By Manju Gupta
Ancient Wisdom for Modern Health: Rediscover the Simple, Timeless Secrets of Health and Happiness, Mark Bunn, Macmillan Publishers, Pp 300, Rs 445.00
Here is a book, which advises us to revert back to the simple natural ways of health by reconnecting to the age-old collective wisdom of human health and experience. Though there have been many cultures and traditions throughout the world that have understood and preserved a rich knowledge of life and health, but in this book, Mark Bunn, a specialist in Ayurvedic healthcare, draws mainly on the knowledge contained in the science of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda means ‘science of life’ and it is based on the universal eternal laws of Nature that have governed our world since the dawn of time. Dating back to over 6,000 years, it is considered the world’s oldest contiguous system of healthcare. Ancient Ayurvedic sages had declared that there are a number of natural laws that promote order, progress and evolution in our world by governing the rhythms and flow of life. Basic ‘natural laws’ govern everything from our digestion, elimination, our hormones, our sleep cycles, brain functioning, our emotions through our internal healing mechanisms. When we live in harmony with these laws, all our physiological functions attract the support of Mother Nature. There are some underlying general principles of health under the natural laws and these form the foundation of all health and healing.
Mark Bunn then goes on to suggest the seven principles of good health. The first one is to nourish the heart before nourishing the body. The lady doctors of Egypt based everything they did on the art of healing on their understanding that ‘health comes from a happy heart’. And these words were inscribed on top of the Pharaohs’ tombs in Giza. Even back then, it was understood that emotions create our physical reality. Even Ayurveda suggests that our ‘inner world of feelings and emotions’ has an even more profound effect on our physical health than our day-to-day thoughts. This is because the emotional or ‘feeling mind’, as it is sometimes called, is known to operate at an even deeper level of our human machinery than our thinking mind. Experiencing love and joy produces a vastly different cellular vibration than feelings of worry or guilt. The happier we feel, the happier our cells are. The happier our cells are, the more harmoniously they function and are more likely to keep us healthy.
The second wisdom is to “live in tune with Nature’s daily cycles”. Mark Bunn talks of Ayurvedic sages who said Nature expresses itself in cycles and rhythms of life through doshas, or the underlying principles of intelligence that govern all life. The dosha known as vata “is light, spacey and airy, like the wind. Pitta is hot, dynamic and intense, like fire. Kapha is slow, heavy and more earthy.” The chapter stresses the need for guarding against the improperly digested food or anna which is said to be “the bed of all disorders” as per Ayurveda, since it blocks the natural flow of intelligence that underpins its proper functioning. We are governed by cycles and rhythms of Nature and these should not be violated. These include eating a heavy dinner at night, sleeping out of sync with natural cycles, that is, not following the rejuvenation cycle of 10 pm to 2 am of deep sleep, and lack of sleep. The author suggests early morning removal of waste matter from the bowel, kickstarting the day with early morning exercise, having a light breakfast. The ancient sages advocated that when the sun is high, eat more. A mid-afternoon siesta is a boon for long-term health but this entails sleeping in a sitting or semi-inclined position while lying in a horizontal position “closes down the subtle channels (strotas) of the body, tending to leave one duller and more sluggish”.
The third wisdom is to eat intelligent food. Whole foods are to be consumed and these include avocadoes, seeds and nuts. Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, basil, coriander and cardamom are advised to be used as herbs and spices.
The fourth wisdom is to exercise in ways that unite the mind, body and spirit. In ancient Vedic philosophy, the highest goal in life was to unlock our limitless potential, grow to higher status of consciousness and ultimately live in complete harmony with the universal or cosmic intelligence. Here the practice of yoga is advocated or any activity involving stretching your body while focusing fully on the specific muscles that you are stretching. The correct breathing exercise, along with nasal breathing, is explained in detail.
Wisdom five is to connect daily with Mother Nature’s healing gifts and these are earth, water, fire, air and space. The most important is fire or sunshine and the yogic practice of surya namaskar or sun salutation because regular exposure to sunlight is good for a healthy body as the sun gifts brightness, power, energy, dynamism, emotional well-being and physical health. Contact with earth by walking barefoot on the ground, going out of town and back to Nature or a National Park and sitting on grass are found to be very useful. Water is good for fighting dehydration, fatigue, high blood pressure, obesity, constipation and other such problems. Inhalation of fresh air and allowing air into the bedroom are feasible.
The sixth wisdom is to enliven the inner silence by remaining silent for some time daily and learning to transcend, that is, by listening to soothing music or engaging in one’s passion or hobby. Here yoga, massage, transcending though meditation is advised.
The seventh wisdom is to follow our inner voice or to close our eyes and pay attention to our body. By turning in more to ‘inner healing messengers’, as suggested by the ancient Mayans and Vedic masters, we can avert much sickness before it even begins.
The book combines ancient Ayurvedic wisdom, 1,000 year-old spiritual teachings, nature health science secrets and the latest modern research to constitute seven powerful wisdoms of life based on time-tested ‘natural laws’ for leading a healthy and happy life.
(Macmillan Publishers India Ltd, 2/10, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi – 110 002; www.macmillanpublishersindia.com)