By Natalia Perera
“Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better”
- Albert Einstein
Blessings upon you dear Warrior. Blessings from the four cardinal points—North, South, East, and West. Blessings from the five elements of Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. May all of these aspects of Mother Nature rise to hold you in Her loving embrace so that you feel safe and comforted on your life’s path.
Since we last met, may you have taken deep rest under a stunning tree, or laid flat on fresh, green grass in fields of blossoming flowers. May you have found a way to nourish your body with wholesome foods, your senses with beauty in all its forms, and your soul with imagination, inspiration, and art.
Mother Nature is a very powerful partner on our healing journey, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Just as she breathes life force into each blade of grass, weed, flower, shrub, or tree for it to grow as tall as it can, as strong as it can, and for it to blossom before it withers away and dies, she does the same for each of us man, woman, or child. We have the entire Creation’s fierce impulse both around us and within us, encouraging us to flourish into our best selves.
And not only is that urge a gift to us, but so is an abundance of applicable therapeutic tools at our disposal to help us reach higher states of health and vibration. In the history of Ayurveda, with its ancient yet timeless wisdom for radiant health, there is a famous story. Jivaka was the remarkable man and physician appointed by the local King of India to personally attend to the health of Gautama Buddha and his followers. Towards the end of his seven years of medical training, Jivaka was handed a spade by his guru and sent out on his final assignment: To search within a radius of several miles for any plant devoid of all medicinal value and to bring it back. After some time, Jivaka came back empty handed, not having found anything. His guru praised him and graduated him with his blessings. To this day, Ayurveda upholds that nothing exists in the world that cannot be used medicinally, for our highest good (Svoboda, 1992).
Ayurveda is an intuitive, yet practical science. It was originally written by ancient ‘seers’ in India who lived in line with nature and its rhythms and spent much of their time doing their Yoga and meditative practices in pristine surroundings. They understood that all matter in the universe is made up of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Earth represents the solid state, water the liquid state, air the gaseous state, fire the power to transform the state of any substance, and ether is the field that is simultaneously the source of all matter and the space in which it exists. They watched closely the interaction of these ‘five great elements’ in creation and how each of them affects our BodyMind, since all parts of our ‘system’ interact with each other and with the outside world continually. So it made sense that when any substance, including time and space, impacts us, its qualities, both innate and added, would influence our individual organism.
The sages observed how the elements can be present in various degrees or in different combinations in every aspect of their day, such as in each herb, plant, or fruit they consumed, or in each of the four seasons to which they adapted their daily routines. They contemplated the qualities of each element and began to play with these to bring about a ‘balance’ when something was ‘out’. Over thousands of years, they recorded the results of their investigations, and these have laid the roots of what still stands today as an incredibly wise and effective medicine. Although it is a science that includes internal remedies and surgery for both acute and chronic illnesses—treatments of eye, ear, and nose ailments; gynecology, obstetrics, and pediatrics; psychology, toxicology, rejuvenation, and virilization—it is a medicine that has a lot to say not only about the cure of diseases, but also about the health of the body and mind.
When we learn to look at ourselves and the world around us from an elemental perspective, in terms of the quantity and quality of ether, air, fire, water, and earth, we do not need to resort to complicated medical labels and diagnoses to bring ourselves back to our own, unique sense of balance. This frees us to use our common sense and intuition and use what is within our reach to treat ourselves. For we are all children of the same mother, and as equal brothers and sisters, it is our birthright to have access to vibrant health and healing, not just those of us who are academically and financially able. So how can we practically help ourselves? What are these universal resources that we have in our vicinity that are wholesome, simple to use, and free of side effects? Wholesome foods are the most obvious panaceas, kitchen herbs are in themselves potent remedies, all that grows in our surroundings—any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers—can be used internally or topically, minerals from the earth are rich, stones and crystals have profound powers, wild flowers contain vibrational magic, trees exude healing in our presence, even sounds can balance us deeply. Every one of these is valid, as much as natural forces such as sun, wind, and water.
Of course, this does require a certain level of connection, observation, and listening to our bodies. We need to know our system intimately to know how ‘balance’ feels, and my state of health would be different to yours, and to recognize the signs of ‘imbalance’ before illness sets in. To bring about homeostasis in the body and mind, Ayurveda follows the principle of ‘Like increases Like’ and ‘Unlike decreases Like’. Hence, healing means the use of opposites to remove excess or remedy deficiency, thereby returning the system back to its innate equilibrium. For instance, your body becomes warm when you lie in warm sunlight because the warmth it takes in from the sun increases its own warmth. But if you go for a fast, long run under the hot sun in the middle of the day in summer, and you eat much chilli, have a hot shower, and lose your temper in anger in traffic, you have overheated your system and it needs cooling back down. Perhaps you could then opt for a fresh coconut juice, a lukewarm bath with sandalwood or jasmine essential oils, rub some aloe vera on your skin, walk gently by the seaside in the moonlight and breathe out…sounds like common sense? It is: you are your very own alchemist.
In Ayurveda, there are no ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’: there is no ubiquitous judgement as to what is right and what is wrong. In fact, its very name means “Science of Life”; it encourages us to understand first, Mother Nature, then our own unique nature or constitution, and from there, make informed choices. There is an intelligent reason why you cope well with coffee whereas I may not, or I put on weight easily whereas you may not. We may call it ‘metabolism’, but it is more complex than that. Moreover, the digestive system, viewed as a ‘Fire’ and called ‘Agni’ in Ayurveda, is of utmost significance to our health. We could be eating the most organic and wholesome foods, but if they do not match our digestion’s capacity within the context of our unique constitution, those very foods will turn into toxins in our organs, causing more harm, while we remain malnourished and fatigued. Again, rather than following generic ‘rules’ of what is considered healthy, but is actually not truth, Ayurveda asks us to tune in and follow our inner wisdom.
Tuning in is not simply a matter of physiology either, just as we are not only our physical bodies. We take in much more than food; we also ingest water, air, sunlight, touch, odors, tastes, sights, sounds, even thoughts and emotions from our environment. All of these have their own qualities and come in their own quantities. They will affect us, and need to be turned into a form that our organism can utilise and assimilate into our cells, our flesh and bones. We need a strong Agni in order to digest the experiences that Life throws at us, to take the good and grow from it, and leave the rest, process, integrate, and transform them into a life well lived: wisdom. The opposite would be to lose our coherence, and that marks the beginning of disease.
I hope, dear Warrior, that in this article, I have at least given you much food for thought: that this “Science of Life” will inspire you to raise your level of health, your vibration, your radiance in the world. For you are what you eat, what you think, and what you do; it is the repetition and resonance in your days that will ultimately create your life.
Reference: Robert Svoboda, Ayurveda: Life, Health and Longevity, Penguin, 1992.