Triphala: A Traditional Herbal Formula Pt. 2

I thought we would do a second article on Triphala for two important reasons.  1: Yes, it is that good to have around.   2: Triphala is a good example to use in highlighting the fact that different medical systems operate from very different perspectives.  Here in the west we focus on taking the herbal tablet to get all of the wonderful benefits to our digestive system that I wrote about last week.  According to Ayurveda – India’s medical system, tasting Triphala gives many powerful medicinal benefits too.

Why such an emphasis on taste?  Taste in the Sanskrit language is the word rasa.  Rasa also means emotion and rasayana is a word for rejuvenation.  In our modern world, we don’t often associate those three concepts together.  But in India, they all share the same root; they all stem from a central association.

Ayurveda believes consciousness is an integral part of the healing process.  Getting sick often had emotional and mental components, as did getting well.  Today we talk about mind/body connection or wholeness.  Ayurvedic theory takes it a lot further by believing 99% of illness originates from an emotional or mental root cause.   Thus, working on a person’s body was not a separate thing from working with their emotions and their mind.  To them, the ability to rejuvenate ourselves is deeply integrated with our ability to balance our emotional space.  To them taste and emotion are deeply interwoven to such a degree that different tastes stimulate different emotions.  By manipulating the tastes we eat, we can adjust our deep emotional imbalances.

Triphala has all the primary tastes but is very high in bitterness.  Bitter slows down the momentum of our desires, and thus leads to a calmer emotional and mental space.  It leads to contentment instead of striving.  As people drink it, they taste the bitterness strongly and that narrowing tone can sometimes be rejected by the mind.  However, as our emotional space comes into deeper balance, the bitterness doesn’t jump out at us so strongly and the taste profile  becomes more pleasing.

Remember: The Ayurvedic medical system has been in use for thousands of years.  Their insights and methods may be different, but they have worked for millions of people.

To wrap up, here is a final way Triphala is used that exemplifies how wildly different our medical theories can be.   Triphala is often used to purify the tongue and the consciousness behind speech.  Thus Triphala is prescribed as a mouth scrub for all people trying to learn a second language.  Just wet your finger or your tooth brush and dust with powdered Triphala.  Gently brush the entire mouth including the sides of the cheeks, tongue, and gums.  The cleansing that happens helps to calm deep imbalances that can lead to dullness of speech, slowness of thought, and inflexibility of the tongue and mouth.  You can also use Triphala scrub to help stop yourself or your children from frequent cursing for the same reasons.



Expectation is the cause of great suffering.  The Packers final game this year was a great example of expectation and hopes dashed.  They SHOULD have won that game.  They dominated for 90% of it.  As we, packer nation, rolled into the fourth quarter we had every reason to expect a super bowl berth.  We could taste it, it was so close.


And while we could talk about the horrible statistic that says domestic violence rises proportionally to the intensity of dashed expectation of our team winning, this is not just a Packer issue.  It is a human emotional reaction that can be allowed to create suffering and drama in our lives whenever our expectations are not met.

What causes expectation to turn to anger and then to drama or even violence?  If we break it down, expectation is a desire.  By placing our desire into an external outcome we create drama because no matter how hard we try, we cannot truly control anything but ourselves.  The higher the intensity of our desire, the higher the negative or positive reaction we have when our expected results appear or disappear.  If we have no invested desires in an outcome, then we have no emotional reaction to any of the results, be they good, bad or ugly.

Anger is an emotion that basically says, “Get out of the way!  You are blocking me from achieving my desire.”  If our expectations are not met, then the flash of anger that comes from it sometimes explodes outward like a grenade.  Anything in the immediate area is going to get hit with that flash of anger as we process our reaction to dashed expectations.  Again, the higher our investment in the result, the higher the potential anger.

Once we understand and identify this process, we have an opportunity to work with it.  The first critical step in handling the negative effects of expectation is building self-awareness.  This includes awareness of our true expectations as well as the level of emotional investment we are projecting onto the results.

