May 21, 2013

When Differences Pull Us Apart & How They Bring Us Together. ~ Matthew Gindin

Ayurveda of Love.

When I wake up in the morning I am groggy, slow, and disorientated, kind of like someone very drunk. My wife, on the other hand, more resembles a bird in a Disney film, flitting colorfully from branch to branch, sometimes a bit too dizzily.

I regain normal consciousness by means of coffee beans. She sometimes needs to sit down to a short stack so as not to float free of the earth’s atmosphere and be lost in space.

When we first met I was perpetually having to explain that I actually was happy and/or excited about certain things. “I thought you didn’t care,” she would say.

“No,” I would explain. To myself I seemed positively ebullient. “You couldn’t see that?”

My wife, on the other hand, would sometimes express great emotional conviction about an idea I thought made no sense. I would get upset, wondering how she could feel that way, or what I should say to her.

After some moments, or perhaps hours, I approach her and ask her about it. She would say, innocently, “I said that? Oh, you shouldn’t take me so seriously, Gindin.”

Luckily for both of us I am an Ayurvedic Counsellor (yes, that’s right, cue theme music while I suddenly emerge in a tri-coloured cape and tilak).

Ayurveda is the classical meditation tradition of India. It is dominated by a concern with understanding people’s individual energetic constitution as the basis for effective healing and prevention of disease. As opposed to treating people with standard medicines for “standard human beings”, Ayurveda differentiates.

This is like the difference between ordering a replacement spark plug for “a car” versus wanting to know first if it is a Lamborghini, a BMW or a Jaguar.

The core of Ayurveda is the understanding of the three “doshas” (hence the tri-colored cape above). The three doshas are Kapha, Pitta and Vata. All of us have all three, but we usually have one or two which are prominent, and their qualities will determine our basic physiology, personal energy, tendencies to health and disease.

When my wife questioned my apparent lack of enthusiasm I explained Kapha dosha. I have a Kapha dominant consititution , which means I am dominated by qualities like solidity, coolness, heaviness, slowness, and also love, consistency and am generally laidback. Kapha-dominants also tend to get heavy and slow at times, like upon waking in the morning.

(Full disclosure: my secondary dosha is Vata, so in practice I’m a little more of a troublemaker than that. Vata is dominated by qualities like expansion, flexibility, electricity, and inspiration. More on all of this below).

My Kapha dominance means that when, relatively speaking, I am very happy and enthusiastic about something it might appear, to others, as though I am mildly interested. My wife, on the other hand, is Vata dominant. Consequently when a passing inspiration comes and she expresses the thought with energy and cleverness I think it is a serious opinion, when it may just be a fleeting intellectual breeze.

Once we had both came to understand these differences in outer expression, we came to accept, and adapt to, our contrasting, but often complementary, personality structures.

The great irony of our relationships is that what we crave, what brings us to seek relationship, is difference.

And what annoys us, what frustrates and hurts us, what dulls us to love and drains our patience is: difference.

Which brings me to my point.

Ayurveda provides a powerful tool for understanding and celebrating, or at times at least tolerating difference. Ayurveda can be a wonderful guide within the exciting and dangerous land of couplehood.

Telling you how to diagnose your constitution is beyond the scope of this article. Basic information can be gained here.

One caveat emptor: it is very difficult to diagnose your own constitution properly, even by means of questionnaires and such. I would try to figure it out with the help of a friend, and bear in mind that only a vaidya or Ayurvedic counselor can give you a completely accurate diagnosis.

Once you have figure out your constitution, here are my guidelines to applying this information to your relationship:

A)   Start With Yourself: Know Your Own Dosha and How To Balance It.

 What is my primary dosha? What is my secondary dosha? What colors, music, foods, activities, etc. aggravate or balance these doshas?

B) Understand: The Differences (Or Similarities) Between Your Partner and Yourself.

 In what ways do our doshas clash? Aggravate each other? In what ways do our constitutions balance each other? Think elementally. Use metaphors.

C) Promote Peace: Depersonalize Conflict.

It is easier to resist being angry at someone whose Pitta is aggravated, as opposed to someone who is being impatient or aggressive.

D) Celebrate: Appreciate Difference Instead of Resenting It.

At the beginning of a relationship  we may be attracted to someone because he is so grounded. Perhaps we are a Vata and he is a Kapha. Later on we may be irritated because he is so conservative—another side of the Kapha that attracted us to him in the first place. How can we remember to appreciate our differences? How can we retain a sense of humor?

Have fun, and don’t expect to figure all this out right away. Sometimes it takes experiments, questions, revisions, and growth before we get an accurate picture.


Matthew Gindin, R.Ac., is an acupuncturist, ayurvedic counselor, meditation, qigong and yoga teacher living in Vancouver, BC. He began teaching meditation and yoga after living as a Buddhist monastic for three years. He regularly lectures on yoga philosophy, Buddhist psychology, holistic medicine, and Jewish spirituality. Being curious and perhaps a little too thoughtful, Matthew has explored and practiced neo-Shamanism, Tantric Yoga, all of the major schools of Buddhism and Daoism. His core spiritual commitments are to the contemplative life, positive action in the world, and his home tradition of Judaism whose two core demands, “love God” and “love people” are what he tries to live up to. As well as writing for the web he blogs at Blue Waters, Blue Mountains (www.susuddho.blogspot.com) and Talis in Wonderland (mgindin.wordpress.com). His professional site is www.matthewgindin.com.


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