Ayurveda, nature & mindset
I WANTED TO set the context for why I am so happy to share Ayurveda with you. Warm words for lowering stress will return on Friday with some recipe catch-up.
When I look up from working on my screen and see the tree branches moving, the leaves rustling and the parsley in my window box swaying this way and that, the nourishing qualities of the natural world come into my mind, they feed my biology, they connect me to my humanity. While the technology I use increasingly nudges me towards being machine like, the natural world reminds me what I really am. And, what a precious gift being human is. Without this connection to the natural world around us, I don’t think biological life as we know it can survive.
Ayurveda is a nature-based approach to health that is profound, laying out everything you need to know to nourish and heal yourself. While it’s underpinned by a complex science, the foundations for living a healthy life are surprisingly simple and, this is what can make benefitting from it so hard.
We are immersed in a consumer culture that teaches us to look for a pill and a quick fix, the latest diet, a new discovery telling us that ‘new’ is ‘sexy’ and ‘old’ isn’t. The media conditions us to want the next ‘hot’ thing, seek a new ‘buzz’, get excited about some upcoming tech, and to make lots of money from all of these things. Meanwhile Ayurveda is over 5000 years old, rooted in nature and takes us back to a simple way of being; recognising that it takes time to create the conditions for ill health and it takes time to change this.
There have been so many wonderful advances and discoveries within Western culture, but they have been underpinned by a mindset that diminishes nature; our own, indigenous nature-based cultures, and the natural world around us. Ayurveda has an explanation for why this is the case through its theory of the gunas – the energetic qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas – which underpin everything in the universe.
Sattva brings awareness, balance, light, happiness, and illumination into our experience. Rajas brings change, energy, drive, ambition, dynamism, imbalance, activity, disturbed emotions, pain, and passion into our experience. Tamas makes substance possible, allowing our bodies to exist, it also brings decay and in the mind dullness, inertia, resistance and confusion. We need all the gunas for physical experience but in the mind we need Sattva, otherwise we will create the conditions that lead to disease and decay.
From an Ayurvedic perspective we are living through a very rajasic/tamasic period here on planet Earth, where it is hard to find the Sattvic qualities we need to bring health on all levels back into our experience. You can find a lovely piece about the gunas and healing here by.
I will be returning to how the gunas underpin our health in the Autumn, but I wanted to share something I touched upon in my book “Your Peaceful Belly”, which discusses how the play of the gunas during the industrial revolution, led to the decaying culture we now see around us, suggesting we could change this by focusing once again on cultivating sattva:
“…If you look at global culture since industrialization you can see the process of the gunas acting out in Western and Westernised societies, which have become increasingly rajasic (driven) and tamasic (decaying).
During the industrial revolution many people living in the countryside, in touch with natures sattvic qualities and rhythms, were moved into cities where they worked in factories cut off from nature’s sattvic qualities. They were driven (rajas) to work 14–16-hour days, 6 days a week, in unhealthy (tamas) conditions. After these long days in rajasic/tamasic conditions they stepped out into an environment full of rajasic and tamasic qualities – competition (rajas), disturbed emotions (rajas), pollution (tamas), lack of fresh food (tamas), deprivation (tamas), and destruction of natural habitats (tamas).
The creation of these conditions came from a mindset that rose out of a rajasic/tamasic mental nature, and as time went by this mindset became ever more rajasic (driven) and tamasic (leading to decay).
I am not suggesting there were no rajasic and tamasic conditions in rural livelihoods prior to industrialization, just that these tendencies became increased and were not offset by the sattvic qualities of nature and living to natures daily/seasonal rhythms.
As industrial society continued to develop, along with an economic system underpinned by the rajasic drives of competition and desire, our individual and collective behaviours have been fed by these qualities, and led to what we see around us currently in the world. The drive (rajas), greed (rajas) and competition (rajas) of our consumer culture creates fear (tamas) and forces people to compete (rajas) for things that are produced by destroying (tamas) communities, individuals, and the natural environment we depend upon – the ecosystem of which we are a part.
Our rajasic culture encourages the disturbed emotions that further embed the nature of rajas in our minds and bodies through addictions (tamas), leading to the decay (tamas) of our people, the eco-system, and the planet. It is an energetic dance, and we play our part in this dance with every choice we make. Our food and sensory choices, along with our approach to life, determine how sattvic, rajasic or tamasic we become, along with the systems in our world that are created by us.
And so, we need to return to a place of balance (Sattva), and Ayurveda teaches us how to do that, if you are willing to make a few lifestyle changes, that can seem too simple to a mind that is choc full of the consumer way of viewing things.”
Photo by Rostyslav Savchyn – unsplash
We truly are made of stardust, and the rhythm of our bodies dances in step with nature’s rhythms. We need to live in harmony with this for health to naturally arise. In the autumn I will start recording my podcast, to get you started.
Next week I go on my annual Buddhist teaching retreat and so will cut back to one post a week. Then in September I will start recording.
Till Friday, warmest wishes,