By Richard A. Masla, Ayurvedic Practitioner
In the Bhagavad Gita, a classic text on yoga, Sri Krishna compares the peaceful mind to a calm lake which has very few ripples or waves. Although there may be many rivers and streams running into it, the lake remains undisturbed. In this analogy, the rivers and streams can be compared to the constant flow of desires that arise in our thoughts. Like the lake, when the mind is at rest and satisfied the individual remains at peace.
We all know that stress and mental imbalance often precipitate illness in the physical body. The Ayurveda teaches us that the state of one's mind is every bit as important as a healthy body. In Sanskrit, the mind is referred to as sattva, which means clarity or goodness. In the Vedas and Yoga Sutras of ancient India, it is suggested that sattva can be attained by constant practice and detachment. This practice involves the regular application of the yamas and niyamas, which are the basic principles of yoga relating to optimal mental, physical and spiritual health.
ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacarya, aparigraha
Non violence, truthfulness, not stealing, moderation and detachment.
Saucum, santosa, tapas, svadhyaha, Isvara pranidhana
Cleanliness, satisfaction, austerity, self study and surrender to the Supreme.
Through personal practice of these social ethics, a mindful way of relating to both yourself and the world is achieved. The teachings of the Ayurveda also help us to understand that creating healthy relationships in our lives is just as important as taking care of our bodies and minds. You may take vitamins, do yoga, lift weights and run several miles daily, but if the close relationships in your life are lacking clarity or are toxic, they can be very detrimental to your health and well-being. In my practice when I meet with a patient, I look at all aspects of her life, diet, sleep patterns, regularity, exercise and the quality of her close relationships. Through an understanding of these aspects, a clear picture of her overall health emerges.
As stated in the Bhagavad Gita, just as a breeze blowing over a pile of garbage or flowing around a bed of roses takes on the characteristics of what it associates with, so too does the mind. The Gita suggests that by living our lives in goodness, we purify not only our minds but also our existence. Thus we create greater harmony within ourselves and within our universe.
If the body is the temple of the spirit, perhaps sattva, (optimal mind-state) can be viewed as the flame through which the spirit is illuminated. If the flame becomes a fire, then body and spirit are harmed. Through a commitment to the practice of good self-care like that prescribed in Ayurveda, as well as a commitment to the basic tenants of 'goodness' as outlined in the yamas and niyamas, harmony between the mind, body and spirit can be attained. Only then can we begin to live our best life possible.