Having taken up brain fitness (see below) a few days ago, this space today offers a few notes on Emotional Vibrancy and Wellbeing in this modern day and age. They come straight from a lecture of the same title by Sudha Prathikanti, MD presented by the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health and the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Prathikanti, UCSF Professor of Psychiatry, Consultant in Integrative Medicine and an exceptionally lovely young woman, clearly has achieved balance in her mind/body systems. Plus, she has a power-point lecture clear enough for lay listeners within her mostly-medical-professional audience to comprehend.
Emotional vibrancy and well-being, Dr. Prathikanti explains, “spring from a life lived in balance where one’s spirit is strong and resilient, with the capacity to embrace and grow from the pain and loss which are a natural part of human life.” Whereas western medicine tends to approach disease as a battle to be joined and conquered, she says, almost all other cultures from Native American to Asian have a more holistic approach. If you’re feeling a little out of balance, these glimpses into Ayurveda — the wisdom tradition of India — might help.
Ayurveda, Dr. Prathikanti explains, is a full medical system based on the concept that we humans are made up of the five basic elements (5 Great Bhutas) — earth, fire, water, air and space. We embody three life sources (3 Great Doshas): Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each dosha has specific expression; we come with all three in unique individual constitutions, and they are initially in balance. It’s when they get out of whack that trouble comes.
OK, perhaps this is sounding obtuse, but stick with it; you may discover something useful.
Vata (air, space, water) is all that moves — the beating heart, the blinking eye, the wandering mind. Pitta (mostly fire, a little water) has to do with heating — those digestive enzymes busy cooking up dinner, the fiery intellect. Kapha (earth/water — think clay) involves all that binds, the joints, body mass, memory. Ayurveda will seek to determine at what point your mind/body function was at its best — say, that summer you worked as a lifeguard on the beach and were doing graduate school classes at night — and keep you in that good balance.
Dr. Prathikanti conjured up three sample people and gave them a case of severe grief to illustrate how the different doshas work when things get out of balance. Vata, slightly built and having a quirky, creative mind, under such stress might wind up jumpy and restless, change jobs too much, have trouble making decisions. Pitta, owns her own business, the fiery mind etc, could wind up smoking and drinking and eating too many hot tamales. Kapha, earthy homemaker, might eat and sleep too much, become listless and withdrawn. The process of recovery would address each of these issues in ways to regain balance.
None of this is likely to make it into the health reform bill. But since we have finally begun to acknowledge that AMA-guided traditional American medicine may not know everything there is to know — Kaiser, when I considered acupuncture recently for a chronic pain issue promptly sent me to their Chinese Medicine class — perhaps a little ancient Indian wisdom will be useful.
By the end of the lecture I had figured out I’m a predominant Vata married to a definite Pitta, and is that good? Dr. Prathikanti assured me that understanding one’s doshas and keeping them in balance is indeed advisable, but she rather gently suggested that having a consultation with an ayurvedic practitioner for starters is wise.
In other words, it’s a good idea to know what you’re talking about. Still, we offer the above as a toast to your health.