As we surf the transitions of the cosmic color slopes, like rainbow boarders sizzling up prismatic peaks; we ride the universe to freedom, through natural healing, growth, and wisdom; across the many forms and hues of which she speaks. In my last two posts we glanced at shamanic and orthomolecular variations on a healing theme. The shamanic adaptation renders mental illness as the awakening of a healer, and the orthomolecular distinction paints it as a product of the natural bodily substances occurring in the proper concentrations. The Ayurvedic contrast provides figure-ground shading to further highlight our emerging vision of mental illness, by demonstrating that a sound body requires a sound mind. Ayurveda, when translated from Sanskrit, can be understood to mean “the science of life as it is expressed through living.” The areas of medicine addressed by Ayurveda include the tri-dosha concept, the seven-tissue concept, digestion, anatomy, metabolism, prognosis, diagnosis, and the healing properties of medicinal plants. Since, according to Ayurveda, stress, those things that create it, and the effects from it are the primary causes of mental and physical illness; this stress test will help you see how you are doing.
Grace Anatomy of Ayurveda
Ayurvedic medicine, a 5,000 year old holistic healing tradition, views the human being as mind, body, and spirit. This includes the emotional, psychological, and behavioral aspects of the mind. According to Ayurveda, we are composed of three bodies containing five sheaths: physical body (food sheath); astral body (pranic, mental, and intellectual sheaths), and causal body (seed sheath). The astral body is connected to the physical body at several points called chakras. We are alive because of the life force, or prana, flowing through us. Prana circulates within the astral body through channels called nadis, enters the physical body through the chakras, and circulates within the physical body through pathways called meridians. Many forms of illness exist first in the astral body, and may exist there for years before reaching the physical body. A blockage or imbalance in the energy flow within the astral body may lead to physical, emotional, or mental illness. Intellect and emotions occur within the astral body before entering the physical body through the chakras. Ayurveda views the mind as the authority over the body. It maintains that health is the product of a selfless mind and a pure body. It incorporates herbal medicine, nutrition, yoga, meditation, and exercise; along with massage, essential oils, vibrational healing, chants, and mantras; into its holistic focus on rejuvenation, longevity, and self realization. If its three bodily humors, referred to as tridosha, become unbalanced, we can experience the disturbed thoughts and emotions of mental illness. The tridosha include vata, which contains both air and ether elements, and derives from violet and blue cosmic rays; pitta, which comes from the fire element, and is formed from red and yellow rays; and Kappa, which is comprised of the earth and water elements, created from orange, indigo, and green rays. To learn more about your doshas, and their relevance to your mental and physical health, take this dosha quiz.
A Weakened Pranic Shield
Disruption in the natural flow of pranic energy and thought from the astral to the physical body can cause mental illness. Yogic breathing, along with herbs like calamus, basil, turmeric, guggul, myrrh, frankincense and cedar; can keep these essential energies flowing in the needed amounts. Too much or too little will create imbalance. Between the physical and astral bodies there is a shield that, when functioning properly, protects us from the negative energies, thoughts, and emotions occurring within the astral environment. For example, there is an accumulation of great fear in inexplicable proportions, occurring in the astral plane (universal energy field), projected from wars, the slaughter of billions of animals, and the suffering of women and children. If this protective barrier becomes weakened, we can no longer distinguish the physical (the reality of what is occurring in our own life) from the astral (the pain and suffering flooding the universal energy field). If this happens, then the fear, pain, and rage received within the astral body may overwhelm our thoughts, fantasies, and emotions; and may cause us to lose control. For example, Ayurveda sees schizophrenia as a symptom of a destructive astral force or entity entering the physical body through a weakened pranic shield. It is especially critical that highly sensitive people learn to strengthen their pranic shield. If it is weakened, and because of their sensitivity to subtle astral energies, they will be more easily overwhelmed. This could explain the fine line between creative genius and schizophrenia that we sometimes see our friends and loved ones dance around.
Ayurveda and the Mind
I believe Ayurveda seeks to create the natural conditions that lead to healing, happiness, and higher consciousness through the ways we live our life. Deriving from the sacred vedic texts, it offers ways for us to first heal in mind and body, then find happiness through acceptance, and then ascend into the self realization of truth. When our mind is selfless and clear, through non-resistance, non-judgement, and non-attachment; our body is free from the ego illusions (cognitive distortions and negative emotions) that can cause combined mental and physical illness. While in this state we are also better able to fortify our pranic shield. Beyond our own ego lies the organizational systems, which often represents the egos of others. Dr. David Frawley, in Ayurveda and the Mind, says, “When we give our faith over to a particular dogma – restricting truth to a person, book, or institution – the ability of consciousness to reflect the truth becomes distorted.” He goes on to say, “The Sanskrit term for intelligence is Buddhi, deriving from the root ‘bud,’ which means ‘to perceive’ or ‘to become awake.’ Buddhi is the aspect of consciousness that is filled with light and reveals the truth. When one’s Buddhi becomes fully developed, one becomes a Buddha or enlightened one. The main action of intelligence is to discern the true and real from the false and unreal. It enables us to discriminate the nature of things from mere appearances or speculations. Through it we develop our core perceptions of self and world: who we are, why we exist, and what the world is.” This excerpt eloquently renders the Ayurvedic perspective on the mind. It, along with the rest of this post, illustrates how the condition of our mind determines the health of our body and the course of our life.
In my next post we will incorporate the Ayurvedic outlook into our understanding of Aunt Suzy’s schizophrenia, and I will offer some alternative healing resources.
What do you think of this Ayurvedic approach to mental health? Have you ever known anyone who used Ayurvedic methods and improved naturally? If so, what helped them heal?
Photo credit: Alice Popkorn