Self-Referral--An Explanation and its Application to Health


An important theme in Ayurveda is the notion that healthy life is promoted by living in the present. This dictum is supported by an understanding of the application of the law of karma to our conception of the nature of life. The law of karma simply holds that you are or become whatever you experience—mentally, emotionally, and physically. Thus karma is not only a philosophical or ethical notion, it is at the heart of all cause and effect interactions. The Ayurvedic understanding of the nature of life holds that it is fundamentally a field of non-material energy, which possesses intelligence and awareness. While this field is said to be fundamentally without attribute we often describe it with more than two dozen terms including: unmanifest, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, invincible, unbounded, perfect orderliness, purifying, self-sufficient, infinite correlation, infinite organizing power, infinite silence, infinite dynamism, bliss, and self-referral. The final two are interesting from our point of view in that the bliss is the result of living in the now and the self-referral is the means for attaining it--but more about this later.


This concept of Consciousness is important for several reasons. The concept represents a view of the ultimate nature of reality. There is a verse in the Upanishads that says “as above so below.” This verse suggests that our conception of the ultimate and its functioning will be mirrored in every level of creation. If on one level the field of Consciousness is the state of perfection, of purity, of all knowing etc, then when these or other of its qualities are manifest in creation we would say this represents perfect physiology. It would be a state bordering on the level of and mirroring that of the most fundamental level of reality. There are some interesting phenomena, which exemplify this physiology: Helium close to the temperature of absolute zero behaves in an unbounded fashion. It will rise out of its container. It can not be disturbed and shows no resistance to agitation as when it fails to produce any eddy when “stirred” with a utensil. Certain materials exhibit superconductivity at these same temperatures. In human existence we have observed brain wave activity during certain yogic practices to be perfectly coherent. This means that all wave functions are functioning in synchrony. Supernormal activity such as levitation has been observed during these periods of maximum brain coherence. So this physiology is our model of health. The physiology that mirrors the state of Consciousness will be deemed healthy. So what this physiology is will be discussed below.


There are three aspects to the field of Consciousness: the knower (rishi), the known (chandas), and the process of knowing (devata). See Diagram 1 below. The field of Consciousness is aware and as the only object in this entire field it is aware of itself. Thus it, the subject, is the knower of itself as an object of perception. It knows that it knows itself in the process of knowing. The term self-referral, with respect to the field of Consciousness, implies something about the quality of awareness.  Self-referral requires attention and awareness be unbounded, i.e. that it be aware of and attending to all three aspects simultaneously and continuously. Self-referral requires ability to sense and to understand. In information theory this is implies a cybernetic or continuous feedback system. Many practical uses are made of this concept such as a thermostat in the home that governs temperatures of air, water, and so on. In the body there is a similar temperature regulating mechanism and there are many others in the body involving hormone secretions and so on.  In Diagram 2 the body will seek to maintain 98.6o  by changing metabolism (energy production) factors that lead to higher or lower body temperatures.


     Diagram 1                                                                               Diagram 2

                                                                                                                                         > 98.6o





                    chandas                                     devata
                                                                                                                                            < 98.6o





An important implication of the quality of self-referral is that it is at the basis of creation and change. It is precisely when the awareness is fixed (localized) on some aspect of reality that this change occurs. Two important laws are involved: a) where attention & awareness go--grows and b) intention gives direction to creation and change because intention has inherent in it all the necessary requirements for its fulfillment. Sometimes these laws are collectively known as nama rupa or “name and form.” Either wording of the law implies that what we say or think have a “physical” component or expression. While one might think that a thought is nothing important. It is an idea or sound vibrating in the field of Consciousness. It is also true that everything, no matter how dense or hard, is fundamentally vibration or sound. Thus it is that ideas with enough energy (say infinite in the case of the Creator) will manifest as form or structure. It is said that the creation came into being when the Creator fixed Its attention on the object value of Its own Self. Thus creation is the product of mind and of its quality of attention.


