Holistic Living - The new age supermarket
by Life Positive
of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Kashmiri Shaivism of Swami Muktananda, yoga,
various body therapies, Tibetan
work, Jungian, gestalt and encounter
groups, astrology, naturopathy
and homeopathy were all flourishing. The New Age supermarket had opened
in the San Francisco Bay Area when I, my Sikh
husband and two children sold our things, packed our bags and landed in
the welcoming arms of his Punjabi family.
This global impulse toward New Age spirituality and healing seems to me to reflect many people's restlessness with ritualistic doctrines and a desire for participatory engagement with cosmic life forces.
I respect this impulse to be whole and fully alive, to heal and meditate. But I have reservations about this New Age supermarket—the globalization and commodification of spirituality and healing. An India-based New Age magazine, it seems to me, has a very important place in this global supermarket. Why? Because life in India, especially in rural areas where these traditions, entwined in culture and community, are rooted, is different from life in the West.
In India, I have visited ashrams and interviewed holy Matas; bathed in sacred rivers and trekked to the origin of the Ganges; paid respects at temples from Kashmir to Madurai; attended groups in self-awareness and Buddhist meditation; studied reiki and t'ai chi. It is ironic that while these traditions are being popularized and consumed by the 'developed' countries, globalization (MNCs, pharmaceuticals and the electronic media) is replacing this wisdom in grassroots Asia.
I, personally, have learned much from the traditional midwives of India—the dais. As a childbirth educator I have worked in New Delhi, India, for 15 years, preparing women and couples for unmedicated, conscious births. I became frustrated with unnecessarily brutal obstetrics and turned to the dai's traditional knowledge of women's health, pregnancy and birth. This knowledge is not textually based—as is ayurveda. It is transmitted through apprenticeship and reinforced by being part of local ritual, religious, herbal and healing customs.
The dais' techniques include massage and manipulations, herbal concoctions, rites invoking goddesses and spirits, sharing of birth experiences, emotional support and nurturance. They assist women to give birth in a squatting position, increasingly advocated by western 'natural childbirth'.
I learned, long ago, the importance of the mind-body continuum. What a woman believes about her body and birth influences the birth process far more than does the width of her pelvis. The holistic vision of the female body, encoded in religio-cultural images far surpasses the materialist mappings of biomedicine. A woman's body and womb are portrayed as sites of problems and pathology in obstetrical books. But in many customs, and in the concepts of the devi (the goddess), the female body and womb are symbolized as powerful and sacred.
Today globalization and market-driven economies are impoverishing many-especially women and children. Nuclear and conventional weapons, AIDS, earth, air and water pollution threaten us all. In times like these, we should turn to Indian wisdom traditions. For they recognize the holism of the mind and body, of society, humanity and earth.
|HOME | SUBSCRIBE | WALLPAPERS | ADVERTISING | POLICY | PRACTITIONERS | WRITERS | PEOPLE | ABOUT | CONTACT|