You Are What You Digest: Mental Digestion, Episode 3

Transcript for Episode 3

Rumin: So here we are again Mamta, Hi.

Mamta: Hi Rumin.

Rumin: It’s our final episode of “You Are What you Digest.  This experience has been quite an informative journey-we have digested a lot of information. I am looking forward to our conversation today about mental digestion.

Mamta: Yes,  digestion is a very significant subject. We have shown in other episodes, digestion is actually a journey we undertake in life. The Human Being is digesting on so many levels, because the Human Faculties exist on so many levels.

See, the Human Being is undertaking a journey through life. To undertake this journey, we need the same components that anything needs to travel. It’s a Vehicle. A Physical Form. If you want to travel from this town to the next you need a car, if you want to travel from this country to the next, you need a plane. If you want to travel from this planet to another, you need a spaceship.  The Human Being while travelling through life on Earth, also has a ship, called the Human Body. What is special about the human body is that It is a self renewing structure. Through its process of digestion, and metabolism it is constantly ingesting raw materials and transforming them into itself. So digestion, rejuvenation and a stable immune system is key.

Rumin The human body is a beautiful and amazing phenomenon. Let’s briefly recap what we discussed in our previous episodes.

Mamta: OK

Rumin: In our first episode we talk about the transformation the human body undergoes through physical digestion. Talking about how digestion doesn’t end with poop!.  Rather, physical digestion is a continuous process that goes beyond our GI Tract and it occurs within each of our cells on a tissue level.

We also discussed, how we can enhance our physical digestion with certain practices and herbs so that the food we consume nourishes our body and does not become a toxin, or ama as we refer to it in Ayurveda .  That the body,  then has to attack.

In our 2nd episode, we focused on emotional digestion. Talking about how nourishment or ahara in Ayurveda,  is not only received from our food, but also from our emotions. And like food, our emotions can also become toxins and impede on our personal growth.

So just like undigested food, there can be undigested emotions leading to emotional ama. This ama can lead us to irrational Re-activity it can be inappropriate which can manifest in many ways: Through our communication style, our eating habits or our lifestyle choices. And we discussed about navigating from reactivity to appropriate responses.

Mamta: See Reactivity as you talk about,  is a reflex – and doesn’t go to the brain. It stems from stored memories of past experiences of what feels safe or not. It can stem from well digested experiences, physical or emotional, OR from toxic undigested experiences that can be dysfunctional. An appropriate response… on the other hand, is a faculty of our intellect, the prefrontal cortex, that has a discerning ability. It has the ability to act from assessing a situation in the appropriate present context, while remembering a relevant past episode. It has an executive ability, an evaluating ability. The ability to make decisions with a certain level of consciousness. This ability is what makes each individual unique. This ability within the Human Being, is what is evolving at this point in time, as a special organ, both individually, and collectively in the Human Race.

Rumin Yes, and this brings us to today’s episode, where we are going to dive into the mental realm, through the lens of Ayurveda. To discuss, how the mind comes into play, in particular how the intellectual realm can lead us to healthy digestion.

Mamta: Our function in our intellectual realms is to undertake incoming experiences on physical or emotional levels and break them down, metabolize them and transform them with our awareness into appropriate responses If our past experiences are not digested to create a healthy support of life experience, they just erupt like toxic land mines manifesting as sudden anger, or fear or other out of control emotions that are dysfunctional that we call this “Ama” , mental ama

Now the unconscious and subconscious play a very important role. As ordinary human beings we cannot be trusted to beat our heart consciously, we are too distracted, so it is set up on auto pilot. In fact a lot within our body, emotions and mind is unconscious.

Anytime we do something repetitively, it slowly becomes unconscious. You practiced writing the letter A, now it’s in your unconscious! Through repetitive actions, we develop habits. Habits infiltrate this unconscious field. Habits through repetition, etch out a groove, a channel and our desires, our emotions and awareness, flow through these channels. These in time become unconscious automatic reflexes,  our “fail safe” mode of behavior we revert to when we are not conscious.  Then, we also start to identify with these habits and start to create a personality around these habits.

