How to Sink Your Ship (Ayurveda & the 3 Causes of Disease)
Ayurveda names 3 causes of disease. Dis-ease is disease. Dis means having a negative or reversing force. Ease means free from difficulty, effort, or trouble. Dis-ease, therefore, is a negative reversal of the flow of ease. Behaviors that reverse the flow of ease develop disease.
The three causes are:
- Prajnaparadha—Making negligent choices
- Asatmendriyartha samyoga—Disrespecting your senses
- Parinama—Living out of rhythm
The causes of disease describe the negative feedback loop of dishonoring what you’ve learned, which leads to craving what hurts you, which further leads to getting out of sync with the universe. Oy vey.
#1 Cause of Disease: Making Careless Choices
Negligence is not applying intelligence or common sense or flat out disregarding what we already know. Prajnaparadha means not learning from your experience. Poor choices piled up on one another lead to unclear thinking and unintelligent cravings, which lead to even poorer choices. Take a moment to pause and reflect on this. Most of humanity can relate to prajnapapradha on some level…can you?
Your intelligence detector, named prajna, is inborn. And violable. When you violate yourself by disregarding what you’ve learned from experience, you suffer.
I’ll beat this point with a stick—the first cause of disease is offending yourself, trespassing against yourself, hurting yourself by not correcting behavior today based on what you know from your yesterdays.
We all fall into this trap.
#2 Cause of Disease: Disrespecting Your Senses
Astmaya means inappropriate, indriya means sense organs, artha means the objects of the senses, and samyoga means to combine or to link.
Our senses are delicate instruments able to discriminate between delight and damage. Pay very close attention to what you taste, see, hear, feel, and smell. What delights and nurtures your senses? Tune into your senses to find out. Your senses will tell you when they’ve had enough. Your job is to pay attention and respond appropriately.
When we make inappropriate choices repetitively, we confuse or damage our senses. Confusion blocks the flow of consciousness. Damage destroys consciousness. Making decisions from an unconsciousness place will destroy you over time. That is this teaching.
Be attentive to your body; detect when music is too aggressive, food too processed, or your eyes too tired to read the screen. Disrespect your senses and you cause disease in your body, your mind, your relationships, and your spiritual life.
That is asatmendriyartha samyoga in a nutshell.
#3 Cause of Disease: Living Out Of Rhythm
The third cause of disease (or how to sink your ship slowly and prematurely) has to do with time, the seasons, and aging. On one hand, parinama is the natural rhythmic process of decay over time, the most inevitable part of aging and death. If you’re lucky to avoid peril long enough, you get old and then you die.
On the other hand, parinama can pick up the pace when we miss the infinite opportunities to align ourselves to the cosmic clock.
“By practice, we try to attune the body to the times and spaces of creation, because without being in tune with them, you do not get very far. If you are not riding the time, you will live a mediocre life—probably a suffering life. Only if you are riding the time, you will live an extraordinary life, which is what a human being and the human brain are designed for.”
When we don’t sync up with the macrocosmic rhythms, we slide from ease towards disease. In a nutshell, this is parinama, or the avoidable dis-eases of a-synchronistic living.
Within time are cycles and within cycles are junctures. Junctures are an anti-aging goldmine! The inverse of parinama is when you take advantage of the daily, seasonal, and time-of-life junctures to off-load dis-ease and optimize health. By being aware of rhythms and junctures, you can clear the residue of the past cycle and enter the next phase of your life light, clear, grounded, and engaged with the possible. Nature works in time through rhythms that can wipe your dis-ease slate clean.
Junctures occur when the universal energies of metabolism (transformation), catabolism (destruction), and anabolism (construction) alternate.
The most obvious is day and night, night and day. You can easily and instantly feel the effects of how you manage your schedule with the cosmic clock. When you stay up late, you ruin your next day. When you go to bed early, you have a better next day. Similarly, when you eat a lot at night, you have lethargy when you wake. When you eat light or fast at night, you have clarity when you wake.
