The way we digest food is the same way we digest emotions and experiences. According to Ayurveda, the mind exists for experience and liberation of the soul. As we go through life, the experiences we have not digested properly become toxins (Ama), that cause illness and mental disorder. Well digested experiences bring mental happiness and stability.
The mental digestion process happens in dreams and sleep, but begins with the real life experience. Here are the three steps of mental digestion, with some introspective questions to ask yourself that will lead to a happier digested life:
1. Gathering of Impressions This is when the senses are gathered and organized, but not digested. This is where it is important to gather the proper impressions, which is what kinds of TV, music, food, conversations etc. you engage in. Habits such as constantly consuming the news, not going out in nature or eating highly processed foods bring tamasic (inertia, dullness, darkness) energy, and influence our mental fabric in negative ways.
2. Intelligence Our intelligence (Buddhi) works to digest the experience transmitted by our senses through our mental agni (digestive fire). It is the flame of truth that illuminates our lives, and acts as the small intestine of our mind. It allows us to take in the good (Sattva) and release the bad (Rajas and Tamas). The energies of Rajas (energizing) and Tamas (inertia) are not inherently bad, but in the context of mental digestion they slow us down. Incorrect mental digestion occurs when we can’t break down experience into truth energies. Undigested experiences accumulate and block our perception, which makes it more challenging for us to lead a happy and authentic life.
Some questions to ask yourself when examining your intelligence:
Where does my intelligence possess the greatest depth, refinement and clarity?
How have I developed discrimination about people and situations?
Where do I exercise my sense of choice, value and judgement?
It is important to recognize that the word “discrimination” does not necessarily have to have a negative connotation. Our Intelligence has the ability of discernment and judgement, which is a great quality for our survival and ability to sort and value information. The ways in which we use intelligence matter. Intelligence directed outwards is the intellect, and intelligence directed inwards is true intelligence. If we direct our intelligence outward too much, we may be too caught up in materialistic things and lose touch with our inner sense. It is healthy to place the intellect in service of awareness, and this can only come from a place of taking in the right impressions. Intelligence does not solve spiritual problems alone, but it plays a huge role in what we absorb in the mental digestion process.
3. Consciousness The experience is absorbed and becomes a deeper part of our mental fabric, just like tissues in our body being created from food we have digested. Undigested experiences arise from our subconscious, and influence our current state of mind until we understand and resolve them.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when examining your consciousness:
What is the quality of my food, impressions (media, relationships, art) and associations?
Which emotions do I experience frequently? Is there balance in my emotions?
What are my frequent, spontaneous and automatic reactions?
What is my consciousness like when I am not engaged in mental activity? (sleeping, watching, eating)
In order to have a healthy development of consciousness, it is so important to put our outer lives in order before we can change our internal life. Actions such as cleaning, throwing unnecessary items away and spatial organization will set you up for success in deconditioning your consciousness for healthy mental digestion. It is so vital to cultivate the proper environment to consume a healthy diet, proper impressions and relationships in your mind, heart and home.
Take inventory of how you run your life. This requires taking some intentional time for yourself to reflect as an act of self love and commitment to a more sustainable lifestyle. It helps to sort in these categories:
Physical – diet, herbs, exercise
Psychological – impressions, emotions, thought
Social – work, recreation, relationships
Spiritual – yoga and meditation
It is so important to spend time in nature, and consume foods rich with prana (life force) that give your cells the proper instructions to create happiness and aid mental digestion.
Ayurveda is a holistic lifestyle, meaning it encompasses all aspects of life. Everything affects the mind. Uncomfortable things we try to brush off and forget come back in our subconscious, and have the ability to cause chaos in our minds and lives. We want to cease being the victims of our own mind’s indigestion by creating better mental digestion processes through Ayurveda. We hope these steps, tips and introspective questions help you digest life more happily!
Ayurveda and the Mind: the Healing of Consciousness by Dr. David Frawley