Ayurveda, thought to be the most ancient form of medicine, and touted as the science of life, is centered upon the concept of balance. Within Ayurveda, this teaching of balance shows itself everywhere and within everything.
The classical text of Ayurveda, Charaka Samhita, discusses the importance of the tripod of life: the mind, the body, and the spirit. This tripod, which maintains all living things, is a strong guiding principle within Ayurveda. A tripod by definition is balanced. This analogy teaches that the key to life is to maintain a balance of mind, body, and soul. A concept taught more than 5,000 years ago continues to be the most important teaching to live by today.
The exploration of finding balance within all mental activities—from thoughts and feelings, to conversation and intellectual pursuits—are the practices of mindfulness, meditation, and contemplation. The physical body is guided by the mind and is the result of what we eat, how we move, and what we do. Our body is the physical manifestation of the mind. And last but not least, as they are all equal, is the spirit. For some, the spirit is the breath, the prana of the body. The spirit is that which animates the body, bringing life to the physical body and the mind. When spirit leaves the body, physical death will soon follow. This profound yet simple concept makes Ayurveda not just the science of life, but also the science of living a life of balance. And for me, this is truly the one and only path.
As a spiritual seeker actively engaged in the material world, I have felt the strings of attachment, greed, perfection, overachievement, laziness, and fear pull upon me. These emotional strings affect both my lifestyle choices and my spiritual and Yogic practices. I have found myself seeking to be the “perfect” yogini and practitioner of Ayurveda, leading me to austere and depleting practices that have not brought balance. And the reverse has my mind seeking pleasure and external happiness, which becomes exhaustive and empty. I realized there’s no swinging the pendulum to one side or the other.
This discovery has led me to understand that to fully live, to let go of searching for happiness, is to just be. Not happy, not sad, but smack in the middle! For example, I don’t need to demonize food; perhaps the coffee in the middle of a snowy, cold, dark winter day is nectar for me at times, and other times it is not.
Committing to a daily yogic practice that supports me where I am doesn’t necessarily look the same in length, complexity, and frequency every day of the year. But it does show up on a daily basis to support and balance my mind. An extravagant purchase does not derail my spirituality no more than a glass of wine. The path of balance is to recognize both the internal and external aspects of myself and adjust, choose, and navigate the path between the polarities of life.