Your strength is also your weakness

Last night, around 3am in the morning, one of our fairly new shower screens spontaneously combusted, shattering into hundreds of tiny pieces all over the bathroom floor. Made from toughened glass, these screens can, apparently, spontaneously explode if there is the slightest flaw in the glass.

I only found out about it when one of our guests told me about it. I was just going round to the dining room, to check if our guests had all that they needed, and to check if the new wood pellet stove was working properly. It was the last thing that my 7-am-mind wanted to confront. What’s more, our local kitchen helper (cook, really) hadn’t turned up for work! It’s been one of these weekends.

Anyway, back to the glass shower screen. It made me think of the irony of the whole thing. These strengthened glass screens, for all that they worth, are actually a time bomb waiting to go off. Well, maybe that’s a bit severe. But it did make me ponder: something’s strength can also, all so often, turn out to be its weakness.

Think about your ayurvedic constitution (your mind and body blueprint). If you are, for argument’s sake, a ‘fire’ type person (called a pitta type in ayurvedic mumbo jumbo) then you will tend to demonstrate the following psychological strengths:

  • Courageous
  • Strong willed
  • Determined
  • A perfectionist
  • Goal oriented
  • Perceptive
  • Opinionated

All these qualities can be linked back to the metaphor of the ‘fire principle’ which dominates in your makeup, since fire is intense, luminous, and penetrating.

Seen as a strength, your abundant fire will serve you well, and you can burn it as often as you like in effortless bursts of hot flames.

However, like most things in life, there is a flip side of the coin! Look at some of the less desirable effects of having too much fire under the bonnet:

  • Overly critical
  • Prone to outbursts of anger
  • Fanatical
  • Over-driven (to the point where you burn out)

You get the picture?

So here’s the glitch, the flaw in our design, so to speak. While your innate nature, your strength may come naturally to you, the ability to prevent its downside may not. I suppose you could think of it as a flick of a coin. Throw a heads and you’ll be organised, efficient and successful in today’s pursuits. Toss a tails, and you’ll end up burning someone in an outburst of anger or over-criticism.

Because you are a fire type, you can rest assured that both the positive and negative aspects will express naturally if given the right circumstances. Your ayurvedic constitution has hardwired your most innate behaviours to follow a certain tendency: fiery, airy, watery, whatever.

What you need to know, is that while this much is down to fate, you can still develop the skill of self-awareness and learn to choose how to act or re-act when that coin hits the table. When tails is up and you feel compelled let of a mighty flame of anger, you can learn to direct this energy differently. Knowing that this is a choice and not an obligation is a first step in developing yourself as a social being.

It’s funny you know, I have lived in France now for 10 years. I am always learning things about France and its language. I don’t consider myself to be particularly ‘literate’. My English is quite appalling, and I am extremely poorly read. Anyway, what tickles me pink, is that in France, certain English-language terms have become accepted in common speak. My favourite is: “le Self-control”. That’s right, apparently, until the French came across us Anglophones, they had no concept for “Self-control”.

I wouldn’t say that I have wrestled with self-control myself, I seem to have emerged into my teens and adult years with some kind of fairly balanced mind-set. I did go through a period of fanatical ayurveda for a few years, and my family were extremely tolerant. I have had to mend those wounds and realise that through teaching ayurveda, I have learned more about self-control that I would have otherwise.

Ayurveda is always inviting us to do things in the name of our health. For this, a peculiar mind-recipe seems to be needed, one that embraces the challenge, engages, commits, puts it into practice; and another, one that is gentle, soft, loving, accepting and flexible.

It’s a constant to and fro, like the tides, sometimes you can be taken out to sea, all seems easy, effortless. Then other times you can be stranded on the beach, baking in the sun, with no place to go.

Somewhere, at the heart of this practical dilemma of how to live an ayurvedic life (one that pays some attention to diet, lifestyle and so on) is the need to understand this shower-screen metaphor. Contemplate this. Then, take yourself off into nature, or somewhere simple, and just be. Just stop. Allow your thinking to get simpler and allow yourself to align to the present by tuning into your environment, or your breathing. Do this centring thing (call it meditation) daily, or as often as possible. Otherwise, your mind, like a honey bee, will wander aimlessly without any direction until one day, it will get stuck in some fly tape (or worse, if my mother is around, under the worse end of a fly swat!)

Take care. Alex.

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