Experiencing Stillness Through Sustainable Living
Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Geeta C Yadav
Who am I? This question intrigues many of us from time to time. Then a moment comes when the answer is a journey of self-introspection and realisations. A strange calm prevails and encourages to tread further and one finds inner joy and happiness as a state of mind. The outside diminishes and those ambitions blur. The inner journey begins and calmness becomes a norm. Higher purpose beckons and begins to take shape and one experiences a shift in choices. This shift takes us closer to Mother Nature and a sacred inner environment unfolds that guides us towards sustainability in the outer world. This is the story of Vartika Sinha; our contributor. White Print is happy to share her life changing journey that has been recognised at various forums. It is time to get inspired and take baby steps towards sustainability goals.
WP: What were the personal goals that prompted you to tread the path of sustainability?
VS : For the longest time my life was only about me, my family and friends. Living in gratitude and giving back to society meant monetary donation and few service activities towards the welfare of the society. Self-introspection left me feeling hollow and trivial from within. Sustainable living should have been the goal and I realised that it was a far cry because I was not living in harmony with fellow beings and Mother Earth. How every convenience came at the cost of the environment was the realisation that was tangled with my life being all about chasing things, people and health. My personal goal was all about my life being relevant in the true sense of the word. I simply started the journey of sustainable health and lifestyle. It proved to be very rewarding and satisfying and I was blessed with clarity in my pursuit as I understood the difference between donating and sharing. Earlier I used to donate as per my convenience, now I share without knowing the size of my pie. Now all I can think of is refining my personal goal by learning and practicing sustainable living and sharing the same with people around me.
WP: How did you understand the nature of the autoimmune disorder you suffered from?
VS: August 2007, I was two months into my first job, traveling to Dehradun for a day. I slept early that night and the next morning I woke up with red rashes all over my body. I panicked took an anti-allergy pill. This gave relief to me as the allergy was suppressed for a few hours, but post that it surfaced everyday for years. At 22, I was diagnosed with Acute Urticaria (Autoimmune -Skin allergy).I consulted acclaimed doctors, various allergy and blood tests were conducted but nobody could diagnose the root cause of allergy. I also fasted for a few consecutive days to rule out food allergy, but nothing worked. I was willing to quit my job and stay in hospital for treatment. I was told there’s no cure of urticaria in modern science except suppression. I could have choked to death if I hadn't suppressed inflammation. In short, it’s like self destruction by the immune system. Dec 2007, my condition worsened and it became Chronic Urticaria, therefore medication for lifetime. Around Feb 2016 I was cured completely with the help of alternate therapies.
WP: What are the common indicators of poor health?
VS: The following are common indicators of poor health-
Life support Any pill (modern or traditional) that lets you function or sleep
Supplements Any (modern or traditional ) dietary supplement except Vitamin D and B12. Adequate exposure to sunlight is a chronic deficiency, hence Vitamin D is almost a universal deficiency. B12 nutrients (produced by microbes) are no longer found in our food because of modern farming. Secondly, we have weakened our digestive tract with processed and acidic food. As a result, our body has to rely on external supplements.
Chronic symptoms – Acne, acidity, allergies, bloating, bad breath, gastric ailments, constipation, joint pain, stomach ache, heaviness, indigestion, hair fall, heartburn, numbness, palpitation, painful periods, irregular periods, premature ejaculation, sexual dysfunction, extreme mood swings, sudden weight loss, weight gain, disturbed sleep etc.
Drug as stimulant Ill effects of alcohol, nicotine and other substance abuse are known. How about caffeine? Caffeine is a widely used drug, absolutely unchecked and unregulated. Long term damages have been proven scientifically however there’s a strong lobby (corporate/ government.) protecting caffeine, coffee gets a shield of antioxidants. Some biased research claims that it prevents cancer. Of course there are many other sources of antioxidants that help in preventing cancer. For sure caffeine retards the body's natural healing mechanism. Probably, there’s no problem in having caffeine responsibly (as a treat) provided it doesn’t become a stimulant.