Humans produce more bile midday, when pitta, the energy of metabolism, is highest. Midday is when we can digest heavier foods. We rest most deeply when we fall asleep during kapha, the energy of anabolism, is highest, before 10 pm. We are most alert when we awake, hydrate, and defecate before dawn, when vata, the energy of catabolism, is highest, before 6 a.m. When any of these basic rhythms are off, the body rhythms are burdened, which leads to accelerated aging. If your current schedule isn’t aligned to meet your body’s needs, you might resist these age-old observations.
Seasonal junctures happen between seasons, when change is in the air. The big ones are winter to summer and summer to winter. Fluctuating weather patterns are an indicator. Internal indicators are the “food blahs,” when you lose your appetite and find nothing appealing, or when you notice change is in the air.
During the change of seasons, our bodies want to dump the accumulated energies from the past weather pattern before moving into the next one. For example, we discharge the heat from summer so it doesn’t embed into a winter infection. We dump the stagnating congestion from winter so it doesn’t devolve into a spring sinus allergy/infection.
The time-of-life junctures are conception (anabolic,) birth (metabolic,) and death (catabolic). For women, we add menstruation (anabolic,) childbearing (metabolic,) and menopause (catabolic). For men, rites of passage occur around the same ages. Each juncture comes with an opportunity for profound psycho-spiritual development, improved health through aligning to the shift in physiology and metabolism, and a potential longevity prize given freely for aligning and making specific appropriate choices for the next phase.
We can patiently facilitate the baby being born and nurture the woman becoming a mother. We can enlighten the young teen in learning, honoring, and optimizing her moon cycle from the inside out. We can elevate the mature woman into a wise elder.
The seasonal and time-of-life junctures require retreat and renewal. They are the natural time for detox and rejuvenation. When we eat the local harvests during seasonal junctures, our bodies naturally go through a detox in spring and rejuvenation in autumn. (If this inspires you, get your free Yogidetox Recipe book + starter guide at www.yogidetox.com) When we live in sync with the cosmic clock, we naturally press our own reset button. We dump imbalances before they sprout into bigger problems, symptoms, diseases. When we design our schedules, our bodies, our lives around nature’s rhythms, we’re rewarded with terrific energy, health, and a clear sense of purpose. And when we don’t, the power of parinama sweeps us into the decay of aging at an accelerated clip.
Intentionally cooperating with the cosmic cycle begets healthy aging and longevity. To know the cosmic clock is to become curious, open, willing, receptive. Find guidance from someone who knows how to facilitate the junctures—like your local Ayurvedic healer. Eat a simple diet that is nourishing, lubricating, and easy to digest. Attune deeply to self-care. Rest. Detox or nourish as needed. Retreat physically, mentally, emotionally. Accept any support you need to guide you through our optimal transition. Clear a space in your life for deep transition and transformation. Eventually, emerge anew.
“That person who always eats wholesome food, enjoys a regular lifestyle, remains unattached to the objects of the senses, gives and forgives, loves truth, and serves others, is without disease.”
The three causes of disease point to their inverse: the three opportunities for health evolution. Honor what you’ve learned from experience by making informed choices. Being sensical enables your sense organs to function properly in the long haul. Attuning to the cosmic clock, nature’s rhythms, gives an excellent return on investment for retarding the aging process.
This is the art of Ayurveda—using your knowledge of dis-ease to generate prescriptions for easeful, optimized living.
Awakening to a progressively healthy body and the freedom to design your own life may seem out of reach. I want this freedom, or what the yogis call svatantriya, to be within your reach. Tap into the fundamental habits of Ayurveda to wake up to the gift of your body at any age or stage of health.
Embed the habits of Ayurveda and you will create an easeful and strong body, clear and sharp mind, dynamic relationships, and an unmistakable connection to spirit. Trust your intuition—let it guide your understanding of your body’s signals. Experiment with your body. Explore it like a chemistry lab.