General Ayurveda articles

Ayurveda, Service, and Enlightenment

Each person is put on this planet for a purpose. Ultimately, according to Sankhya philosophy, our highest purpose is simply to have experience. That will happen no matter what we do. The question is, what will we do and what will the impact be upon our life and our soul?

If we are living in harmony with the rhythms of life, the nature of our service varies with our stage of life. During our formative years (kapha time), our primary role is to learn and grow. At this age, we generally take more than we give. This is natural. Service that does occur is more of an experiment designed to further our learning about life. When a Boy Scout performs community service, the lessons they are learning generally exceed the service they are providing.

It is during the second phase of life that nature has intended for us to become serviceful. This phase could be called the service phase. Ayurveda calls it the pitta phase. At this time, we take our preparation and put it to use. The quality of our preparation significantly impacts the quality of the service we provide. This phase begins biologically between the ages of 13 and 16 though we generally don't enter this phase in modern society till between the ages of 18 and 22. Some enter even later. When we do, we take on a job or a career. This time of life is designed such that each person becomes a part of the community, providing a service that allows the community to function. In the ideal capitalistic society, each person is rewarded according to the quality, quantity and importance of the services provided.

During the third phase of life, nature has intended for us to reflect upon the work we have provided and the life we have lived. This is the vata time of life and could be called the phase of reflection and teaching. This period generally begins between the ages of 55 and 70. During this time of our lives, each person benefits most by spending more time in meditation and reflection and cultivating their spiritual connection. While service is winding down, it is not altogether over. The person in their vata time of life, reflecting upon what they have learned, now has a responsibility to share and pass on the wisdom and experience they have gained. This can occur in several ways. One is through spending time with those beginning their service phase. Those in the vata time of life make the best coaches. Technology may change but not the fundamentals that drive individuals. There is great value in the wisdom that resides in the heart of the elderly. Another way for those in the vata time life to serve is to be of some assistance in childrearing. While it is not practical for those in the vata phase to take on a primary role, a supplemental role that supports the family unit is of value and often reduces the stress upon the parents in their pitta phase.

Sadly, reflecting the dysfunction of the family unit and society as a whole, those in their vata time of life do not often receive the opportunity to share what they have learned. Often rejected by their own children or kept at a distance, the elderly die with their secret wisdom. The person who enters the vata time of life and is unable to serve the next generation is also going to be less healthy as a result. Thus, it is a lose-lose situation between the elderly and their children. To keep healthy, the elder can choose to share their knowledge with those who are receptive. Through volunteer organizations in most communities, the elderly can find fulfillment in passing on their knowledge and wisdom. The elder must often seek out this resource, however, as no one else will do it for them. Thus, each person has ultimate control over to what extent they serve.

At any stage of life, service is important. Service helps the youth learn, the adult contribute to the functioning of society, and the elder pass on their knowledge and wisdom. When service is provided in the spirit of selflessness, service transcends the realm of the physical and enters the spiritual. Provided in this manner, service becomes a means of exhausting karma and liberating the soul as the individual moves closer to enlightenment. However, when service is provided merely for what a person will receive in return, karma is accumulated and the chains that bind the soul to the physical realm become stronger. This individual continues on in the drama of the physical illusion and all the pleasures and suffering that come with it.

Recognition of the phases of life provides each individual with a road map of understanding how to best be of service. Surrender to the divine currents that move us through these phases is a pre-requisite to self-less service and the spiritual benefits that come with it. Health is achieved by humbly providing service to the best of one's ability.

Ayurveda, Spirituality and Meditation

Ayurveda, the traditional healing system of India, is often looked at as a way of optimizing the functioning of the body. Ayurveda is capable of assisting in the healing of many conditions as well as extending life itself. The knowledge of Ayurveda has its roots in the Vedas, the sacred texts of India from which many spiritual philosophies and religions have sprung. These include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Yoga and others. It is a science not only of the physical body, but it goes beyond into the understanding of consciousness itself.

Ayurveda's sister, Yoga, is quite well known for its physical stretching exercises. Yoga is actually much more than this--it is a complete science and philosophy leading to enlightenment. Likewise, Ayurveda is much more than a science of understanding what foods are right for you. It is a science of using health as the basis of one’s journey toward enlightenment. In fact, Ayurveda and Yoga are two sides of one coin. Ayurveda keeps the physical body healthy so that one can pursue spiritual goals, while yoga is the path of spirituality. Ayurveda is not a religion any more than yoga is a religion. They are spiritual sciences applicable to one’s journey regardless of religious faith. Both sciences support a person on their journey toward self-realization or the direct knowing of their nature as spirit or soul. Scriptural study, whether it comes from the East or West, illuminates this journey.

Ayurvedic psycho-spirituality is based on the idea that we are all souls growing and evolving toward enlightenment or reunification with God. This can easily be viewed as entering the gates of heaven--for what is more heavenly then becoming one with God? Along this journey of our evolution there are naturally challenges which inspire us to grow and evolve. Some come to us in the form of health challenges; others are challenges in relationships or finances. They are, in a sense, gifts--for without them, there would be no motivating force behind our growth as spirits.

The three gunas are the grounds from which we come to understand ourselves emotionally and spiritually. Gunas are defined as the qualities of nature.

Sattva is the quality of clarity and purity. When our minds are sattvic, or pure, there is a natural innate connection between ourselves and God. With this awareness, our highest most virtuous qualities manifest. Our minds are much like a still lake and the light that reflects through it is the light of God.

Rajas is a state of activity and distraction where we forget our true nature as spirit and get wrapped up in the dramas of our lives. As a result we get caught in the experience of emotion and the challenging feelings of fear, worry, anxiety, anger, resentment, and attachment. If you imagine the clear lake of sattva, rajas is that lake after a rock has been thrown in and now it is disturbed. Each wave is a challenging emotion.

Tamas is a state of darkness and inertia. In this state of being, not only are we unaware of our connection with God or spirit, but we spiral down into our own darkness and become harmful to ourselves or others. With our darker nature being dominant, we take actions such as violence or vindictive behaviors, or possibly addiction and suicide. Any harmful act reflects our own tamasic nature. If you recall the clear lake of sattva which had become rajasic when the rock was thrown in, now it has been stirred up and is muddy. The darkness is tamas.

It is our spiritual journey to move from dark to light, from ignorance to awareness, or from tamas to sattva. It is said in Ayurveda that Rajas and Tamas are the causes of disease. The actions taken and the emotions felt by the rajasic and tamasic mind upset the balance of the three Doshas, leading to physical disease. Sattva is the sole cause of health. Disease cannot affect the sattvic person--the one who has awakened into the light, therefore we could say that disease is the end result of forgetting our true nature as spirit. Once we forget, we act out of harmony with nature. These actions bring about disease. Healing involves the cultivation of harmony or sattva.

Ayurveda sees disharmony as the sole cause of disease. Healing takes place through a harmonious relationship with our environment. Ayurveda prescribes many regimens to bring about harmony or sattva in our lives. These regimens are numerous and to the beginner can quickly seem overwhelming to perform. Recommended actions include eating slowly in a peaceful environment, using proper aroma and color therapy, going to bed early, awakening with the sun or earlier, applying oil to the body, meditating, doing yoga, and many more.

Students often ask why it is so difficult to adopt a harmonious lifestyle. The answer is simple. It is because we are not yet fully awakened to our spiritual nature. How can we live in harmony if we are not connected to our higher purpose in life? Without knowledge of higher awareness, it is our human nature to act as though we are only our senses and our mind. Our senses fear what is uncomfortable and desire only what gives us pleasure or great highs. The creation of harmony in our lives brings with it a rejection of that which brings us our highs, for each high is just a fleeting moment destined to pass and leave us desiring more.

Ayurvedic and yogic practices bring us peace, not highs. They sustain us; they do not burn us out. Yet to get to this place, one must go through the fire of awakening our self awareness. This process is honest and not always pleasurable. With honesty about ourselves at first there is discomfort and pain, so we move away from it. We drop those practices which, though difficult, lead to harmony and light because the light hurts our eyes. So how do we go about creating harmony? How do we become successful travelers on our journey?

There are many roads of empowerment but none is greater than our own direct self experience of God. This is achieved primarily through meditation and prayer. In the quietude of consciousness lies the light of God, the infinite. This light can fill us and sustain us, it can empower us to create change. The more that we come to know our nature as God or spirit, the more we are empowered to act harmoniously. The process begins for many with formal meditation. It ends when we meditate every action in our lives. When our lives become a meditation, ego slips away, exposing our true nature. Now we are ready to join pure consciousness, pure awareness. We become one with God. 

Ayurvedic Education in the New Millenium

As we move further into the new millennium, there is a growing fascination with the traditional wisdom of ancient India. Perhaps, this is because it is based on laws of nature that are timeless. Hence, it is as relevant to our well being today as it was thousands of years ago. This is especially true for Ayurveda, the ancient and holistic healing system, which has been practiced in India for over 5,000 years.
Ayurveda is a complete medical science. There are even many Ayurvedic specialties including geriatrics and pediatrics along with internal medicine. In India today, Ayurvedic medicine flourishes along side Western allopathic medicine. Many Indian physicians are trained in both disciplines. While the structure of the professions may seem similar in some aspects, their understanding of disease and approach to improving health are entirely different.
Western health care systems are based on statistical models of healing. Rather than healing the individual who has a disease, Western medicine focuses on healing only the disease. Statistics tell physicians what methods will alleviate the symptoms of disease in most people. This method is useful for improving public health but does little for the individual who does not fit into the statistical norm. Ayurveda understands that each person is a unique individual and each person's path toward health and healing is equally unique.
Ayurveda is based on the idea that each person has a fundamental balance of energies in their body which make up their particular constitution, with each person's constitution being uniquely their own. Determined at the moment of conception, an individual's constitution determines what is in harmony and what is out of harmony for each person. If a person exposes themselves to environmental influences (sound, color, aroma, and food) that are not harmonious with their fundamental nature, disease will result! As a person reestablishes a harmonious lifestyle, people heal and diseases no longer express themselves. Ayurveda understands that symptoms are only the body's way of communicating disharmony. When an area of disharmony is corrected, the symptoms disappear.
By contrast, the Western method of drug treatment defines cure as the alleviation of symptoms. This is most often accomplished by providing patients drugs that cover up symptoms. This method essentially silences the body's voice. With the voice (symptom) silenced, a person is able to continue a disharmonious lifestyle. However, the body's voice cannot be silenced forever. Eventually, either the symptoms return or new symptoms emerge-often more severe than the original.
There are many holistic health traditions and each has its own idea about the cause and correction of disease. Ayurveda is unique in that in begins with an understanding of a person physically, emotionally and spiritually. In this way, Ayurveda is truly holistic, accounting for the whole individual. Most alternative health care systems only address either the physical body or the mind-body connection. Ayurveda's body-mind-spirit approach is capturing the hearts of people throughout America who realize that we are indeed individuals at each and every level. One of Ayurveda's basic tenants is that nothing is right for everyone and everything is right for someone. This principle teaches that all disciplines and therapies have value. Ayurveda is a science of understanding what will work best for a specific person. It is not a dogmatic science stating that everybody must live one way or take one path toward healing. Ayurveda is defined as the "science of life". Hence, it encompasses everything that affects one's life. Ayurveda is a path of finding out what has value for an individual. Some people thrive on spicy foods while others get indigestion. Some people need more sleep than others do. Through Ayurveda, people learn what foods, herbs, colors, aromas and sounds are best for them.
In today's modern world, stress is the number one cause of disease and unhappiness. Ayurveda's basic principle is that where there is harmony, there is health. Where there is disharmony there is disease. Ayurveda is the path of returning to harmony. This concept of harmony means living in harmony with one's environment through each of the five senses. This way of life is stress free. And, by reducing stress on the system, Ayurveda heals. Ayurveda focuses on natural, holistic therapies that create an optimum environment in the body for healing to take place. By maximizing the body's healing potential, the body has the best possible chance of healing itself. Ayurveda utilizes dietary, herbal, aroma, color, sound and massage therapies as well as yoga and meditation to bring about healing.
Today's Ayurvedic practitioners are well trained in each of these areas allowing them to work with nature to correct imbalances within the body. In America today, Ayurveda is growing into a complete health care profession that is based on timeless natural laws of health and healing. The Ayurvedic profession, though relatively new in America, is growing rapidly. Demand for Ayurvedic practitioners is also growing rapidly.
A career in Ayurveda is rewarding on every level. The California College of Ayurveda (CCA) was the first state-approved College for the clinical study of Ayurveda in the U.S. The CCA has a clear focus and intention to thoroughly train Ayurvedic practitioners. Our program leads to certification as a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist (C.A.S.). A C.A.S. is one part coach, one part counselor, one part teacher, and one part guide along the journey. Providing healthcare through Ayurveda unleashes the potential of the human body, mind and spirit.
Since opening our doors in 1995, more than 100 C.A.S. practitioners have graduated and established practices. And, nearly 50 more will graduate each year. In 1998, with the help of the College's students and graduates we formed the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine (CAAM). And, in 1999, we helped form the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA). As the Ayurvedic profession has grown, the College has evolved to meet the changing needs of the profession. Today, the College's Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist program is more extensive than ever before.
The main center of the California College of Ayurveda lies in Grass Valley. In addition, the College has expanded to offer satellite classes in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as Southern California. The California College of Ayurveda is the largest and most successful college of its kind in the country! New C.A.S. programs begin every few months and are offered in two formats: Full Time and Extended Weekend courses.

In addition to its educational facility, the College runs the world class Ayurveda Healthcare Clinic. People from across the country receive the highest quality of Ayurvedic health care in an environment that is nurturing as well as academic. The College's clinic offers personal consultations and health care coaching to help people understand their true constitutional nature and make positive lifestyle and dietary changes. The College's clinic also offers pancha karma services.
Pancha Karma is the process of purifying and rejuvenating the body. Utilizing specialized massage techniques, oil therapies and other exotic techniques, pancha karma is a process a patient goes through to create the deepest physical and emotional healing possible. Patients often receive 5-10 days of continuous therapies lasting 2-3 hours each day. This special program removes toxins from the system and restores the internal vital energy to the body. The process is both rejuvenating and deeply spiritual.
Healing is a journey. The path to optimal health is neither short nor easy. Ayurveda, however, offers clear guidelines on how to succeed along that path. Most patients who enter into Ayurvedic care continue with a practitioner for 6-12 months. During this time the practitioner develops and implements a program of care based upon the uniqueness of the individual. And, most importantly, the practitioner educates the patient to understand their constitution and how they relate to the world around them. With this knowledge, a person can create and environment supportive to the healing process.
People are like plants. If plants receive the proper quality and quantity of sunlight, food and water, they will thrive and produce lots of flowers and have a rich color. However, if the environment is less than optimal, the plant may live but it will not thrive. It's color will not be as rich nor its flowers as numerous. People are very much the same. If the environment is not optimal, people live but do not thrive. Creating an optimal environment takes time and should not be rushed. It involves subtle, though significant lifestyle changes. Making these changes parallel a change or growth in consciousness. As consciousness evolves, the experience of life changes from one of unhappiness and disease to one of joy and optimal health.

Cultivating the Ayurvedic Profession

In 1995, the California College of Ayurveda (CCA) opened its doors with the commitment to provide the finest Ayurvedic education available in the United States, and to provide Ayurvedic education on par with our colleagues in India. Today, over twenty years later, this goal has became a reality.
Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India. Translated from the Sanskrit, Ayurveda means "the knowledge or wisdom of life". While a medical science, its scope enters into the realms of the spirit and the transformation of consciousness. Ayurveda's fundamental philosophy is that disease is the end result of living out of harmony with our environment, and in order to re-establish optimal health, we must discover where we are living out of harmony and then adopt a life style which brings us back into harmony. This simple philosophy takes the individual onto a journey which goes deep inside of one’s nature.
Utilizing methods of care such as Pancha Karma (detoxification), proper diet, yoga, meditation, herbalism, aroma therapy, color therapy, sound therapy and lifestyle analysis, Ayurveda guides the individual back onto their path toward optimal health. We relate to our environment through our five senses. When we have harmonious relationships, our bodies and minds are healthy and stable. However, when we indulge our senses in disharmonious ways our bodies suffer and disease is the end result. We make choices every day; our health is the end result of our choices. While the benefits of a proper diet are well known, we also make choices of how to use our other senses. For instance, each day with our sense of vision, we can either choose to look upon beauty or upon violence. Simply surrounding ourselves with flowers aids our healing process and strengthens the body and mind. Gazing at nature’s gifts brings harmonious energy into our body. Looking at violence on television, movies or in real life causes our minds to become toxic. Because of the mind-body relationship, our bodies follow by becoming ill. We also see this happen when we sit in front of a computer for long hours or get lost in the concrete jungle of the city. Spending time in nature aids our body’s healing process. As important as vision is, all of our senses are equally important. Taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell bring energy into our bodies. If we take in harmonious energy, health is the end result. In Ayurveda we recognize that everyone is an individual and has a unique constitution. This constitution determines what is harmonious for you and what is disharmonious. Nothing is right for everyone and everything is right for someone! Hence, Ayurveda is a path of self knowledge which guides harmonious action.
Becoming popular in the 1980’s, interest in Ayurveda has grown steadily leading to the formation of the first formal Ayurvedic colleges in this country. Approved by the State of California, The California College of Ayurveda is the first state-approved college for the study of Ayurvedic medicine in the country. Committed to excellence, the CCA offers a two-year training program which combines classroom education and independent study culminating in a six-month clinical internship, either in the student’s own community or at CCA’s clinic, the Center for Optimal Health.
The College attracts a diverse body of students from around the world. Considered the first clinically-oriented program of study to exist outside of India, the CCA program has been approved for its authenticity and comprehensive approach through Ayurved/Shikshan Mandal, a government-authorized accrediting agency in India. This acknowledgment allows these graduates to perform an additional internship in India if they desire.
Dr. David Frawley, Director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies in New Mexico and author of Ayurvedic Healing and the Yoga of Herbs, states: "The CCA is the finest Ayurvedic educational institution in the United States. At a time when Ayurveda is growing rapidly, the CCA sets the standard for educational quality. Their program of study and internship have brought Ayurvedic education to a whole new level in the West. They are truly leaders within the profession."
At a time when so many are taking a second look at how we approach health care in the United States, the role of Ayurveda should not be underestimated. The CCA, in conjunction with other leaders in the Ayurvedic profession such as Dr. Deepak Chopra, are challenging the way ordinary people view their bodies, their health, and the cause of disease. As we establish an independent Ayurvedic profession in this country, the impact that we will make will change the course of health care forever.

Dealing with Conflict: A Yogic Perspective

Conflict appears to be a part of many lives. It seems to be all around us. It is prevalent in the Ayurvedic and Yogic communities, in the family and on the world stage. To be alive as a separate entity on this planet sometimes means bumping into other people's separate identities.
We identify ourselves with many things: our bodies, our clothing, our personality, our work and our history are only a few. Most people also identify themselves with their beliefs and perceptions. We tend to believe that how we see the world is the right view of reality.
People of pitta nature are most challenged by overly identifying with their perceptions. The fire in the mind is capable of burning away false illusion and revealing truth. This occurs when the mind is perfectly clear and the individual is purely sattvic. As most people are not purely sattvic, there is some distortion to what a person of pitta nature perceives.
Taking their perceptions as real leads a person of pitta nature toward intense feelings. When a person of pitta nature's perceptions conflict with another person's, the feeling that arises is anger. Anger generates the actions of conflict. In the bar, it creates a brawl, in the family an argument; in political organizations it generates angry letters and counter letters to the membership. Much of society deals with anger in the "civilized" fashion of lawsuits. There must be a lot of anger, as there are a lot of lawsuits. In the macrocosm of a country's collective consciousness, nations deal with anger in the form of war. In the microcosm of our own lives, all harmful actions (physical or otherwise) taken out of anger and frustration is an expression of our warlike nature. Pitta is the warrior. Always right, the war becomes a passionate, self righteous conflict.
George Bush is a warrior. Ariel Sharron is a warrior. Sadam Hussein is a warrior. Bin Laden is a warrior. Some members of CAAM are warriors, some students are warriors and some teachers are warriors. Warriors live for the righteous fight. Warriors live to be right. Warriors destroy to be right. That is, until they awaken.
As the person of pitta natures becomes more sattvic, the mind becomes clear and the pitta person perceives the higher truth. There comes the realization that each soul is growing, learning and evolving and taking the best actions they can based on where they are on their journey. I really don't believe that anyone wakes up in the morning as says to themselves, "Okay, I'm a bad guy, how can I do some really bad things today." Rather, most people rationalize their actions in a manner that makes them feel good about themselves and look good to others. Ordinary people believe their own rhetoric and believe they are right.
Having pierced the illusion, the sattvic pitta person chooses to remain above the maya (the play of consciousness) and does not engage their enemy in battle. To do so only is to deny the Truth they see so clearly. In Vedanta, "Tat Twam Asi" means "thou art that". When we engage others in righteous holy wars, we are our own enemy. When we harm them, we harm ourselves and we remain bound to the wheel of life, death and suffering.
In the absence of anger there is both compassion and amusement. There is compassion for the struggling soul and amusement when we find ourselves being drawn into a conflict when we know better. Amusement often acts as a windshield wiper as we drive down the highways of life. Seeing clearly through a clean windshield (the mind) we can exit the highway and take the road less traveled up to the highest summit. From there it is all clear.
Want to live in a peaceful world? We must first make peace with ourselves. Then, we can make peace with our families and our communities. When enough people live this way, we shall no longer express our collective consciousness in the form of War. Peace begins with each one of us. Peace begins with compassion.

Empowerment, Spiritual Growth, and Optimal Health

Ayurvedic health care at its best facilitates a transformation of consciousness leading toward harmonious actions, optimal health, and peace of mind.
There is no real healing without a transformation of consciousness. We create our current life situations. This is true of our entire experience of life: financial, career, material, emotional, relationships, and our health. Realizing that we are the creators of our experience offers us a tremendous opportunity to create the experience that we want to have. After all, only if we have the power to create our experience can we have the power to change it. If our experience now is one of sickness, by taking control over the experience we can re-create a state of health.
The power to create one's experience is what is often called "personal power." It is cultivated by taking responsibility. Real power begins with responsibility. Only by taking responsibility does anyone gain the ability to respond. When we shunt responsibility on to others or onto factors outside of ourselves, we become disempowered. We become the victims of factors that are out of our control.
Vedanta, the great teaching that underlies most Vedic systems of spirituality, teaches that the world we live in is a reflection of what is going on inside of us. It is nothing more and nothing less. "Neti Neti,"--not this, not that--is an important mantra. It is the negation of the outside world and its experience. It focuses truth toward the inside. At our core lies the power to create.
Yes, we are all "creators." We do it every day and most of the time we keep recreating the challenges we experience again and again. We do this subconsciously, ignorant of how to work with the power of creation. Stuck in a circular path of recreation, we figure that the cause of our illnesses and unhappiness must lie outside of ourselves. The cause must be the pathogens, the government, the boss, the employees, the kids, the parents, the corporations, etc., etc. WAKE UP! The cause is inside. That is the only cause that makes a difference.
Most people shy away from taking responsibility. After all, who wants to be responsible for illness and suffering? This is because most of humanity is very JUDGMENTAL. When judgment is added to responsibility it becomes BLAME. No one wants to be blamed for anything. We are quick to accept responsibility for the good in the world and just as quickly shield ourselves from the blame for what goes wrong.
There is no reason to ever accept blame. Take away the judgment and there is only cause and effect. This is the law of KARMA, and karma is nonjudgmental. It is a reflection of past actions. If you do not like the effect, put new causes into action. Create new effects! Vedantic thinking is very empowering!
So the question of the day is, "What are you going to do differently NOW?" I will suggest that, deep down, each person already knows what he or she needs to do differently. Most people, deep inside, recognize the disharmonious actions that they are performing and know that they need to change them. If a person takes some quiet time for self-reflection and inquiry, the changes that need to be made become clear. Doing them is the challenge.
This is where Clinical Ayurvedic Specialists can come in. Our job is to support positive change and growth toward optimal health and peace of mind. Sometimes, our job is as simple as reminding patients to look within and identify their disharmonious actions. Other times, we peek in their lives and help them to identify those actions. Once the actions that need to be changed are identified, our role is simple: hold the patient accountable. We must be a constant reflection of what they already know. Do not be afraid to remind your patients that they have the power to change. Do not be afraid to remind them that they control the outcome of their care. Do not be afraid to give them the power to control their lives. When they take true responsibility for their circumstances and move toward greater harmony, they are harnessing the power of the divine, and this fills up every cell of their body. Healing is a matter for fact. Where there is harmony, there is health. Where there is disharmony, there is disease.
To be effective in helping people accept responsibility for their level of health and peace of mind two things are necessary. First, take responsibility for your own. That's right; begin today and stop blaming others. Second, practice non-judgment. It's not easy, so practice on yourself first before practicing on others. Watch what happens. Watch how your own life begins to change as you stop blaming yourself and start taking full responsibility. You will begin to feel something special you may have never felt before. That special something is "unconditional self love." When you have enough of it, you will naturally begin sharing it. You won't have a choice, your cup will overflow. In your consultations, unconditional love and compassion will create a sacred space for healing to occur. When you purify yourself of judgment, your patients will feel more comfortable opening up and becoming vulnerable with you.
Begin by watching your words. Let go of right and wrong, good and bad, praise and blame, because you can't have one without the other. Change the words as you hear them come out of your mouth. Later, watch your thoughts. Pay attention. Change them too as they arise. Smile within when you catch yourself. That smile is an act of self-compassion.
With practice, we can all become more non-judgmental, compassionate, unconditionally loving people. Through our practices, we can inspire others to become more so as well. With clarity, and some effort, we can take full responsibility for our lives, become divinely empowered individuals, and build lives of greater health and peace of mind. If that is not enlightenment on earth, I don't know what is.

Metals In Ayurvedic Medicine

It was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that some Ayurvedic herbal formulations have been found to contain heavy metals known to be toxic. The herbs analyzed were sold in the Boston area. As soon as the report came out, the California College of Ayurveda was contacted by the media for comment. This prompted us to look further into the story. Here is what we have learned.
The contaminated product was mostly gathered through Indian grocery stores with a 20 mile radius of Boston. The herbs tested included Mahayogaraj guggulu and others containing bhasmas. Bhasmas are metals that go through a purification process that turns them into ash. Because there have been questions in the past about the saftey of bhasmas, these are not supposed to be sold in the United States. Indian groceries however sometimes import through small distributors bypassing US regulations.
We have no reason to suspect the inclusion of any metals from popular suppliers such as Bazaar of India, Om Organics, or Banyan Trading. In addition, here at the California College of Ayurveda, almost every formulation is mixed at our pharmacy from raw herbs and we know exactly what is going into them. Those formulations that we do receive prepared for us are recieved from reputable distributors who have assured us of their purity, and we are not at all concerned.
It should be noted that the pharmaceutical and medical industry love to promote contamination of Indian and Chinese herbs as it suits there interest. You won't see it in American newspapers, but the Indian Supreme Court just ruled against Coca Cola; requiring them to label their product in India as containing pesticides known to be harmful to one's health. This is a political as well as a health issue.
The California College of Ayurveda advocates for the importation clean and pure herbs, and we support controls to assure that only quality herbs are imported from all regions of the world.
It is important to note that there is no such thing as an Ayurvedic herb. Marketers of herbs from Indian have used the name Ayurveda as a tool to sell herbs. In actuality, there are Indian herbs, American herbs, European herbs, South American herbs, and so on. Ayurveda is the paradigm in which it is used. When any herb from any part of the world is used based on the Ayurvedic understanding of the nature of the patient, the nature of the disease and the nature of the substance, this is the practice of Ayurveda.

Om Namo Narayanaya: A Vedic Children’s Story For a Modern Time

Once upon a time, there was a king named Arrogance. King Arrogance was the ruler of the largest kingdom in all the world. Although he ruled only his part of the world, he looked out upon the entire world as his true kingdom and he felt responsible for all of the world’s peoples. King Arrogance was, for the most part, a good king to his people, and his people mostly liked him. King Arrogance wanted the people of the whole world to become like his own people. He wanted them to live the way his own people lived. He wanted them to think the way his own people thought. He wanted to be their king.
There were many smaller kingdoms in the world. One was ruled by another king named King Rage. King Rage was an angry king. Many thought he was a crazy king. He did crazy things and often he brought harm to his own people, and sometimes to the rest of the world. His kingdom was small and he wanted it to be larger.
He did not like King Arrogance because King Arrogance has a larger kingdom and had more power in the world. King Arrogance did not like King Rage because he was not very nice, respectful, or obedient.
One day, the two kings got angry with each other and got into a fight. Then, they decided to go to war. They called all of their soldiers and sent them into battle.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the kingdom, there was an ordinary boy. He was playing outside with a ball. He kicked the ball as hard as he could and the ball rolled down a hill of grass into some bushes and trees. The boy chased the ball and when he found it, he found himself in a beautiful field of flowers. He sat down to admire the beauty of the field and the sweet smelling flowers. There, as he sat, he had a vision. A radiant being floated toward him. The being was both beautiful and awesome, powerful and quiet.
"I am Narayana," the being said. "I am the God of Peace." The boy prostrated before the great God and said, "Why have you come to me?" The God said, “You are the one I have chosen. Go to the battlefield where there is war and bring peace in my name." Then, the magical being disappeared.
The boy did not know what to do. He was, after all, not a great God, but a small boy. How could he bring peace? However, the boy knew that, when God asks you to do something, you should at least do your best. So, he set out for the great battle field.
As he approached the battlefield he saw great bombs exploding. He saw men and woman in uniforms with guns in their hands fighting with one another. He did not know how he could stop anyone from fighting. Who would listen to him? What would he say anyway?
The boy closed his eyes and saw the image of Lord Narayanaya, the God of Peace. With this image firmly in his mind, he walked into the middle of the battlefield and sat down. He kept his eyes closed as if in a dream and continued to see the image of the God of Peace.
The two generals leading their armies saw the boy and ordered their troops to stop fighting so that the boy would not get hurt. When the guns stopped firing they heard the voice of the boy singing the name of the God of Peace. The boy was chanting “Om Namo Narayanaya. Om Namo Narayanaya. Om Namo Narayanaya.” Over and over he chanted.
The two armies stopped and listened as the words resonated from the boy’s lips the boy’s voice echoed through the countryside. Its vibration entered the hearts of the soldiers. Hearing the name of the God of Peace being chanted so beautifully, the two armies dropped their guns. Deeply moved, they walked toward the boy and surrounded him. There they sat, and then began to chant with him. "Om Namo Narayanaya." As they chanted their hearts became purer and purer; arrogance and rage faded away. They felt only the love that was inside of them.
When the two kings heard what was happening they came to the battlefield. They ordered their armies to fight. "Victory for our kingdom!" they each called out. The soldiers did not move. They kept on chanting. The kings picked up a gun each and fired them into the air to scare the soldiers. Still, the soldiers did not move. Still they chanted. "Om Namo Narayanaya."
As the soldiers chanted, the words that resonated from their lips entered into the hearts of the two kings. The words stirred great conflict inside of themselves. One king was moved to sit down and chant with the boy and the soldiers. His heart became pure. The other king could not let go of his pride. He jumped up and down, yelling and screaming. He fired his gun at the soldiers, but struck a rock and ricocheted back. His arrogance and rage died with him. 
Their hearts pure, the soldiers and their one king set out to spread peace throughout the world. Whenever they came to a conflict, they chanted, "Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Namo Narayanaya."
Today, during times of conflict, Yogi’s by themselves or in groups often sit quietly and chant the name of the God of Peace hoping that their words will purify the hearts of those who are in conflict.

The Dharma of the Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist

Dharma means service. A person's dharma is how that person is going to contribute to society. We all have a contribution to make. Together, when everyone is performing their service the world functions well. Like the links in a chain, when all are present and connected, the chain is strong. When someone is missing or not performing their duty, the entire chain becomes less effective.
The term dharma, as it is commonly used, implies a spiritual purpose, a higher purpose beyond one's desires. This is the purpose assigned to you by the divine. It is a purpose that matches your unique gifts and abilities. While it may make you stretch, it also helps you to reach beyond your self-perceived limitations and manifest a greater amount of your potential.
The dharma of the Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist (CAS) is to bring the knowledge and light of Ayurveda to one's community. Through educational programs and one on one consulting, the CAS practices as a one part teacher, one part healer, one part doctor and one part coach on each person's journey toward optimal health and well being. Exactly how each CAS accomplishes this depends upon their own dharma, gifts, abilities and inspiration.
Ayurvedic knowledge is the cornerstone of harmonious living. This information is more important today than ever. As elements of our society have moved further and further away from nature, Ayurveda serves as a reminder of our connection to all of creation. Ayurveda has the potential to reconnect each person back to source. Ayurveda, and its sister science yoga, help each human being to recall their connection to nature and spirit and in doing so, reestablish harmony, health and well-being.
Of course, knowledge itself is useless unless there is a practical application that benefits humanity. The CAS must take this knowledge and move it from their head to their heart and out through their hands. This is the work that all students begin at internship and continues with as they go into practice.
The practice of Ayurveda means touching the hearts of your clients and patients, while stimulating a transformation of consciousness within them. The more hearts that are touched, the more consciousness that is healed, the more peace and harmony there is the world. Yes, the Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist has a dharma that is not only interpersonal but also global. As the consciousness of each individual heals, so too does the consciousness of a community, a city, a state, a country and a planet.
It is gift to know one's dharma. It is as if God has spoken and you have heard. At that time, all that is left is to surrender and serve. These two tasks are not as easy as they sound. Surrendering is perhaps the most difficult action any human being can take. It means putting aside one's personal desires and goals in favor of service to the divine. It takes tremendous faith and courage to act in a selfless manner. Selflessness is by nature very scary. Our self, or ahamkara, struggles to maintain its current existence. It does not like change or growth. A new way of being threatens the very existence of self. As a result, we usually sabotage our growth as the self fights back to maintain the status quo. One way this appears as Higher Self doubt. Is my perception of my dharma my imagination or is it a truly divine offering? If it is my imagination, am I giving up my pursuit of personal gain for no real reason? This type of Self doubt troubles many people whose faith is not secure. As a result, most higher pursuits fall short as the person eventually gives up, going back to a Self existence. Some never gain the clarity to see the door of dharma. Of those who do, few walk through. It takes great courage and faith.
Success in life has many measuring sticks. Most measure it based on money and power. Few measure it based on service and accomplishment. Surrendering to dharma assures a balanced success based upon all parameters. The universe supports those who align with its divine intention.
It is possible to become overly attached to one's dharma. When this occurs, a person struggles to fulfill their dharma at all cost. Perceiving themselves as on a mission from God, they feel justified destroying all who stand in their way. History is filled with such individuals spreading hate and violence in the name of God. Such fanatical behavior is not true service to ones dharma but rather a mixing of self and Self. The ego takes on responsibility for fulfilling the dharma. Rather than surrendering and allowing the divine to flow through one's self, this individual blocks the flow of the divine, harnessing instead the power of the will. Dharma can never be fulfilled in this manner.
The harmonious fulfillment of dharma is a gentle, loving process built upon steady hard work and devotion to higher principles. As human beings, we easily fall back into the dark shadow of the ego. But, within each of us is the light of the divine. As we open to the loving light, the darkness is dispersed. As the Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist serves their community with love and respect, consciousness is healed and dharma is fulfilled.
May we all work with through our own gifts and talents to bring the knowledge of Ayurveda to light in this modern age. May we all fulfill our dharma.

The Sacred Journey of the Patient and the Practitioner

The most important thing a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist can do is support their patients to successfully implement the principles of Ayurveda into their lives. These principles, when properly followed, assure that the body and mind of the patient will be balanced, peaceful, and of optimal health.

Natural law dictates that if the principles of Ayurveda are followed, healing will take place within the limits of nature and matter. This is guaranteed. The human body has a tremendous capability to heal itself, whether a person is suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Asthma, Multiple Sclerosis, or Depression. From an Ayurvedic perspective, the body and mind heal naturally and completely when the laws of nature are applied to the practice of healing.

There are times, of course, when healing is not possible. Such times, however, are comparatively few. Healing is not possible when tissue is damaged beyond repair. A line can be crossed, where even the most powerful natural measures will not bring about healing. For example, if an arm is severed, the body will not heal without surgical intervention. Likewise, many conditions in their late stages produce such severe tissue damage that the body cannot repair itself.

Ayurvedic healing supports the body to heal itself. Nature works through the body's innate healing potential. If the body and mind are aligned with the power of nature, the body's healing mechanisms are empowered and their full potential realized.

Miracles occur all the time. It is a miracle when the body and mind, working with nature, heals itself. These are not real miracles, however. They appear to be miracles to most people who do not understand or perceive the ways of nature. This is the Science of Natural Healing.

Our job is to help miracles occur by aligning our patients with nature. We do this through lifestyle counseling. By helping people to understand their prakruti (nature) and their vikruti (imbalance), we help them begin to see who they are and how they relate to the world around them. When we establish a plan to help bring them back into balance using the five sense therapies and daily/seasonal routines, we are educating them in what they need to do to allow the healing forces of nature to flow through them. As they make changes in their lives, they remove the obstructions that interfere with this flow.