Herbal concoction regular consumption of herbal drinks or food. For instance concoction of traditional herbs for smooth bowel movement. It’s medicine in natural form but this is not to be confused with herb infused tea (caffeine free)
Craving for sweets Nothing to be proud about, it’s a deficiency. Our body needs natural sugar (fruits), when it doesn’t get fulfilled we crave for sweets. It’s our choice whether we satiate it with fruits or junk.
WP: ‘Unfathomable are the ways of karma(action)!’ Translate this thought to explain your journey towards good health.
VS: I always believed that I was more conscious about health and fitness than my fraternity, then why was I suffering? The ‘why me’ question needed to be addressed as it started to hamper my personal growth. It got answered in one line of Bhagvad Geeta (Gahana karmano gatih).
The word 'deserve' creates a myth about entitlement. When something good happens to us, most of us thank the almighty, feel blessed and probably entitled. Whenever anything untoward happens there's a state of denial, self pity and feeling of 'undeserving'. The cosmic forces are beyond the human mind. Hence there's no need to decode 'why me'? It’s our sheer inability to comprehend the relationship between cause and effect. Profound learning comes with experiences, it only makes sense in retrospection. I wouldn't have researched health, had I not experienced chronic illness myself. This research will not only help me but also others. Here's what I learnt and hope to remind myself:-
Instead of 'Why me' say ' Thank You! It's me! Divine (lord or cosmic energy or whatever energy you believe in) has some plans through us. Just hang in there and keep going.
Duty to serve Keeping the emotions and intellect aside, purpose needs no definition but action. What's my reason for getting up in the morning? Is it helping me to evolve? My time in physical existence is limited but my duty is limitless. What is your duty? The purity in you will guide you. Trust your instincts. I am not aware of any scientific evidence to support this claim but evolution of mankind, sharing of wisdom, community welfare are examples of spiritual growth and limitless action.
WP: How did you inculcate healthy habits in your family?
VS: Let me respond with the help of a quote by Socrates
“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think “
It’s much easier to convince a stranger than a family member, especially adults. I find innovative ways to convince faculties of adults and lead by example. I live with my husband and 6 year old son. I have influenced them with subtle as well as radical changes. My husband gradually changed after observing positive changes in me. For instance chewing food properly in silence came naturally to me, if you chew for 20 minutes you will never overeat. He too found it helpful and now practices it. We have few house rules, for instance - no talking or media while dining, no phone inside the washroom, switch off wi-fi router in the night, 40 minutes exercise daily. For other family members, I share easy recipes with nutritional facts, personal food choices, fitness routine, brief and easy tips.
WP: What made you explore alternative therapies? What were they and how did they help you?
VS: Modern medicine could only suppress the allergy, the treatment made me drowsy and started to impact me physically and mentally. In short, I was not getting treated but prolonging my sufferings. In 2012, I stopped medication and started to explore alternative therapies. I met Dr. Ashwani Sharma (Ayurveda practitioner in Delhi), a humanitarian. For the first time somebody could elaborate my health condition, he mentioned about toxicity and heat in blood, how it was impacting my organs, prescribed herbal medicine to neutralize acids and build immunity. I was in a state of denial. If modern medicine had failed me , how could some random herbs cure without any internal diagnosis ? I had no other option but to try. I adopted Ayurveda (Traditional medicine) and Self healing technique. I got completely cured by Feb 2016. Examples of few alternative therapies - Ayurveda, Acupressure, Homeopathy, Colour therapy, Craniosacral therapy.
WP: How did books like The Bhagwat Gita help you in your journey? What are the other books that you recommend to our readers?
VS: Bhagwat Geeta is helping me to focus on my actions. I also don’t judge myself and others. I simply make a plan and execute it. In short, I don’t think much. I just want to be relevant. I find the ‘Audible’ app very convenient for audiobooks. I listen to them while commuting and walking. For holistic health I recommend ‘How not to die’ by Dr. Michael Greger’, ‘The China Study’ by T. Colin Campbell & Thomas M Campbell, ‘Gut’ by Giulia Enders , ‘Why we sleep’ by Matthew Walker, ‘Bhagvad Geeta’ by Sri Sri publications, ‘Become healthy or extinct’ by Darryl Dsouza. Become healthy or extinct is not available on Audible but one can subscribe to Darryl’s youtube channel for more details.
