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Ayurveda in the Wise Earth Tradition

by Jim Whitham(more info)

listed in ayurveda, originally published in issue 113 - July 2005

Ayurveda in the Wise Earth tradition is a school of practice developed by Swamini Mayatitananda (Mother Maya). She is a pre-eminent Vedic monk and a spiritual mother to thousands of people whom she has helped to heal from life-threatening challenges and diseases. She healed herself of ovarian cancer at the age of 23 and returned to India to study the ancient tradition of Ayurvedic medicine and Vedanta. Coming from a long lineage of Ayurvedic healers, Swamini Mayatitananda teaches the original grass roots form of Ayurveda as a system of preventative health care at the Wise Earth School of Ayurveda in North Carolina USA. Her teachings and books have led to her recent nomination as one of the 13 most influential women in the world.

Linda Bretherton (Vani) studied under Mother Maya’s guidance at Wise Earth School, where her particular and very special gifts were recognized. Mother Maya personally asked Linda to help spread the Wise Earth mission in the UK and Europe. This led to the development of the Wise Earth School UK in Cheshire.

Wise Earth’s philosophy is founded upon a firm commitment to rebuilding the relationship between self and natural rhythms. The earth and all life forms are seen to be an interrelated whole. We share the same atomic and molecular structures and the same building blocks. What happens to one part affects the whole. Our loss of this sense of connection has led to the malaise that is damaging the planet. Our planet is a wonderful living entity; the atmosphere that we live in, the oxygen, the weather systems, the natural resources, the earth and the sea, the animal and plant life are all connected. This connection provides humans with a burden of responsibility towards the planet in environmental terms.

The problem is that we have actually lost touch with something very important; the ability to know ourselves. Despite any technological advances in our world, despite any amount of material success, we are all made from the same elements as ancient men. We are natural beings in a natural world that is currently suffering from neglect. Our unbalanced lifestyles create all illness and disease. Whole populations, whole societies have lost touch with their foundations; we have all suffered this to a large extent, losing the sense of our real selves and especially our physical world and the less visible but equally powerful inner life that gives us strength.

Ayurveda in the Wise Earth Tradition is a complete science of wellbeing based upon acquiring knowledge of our individual constitution and relating that to our nutritional, spiritual and environmental needs. These factors are influenced by three underlying principles which we will examine in more detail. They are Ahimsa, Cosmic Memory and Sadhana.

Ahimsa

Ahimsa is the Vedic principle that forms a central aspect of Wise Earth Ayurveda, and is most easily summarized as the conscious act of non-violence and non-hurtfulness. It is a powerful concept. Ahimsa represents a commitment to living in balance with oneself and in harmony with nature, and a determination to ending all killing. Our human form is the temporary custodian of thoughts, knowledge and the ability to organize and use resources. What we do to others, we do to ourselves at all levels of existence.

An organizing principle of consciousness maintains atoms and molecules in structural arrangements that are sustained by energy, creating life. These arrangements are temporary; we come into being, we live and die and we return to the earth to become part of the next cycle of life. From the macrocosm to the microcosm, all life forms change; we live and we die; all life forms, climate, geology and the elements of our earth change and evolve. The constant factor within these changes is that of organizing life force and conscious energy.

Ahimsa begins with our thoughts and speech. Negative thoughts ultimately kill us; we cause hurt and damage by what we think, say and do. Our thoughts may remain unspoken, our words may be spoken in a quiet voice, but they still have power. Negative thinking is a “grievous act of aggression. Every battle, war or fight, whether personal or political sprang from someone’s disharmonious thought.”[1]

Thought is the most powerful tool we have. Thought generates words and words generate actions. The ability of powerful narrators, politicians and the like to move and motivate people has led to major human triumphs and to untold human suffering. That same power resides, however, in even the quietest thought and tiniest voice.

Ahimsa, in Wise Earth teachings, is essential to the survival of the species and the planet. If the paramount Karma of humanity is to manifest peace then we must first understand what it means to live peacefully. Peace cannot be found without the personal cultivation of inner harmony and health for all humankind and compassion for all species. “Health cannot be partial to the human species at the expense of other species… every species has a primordial and fundamental right to live. Vegetarianism as a way of peaceful living is a primal necessity towards the cultivation of ahimsa – inner harmony, inner health and world peace. The senseless violence inherent in killing animals today massively corrupts humanity’s intrinsic sense of peace.”[2]

We have, through our desires and actions, created an inhumane and irreverential food industry geared to the slaughter of animals on a vast scale, and at the same time we have removed ourselves from intimate knowledge and understanding of those creatures that we see only in packaged chunks. We import food from around the world, disregarding our nutritional needs and our bodies’ responses to seasonal rhythms.

