By Nicole Matthiesen
I lived for many years with a lot of uncertainty about food. I didn’t know what the outcome of any given meal would be. Would I experience constipation? Diarrhea? Severe abdominal pain that would leave me unable to eat for a week? Or would this time be fine, as it sometimes inexplicably was?
As a student in Hale Pule’s 600-hour Ayurvedic health counselor program, I know now that the issues I was experiencing (what the doctors called Irritable Bowel Syndrome) were a direct result of my highly stressful career as a litigation consultant and my choice to push my health aside to meet demands and deadlines.
These digestive issues caused me a lot of pain and emotional suffering, but they have also been the catalyst for a complete turnaround in how I look at life. Feeling so bad was what motivated me to sign up for a two-month course at a local institute on the fundamentals of Ayurveda. I was amazed at how much sense the concepts made, and when I started making changes, how much better I felt.
Making changes with Ayurveda
The first real change I made was in my breakfast. My usual breakfast was toast with peanut butter and jelly and cottage cheese with fruit. I had no idea that the heavy combination of wheat, dairy and nuts, plus eating fruit with other foods was not a great idea, especially when my digestion was already taxed from the stress of my job. I switched to a simple cooked cereal and felt an immediate difference.
I implemented more Ayurvedic concepts in my life and things calmed down in my digestion and my mind. As my life became more peaceful, I began to notice how many people around me had chosen high-powered careers and were overwhelmed with the task of taking care of themselves. Ayurveda gave me so many tools to find space to heal despite a stressful career. I saw how I could use my personal experience to guide others to find peace in the storm and stop letting their lives be defined by overwhelm. When Hale Pule launched their Ayurvedic health counselor program, I signed up right away.
What Ayurveda has taught me
I used to think of nature as something outside of me. I was a person with a career and a house and nature was trees and grass. Hale Pule’s spiritual foundation of teaching Ayurveda has taught me that I am a part of nature, not separate from it. When I take care of myself, I am taking care of the world, and the world is also taking care of me. It’s a beautiful cyclical relationship that has reconnected me to my body and the planet.
I’ve also learned that illness and healing begin in the mind in the form of the choices we make. Every choice I make either brings me closer to or away from balance. That means that I can no longer blame external things for how I feel. If I choose to eat food and I feel bad, it is not the food’s fault. If I choose a stressful career, it’s not my job’s fault that my body is depleted. This awakening has taught me that I’m responsible for maintaining balance in my life, and this guides every action I take, including how I treat myself and how I treat and respond to others.
A new career with Ayurveda
I’m balancing studying Ayurveda, building a new career and maintaining what I need to of my old one. It can be a lot of work at times, but the difference is that now I’m focused on taking care of myself. I maintain a dinacharya, daily routine, eat food that brings me closer to balance and stay focused on the big picture.
I know how easy it can be to forget to take care of yourself in stressful situations. As I walk this road of building a new career as an Ayurvedic health counselor, I want to demonstrate to my future clients that no matter how busy we are, health can be a priority. And as I learn to put my health first, I fall more in love with Ayurveda and all it has taught me.