Lest we forget the madness in Mumbai, India, which tore at the very fabric of our collective hearts as we witnessed the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel burning up in flames, India still mourns the innocent lives lost during that killing spree. And the world is still recovering, wondering how it is going to heal in the wake of these continuing terrorist attacks.
Mumbai’s Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis spoke through tears in Israel of their shared mourning. Mutual victims, they had nine of their followers killed in the senseless carnage. Yet, of the terrorists, they said, “We need to shower these lost souls with love they can’t forget, to instill in them a deep awareness of their humanity.”
Americans from Charlottesville, Virginia, who were in Mumbai on a spiritual retreat under the leadership of Charles Cannon, founder of the Synchronicity Foundation, say they’re overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and compassion toward them. The group lost Alan Scherr, 58, and his 13-year-old daughter, Naomi, in the terrorist assault on the Oberoi Hotel.
Cannon also spoke of the need for contemplation and understanding that we are all one human family hurting ourselves out of ignorance. “Humankind must create ways to provide education for everyone on the fundamental principles of nature, which are rooted in all the great religions, sciences and philosophies,” he said.
As India moves forward in its emotional and spiritual healing, many will turn to the 6,000-year-old tradition of Ayurveda, a healing science that combines body, mind and soul. The principles of Ayurveda guide followers in how to keep hurt from turning into despair, anger and hate by learning how to transmute those negative feelings into compassion, healing, hope and love. It may be that these are the exact principles that can provide the education that is so badly needed for our world to begin to heal.
Ayur means “life” in Sanskrit. The origins of Ayurveda date back to the Vedas, the ancient spiritual texts of India. One of the four Vedas that teach about the essence of life and nature, the Atharvaveda, contains the principles of healing upon which Ayurveda is based. Known for enhancing longevity, Ayurveda has influenced many of the older healing traditions, including Tibetan, Chinese and Greek medicine. As a result, it is recognized by many as the mother of healing.
This “Science of Life” is an ancient system of soul-mind-body awareness that helps restore balance and preserve health. Its healing methodology seeks to uncover the causal nature of any imbalance and restore that imbalance to equilibrium, thus healing all symptoms and preventing further disturbances. Application of its practice is said to instill greater awareness of one’s consciousness through the experience of finding one’s center equilibrium point and learning to hold on to that balance.
Unlike traditional Western medicine, Ayurveda is understood to be a lifelong endeavor. A Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine is not separate from practicing the healing program in his or her own life. They are expected to walk the walk, while facilitating the healing of others. .
Ayurveda uses a theory of five great elements - ether, air, fire, water and earth - to represent the foundation of how nature functions, including human beings. In all living beings, these five elemental energies combine to form doshas, which manifest as Vata (air/ether), Pitta (fire/sun/water) and Kapha (earth/water). According to Ayurveda tradition, every human being is born with a unique mix of these doshas, which ultimately determine each person’s physical, sensory, mental and emotional tendencies. When a person’s unique combination of qualities is identified, a personal treatment plan is devised to not only restore vitality, but also maintain a positive state of health.
While this philosophy on health may not have trickled down to mainstream society, a majority of Americans are familiar with several Ayurveda influenced practices, such as Yoga, Acupressure, Naturopathy, meditation and massage. Although standards of practice are still being established for licensing Ayurveda in the U.S., reputable schools are currently training practitioners in New Mexico, Washington, California and elsewhere. In India, the training is typically a five and a half year program, with additional internships for another few years.
The Kerala Ayurvedic Academy and Clinic in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood offers a complete educational program for training, as well as a treatment center with experienced practitioners. The physicians encourage clients to relax into a thorough exploration of their physical, emotional and mental natures. An initial visit begins with simple healing practices to balance the physical body and calm the mind. This brings vigor and clarity to one’s nature. Further practices help release toxins and purify the body, mind and soul.
According to Dana Oennin, LMP, Head of Clinic Administration, these treatments can have immediate impact. “Recently, a woman who’d been using a cane came in and had an external basti treatment. Her leg showed remarkable improvement after just one treatment and she is returning for another,” Oennin explains of the 40-minute procedure that uses a topical dough dam and a special herbal warm oil mix. “More and more people are becoming acquainted with Ayurveda’s gentle, yet powerful, healing effects.”
The first visit with an Ayurvedic practitioner typically lasts one and half hours and results in a recommended lifelong health plan based on the patient’s temperament. The practitioner recommends the best foods to eat, exercises to engage in and healing treatments to explore, which may include oil massages, herbal steams, herbal remedies, meditation, sound, color or light therapy. Typically, a deep relaxation oil treatment will also be employed. All treatments are prescribed in a cyclic rhythm in harmony with the seasons. Patients often speak of how their “being” responds to, and eventually becomes intimately acquainted with, their own innate cyclic patterns. Ayurveda believes that this is the key to a vibrantly healthy body, mind and spirit.