Ayurveda in the Modern World
I was born in the United States, California to be exact...which could explain a few things! But I first visited India in 2001 when I was 29 years old. I had only started practicing yoga intermittently in 1997. I set this stage for you to say, Ayurveda is not something I was born into or an environment in which I was raised. Somehow though, I’m one of the few people I know who remembers learning in history class about the Mohenjo Daro and Harrappan cultures that developed along the Indus River Valley in what is now Pakistan. This is the area in which Ayurveda was born, if not in the hearts and consciousness of those in whom it finally manifested.
In 1996 when I first heard of Ayurveda, I immediately loved and connected with the history, the philosophy, and the medicine. It is in my bones, it resonates with me and I with it. I learned Ayurvedic anatomy and Physiology aftertaking all premedical sciences and an entire year of graduate level Gross Anatomy and Physiology; and yet, Ayurveda is what finally made it all make sense.
By the time I was finally studying Ayurvedic Medicine with a master, I could literally close my eyes and listen to my teacher, and the wisdom just floated back into my brain where it had once before resided. She said, “You are here to remember. You are not learning for the first time. You are here because you already knew this once before.” I felt that my most fundamental questions were being answered...
I do not expect this to be true of most people. Each of us has our area of innate understanding. Thankfully we are notall the same! I feel myself to be an effective liaison between the Eastern Wisdom and the Western understanding because I make these connections. I live for the moment when your light bulb turns on and you have a realization of self and who you are and what that means!!
Humans are a microcosm of the Universe.
Elements present in all matter exist within each individual, each being, each organism.
Close your eyes...now picture an atom, the nucleus surrounded by an electron cloud of probability. An atom is mostly space, if you could freeze the orbits of the electrons. An atom is elemental. Picture multiple atoms forming a molecule, still loads of space. Molecules organize into cells. Cells are tiny cities. Cells organize into tissues, with a common purpose. Tissues organize into organs with governing power. Organs are a part of systems, alliances. Systems work together create the being. Beings organize to create communities, and then further into governments and countries and so on.
Why are we here? What is our relationship to one another, to the Earth Planet, to the Solar System, to the Galaxy, to the Universe? On the microscopic level we find huge spaces. On the macroscopic level in the solar system, between galaxies, star systems, we find huge spaces. Space is the Ether—the element in Ayurveda in which all creation takes place.
My favorite among the six philosophies of Ayurveda is the Sankhya. Sankhya is “Understanding Truth”.
Pure consciousness, Purusha, Masculine, unmanifest without Divine Feminine Creation. Through Prakruti he enters into Being, Mahad the supreme intelligence governing all cells (ALL CELLS!), Buddhi the Pure consciousness manifest in our physical being, that drop of pure essence we all retain.
Ahamkara, the development of ego, the I, self-awareness, and the beginning of all our troubles! But, if we did not manifest we would not have organs of action, senses for perception, we would not experience. The inorganic elements of Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth are present in all matter, and they are the substance our sense organs perceive. They are at play in our doshas and catalyze our experiences through our physical bodies, our minds, and our emotions. Experience is the desire of Pure Consciousness and why we are manifested.
Pure consciousness needs a physical form in order to evolve. It can only experience through matter, thus matter must manifest. Our purpose here as conscious beings is to experience, and to deliver this vibration back to the source. This gives a whole new perspective on making mistakes and learning from them; on limiting ourselves, versus soaring and flexing our potential.
Pure consciousness entering from the highest place, flowing downward into the grossest, most basic elements, and into the root most basic part or our self. What is the journey? The disassembly of the base matter and the return to pure consciousness. Look at how we humans relate this journey? The chakra system describes our return from human physical matter to pure consciousness.
In our quest to understand, we map our physical bodies...we map the human form with the seed of life, Metatron’s cube, the chakra system, the tree of life, the flower of life...we keep re-integrating seeking the path to escape the physical body and experience pure consciousness. Why escape? This body is our vessel for learning, our spaceship, our 007 Bentley, Aston Martin, or Jaguar!
