RYT-500, CSOY Faculty & Maharishi Ayurvedic Consultant
"I can't figure out if I'm Pitta or Vata. Should I eat artichokes? Will I die if I eat fruit and milk in the same meal?"
As an Ayurvedic consultant, I get asked some variation on these questions a lot. Though I could answer them respectively with: "yes, if you mix them with spinach, cheese and sour cream and enjoy with tortilla chips and beer," and "yes you will die, but probably not from eating fruit and milk together," the honest answer is that whether or not you should eat artichokes is about the least interesting part of Ayurveda to me.
Ayurveda is a rich and wonderful medical science spanning millennia that has been boiled down by and for Westerners into lengthy and confusing lists about what vegetables one should and shouldn't eat (at the rate we're going, I'm just happy if you eat any vegetables) and lists of ill-advised food pairings. However, at its root, the gift of Ayurveda is that it offers an incredible worldview that has the capacity to open you up to the flow of abundance and deep sense of worthiness and belonging. Given our current state of affairs, when our entire society is centered around the projection of scarcity in order to mobilize consumerism, I think it's likely to be this, not figuring out your dosha in an online quiz, that will heal what ails you.
As an immigrant to this country and a relative newcomer to the tradition of Thanksgiving, I've acquired a great appreciation for the practice of taking stock of all that you have and counting your blessings. Studies showing that gratitude practices vastly improve emotional well being and heart health are well documented. But I also think it's easier said than done. It's around this time each year that I often note a marked contrast between the gratitude-themed memes taking over my Facebook feed and the mental/emotional states of the people around me as we hurtle towards the onslaught of Thanksgiving, winter, Christmas (and ski season here in the mountains!). Friends and strangers often seem like they are barely hanging on at this time of year as they navigate family and travel and seasonal illness and finances, never mind coming up with lists of things to be grateful for. Instead of the cozy glow of a Griswold-type holiday with a happy ending, the stark reality of this time of year is often instead mounting pressure of increased obligations and expectations with diminishing returns on perceptual abundance and that drip drip drip is the sound of Cortisol flooding your body, and that my friends is what will kill you.
So can Ayurveda help? Absolutely! But not with artichokes.
Yajur Ved, one of the most ancient bodies of work upon which Ayurvedic science is based says, "Yatha pinde tatha brahmande, yatha brahmande tatha pinde" which translates roughly into "As is the macrocosm, so is the microcosm. As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm." It means basically that you are made of the same ingredients as the Universe and the Universe is composed of the same ingredients as you. Skeptical? Well if it helps any, Quantum Physics has reached the same conclusion in understanding that all organic matter containing carbon (e.g. your body, the earth, the ocean) originated from the stars. Further, Ayurveda has always insisted that there is one underlying truth to the Universe that is infinite freedom and it is present in every atom in your body (in Ayurveda this is called Atman). Sound hokey? In modern science this underlying intelligence is often referred to as "DNA". Simply put, there is nothing you can buy that will make you any richer because the whole universe is already in you (insert Rumi quote here).
So while I could suggest that you cook your organic turkey in ghee and skip the cranberry sauce if you're having milk to drink and definitely no melon, from an Ayurvedic standpoint one of the most nourishing, healthful things you can do this Thanksgiving is to get outside in nature and reconnect to who you were before the commercials said you weren't enough. Feel the soft earth underfoot, marvel at the remaining golden leaves and how effortlessly they let go when the time has come, touch a tree, gaze at the stars as they emerge in the late afternoon dusk and feel where you came from. Know yourself. Feel that you are rich beyond belief and recognize that you belong. Then go indoors and enjoy a delicious meal with people you love. Cheers.