This phenomenon is said to occur in the body when we experience emotions. Cells produce neuropeptides, physical molecules, which are the physical correlate of the non-material energy of emotions. Remember that this is simply the functioning of energy, which is transforming itself into many forms. But this is a creative act. And the nature of creation is held in the nature of the emotion. Hot emotions, such as anger and hatred, make the body function hotter. Bitterness produces isolation, wasting, and coldness. Emotions are also correlated with organs so they tend to manifest in a predictable way. A chronic emotion will tend to manifest as disease. Fear and anxiety tend to affect the colon and kidneys, for example. Grief and sadness affect the lungs. Another way disease can manifest is by having negative or destructive thoughts. These thoughts give energy to a disease process, whether imaginary or real.  Thoughts and visualization work the same way. Thus we must be very careful what we give our attention to.


The style of healthy functioning, however, is one that must comprehensively and simultaneously administer issues of the past, present, and future. One’s physical survival is best assured when all factors are in one’s awareness at all times.  We could say that knowing about oneself requires a memory of past experiences to prevent unwanted future outcomes, an awareness of one’s needs of the moment and how to fulfill them, and one’s sense of what one can or should become. This, too, is self-referral but of the physical existence. On the other hand one must always be aware of one’s divinity, of being spirit and body, and of having an eternal and unbounded nature. The desire of the spirit—to express love, for example- might be viewed differently than the body’s need for food. But both aspects of our nature have to be addressed continuously and simultaneously. Thus self-referral is a style of functioning which makes one aware of one’s entire nature and needs in an on-going basis. It is the failure to function accordingly that is responsible for all disease.


One simple technique for practicing self-referral to always live in the now. If one can relinquish the judgments, angers, and other emotions from the past; if one can avoid worrying about what might happen in the future, then only happiness in that moment will be affecting physiology. This brings bliss to the life. Balanced emotions are necessary for balanced functioning of vata, pitta, and kapha. When we are not overwhelmed by emotions our perceptions are clear and choices are self-nourishing and self-defining. Remember that the functioning in the present gives direction to change. “Being” determines the nature of “becoming.” Imbalance, when present, is a challenge of change. If we don’t change the imbalance will persist and may lead to complications.


There is another aspect of living in the now. It’s not enough to do the right things but one has to do them at the right time and measure. Exercise in the evening increases vata maybe leading to insomnia. Eating big meals in the evening may lead to insomnia, indigestion, or obesity. Living according to the needs of the moment ensures that we rest when fatigued, eat when hungry, and so on. Living this way-- in the now--is the full prescription for healthy life.


Another technique of healthy living is always do one thing at a time. When one listens to music while jogging then one can not properly attend to the condition and needs of the body. If one reads and eats at the same time digestion will be degraded. Mind is one and this requires that there be only one object for the mind to attend to at any one time. The mind and nervous system become agitated when the mind is divided among several concerns. Take life one thing at a time.


Another technique is to try to determine whether a certain behavior brings comfort or discomfort. These are the only signals for the mind to understand. If eating hot, spicy foods brings heartburn then be aware of the discomfort associated with such foods, etc. Memory stores these impressions about cause and effect. Mind recalls them and bases its decisions about various options by remembering comfort or discomfort associated with past experiences. This behavior will help promote healthier choices in our lives.


By the way, memory is a passive and active instrument of self-referral. Forgetfulness (passive type) may result from defect of physiology, as in Alzheimer’s or dementia. Or it may arise as the spontaneous expression of lack of need to do something. There lacks temporal urgency. When this forgetfulness is healthful, it is active, and it may be surmised that our innate intelligence is operating spontaneously—intuition is lively. We are creatures of habit. Forgetfulness, in this context, may have a role. Memory is not always a perfect guide, either. Some stimuli have such a small effect as to be undetectable—means there will be no memory associated with the stimuli.  Even for strong stimuli the mind may be dull and incapable of performing any of its functions such as memory, choice, and so on.


Ayurveda says that desires or cravings are different in the various stages of disease. In early stages we tend to desire what is healthful but in later stages the body tends to desire what is part of the pathology. This means that intuition is working properly in the early stages of disease but not in the later stages. It is as if the intelligence of each cell is lost when the pathology enters general circulation. Healthy choices require clear perception, knowledge of cause and effect, and good intuition. In advanced stages of disease intuition is defective and must be complemented by rational guidelines. This is the final recommendation. Use both techniques together—intuition and rational behavior--to establish healthy living.


(C) Copyright 2000 Michael Dick All Rights Reserved