined actions are referenced in the context of moving toward these higher ideals not simply in renouncing something deemed "bad" by an external authority nor are they efforts at earning God's favor or working off our karma, etc.
See, I think I could write a diet book about this, for instance. You really can eat whatever you want and as much as you want of it so long as what you want is good for you and so long as you want the optimal amounts! (think about it- wht if you really watned a moderate about of cooked graines and vegetables. The problem is most people are sadly still trying to figure out who not to gain weight and still eat the whole pizza pie!) So my thought on the subject is that wanting what is good for us in the optimal amounts is where any diet of food plan project should ideally be heading. And, its also where our sadhana should be taking us.
Think about it. Diets, for instance, so often say- you can eat as much as you want as long as what you are eating is raw, fat free, sugar-free, wheat-free or whatever that particular plan is purporting as "the answer." You guys know- just fill-in-the blank. But those plans are all destined to fail, in my opinion. I mean really, who can seriously eat cabbage soup the rest of their life and feel happy about it? And it never gets at the underlying issue of why we actually want to eat so much in the first place. Why are we at odds with our body's needs in the first place? Why are we craving so many things that are so bad for us? Start to untie those knots and the content of what you eat starts to solve itself with just a little education.
On one level this boils down to understanding which part of us really wants what and figuring out which part of ourselves is going to run the show. For instance- I recently overheard a flight attendant tell another flight attendant that her "body just really wants soda" and I kept thinking, "I bet your taste buds and your little girl inside want the sweet fizzy goodness that is soda but I bet your Body would appreciate something more wholesome that wouldn't jack you up and set you up to binge uncontrollably later." Just an opinion, obviously.
Anyway, just like a steady diet of cabbage soup is destined to fail, our sadhana, is destined to fail if it asks us to live to far away from where we are really at in the moment. Its a process, I think, and each one of us is different and our slow movement towards an alignment with what our Heart wants and needs takes time. Still, I have to say again that I believe, at its essence, The Path is a way to love ourselves fully and to bring that love alive in our actions.