The Poverty of Convenience

Everyday Ayurveda by Bhaswati Bhattacharya

One of the things killing us slowly is the premium we put on convenience, and the priority of convenience we teach to our children and students. Here are three examples of choices we make in modern living, and the deeper thoughtful dharma option that integrates health and well-being into each step.

Skin Products
Instead of mixing turmeric powder with water to apply on pimples or skin bites, we use turmeric creams that are on the market. These turmeric creams provide 1-2% turmeric and a chemical base of 98% using a petroleum derivative or a synthetic moisturizer. These modern creams have stabilizers and preservatives to keep the compound “fresh” but do not prioritize their effect on our body. In fact, many synthetic compounds used regularly destroy the dynamic vitality of our skin, and kill the protective bacteria that must live on our skin to protect it from noxious skin-eating bacteria. But these effects are not tested, as the results would not be favorable to profit-oriented products. The chemicals in synthetically-produced creams do not integrate turmeric among them the way pure turmeric works with clean water or oil.

In addition, the formulators of these modern creams are not clinicians and have no moral or ethical connection to treating your skin. They develop formulations guided by archaic regulations and work in an industry that hopes their data will pass the regulations of the authorities. In turn, the authorities are generally following rules and laws made by non-medical lawmakers who hire technical staff who work for money not ethics. The technical staff are often consultants to the same companies developing the products. Where is the connection from soil to skin? Where is the allegiance to truth and the priority to what will help the end-user, the patient? Instead, the industry has skillfully and slowly created a priority for profit and celebration of clever marketing that preys on ignorance. Each science defers to another authority, and there is no seamless integration of multiple sciences to make sense of the relationship of our skin’s beauty and skin health with deeper knowledge.

Instead of building our garden, we hire a gardener. Each employee simply fulfills the wishes of the person who hired them, usually putting aside the allegiance to the earth and what would be good for it. Sometimes gardeners make suggestions according to the land and soil, but often the landowner – who is usually ignorant of gardening and thus hired the gardener – commands according to their limited knowledge of agriculture, botany, and gardening. The landowner has some vague idea, and acts to implement a vision with no roots in the health and well-being of both the human and the land.

The actual benefits of gardening, especially on one’s own land, include immersing oneself in nature, getting our own feet immersed in the soil, touching old roots and minerals and experiencing the low hum of the earth’s biodynamic magnetic field and the oscillating electric field that exists among living earth. Planting flowers or plants and watching them fail to grow teaches us about relationships between plants and subtleties of the ecosystem. We learn which plants to place near one another, and which plants are incompatible when grown in proximity. As we study our garden, we celebrate the seed that bursts from the soil, and the small frail stem that grows leaves and eventually becomes a large, tall beauty.

Vegetable gardens give us the privilege of growing our own food, knowing how it goes from soil to stove to stomach. This knowingness is a confidence in our own food that can never be achieved with purchased food, especially imported food.  Vegetable gardens remind us of our power to connect to the earth, whether they are potted plants in an urban windowsill or a space in our backyard.

The effort of physical exercise, time in nature, and learning a new skill brings up resistance in people who struggle with changes in routine, laziness, or moving their body. This is exactly why gardening is considered an excellent tool with multiple benefits.

Private Squatting
Squatting to empty contents of the bladder and bowels is normal and highly preferred by most people in Asia.  In addition to cleaning with water and not leaving paper fluff and fecal/urine residues around the openings, the person feels cleaner inside.  However, due to a historical indulgence of laziness, an inability of obese people to bend down into squats, and ladies with big hoop dresses who could not squat while dressed, the chair toilet offered a mighty convenience.

For the luxury-bound of the early 1900s, cabinetmaker Joseph Bramah and plumber Thomas Crapper invented and installed water closets inside the house with sitting toilets. Housing excrement indoors had previously been forbidden for hygiene, but convenience overruled. Within a decade, health issues ensued, especially reports of hemorrhoids and varicose veins but also weakness in the thighs and legs. At the same time, world wars and conquests and pandemics prevented people from listening to the advice of pre-Crapper days, and those who understood the dangers of sitting toilets.

Today, people who have used Asian toilets and return home to chair toilets realize the advantages of squatting to empty bowels and cleaning with water. They have adapted the chair toilet by lifting their heels, placing benches for their feet around the toilets, or squatting on the bathroom floor using bedpans and flushing the waste away. The wisdom of squatting is anatomically evident and physiologically evident.

The convenience of not suffering from hemorrhoids or weak thighs motivates modern luxury people. They quietly adapt their worlds back into simple routines that align with natural flows of the body to promote health.

The South Asia Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 20182023 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House.    [email protected]  |

Images courtesy of (Photo courtesy and Provided

Share this post