Are we purely geometric in our connection to all things, are we bound by sacred geometry, or is there a messier randomness? There is a universe within our physical bodies which may actually affect our consciousness. For certain, these mini-being are a huge part of our human experience, they actually play a huge part in translating our perceptions! Research is demonstrating more and more that our thoughts and feelings may be, at least in part, a manifestation of chemical neurotransmitters and other signals produced by good healthy microbes or pathogenic disruptive microbes. What if our consciousness is actually related to the microbes inside of us? What if they have sentience? I would posit that our ability to elevate is inhibited or facilitated by the balance or imbalance of these tiny beings in the universe that is our physical body...
And I have now begun to ask myself, “What is the microcosm of the Human Being?” Microscopic communities, cellular communities, animal communities, human communities... Thus, this becomes the framework in which we exist; a haze, a static of continuous perceptions, all registering on some super computer consciousness Cloud...Relative to all this microbial DNA and information, we humans feel fairly insignificant! Our human cells are outnumbered by microscopic single celled organisms 10 to 1! Our human DNA is less than 1% of the total equation.
Even crazier? Who knows what a terabyte is? Ever purchase an external hard drive? How many terabytes? Well guess what? 100 Million Terabytes of information are housed in the microbial DNA of 1/5 tsp of your fecal matter. Your waste.
Now we have to re-think even our ancient herbology...how does it actually render an effect in our bodies? Is it via the microbial community? Nearly everything we take into our bodies or put on our skin will have an interaction with the microbes that are in communication with our physiological systems.
So are we interacting with all other matter in geometric patterns? Or in a random haze? Or both?
So what does Holistic mean? How does Ayurveda fit into our lives? Chinese Medicine? Ancient philosophies? It is inescapable. At our most fundamental we are connected, we are a part of the whole. The Macrocosm is reflected in the Microcosm. There is no future in reductionism. We cannot isolate the parts, we must examine all sides and all dimensions. We exist in multiplicity and in inevitable community. You cannot touch one part of the Spider’s Web without vibrating the whole...
It is the same in the doshas: we must be careful that the cure does not imbalance the whole. This is a totally different concept than modern linear medicine. Additionally, our sourcing of medicine and cures cannot imbalance our environment. Let’s think about this and the level of sustainability of raw materials and resources in our foods, supplements, and medicines. Let’s take Ginseng, for example. As a culture we run ourselves ragged: overeating, under-nourishing, under-sleeping, overstressing; and we need a remedy to rejuvenate our adrenal glands and our tissues. We turn to ginseng and deplete the supply of true ginseng, creating such a run on American Ginseng that it is defended at gunpoint! This is the extreme aspect of our human nature, all over the globe, all throughout time, that we must watch out for. When Ahamkara, the I, the Ego, gets out of balance with mind/body/spirit.
For me, Ayurveda is the window and the filter through which I see the world and all its inhabitants. The world and all our interactions make more sense because of my understanding of Ayurveda. We humans are always trying to categorize, it makes us feel more comfortable, more secure. But...I do feel that the systems of both Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, and all the philosophies inherently part of these systems, give us such a rich language with which to describe and discover ourselves as humans. We have more room to accept who we are, to face the reality of our strengths and weaknesses, and to rise above these trivialities by truly knowing ourselves and maturely, responsibly acknowledging what we do well and where we need help. Healthcare of the near future requires tremendously more self-reliability and personal responsibility. We can no longer smoke cigarettes and say, “Well, my parents smoked because their doctor told them it would help their nerves. What am I supposed to do?” as was the case years ago. We can no longer eat ourselves to death with poisoned foods and say, “Well, the government allows these foods on the shelves so they must be safe and good for me.” We can no longer sit and be inactive, but laugh it off as the new epidemic of “The Sitting Disease” due to the average work-life. We know more than that. We have access to unlimited information. We have the power this information gives us. We are capable of being informed, and thus responsible to become informed.
Ayurveda may be ancient, may be old-world from another time, but the wisdom that laid the observations down pervades still today in establishing an accountability to knowing ourselves and taking responsibility for our health and that of our communities.