The Polarity Paradigm Meets Ayurveda in this 21st Century: Tending Digestive Fire on Labor Day

Imagine that we are all part of this Polarity paradigm together in late summer 2020. I invite you to join a creative riff with me, to imagine what might happen if two seminal energies were to meet unexpectedly. I invite you to open to the Field together as these energies unfold and interact. The two essential energies are Dhanvantari, the sacred guardian of Ayurveda, and Dr. Randolph Stone, the founder of Polarity Therapy. As the Polarity Paradigm meets Ayurveda tending digestive fire is the topic. (Note to Westerner readers: Agni is Sanskrit for digestive fire, the relative strength of our digestive system at any given moment.)

Opening to the Field and its rhythms, imagine we are on the edge of a lake in the Midwest in late summer. Dr. Stone has wandered down to the water and is on the pine dock jutting out from the sandy shore in late afternoon. The sun warms the boards of the pier as he rolls up his sleeves and his pant legs, and puts his bare feet in the cool water. Six feet or so away from him on the dock is a strongly built beautiful East Indian woman, about his age, someone he obviously respects. There is a sense of collegial reserve between them. The green water laps around the dock as they acknowledge each other, and us.  You can smell the aroma of freshly cut grass wafting in from a distance away. The sound of the water against the pine dock is steadily rhythmic.

Dr. Stone begins the conversation, “The body goes through changes like the seasons in Nature. There are times when stimulating and warm foods are best, as in cold seasons. The summer season supplies its own answer in producing luscious fruits and vegetables, which are best taken then as they help to balance the outside heat by their watery essences.” (Vol. 1, book 3, p. 111)

The charismatic Southwest Asian woman, Ms. Dhanvantari, nods her head and smiles. A slight aroma of sandalwood and lime lifts on to the air. Sunlight catches the large pearl earrings glinting at her lobes. She replies, “Pitta-calming, fire-soothing bitter and astringent foods take the form of soothing mint, fresh cilantro, lettuce, Asian greens, and raw spinach. In Ayurveda, we continue to use digestive spices in foods and drinks to support our ability to assimilate nutrients at this time of year. These spices tend to be milder ones, used in smaller proportions…’

When the Polarity Paradigm meets Ayurveda tending digestive fire is a strong shared interest. Dr. Stone takes a bit of a breath and looks off across the waters of the lake, arms on his knees. There is a resonance between them. A slight pause as they breathe in rhythm. “Yes, “ he replies. “Bitter taste and fire. TRUE.” (Vol. 2, book 6, chart 21)

Ms. D nods enthusiastically. You can tell she’s a talker, with a lilting accent that is difficult to place. “With regard to the temperature of summer fluids, Ayurveda takes it easy on extremes.  Iced drinks are passed up as they can dilute hydrochloric acid and repress production of digestive enzymes (Western research on the digestive system substantiates this ancient view). Yet, we also take it easy on hot water at this point in the year because it can bring up Pitta, as many menopausal women discover. Pungent, sharply-spiced foods are used in far smaller quantities than in a cooler season. The fewer onions, garlic and chili we consume, the calmer our Pitta -fire is likely to be. It’s recommended to take it easy on the hot sun, enjoying nature on the cooler edges of the day. We address our individual conditions while balancing the Pitta – fire of the season.”

Dr. Stone warms to his topic as well: “All vegetables and fruits are rich in minerals, as are grasses and grains, when properly prepared as food. The juices of vegetables and fruits have been used as juice-therapy, for better health, by many ailing persons as well as by healthy people to maintain good health. The juices are extracted from fresh fruits and vegetables, and used at once so that they do not oxidize and ferment when exposed to air.” (Health Building, p. 74)

Dhanvantari ruffles a bit at this concept. You can see she is trying not to take offense. East Indian Ayurveda values cooked food. Juicers were not used one thousand years ago. Perhaps she has been on the planet longer than she looks. When the Polarity Paradigm meets Ayurveda tending digestive fire can lead to discord. The systems do not always see eye to eye. Dhanvantari tries a diplomatic approach. “Well,” she begins slowly, the breeze picking up in the wild grasses near the dock, as the sun moves toward the Western horizon, “If there is more Pitta in the constitution – what you Westerners would call fire I think – or Kapha (earth –water for you?), a person can eat more raw foods in summer, including a salad at lunch when agni, digestive fire, is strongest.”

“Yet Ayurveda considers many raw foods heavy and more difficult to digest. This is particularly true for more Airy people.” She concedes,  “This is not always true for everyone though. If we are working with airy/Vata conditions, we must trust ourselves and continue to eat more cooked rather than raw foods, even in warm weather.” She looks a bit fierce on this point. “Our digestive systems can be relied upon to give us the feedback we need, that is, if we’re willing to listen to them. If our stomach is rumbly-grumbly with salad, we listen. If it sings with interest, we take that in, too”.

