Last month I touched upon the first of three main causes of disease from an Ayurvedic perspective. To recap, those three causes are:
- The misuse of the 5 senses
- The failure of the intellect
This month, I’m continuing with the second cause of disease: failure of the intellect. To put it more simply, it’s when we know what we need to do to take care of ourselves, but we don’t do it!
We all know that if we went to bed at a decent hour, ate according to our body type, exercised regularly, etc. we would experience better health. Yet, despite knowing all this we may continue to make choices that go against this knowledge, and as a result we suffer or do not experience optimal physical, mental and emotional health. This is what is meant by “failure of the intellect.”
We’ve all done this, but why? What is the cause of not wanting to let go of habits and patterns that we know are not supportive for our mental, physical and emotional health and well-being? The answer is: the ego. The ego is attached to how we act now based upon the input from our senses. It is attached to the world through the senses and makes choices based upon immediate sensory pleasure or pain. Most of the time, the ego opts for pleasure. But the ego is not only negative – it serves a purpose. We are all spiritual beings connected to one Source – whether we call that God, the Divine, the Universe, etc. – we are all interconnected and One. We are all manifestations of this “oneness” but we each have a unique path to fulfill in the material world. In order to fulfill our life purpose we have to differentiate ourselves as individuals. The ego serves this purpose of differentiating me from you. In other words, the part of us that is connected to the larger spiritual energy of our existence is the higher Self or Soul. Our ego is the part connected to the physical world and differentiates us as individuals. We need both, but when we over-identify with the ego and neglect the needs of the higher Self, we become over-attached to our sensory experience in the world. We make choices based solely on the immediate pleasure that results from the sensory experience rather than on the choices that would bring about the greatest harmony and well-being for body, mind and spirit. The higher Self, or Soul, is focused on the highest ideals, which lead one to make choices based upon spiritual growth and liberation from suffering, rather than on short-term gratification.
So, what does this mean for us in a practical sense? We suffer when our mind is restless, anxious, angry. We suffer when our body is ailing, tired, heavy, and in pain. We suffer when our emotions are turbulent. The choices we make on a daily basis can either exacerbate those symptoms or alleviate those symptoms. You have the power to heal all of these symptoms and states of suffering. But we must make choices regarding our day-to-day actions in order to reap the rewards. What I see time and again is that once people begin to make choices based upon their health and well-being and experience the benefits of that, letting go of those short-term pleasure-based sensory experiences does not feel like a sacrifice because the benefits outweigh the costs.
These choices do not have to be a complete overhaul that happens overnight. I work with my patients on taking small steps overtime. You may not be ready to give up certain habits, but there are probably healthy practices you’re willing to incorporate. The path to healing is paved with one step at a time – sometimes those steps are leaps and sometimes they’re just baby steps. Using your intellect to make one healthy choice per day, no matter how small, will help to lay the foundation of a long-term practice, resulting in a healthy body and mind. Here are a few “baby steps” that you can choose to start today. I encourage you to pick just one and try practicing this every day for the next week:
- Scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper every morning before brushing your teeth
- Drink one 8-oz cup of warm water upon waking
- Go to bed by 10pm
- Wake with the sunrise. Keep your blinds open so that the sunlight shines through in the morning. This will help you to wake early.
- Upon waking, do 5 minutes of deep belly breathing
- For one meal per day, take 3-5 slow breaths or say grace beforehand
A choice leads to action. One small action repeated over time becomes habit. Once you’ve incorporated this and feel the benefits of it, you’ll be ready for the next one. The first step is to use your intellect to make the choice that favors the higher Self, which leads to optimal mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being. With clarity of mind and strength of body, you become more aligned with your higher Self and your day-to-day life becomes a manifestation of your Soul’s purpose.