It might sound rudimentary but too often the obvious is forgotten: the body is put together with ingredients from this planet. If we want to slow down aging, we have to look at what ingredients and the environment we surround ourselves with. The principle is no more complicated than nurturing a plant. If we want it to thrive, what nourishment does it receive and what is its environment?
Of course, the first place to look is food. We want life but we eat dead food. Walking down the grocery aisles, everything is processed food, produced to maximize shelf life. Consider how old those ingredients are – even if they came out of a farm, when were they fresh? A minimum of one to two months ago they were harvested, and then began the long course of factory processing, chemical additives, packaging, and shipping.
In yoga, food is classified as Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Tamasic foods bring inertia or a slowing down of bodily processes and functions. This means metabolism and regeneration slow down. Sattvic foods energize the system and promote the vibrancy all the way down to the cellular level. Unsurprisingly, Sattvic foods are fresh – alive. The other dimension is eating foods that are complimentary and elicit a consistent digestive process within the body. After eating, the stomach should become empty within two hours, and the colon’s cleanliness should be maintained. Neem and turmeric are traditionally used for this. In Ayurveda, the first prescription for any kind of mental disturbance is purging the system. This should not be surprising, today we know that the colon has its own neural network, connected to the brain.
The second place to look is the environment. Ideally, we want to live in a space that is enlivened and vibrant with nurturing energies. That is why there is the consecration of spaces in many traditions, and why there is the concept of Fung Shui. It’s not as esoteric as it sounds. Making spaces conducive for human cultivation is core to any school of architecture. And of course, it’s not just the physical space but also the mental space – Not just where we live but also the environmental pressures, including psychological and emotional stress. If the setting is disruptive, the body does not flourish.
Studies of the longest living humans show that they generally live in places that have strong socially supportive connections, live purposefully, and eat fresh-based foods. These so called ‘blue zones’ include Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California. But you don’t have to move to a blue zone to nurture the life within you. It’s about living life consciously, investing energy in thriving, which then comes back rather than in habit and conditioning, which then is lost. Live well and fully.
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