The SHEN Centre for Health and Wellness is dedicated to the integration of the knowledge about health and wellness from ancient wisdom and modern science. It strips ancient wisdom from its cultural connections and interprets it in the light of science for inclusive intelligibility in the modern milieu. Ancient wisdom presents a rich variety of strategies for health and wellness both of the body and the mind.
In ancient wisdom, mind and body are an integral whole. We refer to it as mind-body or body-mind whatever is appropriate. This mind-body complex has its mechanistic physical faculty, a faculty of perception, a faculty of action, a faculty of feeling, a faculty of rationality and an intuitive or spiritual dimension of supra-rationality. All these faculties are connected intimately with one another.
The body is pervaded through and through in every cell with faculties of perception and action, which are pervaded by faculty of feeling, which in turn by that of rationality which finally by the spiritual dimension. That which pervades is relatively subtler than the one which is pervaded by it. Although generally the subtler is freer and it controls the gross, the gross too has a degree of freedom from the control of the subtle.
Let us illustrate this principle with an example: although rationality generally controls feelings, but feelings do not always lend themselves to the control of rationality.
The grosser a faculty is, the lesser is its degree of freedom. Vice versa, the subtler a dimension is, the higher is its degree of freedom and control of the gross. Thus, our supra-rational intuitive dimension, being the subtlest, has the highest degree of freedom and control over all of our being. This control though is not total. Its grosser faculty of rationality may not lend itself to this control.
What is this supra-rational dimension of intuition? It is the ultimate reality or the essence of the existence of the universe including that of ours. What do we rationally know about it? The only thing about it rationally accessible is that it is one whatever it might be; everything else about it is not rationally accessible.
The only rational understanding of our subtlest dimension is that all beings in the universe are one in their essence or ultimate reality. All our rationality or thinking then is going to be faulty if we misunderstand this rational truth. Misunderstanding leads to further misunderstandings and feelings out of touch with reality. These misunderstandings and related feelings keep us unhealthy and unwell.
Moving towards the correct understanding moves us closer to health and wellness, while reaching the rational understanding of the ultimate truth is the final release from ill health and lack of wellness.
Western science has adopted the dualistic model of mind and body enunciated by René Descartes according to which material body and immaterial mind (or soul) are primarily separate and unconnected entities with the only connection between them being at the pineal gland.
The dualistic Cartesian model suggests that the material body follows the laws of nature and functions like a machine while the mind is rational and it does not follow the laws of nature. It further suggests that the pineal connection between the mind and the body puts mind in control of the body, except that the body can influence the mind as well when people act out of passion.
The adoption of the Cartesian model in health care leads to the following practical implications:
Recent researches at Harvard Medical School has helped move our understanding of health and wellness closer to that of ancient wisdom. The goal of the SHEN Centre for Health and Wellness is to highlight the latest discoveries of modern health science concerning the role in health and wellness of eliciting relaxation response with the help of meditative practices, the processes acclaimed by ancient wisdom as the road to correct understanding.
For reasons of practicality, the centre primarily focuses on a physiological practice considered preparatory to meditation. This strategy falls in the group of controlled breathing. It may be described as the practice of deep diaphragmatic breathing. The reasons for the selection of this practice as the primary focus of this centre are: