The most essential and basic teaching of Ayurveda is that you should live in a balanced state. You can tell if you are balanced by how you feel. If you feel energetic, rested, enthusiastic and of purpose in this world, then you are probably in balance. If you are dragging, achy, anxious, heavy, or just down on yourself, then you are out of balance. I like this because it’s not terribly personally--just a matter of paying attention and collecting facts. If you are out of balance--and many of us are due to the imbalance nature of our culture--then you have a choice. You can put yourself back into balance by making healthier decisions or you can let the imbalance get worse. If it gets worse then it becomes harder and harder to treat. Finally you can reach a point where it’s untreatable and the body shuts down. I recently watched my dad go through that process and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
The tricky nature of imbalance is that when we go out of whack, we usually begin to crave things that cause us to go further off track. Think of all your stressed out friends who say yes to one more thing. Think of your family members who are depressed and spend their time sedentary in front of the TV. If you aren’t careful the imbalance will suck you in and make things worse. This is why self awareness is so important. Witnessing ourselves and our patterns without judgement is the main tool for change as we are taught in yoga. It’s quite simple yet considering it’s been passed on for 5,000 years, I would say it’s also effective.
This conversation is important to me because I’ve been really craving baked goods this week. This isn’t too out of character for me because I’ve always liked the sugary taste. Growing up, I loved eating donuts at my dad’s house on Sunday mornings and my mom’s renowned peach cobbler during the summer months. Since cleaning up my diet in the past year, I've stopped keeping baked goods in my house and rarely buy them why I go out. I notice the intense rush of cheap sugar gives me a little acid reflux and puts my digestion out of balance.
Ayurvedically speaking, the sweet taste is grounding and something we should use when we feel disconnected in some way, in moderation. Too much will burn out our energy and drag us down into a foggy state of body and mind. I like this about Ayurveda. It never tells us that something is good or bad but rather it gives it’s qualities and then we get to decide how to use them. It’s a reminder that everything can be either a weapon or a tool, depending on how we use it.
I suppose I’ve needed to ground in these weeks after my father’s passing. As much as I can, I’m taking good care of myself. Simple, nourishing food + deep sleep + early morning meditation is a pretty good formula for me to stay balanced during a hard time. I’ve added in some healing bodywork this week and hope to do more when I travel to Guatemala at the end of the month.
But still, there is this desire for a big rush of sugar, this need to imbalance further. I see the cookie at my favorite tea house and I want it deeply. I know enough to know that my body doesn’t really want it. When I have true bodily hunger, I crave high-nutrient vegetables and good fat. Hunger for emptier calories always comes from the more emotional parts of myself. It’s me as a seven year old eating a donut on a Sunday morning with my dad or bowl of peach cobbler as I sit tucked into my family table. It’s the feeling of being safe and connected in the world--such a primal thing.
Yet knowing this doesn’t stop the cravings from coming. As we all know, when cravings are present they’re pretty loud. My whole body starts tenses as I make this decision. It’s an option to buy the cookie and eat it in my car. This is how I eat when I don’t really want to admit what I'm doing. I barely pay attention to the taste and feel like it’s something I need to keep hidden. After I’ll get angry at myself and swear that I will never do it again (until the next time). I’ve done that plenty and know how that story goes.
I know I can use my self awareness here so I take a breath and weigh my options. Denying myself the cookie will leave me feeling wanting and restless. This causes it’s own type of imbalance. I decide to buy the cookie, looking the sweet guy behind register directly in the eye. I put the paper-wrapped bundle in my purse and go home. I eat it after lunch--which is a baked sweet potato topped with good butter, sunflower seeds, homemade sauerkraut and sprouts. I put half of this much-considered salty oat cookie on a nice plate. I take a deep breath and a few bites. Of course it’s good but it's just a cookie. I eat it and miss my dad and feel overwhelmed. I eat it and feel like someone who is really learning how to take care of herself. I eat it and know he would be happy to see me keeping my balance.