Many people think that because of my spiritual heritage and far-out upbringing, that the teachings and practices of Yoga, and it’s allied spiritual teachings, have been passed down to me like a family heirloom. Although I grew up with my mother meditating; and a wild cast of characters who would read Rumi, Kabir and Hafiz standing on their heads; my path has been a roller coaster ride with the most surprising roots.
The once painful but now empowering truth is: I have another “heritage.” I came to the practices of Yoga on my knees. I was in a lot of pain and searched everywhere for a way out of this pain, by numbing, running and aggressively fighting it. My life in my late teens and early twenties felt like it was nothing but suffering–mentally, emotionally and physically. When my partner of six years unexpectedly died, I felt that was IT. Strangely enough, it was IT! The epoch of pain lead me on my path to a lasting happiness, health and a freedom I never knew existed!
The teachings of Yoga and Buddhism describe suffering, anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction as Dukkha. Buddha, in fact, said life IS Dukkha. In The Four Noble Truths, he describes the way out of suffering, and emphasizes the importance of developing insight into the nature of Dukkha, the conditions that cause it, and how it can be overcome. The practice of Kriya Yoga starts with “tapas” to create heat but also to accept suffering as part of the path.
Through the yogic lens, I was first able to see the meaning behind my suffering, and then find my way out of it. This was due largely to the incredible grace of being blessed by the teachings of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is translated to “life science” or “wisdom.” First and foremost, my teachers taught me that “I” was not my body, mind or emotions (known as Prakriti); there was something, someone beyond and deep within me (known as Purusha); and my journey was going to be an internal one. Though I was still identifying with the many veils of the Kleshas (obstacles), my true self was at peace and harmony! My path to a state of inner peace and harmony would involve a willingness to take a brave and truthful look at what was causing me so much pain and suffering, and take action through devoted practice and radical changes in living. Taking personal responsibility for my own Dukkha was the awakening of personal power to be free of Dukkha! Not that suffering is not a part of daily life, but it’s our relationship to it that changes.
“Dosha,” in Ayurvedic wisdom, means disease. Described as the first obstacle in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1:30, dis-ease blocks us from the experience of Samadhi, union with ourselves and the world around us. Everything I was suffering from, such as anxiety, depression, anorexia, extreme restlessness, addiction, physical pain, and hormonal imbalances, were all rooted in my particular disease type referred to as Vata.
There are three main Doshas, which are allied with the three Gunas, or forces of nature. Seeing ourselves as nature and a part of nature is Ayurveda’s main Gospel. Vata is composed of air and ether, Pitta is fire and water, and Kapha is water and earth. Each of us is a unique combination of the elements of nature. We have each of the elements and Doshas within us, but every individual contains them in a portion that is uniquely theirs! The Goal of Ayurveda is to re-establish and maintain a person’s natural doshic balance, so their own nature is supported, enhanced, celebrated, and fulfilled.
Through the wisdom of Ayurveda, immersing myself in the practices of self healing, and the daily ritual of Yoga,Pranayama, Mantra, healthy eating habits, and the use of herbs and spices for my Dosha, I have experienced miraculous cures: from being able to conceive a child at 43, to having the beautiful life I have, which involves running a temple of healing, Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, to serve these life changing and transformative teachings! This, I could have never conceived of 25 years ago. And I’m certainly not saying it’s easy…I still struggle with my Dosha daily; but by committing to path of physical, emotional, and mental health; everyone around me benefits.
Like the Buddha himself, I encourage you, too, to look into your Dosha and Dukkha that are particular to you. Along with consulting a Vidya, an ayurvedic practitioner, any book by Maya Tiwari, David Frawley or Harish Johari can be great guides on your path to healing. YOU become your own healer.
Here’s a link to begin to determine your personal dosha.
Dukkha as described in wiki :
Anxiety (Chogyam Trungpa, The Truth of Suffering, pp. 8–10)
Dissatisfaction (Pema Chodron, Chogyam Trunpa)
Frustration (Dalai Lama, Four Noble Truths, p. 38)
Stress (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Jon Kabat-Zin)
Suffering (Thich Nhat Hanh, Ajahn Succito, Chogyam Trungpa, Rupert Gethin, Dalai Lama, et al.)
Uneasiness (Chogyam Trungpa)
Unease (Rupert Gethin)
Developing insight into Dukkha is the gateway not only to awakening, but also to the raising and nourishing of compassion. Compassion is that feeling in the heart that wants to help others and ourselves be free of suffering. The First noble truth leads us to the practice of compassion, because it is the practice of letting things in, letting people in, letting all parts of ourselves in.
Lokha Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu: May all beings every where be happy and free from suffering.
Jasmine Tarkeshi is the Co-Founder of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers in NYC and SF. She is a master teacher and devoted student of Yoga and it’s allied practices. She teaches weekly classes and Leads Teacher Trainings at Laughing Lotus SF, Teaches workshops and retreats worldwide and will featured at the SF Yoga Journal Conference in January 2015 teaching an Ayurveda and Yoga Workshop, Dancing with your Dosha.