Second, the application of a philosophy called, “Releasing The Fruits” can be useful.  It calls for us to change the focus of our minds from gaining satisfaction in the results of our actions to gaining satisfaction in the process leading up to the results.  It is often said differently, “Happiness is not in the destination, but in the journey.”

So, instead of focusing all our satisfaction on making a big sale, we can gain satisfaction from dressing professionally, speaking clearly to the client, and answering their questions.  If we learn to find satisfaction in performing well, then the result of that sales call doesn’t have such a high impact.  The result doesn’t carry ALL of the weight in terms of emotional payoff.  The real gem of this practice is apparent when we understand that in its essence, we are attempting to move our satisfaction into the realm of things we can control instead of being at the whim of fate.

In the end, the intense drama that expectation can create is a form of stress that has deep and wide implications for our health and our relationships.





Growing More Grass

Our language is telling.  It creates fundamental associations that underlie what assumptions we make and how we will tend to act/react.  I’m writing today about non-violence, but grass is more commonly used in another context today.  When you read the title of this column, did you think about marijuana?  Maybe you associated the title with current politics?

Poets and songwriters use words to great effect.  However, we are affected by our internal conversation and daily conversations with others the most strongly.   How much thought have you given to the words you use; to their associations with violence, dominance, and the way they affect the people closest to you?

We can take some time to first examine the way we speak and the words we choose.  Once we find an unwanted tendency we can then make a conscious effort to change the way we use that word.  Let’s use humor as an example.  I used to be a very sarcastic person.  I enjoyed the burn; the sharp wordplay that put a good dig into my friends.  Then it was pointed out to me that sarcasm is a very angry form of humor that belittles someone else by pointing out their faults.  I noticed the feeling of power it gave me to feel better than someone, to be the witty master of words.  I loved the laughter as everyone applauded my efforts and poked fun at my victim.  It was great until I really paid attention to the way that my humor impacted my way of thinking and those around me.  I finally made a choice that it wasn’t worth putting people down to bring myself up.  It wasn’t funny anymore.

The solution is a gentle refocusing of our attention.  It follows an old adage: instead of pulling the weeds, just grow more grass.  Eventually the weeds will get choked out because the grass is so strong and healthy.  The application of this principle can be used universally.   It took a couple years for me to get rid of sarcasm, but the sharp come backs have slowly stopped jumping up in my mind.  Now my impulse to cut, burn and dig my friends isn’t my first or even second reaction.

Does violence really have any place in our hearts and minds?  We have been highly desensitized to the common use of violent language through media and culture.  It is only because we haven’t taken a deep look at it that we allow it in our lives.  Instead of focusing on our adversaries, perhaps we should focus on our friends?  Instead of creating division and stress, we can bring about connections and friendships that nurture us.  In terms of humor, now I find ways to gently poke fun of situations instead of digging into a person.  There are many ways to still have fun.

Mother Theresa was asked if she hated anyone.  She responded with another version of our adage which I have paraphrased here. “If I take the time to hate, that is time I cannot spend loving and caring for someone.  It’s not worth it to hate.”  In the end, it is your life and your experience.  How you spend it and how you interact with the people around you is your choice alone.

Opening The Heart Center

There are several ways to skin a cat, or so I hear.  There are also several ways to go about releasing the tension stored at the heart center.  Last week we proposed that our ability to process our emotions may play a part in keeping breast tissue healthy.  Whether or not you buy into my theory or not, releasing the tension around the heart center is a good thing to learn how to do.  Here are several tips for releasing your heart at both the physical level and at the emotional level.

1: Try speaking your mind a little more often.  Get if off your chest.  Allowing our heart to speak its voice and be witnessed by others is very validating.  Finding ways to let your voice be heard without anger, blame, or intensity is the goal.  If speaking is too much, then journaling is still an effective option.

