Monday, April 28, 2014

Watch your tongue (Zubaan sambhaal ke)

A double edged sword, sharper than the knife,
No balm can make whole,
the wounds it wreaks for life.
Be sure you bring forth with it,
words of joy, laughter and love
like holy hymns, from the heavens above….
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The tongue is known to be amongst the strongest muscles in the human body. If we ponder a little deeper, we realise that its strength doesn’t lie in the form of its musculature, rather it exists in its function. The raison d’etre of the tongue is twofold - eating and speaking. The first function (eating) is related to physiological survival, a very basic need for human beings. The second function (speaking), is related to a slightly higher order of human needs – the desire to express oneself and communicate.

How often do we pause to think and direct awareness towards the tongue? Awareness that the tongue could hold the key to a healthier and happier life, if only we could steer it better. 

We are what we eat! So, the kind of food we eat can influence our personality. If we eat sattvic food, then our mental tendencies will be sattvic. Similarly, rajasic and tamasic food will generate rajasic and tamasic tendencies respectively. Not just the kind or quality of food, even the quantity of food has to be right for the body. Too much food will not get metabolised by the body, and will merely accumulate as fat, leading to obesity.

And what happens to the tongue as soon as we smell delicious food? It starts drooling! It seems as if the food is calling out to us to eat it. Before we know, we have overeaten. And, with that comes the slew of problems – stomach ache, heartburn and not to forget the discomfort and uneasiness. Famous nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar talks about the practice of yogic eating, which ensures that we leave space in the stomach for the food to move around and get digested properly. To do this, we need to bring more awareness to our tongue, and refuse to surrender to it’s whims and fancies. This will surely go a long way in helping us lead a healthier life.

The second function of the tongue is speaking, and its one that is oft spoken of!

The great sage Kabir spoke
“Aisi baani boliye, mann ka aapa khoye,
auran ko seetal kare, aaphu seetal hoye”
Translation – “Speak such words that calm down your anger, bring peace to others as well as to you”

Again, just a little bit more awareness, a small pause, before the unbridled tongue takes over could help us have more loving and warm relationships. The Bhagwad Gita uses the excellent metaphor of horses to understand our five senses. It says, these five senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste) are as powerful as horses. They need to be reined in so they don’t go amok, dragging our soul along. If the horses are reined in well, the soul which is the passenger in this chariot will arrive safely at its destination, else it will just keep wandering around in circles at the mercy of the undisciplined horses.

Amongst all the five senses, I believe the tongue has the greatest power to create as well as to destroy. Eating primarily impacts our internal world (within our body) and speaking primarily impacts our external world, our relationships with people. Therefore, what the tongue decides to feed the body, and what it decides to voice out can impact our lives tremendously.

Choosing wisely, pausing to think if the food I am eating will increase my well being, or merely the size of my girth. Choosing wisely again, will the words I am uttering increase the love, joy and warmth around me, or will they merely serve to increase the already rampant verbal pollution in this world.


Awareness, awareness and still more awareness…..that is the only way to go. Wish me luck as I try to practice this awareness in my own life and with my own loved ones…….

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