How does a doctor ensure their patient does what is best for their health, whether it’s taking medication regularly, quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol, changing diet or getting more exercise? Good or bad health choices can mean the difference between good and bad outcomes, yet you can’t force a person to do the right thing.
Breaking unhealthy lifestyle or eating habits has to be an internal process and involves taking responsibility and ownership of one’s own health. Breaking a negative pattern of behaviour demands a fundamental change in the underlying consciousness that frames our thoughts, emotions and health decisions. How we can bring this about is the focus of this article.
From the perspective of Ayurveda, good or bad health come from within. When your mind and emotions are steady and coherent, you are more open to listen to the good advice of others. You are also more able to listen to your body-signals and notice when something is damaging to your health.
There is a saying that when you “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. Giving out a pill, diet or lifestyle advice may do some temporary good, but if you could raise the consciousness of the patient, they would automatically be more in tune with the needs of their body and more likely to take responsibility of their own health.
Classical Ayurveda say that each of us has three aspects: consciousness, mind, and body and to be completely effective in treating a person you must treat them as a whole, not as a set of parts. Yet there is a sequence in this trio and consciousness comes first.
Just as the major part of an iceberg is beneath the sea, so the consciousness that underlies and supports our mind, body and lives is hidden from view. Maharishi AyurVeda sees this consciousness aspect of our being as primary in the healing process.
What is consciousness?
Consciousness is the most intimate aspect of our lives, so intimate that we either take it for granted or are not even aware of its existence. It is the silent witness that lies beneath all thoughts and feelings. It is the ever-present, non-changing awareness that the ever-changing world floats upon. Without this awareness, nothing would exist for us.
The everyday experience of consciousness is through our feelings, sensations and perceptions. The silent, still core at the root of these more active, ephemeral phases of consciousness is located in our underlying nature. But, although it is central to our lives, this state of pure unadorned consciousness is rarely experienced directly.
This hiding of or lack of connection to our own essential nature is considered by Ayurveda to be root cause of all problems in life, including disease.
Objective versus subjective reality
In the Western science and education, we are encouraged to understand life objectively. We are trained from our early age to view the world around us as something apart from ourselves, as something other.
The Vedic tradition understands that our own nature and the nature of everything else in creation are so intimately connected at their source that there can never be a truly objective reality. You, the observer, are not and never have been separate from what you are observing.
From the Vedic point of view the most fundamental reality is pure subjectivity; an eternal, unbounded field of pure, abstract intelligence and consciousness.
Whether viewed objectively or subjectively, this underling reality of life is described as the unified field, both by modern science and by Vedic science. In both traditions it is seen as the home of all the laws of nature that structure creation.
Becoming conscious of consciousness
The ancient Veda’s state that the multifaceted and diverse material world we perceive is just the waves, or fluctuations, of a non-material, underlying field of pure consciousness. Our mind, body and senses are seen as pure intelligence in motion.
The human mind, though a product of this underlying reality, has the ability to tap into this field of pure consciousness at the basis of creation. If your mind can settle down, and become still , it is capable of directly experiencing its own nature, the hidden silent source of all things – the state of pure consciousness.
Maharishi AyurVeda considers this awakening to one’s own inner consciousness as central to the creation of ideal health.
The Vedas have so valued the benefits of this awakening to the unified field of pure consciousness, that it has classify progressive stages or states of higher consciousness. Collectively these states are called ‘enlightenment’.
What is enlightenment?
Referring to a person as enlightened used to suggest they were educated, progressive and liberal in attitude. But in Vedic terms, enlightenment has nothing to do with educational achievement or the adoption of certain attitudes. It refers to the unfoldment of the inner ‘light’ that has been hidden within. It means that person has not only become aware of the infinite field of pure consciousness at the basis of their own nature, but they live and embody that state 24/7.
The state of enlightenment is not just a subjective phenomenon of the mind but is accompanied by distinct changes in the physiology where the body experiences its optimum state of health.
Perfect health is the goal of Maharishi AyurVeda and enlightenment is its intimate companion.
How do enlightenment and health work together?
Living life in tune with natural law
The Rik Veda states: “For those whose minds are established in self-referral consciousness, the infinite organising power of natural law becomes the charioteer (the driver of life)”. This means that in this state of life, daily living is spontaneously guided by the laws of nature.
Actions that we perform can sometimes have good, life enhancing results that are supported by natural law, and sometimes bad results because we violate natural law. Yet as the laws of nature that structure of world are so diverse and numerous, it is hard to know every single consequence of each action; will that action create good or harm or a mixture of both?
Enlightenment means being constantly in tune with one’s inner nature. Since our inner nature is the source and home of all the laws of nature, enlightenment also means that every action we perform in that state is spontaneously in accord with natural law and supports wellbeing in the broadest possible sense. Intellectual choices and the thinking mind play not part in this process; we simply perform action that is totally right for the time, place and situation.
Spontaneous doing the right thing at the right time has important health implications. It creates a frictionless style of living that frees us up from worry and anxiety. It also frees us of the consequences of making mistakes.
Just imagine a world where at every moment we are all doing the right thing for our health and our lives; where every thought, feeling and action is spontaneously in tune with natural law and is life-supporting. That would be a world where perfect health is not just a pleasant idea, but a living reality on both the personal and societal levels.
A simple mental technique to unfold pure consciousness
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought Transcendental Meditation (TM) to the West in 1959. Since then, over six million people of all ages, cultures and religions have learnt the technique.
Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural, effortless technique practised 20 minutes twice a day while sitting comfortably. It enables mind and body to access a special quality of rest.
TM allows your mind to easily settle inward, until you experience the most silent and peaceful level of your own awareness. It differs completely from other meditations – it does not involve concentrating, or trying to empty the mind or be in the present. It is completely natural and effortless.
There are centres for teaching TM all around the UK and you can find your local TM centre at http://uk.tm.org/transcendental-meditation-contact.