My training as a mental health therapist taught me to work with the mind. Through this, I can say with certainty that the mind is tricky - it lies, loses itself in the past and the future, obsesses, ruminates and can feel virtually impossible to tame. It is also incredible. Think about humanity’s creativity and resourcefulness but most importantly, without it, we would not have the ability to contemplate the deeper meaning of life.
When I was first introduced to the Heart of Wellness lifestyle, I thought it was primarily for my physical health. My physical health certainly improved, but I never anticipated the farreaching effects this discipline with have in my life.
In The Heart of Wellness, Kavithaji shares about the difference between the bliss model and the default model.
In the default model, we take our bodies and minds to be who we are. We identify with our thoughts and this comes with an inherent sense of lack. However, when I challenge these beliefs of not being good enough or of being depressed, for example,I see they are are not the entire truth of my experience in every moment. At times, I simply feel content. It happens when I am falling asleep at night, finishing a satisfying meal or feeling the warmth of my dog cuddled on my leg.
In the bliss model, we seek to recognize ourselves as eternal bliss consciousness and much more than the body-mind. If I am more than the body-mind, I am beyond my beliefs about myself or anyone else. I am beyond the traumas or griefs I’ve experienced. In other words, what I feel and think are not the “whole story.”
The Heart of Wellness lifestyle creates space between “me” and the things I experience. Instead of believing I am anxious, I begin to have an insight that this body-mind experiences anxiety, but that is not who “I” am. The bliss model comes from the truth that we are whole. I heard this many times in the past, but only through actually following this lifestyle and Kavithaji’s teachings did I get an inkling of an embodied experience of this.
As a mental health therapist, I focus on diagnosis, symptoms and how to “fix” the “problems” of addiction, eating disorders or post traumatic stress. In the default model, the focus is on curing symptoms, but what if I experience social anxiety throughout my life? If I only focus on curing symptoms then I may always see myself as lacking if and when there is anxiety in a social setting. The default mode keeps me stuck in trying to grasp happiness and push away unease. This constant push and pull keeps me stuck in the body-mind. I feel I am acceptable only if I am feeling a particular way. My sense of worth or wholeness is dependent on whether I have symptoms or not.
The bliss model focuses on addressing the root causes of suffering. If I am more than the body-mind, I can be whole even if I experience symptoms. I’m not not lacking if I experience panic attacks or nightmares. The Heart of Wellness encourages us to look upstream to where symptoms originate, and importantly, the concept of Agni - the fire of transformation. Weak or overactive agni can not digest experiences in a way that leads to looking beyond the contractions of panic attacks or nightmares. A less-than-optimal Agni , keeps us stuck and believing that we are the body-mind, maintaining our sense of lack and entrapping us in our attachments and aversions. When I look at symptoms through the lens of Agni, they are not about “me” at all. They are about the neuro-hormonal pathways I have developed to help me survive. I can heal and still experience challenges because I know I am not those things. I also can address these neuro-hormonal pathways and strengthen my Agni, which may dissolve many of the symptoms without specifically targeting them. Ultimately, when I am living in the bliss model, I am content whether I am experiencing anger, joy, pain or contentment because I know I am not those things. Those things are happening in me.
Finally, in the default model, consciousness arises out of matter. When I believe I am the body-mind, which is matter, I believe that everything comes from this body-mind. The bliss model says the opposite: matter arises out of consciousness, including the body-mind. When I have this spacious view that even this body-mind is arising out of consciousness even that becomes impersonal, an object to observe with curiosity. As Kavithaji says, “Who we really are is eternal, unborn and undying.” If that is true when does the body-mind begin? Who were we before the body-mind? Who are we after it dies? We arise from consciousness and dissolve back into consciousness.
How does the Heart of Wellness lifestyle support accessing bliss? In my personal experience when I eat on time and sleep on time I am letting go of my preferences for things to be a certain way. I am beginning to tame the mind to not be constantly pulled by my senses of wanting this or that food. Through following the lifestyle, my Agni became more effective so that many of the patterns I was stuck in for years began to shift. As these neuro-hormonal pathways changed the body-mind also changed, which shows me the impermanence of the body-mind. When I meditate and declutter I have space to witness the body-mind as an object. As my Agni continues to be refined and there is rewiring of myneuro-hormonal pathways, I get glimpses into the essential nature of who I am. The Heart of Wellness gives me a lived experience of bliss because every aspect of my life, from the moment I wake up before 6 am to the moment I go to bed before 10 pm, I am aligning and orienting to what I truly want, which is to know who I am. I can not access this from an intellectual stance but only through an embodied and all-encompassing approach like the Heart of Wellness.