Rumin: And these habits that are grooved into our unconscious self stemming from our childhood, education like you mentioned, a reaction to an emotional trauma or memories, they can become part of our daily routine and how we move through life.  We may not see them as habits.  It could be something as simple as a cup of coffee, if having a cup of coffee first thing in the morning has been part of our life since the day our parents allowed us to drink it. it  is just – what you do. Wake up and drink coffee. This habit makes the body feel  energized and for some it triggers elimination. Transformation is occurring now unconsciously day in and day out with the aide of coffee. The body and emotions are sub-consciously hooked

Mamta: oh yes! The body, the emotions and all our reactions are sub-consciously connected. One triggers the other. Remember the Gross affects the Subtle and the Subtle affects the Gross from our last episode? This is where the intellect comes in. It has the ability, or rather we have to develop this ability, to intrude into that habit that has become unconscious, and with awareness and steadiness direct the flow of change.

Rumin: And we do this every time we consciously respond to something – whether it’s what we choose to eat, say, do or feel.  And it may not always be easy but that’s part of life.

Mamta:   Let me tell you a little Japanese tale:

There was a Samurai, whose teacher got murdered. In order to avenge his Master’s death, and restore his honor, he set out to look for the murderer and kill him. He went village to village, looking for the killer for 7 years. Finally, one day, he found him in a village. All the villagers were gathered around to watch, knowing what was about to happen to the murderer at the hands of the Samurai. They watched as he drew out his sword to kill him. As he was about to kill him, the killer spat at him. The Samurai looked at him, muttered under his breath. Put the sword back in its sheath and stormed away without killing the murderer. That evening, when his man servant came into his tent to serve him dinner, the Samurai noticed he looked very perplexed. So he asked him what was bothering him and the man said: “Master, for 7 years we have have been looking for this man. We finally found him. You had him, then why did you not kill him to avenge your Master’s death? I just do not understand!”  The Samurai replied ruefully: “ Yes it is true I set out to avenge the dishonor of my Teacher’s death. I have looked so long for this scoundrel and you have seen that, as you have been there with me. BUT, you know, when he spat at me? In that moment, I felt anger. I was no longer thinking about my teacher’s honor, instead I was insulted and outraged.  Had I killed him then, it would have been in an action clouded by my own ego and my emotions. It would have been infused with anger and no longer a clear moment of honor in my intentions. How would that have brought peace to my Mentor’s soul?  I became aware of this stormy change within me and had to withdraw and change the course of my action”.

Rumin: Wow – Now that is a Captain! I mean to decipher through his emotions, his  memories and his ego and then acknowledge the shift in his intent from feeling honor to anger. That is amazing, it  not just physical but that is a sharp sense of Self – awareness. He’s so who is in-tune with recognizing the misalignment between his feelings and his intent that he could just walk away.

Mamta: This is the strength of his intellectual fire.

That Samurai Master is the Captain of his Ship. He does not sway by the currents but keeps his wits about him so as not to be swept by them. Now this is not where we start, as Human Beings, but rather what we train in and as we evolve, we are learning to harness. We are navigating ourselves as human beings, by navigating our faculties into an integral whole. Constantly .

Rumin: Now, when I hear the intellect, I think –  the mind, we need to engage our mind. However, in Ayurveda, the mind is not just made up of the the intellect.  Let’s talk about the other components so to understand why our focus on the intellect is so integral to the digestive process

Mamta: Briefly, in Ayurveda, when we talk about the mind, we talk about four different facets.

There is the outer emotional mind, that is linked to all our sensory experiences, what we see, hear, feel smell or taste.

Second, There is the part where all our experiences are recorded as memory.

Third There is a persona that is formed from our belief systems about ourselves that we call our “Ego Personality” You know, like “I sing well! Or I am a great baseball player, or I suck as a cook or I am a giver! I am successful! That is your ego personality it what you believe about yourself

The fourth aspect is our intellect, or Buddhi in sanskrit. It is the Captain of the Ship. The Navigator. The one that can make conscious decisions whether your boat is in calm waters or in stormy seas or rapids.

Rumin:  Like that Samurai! So basically, out of the 4 components of the mind, there is only 1 component the intellect, that has the ability to be non-reactive and responsive. And in-order for us to shift from reaction to response – we need to sift through our emotions, our memories and our ego to be like that Samurai .

Mamta: Of course we have spoken about these components of the mind in a linear manner addressing them one by one,the emotional mind, our memory field, our ego personality and our intellect,  but they function synergistically and at super speed.  So let me clarify something here. ALL four components of the mind are integral to its structure for a fulfilling life. If you only have logic and analysis which is an attribute of the intellect and no heart or emotion, and no physical pleasure, that is like being the captain of the ship with all the information and awareness but no emotions that form the passionate currents we use to navigate with.

