A healthy baby is of all smile and joy. It is fearless about anything around and accepts everything without discrimination, the self shines at its best in this phase of life. It is less conscious about its body. Out of his own experience and lessons from the elders, gradually the child develops a sense of the body and things that are harmful to it. Similarly he learns about the presence of the mind too. Gradually body and mind dominate over the true nature of the human being and start to direct his actions towards fulfilling their wishes. In the worst case he even identifies his body or mind as himself and the true self is forgotten forever. Actions of wise people are directed by knowledge rather than by the body or mind. They take utmost care in their actions that their wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around them is least disturbed. Our activities, the food we consume and the sleep we get influence our health the most.
Food is the basic building material of the body. Its proper digestion and absorption and the elimination of waste is very important for the health of both the digestive system and the whole body. Here are some general guidelines on food.
When to eat?
Eat when you are hungry. Having good appetite is an indication that your digestive system is ready for food and the digestion process is going to be smooth. A full meal is digested at an average time of four hours. Avoid eating again within that time. If you eat before the food gets fully digested then that disrupts the current digestion process and cause stagnation in the system which is the root cause of many health issues. A system in imbalance might show false appetite and in such cases it is important to take the necessary steps to bring balance to the system. Also take care that the gap between two meals does not exceed six hours.
What is suitable for you?
Your body can easily handle the type of food your parents were eating when they gave birth to you. Eating the things that are growing in the region where you are living is a wise choice. Nature adapts itself to the changes in the seasons and eating the things that grow around you make it easy for your body to adapt easily along the seasons. There are things suitable for daily consumption, things to be eaten only in their growing seasons and things to be eaten once in a while.
Not all Ayurveda medicines are from plant origins, there are non-vegetarian medicines too. Ayurveda does not advocate vegetarianism. Those who are vegetarians by birth should stay with vegetarian food. Others can eat animals, birds and fishes that are good for health. If you change eating habits all of a sudden that can give health issues. Change gradually if you wish and observe how your body is responding to it.
What is good quality food?
The best food comes from the nature, unaltered by genetic engineering or hormone administration, free from chemical fertilizers or preservatives. It should be free from microbes or contamination. There are food items that are good when eaten alone but harmful when combined and give troubles like difficulty in digestion or even produce poisonous effect.
What is the best way to prepare food?
When the fire used for cooking the food matches with the digestive fire in the body then that food is digested and absorbed easily. Based on this the food cooked directly in the fire or baked in the oven is happily accepted by the body. Cooking in the hot pan without oil, frying in an oiled pan, seasoning with oil, deep frying in oil, boiling, and steaming come in decreasing order of suitability.
The pots and pans used for preparing and serving the food also contribute to the quality of the food. Knives and spoons used for cutting and stirring the food slowly get dissolved into the food. Therefore mud pots, glass vessels, food quality steel or pans of nonreactive materials are the best choices.
The mind of the people who come in contact with the food leave their impressions on it. Hence the best food is the one that is prepared with a pleasant mind, served with love and eaten with gratitude. When you are thankful to the farmer who produced it, the seller who brought it, the person who bought it and the one who cooked it, your system accepts it with joy. It is wise to pick a peaceful atmosphere to eat where our attention stays on the food rather than watching television, talking to others or doing anything that distract your attention from the food. Eating with enjoyment produces digestive juices essential for smooth digestion.
Sleep is a blessing that everyone can enjoy and a way to experience complete relaxation without putting any effort at all. In the awake state we are busy with so many activities that drain our energy. In dream state the mind is busy creating the world on its own. In deep sleep the mind dissolves into the self and we experience complete relaxation. Even in great misery or pain, sleep gives relaxation to people and keep them going. Human beings are activated by sun and naturally stay awake at daytime. In the absence of sun they sleep at night. If we alter this behavior because of any reasons and sleep during daytime or do not sleep enough at night, that weakens the system. The length of the sleep required by different people varies according to their health and energy levels. If you are recharged and pleasant when you wake up then that indicates you are rested well and ready for the day.
Ayurveda identified fourteen actions performed by our body as part of its normal functioning. Some of these urges are controllable and some are not. They are flatulence, burping, defecation, urination, sneezing, thirst, hunger, sleep, cough, hiccup, yawning, tears, vomit and ejaculation.Suppressing them affects the smooth functioning of the body and becomes a reason for sickness. Mohanan vaidyar adds two more into this list, menstruation and tears. Tears are a way to relieve the pain of the mind. Take care of these urges in the best way possible to keep the body in its pleasant state.
The body, mind and speech are the faculties we have for performing activities. Strength of these faculties gives good health and their weakness leads to sickness. Those who wish for good health should preserve their strength by paying attention to their activities. Here are some general guidelines on how to keep the pleasantness of the system when we involve in any action.
How to maintain the strength of the body?
- Do not hurt or kill any living beings unnecessarily. Practice nonviolence.
- Do not steal. Taking things that are not rightfully yours, by any means, is stealing.
- Do not overly indulge in sexual activities. Be aware of the fact that the movies, internet, advertisements all come with content that keep people sexually active.
How to maintain the strength of the mind?
- Do not wish to see others in danger. Wish for the wellbeing of everyone around.
- Do not approach anything with negative attitude.
- Do not wish for things that you do not deserve. Don’t be greedy.
How to maintain the strength of the speech?
- Your words should be respectful, pleasant, thought generating, and truthful. They should not generate any anxiety and should give happiness to listeners.
- Do not gossip or spread lies about others with the intention of making them fight.
- Do not lie, exaggerate and make up stories.
- Do not use rough, hurting words and scold others.
Let us consider the case of a car. If we use the recommended fuel, the car performs best and its engine will live long. What is going to happen if we use anything else in it, won’t it work? It might work for some time, but with jerks, and it will break down much earlier. Our body is also like the car, even much more complex and highly sophisticated than a car. How efficient it is, how long it is going to live depends up on how well we take care of it.
Ayurveda is coming from the land of seekers whose ultimate goal in life is self realisation and liberation from the limitations of body and mind. People did not want their body or mind to break down and become an obstacle on their way when they strive to achieve their goals. So they wisely used the knowledge of self together with the knowledge of the body and the nature to make life a pleasant experience.