2: Take a deep breath in and release it fully.  Every breath is a stretch.  Every breath cleanses the blood.  In addition, the deep breath pauses us.  It pauses our mind.  It pauses our forward intensity.  Very often when we are stressed and ‘in the zone,’ there is a tension we hold in our chest muscles.  Practice and see if you can feel how taking a deep breath helps to release this clenched area of the body.  Build a habit of breathing deeply and letting it go.

Remembering to change your breath is tricky.  I suggest picking three triggers that remind you to take that deep breath.  Try breathing deeply at every stop sign, before opening any door, and before answering any phone call.

3: Regular massage for the heart has tremendous benefits in releasing stored emotion and increasing self esteem.  In addition to moving lymph and relaxing muscle tension throughout the chest and breast, taking time out for a 10 minute massage relaxes our entire nervous system.  Touching this area of your body increases your awareness of both the tissues and the emotions stored here.  And last, becoming aware of your “normal” breast hardness, skin feel, and other details makes it much easier to zero in on any changes that may be taking place, aka early detection.

The techniques are pretty simple.  Start with feather-light “U” shaped strokes.  Lymph vessels are very delicate and deeper pressure will not help lymph flow.  Gently move from the center of the chest to the armpit.  Make several passes that include the entire chest, all pulling fluid gently towards the lymph nodes in the armpit.  Next, go over the entire area again with more depth and pressure.  Allow the massage to dig deeper into the breast without causing discomfort.  Press into the muscles under the breast, into the spaces between the ribs, into the arm pit area, and all the way up to the collar bone.  This deeper massage will help soften muscles and help to normalize breast tissue.  The entire massage should take from 6-12 minutes.

4: Build Compassion.  Read Compassion Is Learned to continue this series and learn practices to build compassion in your life.

Pink Thoughts

Throughout all of the media coverage on Breast Cancer Awareness, there is one aspect that gets little to no attention.  The chest lies squarely over the heart chakra, the center of emotion.  Can it be possible that emotional health can be tied to the physical health of this body area?

Let me set the stage with two concepts:  First, turn to the person next to you.  Ask them to close their eyes and then point at themselves.  More often than not, they will point at their chest.  That’s because this is our center of self identity and self esteem.

Second, I just want to bring up the phrase, “Bare your breast to the world.”  The old phrase shows that at some level we recognize the connection between this area of our body, vulnerability and strong emotion.  We recognize that there is internal drama in the act of exposing our ‘breast,’ of exposing our heart-felt opinions.

Experiment:  Take a moment to act out several emotions.  Actually create the emotion within yourself.  Witness what you have to do to create the following emotions within yourself:  anger, happiness, fear, sadness and resentment.  Pay particular attention to how you change the depth and rhythm of your breath.  Feel what tightens and where it tightens in the effort to create each different emotion.

How does this relate to breast cancer?  Failure to express your deep emotional self and failure to honestly process our emotion affects the fluid flow, nutrient exchange, and detoxification ability of the breast.  Clenching the muscles of the chest and ribs from intense emotion tightens the muscles affecting the lymph nodes and blood flow throughout the breast.  This tightness comes from current stress and unprocessed emotional drama.

Is it possible that years and years of reduced blood flow in the chest helps to build up a toxic or unhealthy cellular environment?  Is it possible that the energetic vibration from negative emotion such as resentment or negative self talk recurring over and over again makes us more susceptible to illness at the center of our self esteem?  My humble opinion is yes.  As a massage therapist working with thousands of people, this connection between the muscles of the ribs and chest, emotions and the breath has become easy to see in my clients.

Caution:  Cancer of any type is complicated; complicated to understand, to manifest and to cure.  Get a team of experts AND do everything you can on your own to stay healthy and hopefully avoid the significant disruption that cancer can cause in your life.

Next week we will cover natural ways to increase your awareness of the emotion/ breath connection.  We’ll also cover tips to help remove the physical tension at the heart.  Having more tools in your basket is always a good thing.