Equally out of balance would be if you are swept with the emotional currents and do not use your intellect to discern and become conscious enough to navigate towards your goals. It is practicing integrating all these faculties that work in unison that makes for good health.

This intellect/buddhi, is in the driver’s seat, and can rise above reaction to evaluate and choose to give an appropriate response. Look, if a doctor tells me do not smoke it can create lung cancer, or do not have soda, sugar can spike your blood sugar and give you diabetes, if I am swept by my emotional currents, I am going be unable to avoid that cigarette or donut or soda, even though I have the information.

Rumin: So true. Even when we know something might not be good for us, we could we still choose to do it – we have all experienced this in some form!

So, this brings us back to “HABITS” , which we touched upon earlier.

As we know Habits are not easy to break. As you mentioned, they are deep unconscious grooves within us. We may not even be aware they are a habit.

And if we, or when we become aware of what effect that habit is having on us,  we can choose to either break the habit which could be challenging or not break the habit, because we may have to deal with the emotional upheaval

Mamta: Yes, we have free will!  Remember a Habit runs deep and unconscious. It is created from repeated activity. If one wants to change it, it is like changing the course of a river. With an informed decision by the intellect directed towards NEW repeated actions, one has to hew out a different channel and then reroute the flow of our emotions and actions.  Today psychologists tell us it takes 21 days of regular rhythmic activity, to create and anchor into a new habit. We need the intellectual fire, to have the information and decide to act in ways different than we are conditioned to do.

Rumin: And that’s what the Samurai story illustrates. The ability in a moment to change course. This comes from a discerning intellectual fire as you mentioned. Now, how do we develop this type of intellectual fire that gives us the strength to navigate through the emotional currents, our ego, our memories  in order to break a habit.

Mamta: The Intellect has the ability to take all of the inputs and evaluate them to make an “informed decision” not just a reflex reactivity of a habit, and it can do this in a split second. It tracks with past experiences, assesses a present situation in context, evaluates future outcomes and makes a decision.

Now.  It has another valuable faculty. it has the ability to later, re-visit, re-evaluate its decisions, digest the experiences from its decisions and glean wisdom. This is a very important function. With wisdom, we become more Conscious. This re-examination, then increases its Light with awareness. Each insight is like a spark of light that ignites into a flash of Consciousness. This light allows us to generate an appropriate response. If we want to change that habit, we need to keep revisiting it, keep putting in an alternate action, keep repeating the alternate decision. Remember it takes at least 21 days.  In reality how long it takes to break a habit depends on how deep the channels are etched in your psyche and how ardently you use your intellect to sharpen your skills by revisiting, re evaluating and re directing your consciousness to alter the flow of currents of your emotions towards generating new habits.

Rumin: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. So for example, if someone loves  driving fast and gets an emotional thrill from it. Then one day  they hear a siren, see the flashing lights and get pulled over and unfortunately drive away with a ticket. That experience, may get them to change their habit.

The experience of being nervous, or the cost of the ticket could trigger a moment of awareness to drive slower. And at that moment is when the journey to break a habit begins, it would take time and practice, perhaps some roadblocks along the way, but with each day or experience, there could be a shift in behavior.  Even by just acknowledging the habit it can deepen the awareness. Perhaps it can lead to practicing driving slower on a day to day basis or not. The regular practice help to sharpens the intellectual fire bringing awareness and discernment to help change the habit.

Okay so I have a question, We have heard digestive fire, intellectual fire… So, what is it about the element of fire that is integral to digestion?

Mamta Well, fire is what transforms  anything  from one state into another and there is an added dimension here.These different Fires, take us into more and more subtle dimensions of our faculties. Remember we have 13 fires in our physical body, ie the gross digestive fire in the GI tract and we also have the seven tissue fires, we have 5 elemental fires, the emotional fires, intellectual fires. Where there is fire there is transformation!

On the physical, they transform food we are ingesting into our body, our vehicle. On the emotional levels they transform our feelings and on the intellectual level they digest and metabolize our concepts which is how we get insights and keep deepening our awareness towards becoming a more conscious being.

