Imagination always ran wild when I watched my grandfather on his haunches working in the front lawn, tending to the rose bushes. Sweat would claim territorial control over his immaculate white kurta and the geography-obsessed child in me would be guessing which country/continent the sweat-patch resembled. He would finish an hour of gardening work before he brought his 90 year old slender frame to the breakfast table. “I must earn my breakfast”, was a phrase I often heard but it took decades to imbibe the precious wisdom. He cycled to the bank, to run errands till 88 and worked till well over 85 with a private firm post his retirement from a bank job at 60. His dinner was usually a bowl of soup or a plate full of boiled greens. He lived a contented and disciplined life of 93 years as a devout family man who prayed a lot and spoke very little towards the end.
As I write an elaborate account of this simple yet exemplary life, well-being begins to take different shapes and meanings in my thoughts. It becomes a liquid that is happy to take the form of the mind-container I pour it in. It becomes a deceptive, shape-shifting cloud and I call it that because with each moment I live, it acquires more depth and meaning.
As teens with raging hormones, health and vitality are all about faster, stronger, more flexible and this feeling of invincibility. It begins to shift towards maintaining a certain attractive physical form and shape in the twenties and thirties, where desirability takes center stage and calls the shots. Peak-performance at work, in the competitive world, in bed and everywhere else fuels the striving for an enduring body. From an indestructible rock to an efficient machine that must perform optimally to serve the ego of its master/madam, the expectations and demands from the body change.
As we step into the forties, a definitive shift begins to occur. The excesses and indulgences of the twenties and the maniacal striving of the thirties have taken a toll on the body. Restorative journey, repair work on the damaged and burnt out parts must begin. The shelves full of vitality and performance enhancing drugs are replaced with replenishment, prevention and correction pills. Relearning the A to Z of Vitamins, health-foods, re-balancing the lost equilibrium, essential oils and all available elixirs that promise to apply brakes on the degenerative process are sought.
The age of preventives gradually slips into decades of corrections and years are spent under the knife or under the scanner, diagnosing, repairing and arresting the impact of plaguing health issues. Life goes a full circle from fearless vitality and invincibility to a fearful state of feeble vulnerability.
As I ponder over wellness, I recall Buddha’s timeless wisdom of treading the ‘middle path’. The body, after all, is the lowest and slowest form of this vibrational, energy existence we are all a signature of. It is merely an expression of the highest consciousness. It is the Divine’s self-expression to experience Her own creation! So what works for the soul to alleviate the soul’s Dukha, must work for the body. The middle path of little or no penchant for indulgences in food, drink and all that the taste buds seduce us with. “But then what is life worth if I can’t enjoy vodka spiked panipuri, dark chocolates, sheesha drags and a tub of ice cream?” It leads to the existential question, “ What prompts the need for external stimulation and indulgence that leads to ill-health, side effects and detrimental impact on long term well-being?”
I go back to grandpa’s life and carefully look for cues and insights. Well-being in truth is merely a sense of balance that we have gradually lost and forgotten about over the last few generations. There is an eco-librium, if I may resort to my temptation of coining new terms as I write on. Please indulge me. The ancient civilisations that still thrive in the Amazon and several other cultures that remain untouched by our rapid advances, continue to live in balance with their immediate environments. The incessant desire to acquire, exploit, demolish and devour the resources with an insatiable appetite for consumption is only a trait in our cultures that suffer heart disease and incurable cancerous mutiny of our own cells and several other ailments. These are the barters we make unconsciously when we become consuming zombies. All these diseases that plague our cultures and the devouring viruses that are running through our bodies are a self-invited trouble.
The ecolibrium I speak of is an inner process of restoration that begins with work on the origin of thought that is the source of all afflictions. Our cave-men instincts of flight or fight were developed for survival and they alerted us when danger lurked nearby. This instinct served us well but today when we dwell in the comfort of our homes, we are no longer invaded and killed by animals. But the instinct encoded in our genes has morphed into stress, anxiety, insecure thoughts and imagined fears. To guard against the imagined army of demons, we raise armies, build weapons of mass destruction, create stockpiles of reserves, we will never need, seek solace in food, alcohol, acquisitions, possessions and continue to travel down the dizzying depths of a spiralling vortex of consumption and consumerism at the cost of our own habitat.
To come back to a state of ecolibrium and to restore semblance and order, the genetic code must be revisited and rectified. Today science is unravelling the mysteries of the DNA and a single strand encodes information that will fill volumes. An inestimable three billion chemicals with microcosmic particles that move in unknown mysterious dimensions are being speculated and pondered over. We, as three-dimensional beings, are barely scratching the mystical, sacred scriptures of our own DNA. The environment impacts the DNA and genetic alteration happens when we meditate, experience love, joy, gratitude and bliss. Science is unearthing the truth of non-locality and absolute connectedness of everything and everyone. As we move towards the era of enlightenment and entanglement of everything and everyone, we can’t refute the fact that we co-exist and well-being is all about balance and harmony with the environment we live in.
True well-being starts with monitoring the health of our thoughts and intentions. It defines our moods, state of being, sense of openness and receptivity. The more no-resistant, open and porous we are to life’s ebb and flow, the more accepting we are of what the divine unfolding plan is, the more we move towards a state of ecolibrium.
Imagine trillions of bodily functions and chemical processes that happen inside our bodies are monitored and regulated by divine intelligence. We are in perfect accord with this arrangement and where we can act is in the regulation of thought, emotion and action. As our lives move towards harmonising with the elements of nature, listening to the intrinsic rhythms of well-being, the bodily intelligence informs us in advance, it raises the red flags. We must heed the inner voice and that happens when the external noise stops and we get beyond the cacophony of the information highway we are hurtling down. Today we are bombarded by too much information from various screen-stimuli and that does not allow the mind to rest in the lap of meditative bliss. Our natural circadian rhythm has been completely hijacked by our devices. Sleep-deprived in the name of work, we continue to wreak havoc on our body’s musical instrument and it creates noise instead of a soothing symphony. The decibel level of this noise is raising the disharmonious vibration of the entire planet and we witness chaos, unrest and discord on global scales.
The lack of movement has reduced the body’s rhythm too. Gadgets and gizmos have brought radiation, drilled irreparable holes in the ozone layer and sedentary is our new poison. We have added layers of processed food and quick fix junk to create an impermeable crust of obesity that continues to dissolve and mitigate our muscle mass. A conscious awareness of movement we must have during the day, bending, squatting, walking, tending to plants and hustling to health via walking meditations are easy remedies. When it comes to food choices, everything that is touched by light ( sun’s blessed light!) Is where our consumption compass should point. Nature sends abundant gifts of fibrous, citrus and mineral rich, freshly photosynthesised foods everyday! As we centre our being to gratitude filled consumption of these rich offerings, we raise our vibration to further harmonise with Gaia!
I believe we are at the cusp of an extraordinary planetary reset. The COVID crisis has shown us our follies and our strengths, even our interconnectedness. Standing at this fork in the road, our collective consciousness must choose. Do we take the noisy consumerist’s route or would we rather step into the garden of contentment, coherence and minimalism where all the continents are contoured in sweat and shimmer upon the pristine white kurta of my grandfather?