From the ancient texts of Āyurveda, we see that epidemics have occurred since the beginning of existence. I suppose with less ability to travel and move about the planet, pandemics were rare. Guidance and experience like this can be found in many ancient texts and scriptures. The quote below is a suggestion of how to be during times of epidemic and basic tenants for everyday living.
Quoted from Caraka Saṁhitā – “Truthfulness, compassion for all living beings, charitable acts and offerings, adoration of nature, righteous conduct, peacefulness, prophylactic measures, supporting the welfare of people, and other such measures are indeed the medicines to be utilized for the protection of life during epidemics.”
Here in southern Arizona right now, the desert is alive with flowers of all colors. The sun shines and warms our bodies and souls. I feel grateful to be in this place at this time, it feels easy to adore nature and honor the beauty that surrounds my community. I see charitable acts and offerings daily as we support the welfare of people. Some communities and relationships will be torn apart within the stress, fear, and chaos of this time. But others are coming together, embracing the gifts of creative community and family support. Finding peacefulness within the unknown, opening up to what is and releasing the things we cannot control.
Righteous conduct can mean many things, and each of us gets to figure that out for ourselves. Practicing compassion for all living beings, especially our fellow humans, allows space for each of us to be. It is easy to judge our own and others’ actions as right or wrong. Most of us believe that our way is the right way, and when we are afraid, mind does not function clearly. While our own actions do affect those around us, and the actions of others can affect each of us respectively, trying to impose control over others is a losing battle.
I continue to come back to the Serenity Prayer, something that has been with me for many years. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Relief and acceptance washes over me as I recite this prayer. Serenity, acceptance, courage, wisdom – exhale, be. When I am able to discern the difference of what I can and cannot change, how little I can actually control (if anything) peacefulness comes not only to myself but to those around me. There may also be anger, grief, sadness, and confusion. But it is within the truthfulness of what is, and a willingness to feel my own feelings rather than judge an others’ choices that I find peace.
In the ancient Sanskrit texts, it is taught that the first word of a book is the most important in that book, the first word on a page is the most important on that page, and the first word of a verse is the most important of that verse. The quote from Caraka Saṁhitā above begins with the word truthfulness. I see this as truthfulness with self and truthfulness with others. Though the path to truth can be lined with discomfort and pain, when we are able to get to the truth of our own feelings and perhaps discover the truth of what lies beneath our thoughts and beliefs, peace and compassion follow. And from truth and compassion the rest of the quote unfolds.
The practice of Āyurveda (translated as science, wisdom, or knowledge of life) is itself a prophylactic measure. The science offers us ways in which to heal our own body-mind-spirit as well as the macrocosm of the world around us. Fear is contagious, and in my opinion more contagious right now than any virus. The collective mind-state is afraid and that fear is being fed daily and in large doses. Prayer, meditation, mantra or affirmations, silence, conscious breathing, mindful movements, creative expression; these are all prophylactic measures. Caring for the mind and spirit is necessary in order to care for and protect the physical body.
Self-care is a prophylactic measure, a righteous act, and is in support of the welfare of people.
Proper rest, eating nourishing food, getting appropriate exercise, and caring for the sense organs support health of the body-mind-spirit. Adoration of nature, being with the natural world and honoring the natural rhythms of day and season, is a prophylactic measure. The ways in which we care for ourselves are directly related to how susceptible we are to illness or disease. Someone who is sleep deprived is immunocompromised. If we are unable to digest and assimilate the food we put into our bodies, we are already ill. The ways in which we honor ourselves on a daily basis is our best protection in preventing illness. Prevention of disease is one of the guiding principles of Āyurveda, and applies during times of pandemic as well as every day.
A short list of prophylactic measures:
- Make time for silence each day.
- Step away from the news feed, close the computer, turn off the television, silence the phone.
- Share gratitude with family and friends.
- Bring awareness to your digestive fire, and only eat when physically hungry.
- Wash or sanitize hands only when appropriate.
- Use coconut oil for moisturizing instead of lotion. Lotion is actually drying to the skin, while coconut oil is nourishing and antimicrobial. Other oils are good as well.
- Create a routine and schedule that honors the reality of your current life.
- Don’t make decisions from a place of panic or fear.
- Take a breath, take a beat, breathe.
If you would like more information about self-care and prevention please see the other articles published on my website. I will be publishing some specific prophylactic measures to the site, as well as some new recipes in the coming weeks and months. If you would like to receive an email as new items are published, please contact me.