The change has been fast. The consumeristic mindset is now all-pervading. We have morphed from being plain human beings to a ‘new and improved’ species called consumers.
The consumer, who has been anointed the new ‘king’ of the new world, doesn’t need to go through the drudgery of taking care of himself anymore. He merely flashes his credit card and the world takes care of his needs. The best minds of the world are using all their ingenuity to tempt the consumer to shed his ‘old-fashioned cautious attitude’ and ‘just live it up’. The new royalty is invited to outsource everything that is unpleasant or comes in the way of its pursuit of a ‘good life’. Including healthcare – from little everyday niggles to organ replacements. It’s all available. “Call now!”
The healthcare industry loves you, as long you are a value generator for it. You are a worthy value generator only if you buy and consume the stuff the industry produces. But here’s the paradox – it sells you solutions that rid you of illness, but stops making money as soon as you are well. Wellness industry suddenly begins to look like illness industry – one that monetizes illness, an industry that thrives when disease spreads.
Curative healthcare is becoming increasingly unviable. The healthcare sector, especially in the developed world, is on life-support. The world is now waking up to the possibility of ‘daily wellbeing’ – preventive healthcare that encourages you to lead a lifestyle that prevents disease and keeps you in vibrant health.
Integrative medicine is the new buzzword trending in the healthcare circles these days. Instead of taking sides, the system encourages the world to take the best of both, modern and traditional medicine. Traditional medicine to keep the diseases at bay, modern medicine to fight the life-threatening ones and traditional medicine again to recuperate after a harsh medical treatment.
Granted, critical health conditions require the synthetic drugs and invasive measures that modern medicine advocates, but what about preventive healthcare? It can definitely do without the harsh treatment. Good old wholesome food is all that it invites us to have.
To borrow a term from the World Health Organization, we need to ‘demedicalise our overmedicalised’ lives. We need to take back control of our health, which we handed over to the illness industry in return for convenience.
Let us try to wean ourselves off our overly consumeristic lifestyle, and tap into the rich knowledge that is a result of over 5,000 years of emergence.
Insourcing it back, with Ayurveda
Health is commonly defined with respect to illness – ‘absence of disease’. Ayurveda takes a very different approach. It uses vibrant health as a reference point – absence of vibrant health is ill-health. You are in vibrant health when you are in a state of pure awareness, your senses and mind are in equilibrium and you feel the bliss of being alive – prasanna-atma-mana-indriyah. Ayurveda believes this state is not a happy accident but one that can be achieved by design.
Wellbeing, which has six dimensions – physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social and environmental, is a result of maintaining balance and harmony between the inner and outer environment of the human body.
Ayurveda is based on the belief that each one of us is a universe within the universe. YatPinde Tat Brahmande – everything within and without us is made of 5 elements – ether, air, fire, water & earth. Within the body structure, there are psychophysiological energies or biological humors – Vata, Pitta &Kapha. Each of us has a unique mind-body personality or psychosomatic constitution called Prakriti, which is a combination of the three humors.
Food and lifestyle that does not suit our Prakriti causes an imbalance of humors or Vikriti. Ayurveda helps us choose lifestyle (vihaar) and foods (ahaar) that suitour Prakriti and therefore keep us in vibrant health.
Most people in the world today live in a state, known in China as yàjiànk?ng, meaning sub-health. This is the state between normal health and disease when all necessary physical and chemical indices test negative, things seem normal but we ‘feel’ unwell. A state also called the ‘Grey State’. Most people live in this state without knowing it until they reach a break point - disease.
Bigger issue is that being in less than 100% health has become the ‘new normal’ for most of us living in the fast lane. We carry on with our lives in this state with the help of one-size-fits-all, OTC solutions that cure only the symptoms and not the cause (e.g. painkillers).
Ayurveda defines six stages (Shat Kriya Kal - Samprapti) of pathogenesis - disease formation process. The first four of these are sub-health stages when the oncoming disease can be easily reversed through a change in diet and lifestyle, without the use of medicines. But these are also stages that are not easy to recognize unless we listen keenly to our body and consciously look for unusual digestion and sleep patterns.
Our bodies have a way of raising alarms through sub-health symptoms. But there are two slight problems we have gotten ourselves into – because of life on the fast lane, human beings have almost lost the ability to listen to their bodies unaided. The signaling system of our bodies has also gone awry. It has become incoherent because of the everyday dose of ‘cheat-foods’ that we dump into our bodies. Unhealthy foods that cheat us into believing that the flavours, nutrition and satiety they deliver are all real and not induced by chemicals pretending to be food.
Unlike the modern health systems, Ayurveda doesn’t allow a person to abdicate charge of his own health. The doctor is just a facilitator of vibrant health, not the owner. Ill-health is usually a result of irresponsible lifestyle – a state we cause through careless living.
The trap that most people fall into is engaging with Ayurveda as ‘consumers’ - buying Ayurveda formulations off the shelf or quick-fix solutions from the next-door quack. Ayurveda is not ‘magic potions and powders’. It is ‘the science of vibrant life’. It invites people to actively engage with its principles and make meaningful food and lifestyle choices.
The first step towards achieving vibrant health is to realize that right now is the right time to begin the I-am-the-custodian-of-my-own-health mission, and you yourself are the right person to lead it.
Get introduced to Ayurveda, find out your mind-body personality and begin serving yourself food and lifestyle that suits your personality. It’s as simple as that. Go ahead, reclaim your life.