In our Western society, we don’t always have names or concise explanations for how things manifest in our life or in our body. Sometimes lack of appropriate language can seem like a barrier for describing how we feel. This is especially true when we communicate about mental health and personal behavior patterns that impact our quality of day to day life, or when we try to understand our own behaviors within ourselves. If you have ever felt mentally paralized and frustrated when rationalizing daily behaviours or habits that don’t serve you, or if your mental health is suffering because of these poor behaviors, then the Ayurvedic concept of Prajnaparadha may be just where you can find some clarity.
Prajnaparadha is described as “an offense against wisdom”, and in Ayurveda is considered the root of all dis-ease. We all experience this phenomenon in our daily lives, of knowing what we should be doing, but willfully doing the opposite.
We all know that we need daily exercise, and to drink enough water, and to spend time in nature each day, but not all of us actually do this. We find reasons why these habits are not feasible in our day, or excuses to put them off until tomorrow. Each time we ignore our body’s innate wisdom in these practices, we feel a subtle internal discord that some may describe as guilt, but in reality it is that offense against our own body wisdom. Over time, this habitual internal discord affects our mental health in a variety of ways, and can lead to a slow decline in our sense of joy, wellbeing and internal locus of control.
One comparison would be to imagine how you feel when you are ignored, unseen and unheard for any length of time by someone that you love. You’re asking for what you need, but your needs are not being met. You may slowly start to feel small and insignificant, unworthy and resentful. It’s very hard to feel peace of mind when our needs are not being met. When you deny your body what it is subtly asking for (and what you know makes you feel your best), such as time to rest, time alone, or nourishing foods each day, we begin to feel unworthy of these things and like our needs are not important. This is when dis-ease takes place and our body forces us to comply by eventually presenting with illness. We may begin to feel depressed, mentally fatigued, or resentful of our own self for not having the willpower to follow through on maintaining our health. After a while of feeling unworthy of tending to our needs, we give up altogether.
We may think that positive mental health is simply the result of implementing our best health practices each day, but consider the reverse:
Practicing supporting our mental health every day first will result in implementing our best health practices.
This does not mean trying to feel positive and happy all of the time. Taking intentional steps to support our mental health means that we maintain a sense of awareness of our own personal needs, asking for help when we may be struggling, and doing things each day that bring us peace of mind.
This is the foundation of Prajnaparadha: being aware of your body’s innate needs, and responding to them with a sense of importance and worthiness.
Upon waking in the morning, take 60 seconds to ask yourself, “What does my body need to thrive today?” Take a moment to think about this - your gut is usually telling you what you need. Perhaps it's a bit more sleep, putting time to exercise or go for a walk on your schedule, connecting with a loved one, eating a nutrient rich breakfast, drinking plenty of water, spending time outdoors today, or finding some alone time.
Take another 60 seconds in the afternoon to repeat this process. Another need may be trying to get your attention.
Notice throughout your day how often prajnaparadha comes up for you - when you sense what you should be doing, but willfully do the opposite or ignore that need altogether. Implementing even one behavior that supports your mindset or mental health every day makes a big impact, and is a great way to begin improving your daily behaviors and supporting your overall state of mind.