Cosmic Memory

The Wise Earth theory of cosmic memory has parallels with Jung’s theory of collective unconscious and other theories on morphic resonance and aspects of quantum physics, string theory and attractor patterns in nature.

Tissues and cells have the capacity to ‘remember’ their pre-ordained function. Each cell in our body grows from our initial conception to be a part of a whole system. Each cell ‘knows’ where it belongs, whether it be in our eyes, nails, heart, feet or skin. The cells know their location and function in our bodies, just as they do in a lion or a fish or a tree or a blade of grass.

This memory exists in the DNA of all life forms. Our collective memory also allows behaviours, attitudes and instinctual knowledge to be passed on. A maternal response is built into a woman’s genes; trees know how to produce seeds; the seeds know how to grow and become saplings; saplings know how to grow and become trees capable of producing more seeds.

In this very fashion, food contains the genetic information and memory of its historical function. The act of choosing, preparing and eating food, of caring for our environment and of paying attention to the way we live and breathe resounds with our own cosmic memory. Food is the only medium that carries ojas, prana and tejas (the three gunas, or primordial conditions of the universe) into our bodies. Food takes us through the complete cycle of being; the food cycle is our complete memory, from seed to sprout to plant to fruit. Eating is remembering and food is the most powerful transformer of consciousness in human life.

The Five Elements: the Basis of Life

The Vedic texts, the origins of Ayurveda in the Wise Earth Tradition, describe how each and every living thing is composed of the same five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space. We are formed from the same ingredients as a tree or a squirrel, a grain of sand or a drop of rain. The earth is our physical body and is solid and grounding. Water is its fluid and, like the sea, can be calm or turbulent. Fire is the acids and enzymes of the body and the sun’s rays that directly affect all life forms and the environment. Air is the prana, the breath, the life force which stimulates movement. Space is the vibration of all vital systems together, when stillness and all creative activity occur.

Although all five elements are present in each of us, usually two of the elements predominate to form the three main body types/doshas known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The subject of body types/doshas is something that requires detailed study.

It is important that we understand these five elements and how we interact with them on a daily basis. The elements have their greatest effect on us through the tastes in our food.

Six Tastes

In Wise Earth Aired, wellbeing and health are initiated by nutrition and in particular by taste. Taste triggers responses that go deep into our psyche and which have a major impact on our awareness. So much of our instinctive healing response is lost when we use herbs in tablet, pill and capsule form. It is essential that we work directly with herbs and spices in our nutrition; the sensation of taste directly triggers the healing response within our bodies. Nutrition builds the cells in our bodies, and the six tastes of Ayurveda are critical to maintaining cellular health.

According to the principle of rasa, there are six essential tastes: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. These tastes originate from the transformation of the five elements within nature’s six seasons. All the tastes are necessary to our immunologic and spiritual functions and the intrinsic tastes of nature, emanating from the five elements, transmit the vibrations that our bodies need to replenish our physical, emotional and spiritual rhythms. When these tastes are absent, we suffer. “Taste plays a critical role in nurturing, nourishing and healing the body. It is a vital part of the process of nutrition. This complex chain of reactions begins with the sensory perception of taste, which leads to the mental reception of it by the brain cells, which beckon the appetite. The seers describe appetite as the total intelligence of the body acting in accord with its external surrounding.

“The tastes of the food we eat have a critical influence on our consciousness and health. Every cell, atom and molecule in the body has a rudimentary response to each of the six tastes.”3 This response is vibrationary in nature and when the tastes are absent we lose that particular cellular memory; we begin to lose a part of our intrinsic nature. The presence of the six tastes in our daily intake of food is critical to our welfare.

All six tastes form the basis, in varying degrees, for all the foods and principles of nature. The extent to which each taste is used is largely dependent on one’s dosha.

Sweet is the dominant taste, produced by the water and earth elements. The sweet taste increases bodily tissue, nurtures the body and relieves hunger.
Pungent is formed from the elements of air and fire. It helps stimulate appetite and maintains metabolism and the balance of secretions in the body.
Salty is useful in small quantities by all types. It helps to cleanse bodily tissues and activates digestion.
Sour is formed from the earth and fire elements and helps digestion and the elimination of wastes.
Bitter comes from the elements of air and space, can be used by all types in small quantities. Bitter detoxifies the blood, controls skin ailments and tones the organs.
Astringent is formed from the elements of earth and air and can be used in medicinal quantities by all types. The astringent principle helps to reduce bodily secretion and constricts bodily tissue.

Why is Sadhana and Balance so Important?