Dr. Stone leans forward slightly, brushing a green-gold bug from his solid forearm, intent on his flow. “(But) fresh celery juice is rich in sodium and has many uses. It is one of the best vegetables for juicing as it covers so many of the body’s needs. It also has a pleasant flavor and is helpful to the nerves and a good night’s sleep if taken before retiring.” (Health Building, p. 73)

Her face, bluish black in complexion and strong, wrinkles in private horror. Celery at bedtime for insomniacs. Oh blessed Goddess. She holds her tongue on this point and is about to change the topic, as a mallard duck, a female, lights not far away on the shimmering surface of the water, now green, then black, now gray…

(Respected reader, are you here? Can you open your arms and palpate the Field, that place where Dr. Stone is very much alive and Dhanvantari, the guiding energy of Ayurveda, has never died? As Dr. Stone would say, “Life pertains to the Central Energy. Death belongs to the body or form. As life moves and changes constantly, so must the forms which life builds. We see only the obvious structures or bodies. THE ESSENCE WHICH BUILDS THESE FORMS OUT OF ITS OWN SUBSTANCE, WE DO NOT PERCEIVE.”) (Vol. 1, book 1, p. 14)

While these words are not spoken out loud, it is almost as if Dhanvantari has heard them any way. She turns toward Dr. Stone, who is looking quizzically at her, and smiles into his eyes. The joy that is so much a part of his nature can be seen reflected in her eyes, stern as they are in this moment.

“Ah,” she says. “The rhythms of agni are unexpected.”

As the Polarity Paradigm meets Ayurveda tending digestive fire can be a point of continuity. Dr. Stone, with his years in India, closely mirrors Ayurveda’s concept of digestive fire with his perspective from the Polarity paradigm as he replies, “Food must be digested just as fuel must be burnt, or clinkers remain. If the good reader ever fired a furnace or a boiler in a power plant, he learned a few very valuable lessons, namely:

1st – Not too much shoveled in at once.

2nd – Spread the coal thinly over the hot embers.

3rd – Regulate the draft.

4th – Select the fuel which will burn best – leaving the least amount of clinkers – with the least fumes and smoke.” (Health Building, p. 126)

“Exactly so.” Ms. Dhanvantari whips a colorful chart out of her capacious bright yellow cotton gown with one smooth gesture. “In the heat of summer, both our strength and agni decline,” she says emphatically. “Look, see here, this line of gold stars, the path of agni. Soon in the fall digestive fire will be coming up again. Yet now is the time to eat lightly and be aware.”

Excerpted with permission from
Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda, Morningstar & Lynn, 2018

She gets no argument from Dr. Stone, the wind ruffling his white hair. He replies thoughtfully, “Paracelsus, the great alchemist, observed this also when he stated that man is ill because he is never still. He said there was great healing in the quiet depths of space, but man never tuned into it by being quiet himself!”  (Vol. 1, Book 1, p. 47)

Dhanvantari nods. Silence gathers around them and us as the sun heads toward setting. There is a palpable cooling in the air. The fragrant evergreens on the far side of the lake begin to darken in the gathering shadows of early evening. Toward that forest, in the distance you can hear the quack of a wild duck, chortling to its kin. As the Polarity Paradigm meets Ayurveda tending digestive fire is only part of the picture.

Dr. Stone gets speculative. “We admire the free grace and natural elastic carriage of the South Sea Islanders. …Some of their devotion was also expressed in dances, which was a new idea to the suppressed white man.”

She looks at him with profound reserve, yet offers no comment. There is a pause. Energy gathers in the Field, alive, alert. What will come next? I invite you to hold the space, to breathe, to open to all of us here, and them, in this shared Field.

He continues, “Other races of the East, who did not have the easy life and the customs of the South Sea Islanders and who had less time for song and dance, developed postures to accomplish all that and more! In the absence of chairs and other comforts, Nature favors the squatting posture. It is natural all over the East, especially in India. Statistics show that 70% of the population of the earth use the squatting posture.”  (Health Building, p. 108)

Dhanvantari inclines her head, taking a slight breath inward, acknowledging the compliment to her ancient culture and healing ways without conceding anything more. She stares out across the water, as it laps against the far shore of the lake. Caught in her focused awareness, we look to see what she sees. To us, it seems simply to be the far side of the water. When the Polarity Paradigm meets Ayurveda tending digestive fire may only be a small part of what happens.

As we return our gaze to the two protagonists, their stance has changed. Still at least six feet apart or more, they both squat, arms round their knees, looking out at the water together, rocking. There is a sense of dynamic repose between them. We take our leave, with one last invitation to open to the Field in which all of us breath at this very moment, the Polarity Paradigm and Ayurveda at rest.

About the images: Dhanvantari with much appreciation, copyright Sita Paz. Dr. Stone, from Dhanvantari is traditionally presented as a male energy, yet in this image and story the feminine in Ayurveda is clearly evident.

About the dialogue: Dhanvantari’s dialogue is taken with permission from text in Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda, Morningstar & Lynn. Dr. Stone’s dialogue is taken from his writings, credited here.

The original version of this blog appeared in APTA Newletter August 2020, as Digestive Fire in Late Summer: The Polarity Paradigm meets Ayurveda, on the dock, in this 21st century, with thanks to them for their invitation to write.

Amadea Morningstar has worked with Ayurveda since 1983, and Polarity Therapy since 1995 as an educator, practitioner, and writer. She directs the Ayurveda Polarity Therapy & Yoga Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico, integrating Ayurveda and Marma Therapy into her Polarity Therapy teachings and practice. Past venues have included Kripalu, Omega, and the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas. Her book, The Ayurvedic Guide to Polarity Therapy is a core resource text for Polarity coursework about Energetic Nutrition and Stretching Postures.

Amadea enjoys collaborating with a variety of other professionals to integrate Ayurveda and Polarity Therapy into their lives and practices. Her recent publications are Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda and a chapter on Ayurveda in Leininger’s Transcultural Nursing, 4th Edition (2018).

For more about how to work with food in this season, “What to Eat when the Rains Come?”  and “7 Tips for Easy Healing Ayurveda Drinks Garden Fresh” are two of Amadea’s blogs.

With gratitude to the incomparable Resource of Digital Dr Stone