Rumin: And so when we are referring to digestive fire in Ayurveda,  it’s a comprehensive reference to all of these fires. We are not just referring to how well our body is digesting food or eliminating. We are looking at how the body is digesting as a whole and where the fire may be  out of balance within a human being.  This imbalance can be the root cause of the indigestion – And it could be within the physical, emotional or mental realms.

Mamta: Yes, Remember digestion is happening on many levels here. Through Digestion we are renewing our bodies, we are learning to clearly navigate through the currents of our emotions and building our intellectual faculties to increase Consciousness. Ayurveda says, if you want to evaluate the state of your health, you should do so on a body mind and soul level before  pronouncing a person healthy or diseased. AND your digestion plays a KEY, KEY Role in your Health!

Rumin: When we are talking about Ayurveda, we are taking a holistic approach. Now let’s talk about the role of breath, we mentioned we would discuss it during our last episode, how does the breath come into play with the physical, emotional and mental realms of the human being?

Mamta: Well, our Breath is the connecting medium in all the dimensions of the Human Faculty. A mentor of mine always said: “ The quality of your breath is the quality of your life.” If you study your breath, you will understand Digestion; Digestion in the body, Digestion of your emotions and the state of your Intellectual mind and consciousness.

The movement of breath in the Physical body dictates our Peristalsis, how things move, get absorbed and function in our Body. Is due to our breath

Breath is connected to our emotions. It connects our five sensory experiences to our emotions creating serene  or turbulent currents or anywhere in between.  It also connects our physical body to our emotions. We can see this! – If you startle, you gasp!  when one is tense, we are told. “Relax your shoulders and breathe!” This changes our state of emotions!

Breath is connected to our intellectual state for it is in the stillness or evenness of breath, in a relaxed state, that the intellectual fire burns and the spark of consciousness is lit! You know so often after you are completely rested you get a clear solution.

Breath is the force that moves the river of thoughts and emotions. Intellect sets the intention and then Breath determines the quality of that navigation. Just watching our breath, taking slow deliberate breaths several times a day can help change the course of the day. This is why many ancient disciplines offer breathing exercises that are supportive in increasing our Consciousness. Yoga Nidra, Pranayama, Chi Gung, Tai Chi, Meditation, Self-hypnosis, Visualizations, Arts, Music, Walks in Nature, etc.  The key is to become aware of your breath. The quality of your breath. Are you breathing deep,  is it even, is it shallow, tense? Becoming aware is the first step of transforming unconscious currents in your life and setting a different direction for their flow.

Rumin: And we all have breath. We may not all have the information to discern, or experiences that trigger awareness but breath is something we all have can tune in to, if we choose. It is our internal tool that can help bring awareness to our own well being and it’s free!

Mamta: Thank God!

Rumin: So even though we are talking about the intellect in this  last episode of our series,” You are what your Digest” it really seems to be where the journey of digestion begins.

Mamta: What is amazing is that our intellectual faculty guides where we place our consciousness. In turn, our state of consciousness guides what emotions get triggered, and how we react. The emotions trigger the body’s functions and how food, gets digested and converted into a renewable Human Body. The state of the human body, in turn determines the capacity for digestion on the subtle levels and our breath is connecting all of them.

You know, a Human Being comes into this life, with a capacity to evolve. The process of Digestion, Transformation and Rejuvenation is the name of the game – on a Mind Body Soul level. The outcome of that process of digestion, then depends so much on  the quality of the state of our Being.  Whether we are stressed where adrenalin and “flight or fight”  kick in, or if we are in a state of repose and endorphins and well being kick in.

The quality of our Digestion on any level will affect our immune system and state of vitality of this ship, our body, we are travelling in. Remember, we are travelling through life, we are self renewing entities, and transformative entities navigating by the light of our awareness.

Rumin: Yes we are!

The Principles of Ayurveda give us a guide and pointers to discern these fires. The ability in our self navigation, to have a choice to correct our course using ahara or nourishment on a physical, emotional and intellectual level. It takes into account our unique personality and constitution and empowers us with natural solutions to navigate our journey through life and fulfill our goals with a continuously evolving Consciousness.

Rumin: And it’s our awareness, our consciousness, our intellect, and our choices that guide our digestion holistically to make us who we are.  Hence what we say in Ayurveda: “You are what you Digest”.

And Thank you Mamta, for taking us through Ayurveda’s, holistic definition of Digestion.

Mamta: it’s been my pleasure