Catching An Aryuvedic Buzz
I came to Ayurveda while working as a nutritionist in 1986 at the pain and stress clinic in the Shattuck hospital in Boston. This was a fully integrated approach to pain and stress management run by Professor Ted Kaptchuk. I came to America after working for 7 years in the National Health Service in England as a Podiatrist. During this time, I was haunted by the fact that I perceived something missing in my training. I was aware that you cannot address the health of one body part without referral to the whole. I am sure many of you reading this, following a trip for surgery, have felt that the real ‘you’ hasn’t been fully taken into account by medical professionals with regard to your diet, lifestyle and other existential issues.
My Turning Point
I was initiated into the Advaita Vedanta tradition within a month of starting my new position in the U.S. I became acquainted with Ayurveda at the hospital in a lecture given by Vasant Lad. This lecture was a turning point in my life. As the sages say, “When the student is ready the teacher will come.”
What is Aryuveda?
The Aryuvedic word for health is Swastha, which means to be established in the ‘Self,’ or alignment among body, mind and spirit. What really appealed to me was the sages who stated that until every Being is well - and this includes every insect, flower, tree or other Being - we cannot say we are truly healthy.
No other medical system espouses this idea. Charaka, one of Ayurveda’s greatest physicians, informs us that ‘man is the epitome of the universe.’ In other words, when we are aligned with the universal the smaller reflections function as a balanced particle of that which is greater.
Health then cannot be measured outside of the rest of society. I always knew that, even while I was eating pesticide-coated foods from poor soil, and ignoring the circadian rhythms of the day. I couldn’t make wise choices for myself or others, for that matter.
A Promising Pilgrimage
With this in mind, I began a pilgrimage to wellbeing, Ayurveda has given me a wonderful scheme for this journey. When the seers perceived the forces governing creation they looked up at the sky. They saw the sun and noted its characteristics which are hot, dry, and sharp. Then they realized the moon had the opposite attributes namely cold, heavy and moist. Similarly, they came to the understanding that there was a connecting force without which the other two energies are static, and that was the wind with its qualities of movement, dryness and cold.
The wonderful discovery was that everything in the corporal world is a mixture of three forces which are known in Sanskrit as Pitta, Kapha and Vata. Sushruta, another highly respected Ayurvedic physician, tells us that a healthy individual possesses his vital forces - namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha - in dynamic equilibrium. This situation will ensure a strong appetite, effective removal of bodily wastes, optimum growth of tissues, good sensory perception and a mind free from anxiety.
Flow (Not Schedules) Leads to Longevity
What have I discovered through the Ayurvedic practice of Dinacharhya (which means to flow with the day)? My health has remained pretty stable over the years. This translates to waking early, then easing into the day like an Indian Raga. Ease is achieved by not switching on the mobile phone upon rising, thereby blocking the weight of world issues from contaminating my sacred space. After a glass of hot water and a cup of tea. I meditate for half an hour twice daily. Dawn and dusk have a special resonance. These times are called sattvic when the energies of the sun and the moon are in harmony. This has been the scaffolding on which I have built my life. It helps me to stay in the role of observer watching myself act in the cosmic drama known as Leela.
I now know and understand my personal blend of elemental forces. Ayurveda offers a combination of food and activities which best suit my constitution. It is such a special system because everyone has their own set of coordinates, and knowing this has really improved my relationships/work with others. Through this lens I am able to realize that these forces express themselves in very different ways.
Ayurveda places a lot of importance on the health of the senses because the senses act as the conduit for knowledge from outside us to the inner sanctums of the heart. With this in mind, over time I have slowly removed shocking images, strong smells, loud music, junk food and artificial fabrics from my arena. Having said that, if I can‘t always achieve these lofty aims I attempt to view a situation with equanimity and love.
The Delphic oracle states, ‘To thine own self be true,’ and Ayurveda has given me the most wonderful tool to implement this maxim. I feel eternally grateful to the 400 or so Rishis who received this wisdom and so generously shared it with the rest of humanity.
Angela Hope-Murray MSc,(Ayur). MA, BSc (Ost), HSPC reg Pod has been in practice for over 40 years. She has trained extensively in all aspects of complementary medicine.
Angela has travelled extensively in India and lectures worldwide on Ayurvedic medicine. She is the author of Ayurveda for Dummies.