Health, from an Ayurvedic point of view, has a source beyond just warding off invaders and trying to fix breakdowns in the body.
In Ayurveda 101, I said that the difference between Ayurveda and modern medicine is that Ayurveda focuses on making the defenses of the body as strong as possible through promoting inner balance, rather than focusing on destroying invaders from outside the body.
Inner balance – what does that mean? Where do we go to achieve this balance? What do we need to know? How do we start? These were my questions. Maybe they are yours, too.
There is an underlying field of energy and intelligence, which has been called the Unified Field, the Sea of Consciousness, the Divine, Atman, the Soul. Some may relate to this field as God, others simply call it The Universe. What we call it/him/her isn’t as important as knowing and accessing it.
To put it as simply as possible, we are kind of like spiritual onions – many layers, multidimensional. Each of these layers is a kosha, or sheath.
The name of each kosha contains the word “maya”, which means illusion, since each one creates its own illusion of reality.
- Annamaya kosha – The outer layer is the food body, or that which results from taking food. This is that part of ourselves we can see and touch.It is the most dense expression of consciousness and thus seems to be the most real.
- Pranamaya kosha – This regulates the flow of subtle energy in the body. Thought is transformed into action, allowing the mind to affect and direct the body. This kosha is the interface between the mind and the body.
- Manomaya kosha – This is the mental sheath, and can be a barrier sheath as it contains the ego and desire, as well as memories and emotion. Disconnection from access to the source often happens here.
- Gyanamaya (or Vijnandamaya) kosha – This is the sheath of intellect and discernment.
- Anandamaya kosha – Ananda means bliss. This is the spiritual body. It is sometimes called a causal body because without this kosha, the other sheaths would not exist.
In the center of our onion is the pure consciousness, the creative source, the Soul. It is surrounded, layer on layer, by the koshas.
When energy is flowing through these fields, linking the physical body with the most subtle field, when these subtle bodies are in balance, then all aspects of mind, body, spirit, and emotions will function as they were intended.
Disease happens when there are blocks to the flow of this energy, and this can happen from psychological stress or a diet and lifestyle that doesn’t suit your constitution. Health starts when connection with this consciousness, which is what the field is, is restored and made whole.
Think about how you function on a daily basis. You eat food to feed your physical body. You move that body to keep from feeling sluggish and heavy. You think all day long about what you want, what you’re emotional about or what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. Much of the time this is where it stops, because we think we can figure out the solutions to our problems. (This is why the manomaya kosha is called the barrier sheath.) If we can get past that barrier, we can access inner wisdom, and finally, peace and bliss.
And how do we do that, you may be wondering? Meditation, of the effortless mantra type such as heart-based, transcendental, or primordial sound is the most effective way to begin healing and transformation in ultimately all your koshas. Getting enough sleep and the practice of yoga are also ways to journey inward to balance.
When we find that connection, when we are able to tap into the unified field, we have found the path not only to better physical health, but also to a more joyful way of living, an abundant life.
*I am grateful for Paul Dugliss, MD with New World Ayurveda. Much of what is in this article was gleaned from his teachings.