Embracing Solidarity: An Ayurvedic Perspective on Social Distancing

By Natalie Wohlstadter


“Why should I feel lonely? Isn’t our planet in the Milky Way?”- Henry David Thoreau, At Walden Pond


Imagine yourself thousands of years ago, living amongst the wildness of nature. Alone under the sky, exposed to a tender cool breeze, with mother earth under your feet. We were all once living much closer to nature, in a lot more solitude, isolation, and harmony.

By nature, mankind is a social species, but Ayurveda teaches us that there was a time, thousands of years ago where man lived a more solitary life—away from communities, villages and civilizations. In this isolation there was a greater communion with the natural rhythms and laws of nature. There was less disease and suffering because man was able to deeply listen to both nature, and himself. In that listening there was a natural harmony and alignment between man and nature.

“I experienced sometimes that the most sweet and tender, the most innocent and encouraging society may be found in any natural object…there can be no black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of Nature and has his senses still.” (Thoreau)

Eventually man had the desire to congregate together to build villages, organize agriculture, and find different means of prosperity. Along with the joys and successes of communal living also arose new diseases of both body & mind—as living in close vicinity brings up important questions of waste management, personal hygiene, water & food sourcing, quality and so forth.

Seeing the birth of villages give rise to many different forms of suffering, the Rishis whom were enlightened sages, gathered together with tremendous compassion in their hearts to find an end of this suffering of mankind. Entering in deep meditation, they contemplated both the root cause and ways to eradicate disease. From these states of deep meditation, the Rishis were able to grasp the entirety of Ayurveda— Nature’s healing wisdom. Traveling back to the villages, the Rishis spread the knowledge of Ayurveda, the science of life encompassing the laws and truths of nature which bring forth an answer to suffering and disease.

In the present time we are asked to socially distance ourselves, and remain in isolation far longer than we might be accustomed to or be comfortable with. There might even be that same desire and yearning within our hearts, that we spoke of earlier, of mankind to congregate together to share our humanity and connectivity.

“Men frequently say to me, “I should think you would feel lonesome down there, and want to be nearer to folks…I am tempted to reply to such “This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the two most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments? Why should I feel lonely? Is not our planet in the Milky Way?”

But remember, at the very core of Ayurveda lies this story of man— although isolated, he is living so intimately, in complete union with both the external nature and the internal nature within. With isolation arises a tremendous space. In that space we can listen more closely to our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and desires. In that listening we can decide with more clarity on how we want to engage with the world around us.

Beyond the tragedies of the virus, this is a tremendous gift that Nature has blessed us with to re-evaluate our life and our relationship with ourselves and the world around us. This moment of isolation is a profound blessing for us to take the space and time to be with ourselves. Because we are so accustomed to filling the spaces of life with sensory junk, it can feel uncomfortable and unnatural to have so much time to just be with yourself, and your life, as it is, without distractions. I encourage you to stop distracting yourself with mindless sensory input, and pause. In this isolation we must go outside in nature, and feel her rhythm. It’s surprising how slow she moves in comparison to the speed of our towns and cities ablaze with technology and electricity. Let us have the courage to continue to unplug ourselves, as much as comfortably possible, to continue to live into the reality of our lives with complete presence.


Journalling Exercises:

Reflect on how you have been feeling the past few months- what emotions were brought up and have been challenging for you to face?

What are some of the activities or tendencies you do regularly partake in to distract yourself from life’s more difficult realities, emotions and experiences?

How would you like to shift your perspective, habits, and relationship with your current situation to find more ease, clarity, and joy?

What can you do in this moment today to begin to be more present with yourself and your experience?

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