when healing is subtractive
Healing is always contextual. It happens within a particular paradigm, and that paradigm determines how we define, seek, and engage with the healing and wellness. Our culture even determines how we define health. Think about it… How would you define health? How would your providers and practitioners? How else could health be defined?
In my Ayurvedic wellness practice one of the things I’ve observed is that culturally in the west, we’ve been trained to think of healing as additive. If we’re not well in some way, we begin to seek out solutions (foods, herbs, treatments, medicines, practices) we can ADD to our lives. What we need to do, or more often take to feel better. This is certainly one approach, one that many of us learned early visiting our pediatrician. Additive practices can be very helpful, and Ayurveda certainly uses many of them. But, it’s not the only way to explore healing.
Ayurvedically, we’re interested in addressing root cause rather than symptomatology. This means looking deeper than the various symptoms to see if a single cause can be unearthed. It is sometimes the case that in identifying the root cause, we identify something we’re doing (food, lifestyle practice, schedule, activity, etc) that is causing the imbalance. While we often want to be able to continue to do the thing (especially if it’s enjoyable, embedded habit or addiction) AND engage in some sort of protocol to counter the effects, this approach can never fully rectify the imbalance, because there will continue to be an input in the system that creates imbalance. A good Ayurvedic protocol also includes suggestions for things to subtract, aggravating actions to remove or greatly reduce in your diet, lifestyle, or other practice.
While removing the cause is necessary to resolve the symptoms or disease process, it is also the case that abstinence as a practice is one of the best tools for strengthening the mind and building will power. Giving up things we’re attached to is a form of yoga practice called tapas. Tapas, the third niyama from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, means heat or radiant fire, and is often used to refer to practices of austerities. Practices of tapas harness the heat of friction to yield transformation, just as it takes the heat and friction of an abrasive to polish a raw gem into a gleaming facet that perfectly reflects light. When we practice giving something up that’s causing a disease process, not only do we experience healing, we experience the transformation of tapas. The mind gets clearer and shines more brightly.
So the next time your Ayurvedic Practitioner asks if you’d be willing to quit or give up something that your mind holds tightly on to, consider the ramifications for your healing and the ramifications for your mind and will power as well. 🙏🏻