WP: What is the connection between a peaceful mind and healthy body?
VS : Health first manifests in the mind and then the physical body imbibes it. For instance, stress or happiness originate in the mind first and then effect is felt in the physical body. It can be substantiated by the function of glands and hormones. Serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine are happy hormones, they get released when we do good for us and others. They help in healing better and faster, that's why people cope up differently in the same circumstances. In short, it takes a peaceful mind to heal. There are many ways of achieving it, breathing technique and voluntary service work best for me. Why voluntary service? What it has to do with healing? Because when we help others selflessly we actually help ourselves. I don't intend to preach any spiritual wisdom, the healing effects of service have been proven scientifically by observing brain waves and showing the release of happy hormones. Find a way to incorporate selfless service in your life. Start with your community once a week, then gradually imbibe in your routine.
WP: How do positive affirmations help? Explain with examples from your personal challenges.
VS: Our body is composed of trillions of cells, largely good. Talking about good health rather than illness diverts attention from illness to health. It sounds abstract but it’s metaphysics of the body. It takes positive affirmations to heal the body. We heal faster when we send positive vibes/ energy to our cells.
WP: How do you share the lessons from your life with others?
VS: I use social media to share my practices and learning. From time to time I share bio enzymes, compost and homemade chemical free food and beverages to raise awareness.
WP: How did your medical condition contribute in making you a minimalist as well as an enthusiastic environmentalist and artist? Rate your own evolution from then to now.
VS: Medical condition tempered me down and made me realise about my fragile existence. The existence which has no meaning unless I make it meaningful. I worked as a Finance professional for 11 years. I had a rewarding corporate career but that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to rather create something and move people with my Art. It was a tough decision to let go off my paycheck and support myself as an Artist and environmentalist especially when I had no background in environment and art.
A conversation with my husband helped me to make the decision. Sharing some key insights
What’s the use of your education, if it’s not letting you pursue your dreams?
If you stick to your career and fast forward your life by 20 years, you will probably have a fancy car, house , bank balance, etc. but you are still not happy. On the contrary if you pursue your dreams you will be contended, but you may or may not have money. If you are okay to live a life of a penniless artist and not being ashamed of it then go for it.
Live below your means , this helped me in assessing difference between need and want
WP: Describe a moment in your life when your efforts as an aware citizen were recognized or rewarded.
VS: 1) NCERT gave me an opportunity to share my personal narrative on sustainable practices for grade 9 EVS textbook. It is my chance to make environmental education more practical than theoretical.
2) I got an opportunity to mentor and judge young minds at the ‘Science Shaala’ (inter school science exhibition). Young minds shared innovative and scientific ways of solving environmental issues. I was a part of the jury. This event was supported by National Geographic and Utthan NGO
3) I got an opportunity to learn and create an ecosystem for butterflies at ‘Thousand shades of Butterfly’. After the park was opened for the general public, the cause gained traction. Like minded community members shared my story in social media to continue the momentum. It was a stepping stone for me to share sustainable practices and zero waste lifestyle in bigger forums. It’s my personal victory when people attempt any small or big change.
Vartika’s story is just a beginning. The knowledge that she has gathered from various resources has enriched her own experiences because she has lived it. In the wake of COVID 19 pandemic, she is observing complete quarantine. According to her sound sleep activates healing, regular workout, breathing exercises keep us fit and strengthen the immune system. Wholesome and balanced diet wherein white sugar is banished and more fruits and vegetables are consumed to keep us going. Maintaining sanitation both outside as well as inside is the key and realising that stress has been self-inflicted but nature is giving us these days to rest, become aware and delve deep within to find ourselves.