A lightbulb went on today. I had heard it all before, but it made sense to me in a very real, very personal way. What does it really mean to be kind to yourself? What is the nature of true compassion?

Well that depends which of your doshas is out of balance.

For most of my life, excluding early teens and med school (clear pitta times), I’ve predominantly had elevated vata — the mover and shaker or all doshas.   Vata is just another word for the elemental combination of air and space. As such, it relishes flexibility, movement, and freedom; yet, these are precisely what it doesn’t need.

I used to think that being tender and compassionate to myself was being flexible and forgiving. For me, this simply isn’t true. We need to look at the imbalanced dosha and act accordingly. For vata imbalance, the most compassionate thing you can do is bring in structure, routine, and discipline. It will fight you, rebel, and demand freedom, but balance is the place of true bliss.

Fiery imbalanced pittas already have way too much drive and demand. They constantly judge themselves and strive for perfection in all they do. I don’t think striving to your very best at each and every moment is a bad thing at all. It’s a wonderful way to live.

However, it’s important to ask yourself, what is your motive? Is your behavior tied to your self-image or how others perceive you? Would it be ok with you if your work was not perfect? Are you attached to the results of your actions?

After some honest introspection, it is to these hearts and minds that the soothing balm of forgiveness, flexibility, and non-judgement should be applied. (Honestly, judgement isn’t good for anybody.  More on that later.)  Some practitioners actually counsel imbalanced pittas leaving slight imperfections in their work on purpose in order to loosen their attachment to perfection.

Kapha is a big ball of love and devotion. A combination of the heavier, steadier elements (earth and water), it is very content to just be. Imbalanced kapha, however, leads to inactivity, contraction, and stagnation. Compassion here will not take the form of forgiveness and sympathy, where these sentiments already abound. After all, isn’t being truly kind and compassionate to yourself doing what’s good for you? Kapha will benefit from movement and be motivated by a cause that inspires love and devotion.

Now having teased out doshic perspectives, let’s take a closer look at discipline. The vata in me used to rebel against structure and discipline so much! It felt like death and boredom to comply. There was never anything that I wanted so bad that I was willing to sacrifice freedom. I didn’t strive for a perfect career, or a perfect body, or to be the best at anything. Comparison and measure have not been part of my equation.

However, now I really want something. I want true freedom, and I’m beginning to realize that the only way there is through discipline. The path back to our spirits is a daily minute to minute, thought to thought discipline. We have to be dedicated to clearing the residue of our past, of our thoughts, of our emotions, of our perceptions, and of our impressions in order to experience the freedom of existence.

The outer world and inner world mirror and influence eachother. An uncluttered, clean room is a reflection of the quality of the space of the mind in that room. I really think discipline in our external and internal environments is a great thing for all three doshas – even pitta if the motive is correct.

What I’m speaking of transcends the doshas of the body. I’m talking about a balanced pitta mind which is true knowledge, intelligence, clarity, insight, brilliance, and beauty. I’m talking about pure sattva on the path to brilliant enlightenment.

Compassion on this road is placid determination no matter what comes up. It is a willingness to look lovingly at whatever you discover, observe, and continue to move forward, all the while remembering that the journey and destination are inseparable.  This daily discipline gives  you the most compassionate gift of all. You arrive at a place where you with all your thoughts and preferences dissolves into everything and everyone.

Freedom from ourselves is true freedom.

— Nisha Khanna, M.D




© 2015 Nisha Khanna. All rights reserved. Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.