Change comes slowly to most people. Our job is to be loving and caring guides on their journey. We hold the space for them to grow and evolve. They do the real work, as they face the demons of their harmful habits. Our job is comparatively easy. We tell them where they are and remind them of where they are going; if they get lost, we help them find their way back to the path. We have faith in the process. Our confidence carries them till they develop faith for themselves. We hold the space of non-judgment so they can feel comfortable looking their demons in the eye. We hold the space of unconditional love and it fills them up, sustaining them as they move forward on their journey.

We are all healing to some degree. We are slowly regaining our memory of our true nature as spirit. Likewise, we are all suffering, as a result of our amnesia. This is true of the healers as well as of the patients. Let us always remember what an honor it is when a patient comes to us for guidance on their journey. Let us hold the sacred space and walk forward together.

Top 12 General Guidelines for Healthy Eating

The way in which you eat your food is even more important than what you eat. Even foods that usually cause imbalance will be digested reasonably well if the proper rules are followed. Likewise, if you eat the correct foods in the wrong way your digestion will be compromised, and gas, indigestion, and the formation of ama will follow. If you follow these food habits and choose the correct foods then your digestion will be maximized, and you will experience optimal digestion.

  1. Chew your food until it is an even consistency before swallowing.
  2. Do not eat while being distracted by television, excessive conversation or reading.
  3. Do not drink cold drinks just prior to eating. This weakens digestion.
  4. Do not drink large quantities of liquid during meals, as this also weakens the digestive fire. A half-cup of room temperature water is about right, on the average. Dry meals may require more, and moist meals--like soup--require none at all. It is okay to sip a little wine during a meal.
  5. Eat only food prepared by loving hands, in a loving way. The energy of the cook is always in the food. Avoid eating food prepared with resentment. We take in not only the food, but also the emotions of the chef.
  6. Make eating a sacred ritual. Pause for a moment, relax, and say grace before you start.
  7. Following your meal, relax for a short while to let your food digest before going on to the next activity.
  8. Eat at a moderate pace until you are three-quarters full.
  9. Allow three hours between meals to allow your food to digest.
  10.  Digestion is strongest around noon, when the sun is at its peak. The body's rhythms mirror those of the universe. Therefore, it is best to eat your largest meal at noon. The morning and evening meals should be lighter.
  11. Take all water and drinks at room temperature or warmer. Cold drinks destroy the digestive fire and decrease digestion. This is true not only at mealtime, but all day long.
  12. Allow three hours between meals for food to digest. This allows most people three to five meals per day. Those with a vata nature or imbalance should eat four to five times per day.

What is Ayurvedic Massage (Abhyanga)? Techniques and Principles

Ayurveda, the ancient science of healing from India, has always utilized massage as a part of its regimens for healing. From an Ayurvedic perspective, different forms of massage are useful to different people. The form of massage utilized is based upon a person’s constitution and imbalance.
One’s constitution is the inherent balance of energies in his or her body and mind. In Ayurveda these are quantified in the understanding of the doshas. There are three doshas known as vata, pitta, and kapha. These three energies control the formation and functions of the body on the physical and emotional levels. In harmony the body is healthy, but as the doshas move out of harmony the body expresses itself in the form of disease. Each individual has their own unique balance of these energies. As a result each individual expresses himself differently in the world. Each person has a different type of body frame, degree of oiliness in the skin, sensitivity to pain, and many more characteristics that can be understood by knowing a person’s unique constitution. This is why Ayurveda sees all people as individuals; recognizing that one person’s elixirs is another person’s poison.
As an example, people of kapha nature have skin which is naturally oily, soft, and supple. They also tend toward being heavy, feeling cool and moving slowly. If these individuals use cooling oils like coconut, the cool and heavy quality of the oil will sedate them even more and may cause oozing skin conditions. On the other hand, warmer or lighter oils like safflower can be added to another warm oil like almond to make a much more balancing massage oil for kapha individuals. In addition, other warm, stimulating essential oils could be added. While other people of kapha nature can do well with warm, stimulating oils, they also thrive with dry massage using powders.
In addition to the science of choosing or making oils for massage, Ayurveda recommends different forms of massage for different people. These principles can help a person understand why some people are drawn to polarity when others are drawn to deep tissue therapy and Rolfing. If a person is receiving the wrong form of massage for them, it can lead to greater imbalance both physically and emotionally. Following our example above, people of kapha nature, who tend to be stocky, muscular, carry a little more weight, and tend toward lethargy benefit from deep tissue massage which is more stimulating, while gentle massage strokes like effleurage or polarity can add to their already sedate nature.
Massage is also used in the Ayurvedic therapy known as Panchakarma. This is a therapy which aids in detoxification. While massage with appropriate oils is only one part of this therapy, the knowledge of its role helps a person understand the effects of massage on their individual body type. During this form of massage, called abyhanga, two practitioners participate in a rhythmic massage. Aided by the oils, the massage liquefies toxins in the body so they can be easily expelled through other processes.
Finally, another area Ayurveda includes which is related to massage is the art of “Marma Point Therapy.” Marmas are special energetic points in the body with relationships to organ function, metabolism and emotional states. They bear similarities to Acupuncture points, and many scholars hold the view that Ayurveda is the foundation of Chinese medicine. Marma points are typically stimulated by hand pressure, massed with special oils, or stimulated with medicated steam.