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By Michael Doko Hatchett
In my deepest heart, I believe that a happy and healthy relationship with life, each other, and our own bodies and minds, dwells entirely in developing our capacity to be kind. Everything else regarding health and happiness flows from here. To give tender attention to our bodies and minds, to life itself, to its questions, wonders, and mysteries, constitutes a path in life that enhances our human potential for clarity of mind, body, and heart. It’s about ‘digesting’ our joy, our heartaches, our difficulties, our love and our dreams.
Physically, spiritually, and mentally we are always in an eternal relationship with ‘sustenance’. Throughout the cosmos, a process of movement, transmutation and adaptation is always occurring - from the inside to the out, and the outside to the in; the universal to the particular, the particular to the universal.
In the ancient traditions of health and healing, food is our fundamental starting focus to understand and live in harmony with these universal forces and processes of life. It can bring about a state of mind and body that leads to disease, suffering and mental imbalance, or to a state of mind and body that leads ultimately to perfect health of body, mind and spirit. Eating good food directly connects us to a soulfulness, a sense of connectedness, with nature and with the lessons it holds for us.
The essential ‘point’ to kindness, in terms of health, is that it establishes the necessary quality of approach for us to understand our bodies and minds. This is a simple statement, but a vast endeavour.
Kindness leads to a deeper patience, clearer powers of observation, and eventually to a precise path of self-care. Without it, we are guaranteed to be agitated - however subtle or unnoticed that may be - prone to greed, and blind to good sense. With it, we begin to sense and experience what is needed to be healthy and happy.
This is what I call developing ‘Warmth’ – of giving back to our lives, an appreciation of simplicity and its power. Simplicity is not superficiality; it is what assists in the continuing creation of deep wisdom, compassion and down-to-earth kindness; empowering us with the right dosage of a steady and firm conviction in our own abilities to self-manage our health.
The purity and choices of the food we eat is the first doorway to awaken kindness and balance in the body and mind. The digestive system’s power and intelligence (‘Agni’ in Ayurvedic terminology) is the crucial factor of all health. It governs the entire mind/body chain of nutrition, as it co-ordinates the body in the digestive and elimination processes.
Well-digested meals give us energy and nourishment. Poorly digested meals set off chain reactions that create contaminating by-products that stick to our gastrointestinal tract (‘Ama’ in Ayurvedic terminology). This tires and weakens the mind/body, as it endeavours to ‘burn-off’ the toxins that will circulate to the deeper tissues and organs.
The more we eat poorly, the more constant is this task. Therefore, indigestion is a serious matter for our lives - not a small inconvenience. Due to the chain of nutrition, poor digestion in the body leads to poor digestion of thoughts in the mind. Poor digestion of thoughts leads back to poor choices of intake for our senses and diet.
The body will cope most of the time, especially in our earlier years. But coping with the presence of undigested foods and their toxic by-products steals from our deeper storehouses of immunity and energy. The energy that is, according to the ancient sciences of mind/body, meant to fuel our ‘spirit’ and evolution. In other words, it’s a waste of energy and endowment, keeping us in a basic mode of being.
Thus, we need to do two things: (1) eat foods that are easily digested by the body and leave only simple wastes, and (2) enhance the ways in which we encourage digestive strength and harmonisation.
Mind and body need to work with, not against, each other. This is stated again and again in the all the ancient systems of health and healing - Buddhism, Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, to name a few.
The body responds to good digestion and a warm attitude, by better coordinating our cellular intelligence. When problematic substances for the body and mind to cope with are not produced; and when chemicals and hormones that enhance enthusiasm, immunity, harmony, and the ability to manage our senses are produced; we are better able to see, learn and use this body/mind well.