Today is the third day of the Ayurvedic cleanse I’m hosting with some meditators, and it’s got me thinking about digestion. Not just what the intestines are doing kind of digestion, but about digesting experiences. How well can you take the experiences that happen to you and break them down so they are useful lessons as opposed to storing them as stress in the system? Ayurveda is all about digestion If the western health motto is, “You are what you eat,” the Ayurvedic motto would be, “You are what you can digest.” It doesn’t matter if the brown rice when analyzed by a food scientist has more nurtrients, if you can’t absorb them as well as white rice, then white rice is “healthier” for you. And we as a culture, as we fall out of alignment with nature, our digestion is weakening which is one of the reasons why people can’t eat dairy, wheat, eggs, or hardly anything anymore. Ayurvedic specialists talk a lot about “agni,” or digestive fire. Fire is the element of transformation. There may not be a literal fire in your stomach, but there is acid that burns and breaks things down like a fire. This is the force that transforms the food into particles that can be absorbed in the body. If food is not transformed and digested properly, it creates “ama,” or undigested material in the body. If you’ve ever scraped your tongue in the morning and seen that sticky, white stuff (ew), that is ama. When we do a cleanse, we are purifying ama from the system as well as strengthening our “agni” or ability to digest. Meditation is also about digestion While Ayurveda is all about digestion of food, meditation is about digestion of experiences. In the same way that food, if not transformed and processed properly, leaves behind a residue in the body, when we don’t process experiences, they leave behind a kind of residue as well. This residue is what we call stress. Stess is more subltle, ama is more physical, but they both interfere with the flow of consciousness in our individual selves. I imagine a pool of water that is so clear, you can see all the way to the bottom. This represents the consciousness of an enlightened person, their physiology is so purified, they can have awareness in all levels of the pool at once, the surface all the way to the bottom. Stress is like agitated water, it makes the mind unclear and prevents access to deeper layers of the self. Ama is like mud in the water, it’s more physical but also prevents flow and awareness. Both cause stagnation. When we meditate, we are calming those waters. When we get rest, breathe clean air, and eat foods that we can digest, we are also calming those waters. Enlightenment is not a place somewhere, it is a purification process. We all need to be able to take in, transform, and let go of everything we encounter to feel free and alive. When we don’t, it gets stuck and it makes us sick. When we feel sick in our bodies and sick in our hearts, life feels awful and we do harm. This is why we meditate and live cleanly as best as we can.
An overload of food, or experiences, leave us sick in the belly, or the mind.