Disease sometimes gets you down. Whether you are overweight, allergic, or simply anxious, you might be fed up with suffering and annoyed by your aches and pains. You might think there is something wrong with you, that you're defective. You might feel exasperated, wondering "Why do I have do deal with this?" or perhaps you lament, "Why can't I just feel good?"
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Yet, in Ayurveda, disease may be your body's best attempt to keep you alive. Most eczema, for example, is how your body tries to dispose of extra toxicity when your liver is overwhelmed. You may have heard how diabetes helped your ancestors survive the last ice age or how sickle cell anemia confers immunity to malaria. It could be that what you are calling a disease is the very thing that is saving your life. In an attempt to keep you healthy, your body has to make decisions and prioritize. Often, your body's survival attempts favor one area over another to protect the whole organism.
Sometimes these tradeoffs have serious consequences. If you fall through the ice, your body will protect your vital organs from the freezing water by restricting blood flow to your arms and legs. Your limbs will go numb, you won't be able to swim, and you might drown. You might not agree with the strategy your body has chosen, but your body is still doing its best to help you survive.
Consider further how your body prioritizes with your blood. Did you ever notice a part of your body throbbing, especially after an injury? The area throbs as your body moves blood to the injured area. Your body gives blood to the areas that need it most. Unfortunately, this may mean that other parts of your body are starving for blood and attention. The tissues that are neglected become vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens.
You might not know yet the story behind these sacrifices and vulnerabilities, or why disease was an inevitable outcome. You might still be wondering how you ended up with a life threatening illness like cancer. When you can't make sense out of your diseases, your ailments will seem like bad luck. Disease can be a wound to your pride. You may feel like you were born deficient, disconnected from others, unable to enjoy life as they do, and that people can't understand you.
When you fall into that trap of cursing your body's misfortunes, try to remember the millions of years invested in your body's machinery. Your body is a highly tuned system. No matter how frustrating and mysterious your ailments may seem, remember that you are made in the image of God.
Your body is not the enemy, it is your ally. You might want to attack your diseases instead of taking a deeper look at your diet, lifestyle, or the meaning behind your diseases. You might blame your body so you don't have to examine your feelings, which is harder and more painful to do.
Ayurveda says the first step toward health is to make peace with your body and your disease. Treat your body tenderly. Your body deserves kindness and your ailments, compassion. Avoid demonizing your diseases. The moment you hate your body, you stop taking care of it. Who are you declaring war on but yourself?
Instead of frustration, take disease as an opportunity to notice how your body works hard on your behalf. Try to understand how your body's performance is a delicate balancing act. You will find new appreciation for your body and how your struggles are part of a bigger picture. Ask yourself "What are the lessons I'm meant to learn? What can I gain from this experience?" People who have gone through catastrophic health events come out of those experiences much stronger, more appreciative of life, and more empathetic of others' suffering.
Armed with new insight into the struggles of your body, you can take steps to make things easier on yourself and find new ways to support those areas that need your love and care. Whenever you get sick, there is one simple question you need to ask yourself: "How is this disease the result of my body trying to help me?" This is when you begin to appreciate the wisdom of your body. Therein lies the healing.
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About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.
Questions, Comments & Impressions of 'how to make peace with your diseases'?Is there something you'd like to know about 'how to make peace with your diseases'?
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Yes. It's to bad there are not support groups around this view and issue. It's not easy to look at this view and it takes a long time to accomplish. (anyway this is what I think)
A beautiful and very valid insight...Thank you. Farida Viisram
Dear Nune, Your body may get cancer when tissues are weakened, or health issues neglected. Your body doesn't make cancer on purpose, but under conditions of stress your body may not have the energy to fight cancer. In those cases it's important to realize why your stress levels are high, and energy levels are low, so you can see where the root of the deficiency is.
Well a great insight.... Extremely useful to be with your body than being against it making it harder to win the war on disease.
Thanks for writing this. Not that i did not know already, but things like this need to be remembered again and again. You told and explained beautifully. And i needed it right now :-)
Thanh you, John for reminding us all of this possibility. Not only be friending dis-eases or accidents, but also difficult relationship, too. It fosters inner peace. mcm
This view of disease is so valuable, it presents us with the opportunity to live fully in our body through all the days of our lives. Thank you!