Buddhism & Ayurveda Agree: the answer is opposite

We sometimes use the word opposite as if it has a negative connotation. But often opposite is the medicine you need.

In Ayurveda, India’s 5000-year-old science of life and sister science of yoga, the 3 doshas (comprised of the 5 elements) make up each person’s unique constitution: vata (air and space), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water).

Too much of a dosha for too long can lead to an imbalance in your physical, mental and emotional health. Too much spicy food eaten during a hot summer by a type A personality person is not something I’d advise. Conditions of heat will typically follow: heartburn, night sweats, sharp tongue or a short fuse. I cover more about the doshas in Nourish: Ayurveda-inspired 21-day Detox.

In Ayurveda, like attracts like, and opposites hold the answer to restoring balance.

Too much fire in the body or mind? Add some cooling earth. A walk in the woods in early morning will feel refreshing.

Too much air (dryness/vata)? Add moisture and warmth. A warm oil massage does wonders for dry skin and restless mind.

Too much water (emotional ups and downs)? Add some fire or earth. Stabilize and strengthen.

Which brings me to this morning’s contemplation:

The use of opposites to stabilize the mind and harmonize the home.

We are creatures of habit. It can be challenging to get yourself out of a reactive loop. He says this and then I say that. We always have this fight. The kids just know how to push my buttons.

In the Dalai Lama’s book, Becoming Enlightened, he writes:

The presence of opposing forces indicates the potential for change; when you need to counteract something, first you identify its opposing force, and when you increase its power, the strength of its opposite diminishes. Since suffering is caused by afflictive emotions, relying on attitudes that oppose them promotes healthy change.

When you feel angry, take a moment of awareness and ask what the opposite is. It’s interesting… when I do this, a word will arise quite quickly and it’s not usually what I’d think of as the true opposite, but it is always what I need.

When I felt overcome with worry for my sick cat last night as I drove him to the vet, I asked for the opposite of worry and found compassion for not only him but also for me. I opened to allow compassion to flow through me. The worry eased.

Sometimes the words that arise are:

  • understanding
  • openness
  • patience

Either for another or myself. Sometimes both.

It’s the qualities of the feelings, like the elements in Ayurveda, that effect a change in our habitual cycles, and restore balance to our physical, mental and emotional bodies.

Where can you evoke opposites in your life today to invite balance and ease?

Oh, and my lovely gentleman cat of 21 years (though the vet thought 22) is well and recovering this morning. I shall return to tending to him.

Have an enlightened day.


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