BY SUSAN M. GRIFFITH-JONES
I am imagining that I am in your shoes… I am sitting on the plane coming to India; it is my first visit, it is my third, it is my twentieth, I was born there…. What do I expect and what am I looking for? I have a guidebook, which is 455 pages long and the only thing I know is that I am going to land in Delhi. From there I am free to explore a unified country made of regions as different in language, culture and bio-diversity as top to bottom of Europe; or perhaps I’m holding a letter from my grandmother asking me to come home to see her one last time before she passes from this world. Perhaps I am just going home. No matter why, no matter what, we all share one thing in common (except me who’s merely empathising) and that is that after some hours we’re going to land in India – what does that mean?
There are few things that may be identified with all parts of India – one of them, surprisingly is the English language, which is a relatively recent addition to India’s complexity, another predominant one is the ancient lore of the Vedas that has been passed down through households since time immemorial.
‘Living’ as we understand it has been going on since time on earth began and has created such a vast comprehension of ways and methods as to how to do it. As well as the eternal questions of why we are here and what we should do with our lives, how to maintain our health and cure sickness comprises vast fields of methods where each collective unit of society, family, or individual has developed his or her ways to get through the mere act of living.
Considered as folk lore or old wives’ tales by unsuspecting visitors who may be trained in more rational views about what life is all about, the vast spectrum of different ideologies of living that present themselves may cause insult to an analytical brain learned in its own relative scopes. Amidst those who take offence, there are those who still see beyond the stormy onslaught of habitual methods and know-how that often prove contradictory to other more holistic ways of living. I’m talking about the attitude of ‘I’m right’ and ‘you’re wrong’ – for a moment let’s just consider the possibilities.
Natural living that was penned out by the ancients is not just an old and out-dated way of living as many are forced to believe courtesy of the way they have been brought up with mod-cons, nor does one need to give up the mod-cons in order to absorb such holistic methods of getting through life, into one’s habitual mode of living. Perhaps these ways really are the remnants of ancient knowledge that existed in advanced civilisations that knew how to preserve and maintain life in abundance, free of disease and with an advanced know-how of technology as well as the smart distribution of world resources that are, after all, here for our sensible usage and free for all.
Are we now flying to Shambhala or to India?
‘Ayurveda’ is one of the oldest knowledge systems of life in India. ‘Ayur’ means ‘Life’ and ‘veda’ means science/knowledge and Ayurveda is in this sense a complete way of life that was adhered to as a method for holistically maintaining one’s body, mind and soul intact. Proposing that we live in harmony with the natural laws of nature and the ecosystem of life as a very necessary factor for optimal health, one who, for example, sleeps soundly and wakes up full of energy or one who has a good appetite and eliminates properly too, is joyful, radiant, full of vitality and ultimately has clarity of mind, may be considered as healthy.
It is clear that in order to maintain oneself well throughout the course of life, one has to pay some attention to the process and be aware of the implications. No one can just wave a magic wand over your head and it’s all suddenly better – that would be a lovely thing, but unfortunately (for the lazy-minded), one has to take one’s own steps in the process, which may just turn out to be the most exciting adventure you’ve ever been on or in put other terms, returning to your own natural state of being.
How on earth does one do that and why on earth would one want to do it? These are very good questions, but asked in vain if one does not at least have the courage nor curiosity to take the next step and find out a little more about what returning to one’s natural state of being may entail. Of course, we all have our pre-set vision of what these words mean, so that may make us hesitate – monks meditating in caves in freezing cold conditions, people standing on one leg for 20 years in the forest, old men with long white beards and golden halos around their heads – what about us ordinary folk who like to just lie in a nice hot bath reading the newspaper on a Sunday morning with a cup of tea and the good aroma of lunch coming from the kitchen – can that also be included in the ‘natural state’ thing?
How can the knowledge of Ayurveda be of help on this adventure course we’ve set ourselves upon – why not another path or method? Indeed, other paths and methods are there for the taking, but if one is to climb up a mountain with the intention of reaching the top, then one cannot walk up all four sides at the same time. So, just taking a look at the mountain we’ve decided to tackle here and pinning one’s vision to the top, way beyond the tree line that demarcates the lower slopes of the mountains where thick forests abide, it is not automatically possible to discern a way through such jungled territory to the upper reaches. Of course, I need a guide, because even my 455-page guidebook does not mention such detailed paths.
The doctor of Ayurveda will first check my constitution, which means that he/she will see which elements are predominant in me. For in order to create a proper environment for my state of living to take place, those that are out of balance must be brought back into balance through following some fairly simple, yet immediate life-improving techniques. Eliminating one’s already existing toxins that are blocking one’s natural flow of being, or energy, must initially take place and then maintaining a correct diet and lifestyle and keeping oneself free from harmful sensory impressions, emotions and thoughts must ensue.
There are many ways to de-toxify the body and in Ayurveda, the method of ‘Panchakarma’ is used. One who generally maintains good health or one who is already sick may both profit from this exercise as for the well, it is a process of maintenance and for the sick, a way to begin to eliminate the toxins causing the disease. However, there are some specific processes that are life saving courses of treatment that are available at curative treatment centres of Ayurveda. No disease is incurable – that is the marvellous revelation of Ayurveda, untouched and unspoiled by huge pharmaceutical companies that need you to be sick in order just to sell their drugs. Disease is simply imbalance and imbalance may be balanced through adhering to right methods.
Although Ayurveda originated in the Himalayas, today many centres are located in the Southern Indian state of Kerala. However, as one goes around from here to there, one will also find many places where Ayurveda is supposedly performed. But one should be wary, as there are places where business needs may supersede the pure intention and where ill-advised techniques may cause more harm than good. One should be absolutely aware of the powerful life-changing results that can take place through Ayurvedic treatment and find a properly equipped centre and doctors through which one may receive such. There is also much literature on the subject and one can read about the ways of the mind and body through the eyes of both western and eastern practitioners of such an art.
For living is an art form itself, is it not. Are we not all, but artists creating our lives as they unfold their route of destiny through the causes we plant along the way that will one day give fruit to resulting conditions – or must we remain subjected to other’s arts as we blindly fumble along the dark path of life, our unknown essential nature somewhere beyond the forests of our daily habitual tendencies and emotions that keep drowning us in confusion again and again?
It’s time to take the reins and buckle your seat belt for landing is close and from there where you take off is your own decision.
For more information on authentic curative treatments, wellness, de-toxification and other specific needs please contact:
Renu Gulati, the knowledge director at “Avalon Ayurveda”, located in the beautiful ridge-top hill station of Mussoorie in the foothills of the Himalayas, State of Uttarakhand – original home of Ayurveda.
Phone: +91 (0)9719258121