Many things in life are subject to change from forces that seem to be out of our control. Our working conditions change, personal goals and aspirations change, new problems come along to challenge us, loved ones move away, etc. These changing conditions disturb the natural flow of our energy; they create disharmony. Achieving mental and physical balance through daily activities helps to rebuild that lost quality. Harmony counterbalances all of the change in life because harmony is unchanging. Harmony is a living force within the heart and mind of each person that can be generated through Sadhana. Sadhana re-creates energies and rhythms that we have forgotten.

Wise Earth teachings show us that Sadhana is the active meditation of food preparation, of mindfulness in our daily cleansing rituals, of close attention to sound, and to the way we breathe and use breath in our lives. Daily routines are rituals that help us to establish the pre-requisite conditions for attaining harmony; the daily preparation of food is a vital ritual and is absolutely central to all Wise Earth philosophy.

Naturally healthy food is essential; we only receive the quality of nutrients that we require through such food. We must also ensure that our state of mind allows good nutrition to occur; a negative state of mind contaminates any food no matter how healthy it is. Sadhana develops that state of mind essential to the complete process of nutrition. When human life has become fragmented and unbalanced, as it has for the past 150 years, the only way to restore that balance is through conscious, structured thought and activity.

The daily routine of food preparation is seen as a sacred act of renewal. We take in the five elements of the universe through a natural and essential daily activity and our bodies rebuild themselves at a cellular level from these same universal elements. To do this we also choose food that helps keep our own body type/dosha balanced and fully functioning. We select and create colours, textures, aromas and physical elements of our environment that compliment rather than aggravate our dosha. We use our hands and the sensation of touch. In Wise Earth Ayurveda we pay special attention to using the hands for food preparation, for measuring and for developing healing energy from the food that we handle.

The Vedas believe that the hands and feet are conduits of the five elements – space, air, fire, water, earth and refer to them as ‘organs of action’. By being conscious of this we engage in moment- to- moment remembering of the five elements of our nature

Case Studies

Eileen Wray and Gina Wright both attended programmes at Wise Earth School and have made comments about their experiences.

Eileen Wray had been on anti-depressants for nearly a year. “I felt like I was just existing in a black hole, day in day out. There was no light in my eyes, no life. I have suffered depression for many years. My inner feeling was that I wanted more than anything to help myself and my goal was to get off the anti-depressants. I felt I was dead inside.”

She joined one of our Wise Earth programmes and learned about nutrition, inner healing work and mediation: “…I felt it was working for me, something was shifting. I also felt as though I was healing myself and this was an overwhelming feeling. To be honest, it’s amazing the way I continue to feel. My husband commented on how he had noticed a big difference in me. Even my boss has noticed how I’m smiling more and laughing more. For me Ayurveda is a life-changing experience. I can now see the light coming back into my life. I’m stepping out of the black hole”.

Gina Wright is also following an Ayurvedic lifestyle and first became interested when she couldn’t cope with Irritable Bowel Syndrome any more. “IBS had become the bane of my life,” she says. “I was suffering and I was also fed up of taking tablets for it. I tried so many different tablets for my condition and nothing seemed to work.

“From the Wise Earth courses I began Ayurveda practices at home. I am aware that I was neglecting myself, and now, to avoid disease setting in, I work on health prevention. I start in the morning with chakra chanting. I use prayer beads and meditate most nights; this is a good time for me as the meditation helps me to wind down, ready for bed. I also follow a cleansing routine which was advised by Vani at Wise Earth and I take an herbal compound twice a day which helps to clear out toxins from my body. I think more about my own dosha and what I should be eating.

I have a full-time job and a busy life; I’m incorporating Ayurveda into my life as best as possible. I’m doing this to create balance for my own sense of improved wellbeing – I don’t want to lose that. It’s good to know that at the School I can train to be a Practitioner and one day I would like to take this into the school where I work and share this wonderful and healthy approach to life.

References

1.    Bri Tiwar M. The Path of Practise. Penguin Books. P264.
2.    Swamini Mayatitanada. Wise Earth Premier Correspondence Course. P5.
3.    Swamini Mayatitanada. Wise Earth Premier Correspondence Course. P7.

Further Information

We are the sole Wise Earth School in the UK. For details of all workshops and courses call Tel: 01925 652 435 or 0870 750 8363 or info@idcinstitute.com; www.wiseayurveda.com

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About Jim Whitham

Educational Director Jim Whitham, Linda's business partner, is an educationalist with a background in Design. He is responsible for materials development of materials and provides direct support to Linda. Jim has many years of experience in the development of educational activities at all levels and supervises the quality systems that surround the accredited programmes. He may be contacted via jim@idcinstitute.com Spiritual guide Linda (Vani) has a BA in Communication and has studied Integrative Coaching with the Debbie Ford Institute in San Diego, California. She is also a Dr Bach mentor, examiner and practitioner.

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