Dani Shapiro
April 13, 2009

On Doshas

Over the weekend, I had a consultation with an expert in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient form of traditional medicine native to India. I went on a whim. Call it a midlife crisis. I had just had a birthday. Anyway, I had been interested in this form of medicine and philosophy for quite some time, but didn’t know very much about it. I was also curious to have my dosha identified and explained to me. Doshas are concentrations of elements in the body, and people generally have one dominant dosha, which influences their emotional, psychological, spiritual and physical life. For the curious, you can even get a sense of this by taking this quiz.

After talking for quite some time, then reading my pulse, the Ayurvedic consultant identified my primary physical dosha as Pitta, with a strong elements of both Vatta and Pitta in my mind. This made perfect sense to me, particularly in relationship to my life as a writer. Vattas have airy, spacey, creative, anxious natures. Whereas Pittas are organized, disciplined, possibly tending toward the overly controlling. As the consultant described the personality traits of these two doshas, I found myself thinking about my relationship to my work, and the very delicate balance I constantly try to maintain between air and fire — between a kind of spaciness and a need to control. Between free form and structure. Too much air and nothing gets done. Too much controlling and…you guessed it…nothing gets done. At least nothing worthwhile. The relationship, see-sawing between the two, is where it all happens. I felt like she was describing not only my internal make-up, but a combination of doshas that is probably in some proportion the make-up of most creative people who actually manage to get their work done. Of course, some days are better than others.

Today, as I sit down to work on my book, I will try to take my Ayurvedic temperature, so to speak. Am I more pitta today, or vatta? Maybe this will be one more tool in my tool box. One more way to find my way into my work, each day.