The 3 Pillars of Life

How To Food…

There are so many ways to go with diet, aren’t there? And it is so hard to choose what to eat when with so many different methods. There’s even conflict around something as simple as hydration! Lord! We can actually drink too much liquid and there is such a thing as too much water. 

One thing we highlighted as the course rolled to its completion today was the importance of a clear mind which is amplified by living according to these 3 very important tools. Āyurveda loves lists and I wanted to share one with you today to give you something to chew on (pun absolutely intended). 

3 Pillars of Life :

1. Ahara (Food)
2. Nidra (Sleep)
3. Brahmacarya (Proper use of the senses related to intake and output of energy)

These are so important because the implosion of one destroys the most important asset to health we have, the Agni – or digestive fire. 


Pillar 1 – Ahara

Pizza

When we engage with the first pillar, Ahara (Food), it is not enough that the food is well processed, ideally local, organic, harvested at the right time – like proper ripeness. It should also be well-cooked, well-spiced according to the season, your age, and the time of day, but also….YOU must also be able to digest it!

I like to joke that the most lovely, bright, organic food is useless and can still cause inner toxicity (āma) if you cannot digest it. 


So with Pillar 1, some things to look out for :

  1. Eat enough so that you are not hungry for snacks later
  2. Do not eat so much or such heavy fare that you feel tired or heavy after
  3. Do not drink so much before, during, or after eating that you pour liquid on the fire meant to cook your food.


Pillar 2 – Nidra

Nidra (Sleep) is important because it is the time when all major physical functions of the body cease – catabolism essentially stops – and the body moves into a deeply building and nourishing state. 

This is only possible, however, if we do not eat or drink too close to bed and that we sleep soundly through the night.  

When the night comes, śita guṇa (cold quality) takes over. Cold quality is known by its main action which is sthambhane (to contract/constrict). When the environment is cold, the channels of circulation and digestion especially slow down to a near halt. Thus, anything you take in during this time will not be processed properly if at all while you are sleeping.

This explains why, when you wake up in the morning after eating a late and or too heavy meal the night before, you feel heavy, foggy, and often still taste the previous night’s meal! Because of the presence of too much physical matter in the body, the body is unable to properly rest, which means the Agni will be off that following day as well. 

Sleep is meant to be done when the belly is not full so that the body can integrate all the nourishment you took in during the day and process any subtle, psychological needs that the previous day presented. 

When we get full, deep, uninterrupted sleep, we wake up refreshed and able to tackle difficulties with more grace, ease, and perspective.


Pillar 3 – Brahmacarya

Brahmacarya (Proper Use of Energy) often refers to sexual engagement. This is certainly true here as well, but it goes further than this. 

In Āyurveda, there are 10 senses instead of only 5. There are 5 of intake – the jñana indriyas – ears (hearing), eyes (seeing), skin (touching), tongue (tasting), nose (smelling). There are 5 of expressions that correlate with the 5 just listed. These are the karma indriyas – mouth (speaking), feet (walking), hands (grasping), genitals (reproduction), GI (waste expulsion).

These senses – all 10 – need to be used properly. Not too much, not too little, not awkwardly, and not improperly. 

When we do engage with them properly – and especially when this becomes a habit – we distort our senses and this process changes our ability to see the world in its Truth. When our sense of perception is distorted from reality, the choices we make serve to hurt us and those around us because we are not interfacing with any information provided with correct discernment. Thus, again, our Agni ends up being destroyed – as well as our mental state because we misjudge our needs and as well as what will support them.  


What to Glean?

These 3 are the Pillars of life because the imbalance of one causes the other two to fall and we to suffer. Practices that keep the mind sharp and clean – like yoga, habitual living, engaging with nature, having a reliable schedule, following the seasons and your own needs – like eating when hungry – are all incredible tools to grow a deeper inner trust. Setting an intention to maintain this process forges a profound sense of presence and peace in the day to day that is often fraught with the opposite!

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