Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya
People are on edge these days. They are working under strain, either back at the office after months away, or still at home, adjusted to a computer screen. Some are not working, but are stuck with family they never had to be around so much before the pandemic. Still others are working harder than ever at their jobs in the field, laborers or technical fixers, repairing and building and moving. Mothers at home may have more people around, but that brings more demands too. Prices are up, both on groceries and on fuel. People are spending on things they can’t afford. The wealthy are stressed because their usual easy life has been altered in little ways that disturb their comforts. Healthcare workers are disturbed. Service people feel unappreciated. Landlords are stressed with altered income. Everyone is on a different edge than they were 2.5 years ago.
Ayurveda has lived through 10,000 years of edge. There have been wars, invasions, famines and floods. People have died tragically and violently. Children were orphaned. Workers were buried alive. Slaves were tortured, and kings were toppled. Ayurveda reminds us that we need to calm the mind to conquer the world around us.
The monkey mind is one of the most powerful causes of disease and disturbance. When the mind is jumping around, neurochemicals give imbalanced signals and alter the flow of normal metabolism in the body. Stress hormone called cortisol pours out into the body. Ayurveda says the flows and micro-movements in the body are distorted and disturbed. Over days, dysfunction begins. For some, they have skin eruptions. For some, the gut becomes irritated, with bloating, constipation, cramping, diarrhea, food allergies showing up. Some get migraines. Some get back pain.
These are all signs of vata erupting into disharmonious flow inside the body. Eventually these bodily issues circle back to the mind, creating more monkey mind, more stress, worry and agitation.
People cope in different ways. Society’s business community encourages people to spend, shop, drink, smoke, sex, eat, gamble and escape in order to cope. A few businesses want us to go to the gym, swim, or take up a sport that requires equipment. They want us to spend money so that they can get rich from our tension.
Ayurveda tells us to go for a walk in nature. Plant your feet in the earth, either soil, sand, rock or mud, near the mountain, lake, river or ocean. This is known as earthing as has vibrations of the earth’s energy that will reset your mind’s fuses. Ayurveda tells us to take an early night of sleep, with no electricity after sunset, sitting in the dark watching the sky go from sunset to gray to black.
Ayurveda tells us to drink brahmi powder in hot water to calm the mind or dashmoola powder in hot water to calm the gut. It tells us to rub sesame oil under the feet and hang them off the bed or sofa for 5 minutes. It gives formulas such as Saraswat Arishtam, and Manasa-Mitra-Vatakam to sedate us without side effects. If you need to move, go for a walk in the early morning or at sunset so that you can take in the infrared rays of the sun as it slants into or out of the sky. If you need to move, do yoga poses that balance the symmetry of the body and move air out of the gut. Chant a hymn. Listen to mantras that are healing such as Vishnu Sahasranaama, the thousand names of Vishnu, the sustainer.
Ayurveda knew that most will never master their minds, because they will never learn deep meditation or introspection. They will never work out their conflicting beliefs or repair relationships due to their egos. They will not live in the present, because they think living in the past is useful, or living in the future brings success. They will not simply stack the remedies for calming the mind, which will deliver the magic of the present moment.
Ayurveda gave us dozens of remedies to calm the mind, not because it did not know what to do, but because it understood that the stress of life creates monkey mind unless we master our mind by choosing the advice it offered.
Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2023 in Public Health, a family physician in the Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, NY, and holds doctorates in pharmacology and Ayurveda. She teaches ayurvedic nutrition on global platforms and cleans her channels regularly with sesame oil, mustard oil, and ghee. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House.