This post is the second installment in the Ecology of Pain conversation.
Imagine two maps laid out in front of you. The first map is a record of your lifestyle choices: simple things such as the time you wake up, how brightly your house is lit in the evenings, your beliefs about activity and rest, and even how late you usually have supper are noted here. The second map is an Ayurvedic one – it is a diagram of basic elements that hold the key to a more intimate understanding of your essential nature. Juxtaposing the two maps charts a course to healing through a deeper knowing of what nourishes and what depletes you.
Modern science views the world through a lens of progressively smaller building blocks – cells, molecules, atoms, and, more recently, quantum particles. This approach, while advantageous in many ways, can promote the attitude of fractionalism and disintegration. In western medicine, psychologists treat the mind, chiropractors look after the spine, cardiologists monitor the heart, while neurologists take care of the nervous system. Yet anyone who has lived and dealt with a chronic condition knows that dysfunction often exists at the crossroads of body and mind, and within the junction points of different body systems. Probe a step further: the current pace of technological development coupled with this spirit of disconnect has created a belief that we, humans, are separate from nature. We assume that we can alter our surroundings in any way we please without directly affecting our finely tuned body – systems.
Quite like modern science, Ayurveda looks at the world through the window of 5 primordial elements – space, air, fire, water, and earth. Quite unlike modern science, Ayurveda delights itself in observing and, sometimes, correcting the delicate interplay that exists between these elements in our inner and outer environment. Ayurveda is a perfect tool of self inquiry: it fosters a deeper inner listening, so we can reduce our reliance on advice of the “experts” – medical professionals, naturopaths, chiropractors, and yes, even your yoga teacher, – and depend more on an intrinsic sense of what is right and what is wrong for (and in) our body.
Perhaps the state of inner listening is where we ought to start.
Let’s do the element inquiry before we delve into the world of Ayurvedic definitions and before I start dispensing my own opinions on the matter – this way your initial introduction to the elements’ worldview is not clouded by someone’s (even experts’!) words.
Here is the first DIY inquiry of the Pain Ecology series:
Spend about 5 minutes (1 minute per element) to reflect on how space, air, fire, water and earth are represented inside and outside of your body. There are no right or wrong answers here, so feel free to play with whatever comes into your imagination.
In the following weeks we will explore each element in more detail, and introduce some basic elemental practices into the flow of our days. Here is a segue to the next installment in Pain Ecology series:
I often suggest Viparita Karani, or Legs Up The Wall pose, to clients who are undergoing periods of intense stress, dealing with sleepless nights or experiencing hormonal imbalances. Can you guess the most common response to this suggestion?
See you next week!