In celebration of my upcoming book, Selfcarefully, I’m sharing five of my favorite sections throughout December into early January. (Read more about how I wrote this book on metro rides and with lots of support here.)
Today, I wanted to share one of the most profound lessons I’ve learned through my study of Ayurveda. It has to do with oil and it has to do with feeling lovable, a place that I have often struggled in my life.
Ayurveda practices are centered around oil. During food cleanses you eat ample ghee (clarified butter), and a time of restoration means you get slathered from head to toe in sesame oil. Being oily is a very, very good thing!
There is a reason for Ayurveda’s obsession with lubrication. In ancient Sanskrit, the word for oily is sneha. Sneha not only means rich in oil, but it also means the feeling of love. Yup, for more than 5,000 years Ayurvedic healers have understood that we need the heavy, grounding quality of oil to maintain our feeling of being lovable in the world.
Read the short essay below to learn more. I hope it helps you reclaim the extent of your own lovability (which I promise you is immense!), and gives you permission to eat more yummy butter with less guilt. :)
If you’re learning from and enjoying these reflective self-care missives, please consider preordering your copy of Selfcarefully by contributing to our crowdfunding campaign.
Thanks for reading and I’ll look forward to sharing the final sample of the book next week!
Self-care and oil
Something that surprised me about Ayurveda was the importance of oil. Oil, oil everywhere! Ayurvedic practitioners recommend that we eat lots of ghee (clarified butter) in order to stay lubricated from brain to joints to colon. They also recommend daily self-massage with oil. During my first Ayurvedic massage, they slathered me up with sesame oil, including my hair. It was a great big mess!
But the mess was worth it not just because of the effect on my skin and muscles. It was worth it because, according to Ayurveda, most imbalances, including anxiety and loneliness, originate in the dry, windy quality of vata. In Sanskrit, the oily quality is called sneha, which also means loving. When we feel dried out and alone, getting oily weighs us down a bit and reminds us that we are connected and loved.
For me, who experienced a lot of loneliness in my childhood, oily food has always been something I crave. When I first tasted ghee, I wanted to eat the whole jar. Although I felt ashamed about it at the time, this is apparently a typical response. We crave the ghee until we fully saturate the dryness. With time, practice, and lots of oil, I have come to crave this quality less. And inside, I experience more sneha, knowing I can love and be loveable in our world.