There is a Sanskrit word that means the crimes we commit against ourselves – our crimes against wisdom.
Woah. Let’s say that again…deliberate, willful indulgence in unhealthy practices that leads to unbalanced body functions and disease. That pretty much sums it up. Prajna means correct knowledge, while aparadha means transgression or offense. In Ayurveda this is considered to be the root cause of all disease.
I contemplate this phenomenon often and notice how I am constantly paying for my transgressions in small and not so small ways. I ponder why I do things that I know are not good for me even though I have all the tools and knowledge I need to overcome this. I’m so sure the little angel/devil persona on my shoulder is real. Sitting there as a test and also a reminder that I have a choice. Always (mostly always) have a choice.
GOD OR GAME OF THRONES?
Why on earth would binge-watching a TV show rather than communing with the Divine seem like a good choice? Why would it be tempting staying up way too late rather than getting enough crucial sleep to restore and cleanse the body and brain? Why would we make any of the choices we do that are not in our best interest? Because my dear friends, we are human. Once we are in a pattern of making less-than-ideal choices we become addicted to those choices. Until we can change the groove in our brain and awaken our consciousness we will continue to commit prajnaparadha.
We all know for sure at some time or another we have committed crimes against our deepest wisdom. We continue to steal from our longevity and health hoping we will never have to pay for our actions. We are compelled somehow to be repeat offenders ignoring the consequences these seemingly petty crimes will have. Locked up in a prison of disease, premature aging, and mental suffering is the price we pay. The thing is there is no judge or jury. There is no one coming to take us away. Nature Herself will tap us on the shoulder to remind us and that may look like disease which could take hold in the mind, the body or the spirit.
The body is forgiving, the spirit generous and the mind malleable. That is why we have so many opportunities given to us to reform our habits that are not serving us. Nature’s reminders motivate us to make changes.
Prajnaparadha is caused by loss of discrimination, conviction, and memory so the question is how can we become more discriminating, have more conviction and remember our innate wisdom?
Friends, this is not the tapas as in small Spanish savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar. This is tapas, a Sanskrit word that means the inner fire of discriminating discipline in action. This is what strengthens our will-power and gives us the motivation to do the hard things we don’t feel like doing. We are guided by the wisdom of Ayurveda, the awareness of the nature of all things. How do we ignite the inner fire of tapas then and begin to make better choices naturally?
FORGIVE YOURSELF. THEN MAKE CHANGES.
When we get sick and are experiencing suffering from our illness it’s not useful to beat ourselves up and blame ourselves for where we went wrong in our choices. It is much more useful to focus on how we can bring ourselves back to balance and resolve to begin anew as well as draw on practices we already have instilled that are positive. Forgive yourself with the deepest love and compassion and then design your strategy for healing and strengthening your commitment to change.
MODERATION AND THE MIDDLE WAY.
Over the years my Ayurvedic practice has softened the edges of my Pitta extremes and now I prefer the middle way to an all-or-nothing approach. Watch some TV. Stay up late sometimes. Exercise moderately. Dance wildly. Indulge when there is a feast. Cleanse during the appropriate junctions of the seasons. Observe the seasonal practices. Meditate consistently.
When I was younger and more intense I would fast for days, binge for days, stay up late for weeks, allow incessant self-critical thoughts. Now having been steeped in this wisdom of Ayurveda for over 20 years I am more moderate. As my nature tends towards extremes I have to be ever-mindful and constantly stoke the fires of tapas.
CALL ON THE PLANTS AND PLANT ESSENCES FOR HELP.
I am in love with the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia of herbs and aromatic plants and I use them daily to help with making good choices.
There are herbs that strengthen the mind such as Brahmi/Gotu Kola.
There are essential oils that revitalize our solar plexus chakra-the center of our will power such as ginger, bergamot, lemon, clary sage.
There are spices that stabilize our blood sugar and strengthen our resolve such as cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and black pepper.
There are foods such as kichari (Spring kichari recipe below) that heal the digestive flora and also positively affect the functioning of the mind resetting the intricate balance in the body. Eating simple foods creates space, stokes the digestive fire and nourishes the tissues. This leads to emotional satisfaction and strengthens tapas.
Sitting quietly in meditation gives us pause. As much as the mind and body may resist this if we can overcome the temptation to fill that stillness with ‘something else’ we will develop tapas. Try lighting a fire when you are on the run. You will burn down the town and destroy everything in your path. When sitting in quiet contemplation you encourage an enduring flame that never goes out and does not burn everything in its wake. Igniting that fire of discipline in stillness encourages more discipline. It is that tapas that activates the fire of our inner intelligence. It is then that we make more judicious choices.
By incorporating these simple practices into your daily lifestyle choices you will find yourself connecting to your inner wisdom to guide you to make better choices. The better you feel, the better you’ll feel. This is an upward moving vortex that raises your consciousness and pulls you slowly out of the jail of your crimes against wisdom. This is a life-long journey of refinement, tapas, and consistent practice as we humans are always tempted with distractions on our journey to Self-realization.
May your fire burn brightly and eternally!
With Fragrant Blessings,
Glynn and Mel
Everybody’s Spring Kichari
4 tbsp ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
Half a medium onion finely diced
1 inch fresh peeled ginger, finely diced
1/4 tsp asafoetida (optional—a good addition though as this reduces the gaseous nature of beans)
1 cup split mung dal
3/4 cup white basmati rice
1/2 bunch spinach (alternatively, 1-2 cups of other greens or veggies such as asparagus, zucchini, daikon or a combination)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt/rock salt
6 cups water
(may add more water for a more watery kichari, or less for a drier stew)
- Soak split mung beans and rice together in cold water overnight.
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the ghee on medium and add the onions and ginger to sauté until tender.
- Add the cumin, fennel and coriander seeds and sauté for 2 more minutes.
- Add the asafoetida and stir in.
- Drain the split mung beans and rice until the rinse water is clear, and add to the mixture.
- Sauté for a few more minutes and add the water, cover, and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, stir, lower heat, and simmer with the lid on until tender (about 20 minutes).
- While the kichari is cooking, wash and chop the spinach/greens.
- Add the greens to the top of the mixture and replace the cover.
Allow to steam on top for 1-2 minutes if using spinach, and 3-5 minutes for other veggies.
- Stir in, add salt, and mix in.
- Garnish with a squeeze of lime, fresh cilantro or parsley, a small dollop more of ghee, and toasted sesame seeds.
You can also sprinkle some desiccated coconut on top.