Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Subtle Toronteologies

Neighborhood Ayurveda

I will apply an Ayurvedic approach to living, developed to promote health for an individual person, to a city block within Toronto. My interest in completing this project is to explore the healing properties of an ancient medicine on a social body. Ayurveda is an ancient Hindu system of medicine, drawn from Vedic literature and based on the belief that physical and mental health are dependent on a balance of biological humours (or doshas) uniquely constituted in each individual. As an interested novice in the world of Ayurveda, I will attempt to use my knowledge derived from pop medicine library books and internet texts as well as my own consultation and diagnostic process with a Vaidya (Ayurvedic Doctor) to assess a city block and prescribe a balancing solution based on the principles of the three doshas in Ayurveda.

In Ayurveda, problems occur because of an imbalance in the doshas (constitution type with particular strengths and susceptibilities based on the characteristics of universal elements: space, air, fire, water, earth), which contradicts modern science's understanding of disease in terms of pathogens, infectious agents and genetic disorders. In order to regulate an imbalance, an evaluation must be made to determine what dosha the entity is. Traditionally, a Vaidya will measure and proclaim an individual’s dosha based on a series of examinations, preceded in the west by a liability waiver relieving the doctor of any legal responsibilities for a patient’s health or the success of the recommended treatments. The consumption of an ancient medicine by western culture is limited by western filters such as mass prognosis, sterile systemization, a disinterest in preventative medicine, governmental jurisdiction, and bureaucracy. Resources (internet, books) are available for individuals to engage with ancient traditions, but without a visceral connection to the traditions through experiences with benefits and ingredients, it is difficult to attain the mystical wealth the medicine has to offer.

My hypothesis is that Ayurveda as a concept is applicable and beneficial when applied to a social body. In order to apply a system of observation, classification, and rebalancing, I will set up a table on the block and I will serve tea and conduct interviews with members of the block to give antidotes and guide individuals to determine their dosha. I will put up mock city permits which will mimic a liability waiver and inform the block about the project. To supplement the census I will research the roots of the neighborhood, architecture, and land as well as observe the current climate (take the pulse) of the street so that I can offer a plan to create a better sense of balance on the block. A step by step plan will restore balance to the block and through simple prescribed treatments include cleaning, planting herbs, creating more space, adding water, changing the shape of the earth, or redirecting walking paths. Using whatever means necessary, I will take the initial steps with the inhabitants of the block under observation to create sustainable change.


Nitin said...

My blessings towards your journey for health and wellness through Ayurveda.
Please do not hesitate to ask me if you feel at any stage. I am teaching and practising Ayurveda in North America mainly in Toronto area.

Nitin Shah

ctphonehome said...

Dear Nitin,
Thank you for contacting me. What a thoughtful and unexpected response! If I am accepted into a Symposium called Subtle Technologies in Toronto this summer, I would really appreciate the opportunity to consult with you while I am there about Ayurveda and my project. I will keep you up to date on what happens.
I will definitely be in touch as I am learning more about the practice and develop new questions.

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