Originally published in the online magazine, Healthy, Wealthy ‘n’ Wise
Interview by Janet Bray Attwood
JANET ATTWOOD: John, thank you so much for being with us tonight, and thank you so much for walking your talk. It so showed up when I visited you in Boulder, Colorado, and saw the love that all of you were giving to me when I was there. Thank you, John.
JOHN DOUILLARD: It’s great to be here, and thanks for that amazing introduction, really.
JANET ATTWOOD: I truly meant it. I mean it. What we’re all looking for, truly, is a doctor who’s looking like he’s using his own prescription. You truly are. You look amazing, at least 15 years younger. I was just so proud of you when I saw you. We hadn’t seen each other for a number of years.
JOHN DOUILLARD: That’s right, yes.
JANET ATTWOOD: That was really great for me, so thank you. It reminded me, “Janet, get back to the Ayurvedic Clinic as fast as you can,” because it really shows up on your face and in your feeling-level so clearly; so thank you.
JOHN DOUILLARD: You’re welcome.
JANET ATTWOOD: We’ll get right into the questions. John, what role has passion-and you know that’s my favorite word-the things that matter most to you, played in leading you to what you do today?
JOHN DOUILLARD: The love I have for my family and my wife is really what actually inspires me to go out and do what I do for my living. I think one of the big messages that I realize in my own personal life is that we often seek a guru, teacher or religion, to help make some spiritual sense or lock onto a job to drive our passion and give comfort in our lives.
Then, we come home to our family life and we don’t have time for them or we are too tired and end up not treating them well. The karma or opportunity for growth and transformation truly happens with the ones you love the most. I am blessed to have six children leaving us with never a dull moment for growth.
JANET ATTWOOD: Will you tell us the story of how you discovered Ayurvedic medicine, and how it transformed from a hobby to a vocation? The fact that you’ve trained over 2,000 people in Ayurveda alone is amazing; you spent that time with Deepak Chopra. What I also want everyone to know is its very rare these days to find what you call a vaidya, a real vaidya, a real Ayurvedic doctor.
John trained with the real deal in India. The fact that he did that says so much about his work. I highly recommend to everyone to go to John’s website, LifeSpa.com. I know you’ll want to visit his great clinic.
JOHN DOUILLARD: I guess the answer to that question is that I started out looking and searching for full potential. As an athlete, I wanted to experience the runner’s high, the zone where athletes say, “My best race is my easiest race”; where they were feeling euphoric and maximizing potential during sport. That led me to being fully, maximally exhausted and depleted to the point where I started looking at alternatives.
I went to a lecture taught by some Ayurvedic teacher in 1979, and I asked him if doing an Ironman Triathlon was really good for me. He looked at me and said, “Why do you want to do that?” after I explained to him what it was—running, swimming and biking crazy distances. He said, “Why do you do that?” I said, “Gosh, that’s a great question.” I had no idea why I did that.
He said, “Do you meditate?” like any fool who would meditate would never do such a thing. I said, “Yes, I do. I meditate every day.” He said, “Do you sleep while you meditate?” I said, “Absolutely. I get the deepest sleep.” He said, “If you sleep when you meditate, you’re exhausted.” I said, “That means if I can meditate and train and not fall asleep, then everything is good?” He said, “Perfectly good.”
I started training less and meditating more. To make a very long story short, I ended up competing as a professional triathlete, not winning races but coming in at the top 10 in races I couldn’t even compete in prior. All my friends thought I was on steroids. I realized that less was more. I realized that if I trained less I accomplished more, and that rest was the source of my activity.
There was a secret formula in the runner’s high experience that I was so fascinated by. I wrote my first book, Body, Mind, and Sport on what is called the “coexistence of opposites,” which was to experience dynamic activity and composure at the same time. When you meditate, you’re resting deeply but you’re fully alert. This is a law of nature, like a hurricane. The bigger the eye of the hurricane, the more powerful the wind. It is when athletes say, “My best race is my easiest race.”
I went crazy on that concept and started training athletes. I taught them how to do nasal breathing. I worked with Martina and Billie Jean King and the New Jersey Nets teaching nasal breathing exercises. I did research on nasal breathing and found out that the formula was correct. You can seem to accomplish anything if you first establish silence. That led me to realize that not only do you do it in your exercise, but you do it in your life.
You can live in harmony with the natural cycles like how the birds fly south, whales migrate, and leaves turn red and fall from trees. Everything in nature is connected to those cycles. When you’re going with the current, you’re silent inside and dynamic outside. That spun off into the real understanding of spiritual life, which was the same thing – to disarm the protective nervous system mentally and emotionally so we can experience the most vulnerable, delicate, and sensitive aspect of ourselves, and let who we really are out.
That just blew my circuits when I put it all together. We have a clinic here in Boulder. People come and we take them through every one of those steps. We unravel all the stress-mental, emotional and physical-and disarm their protective nervous systems, and walk them and hold their hands through the vulnerability of true love to let who they really are out. Witnessing these transformations is an incredible honor, you have to know. I can’t help but grow as I continue to work with my patients in this way. It’s been an amazing journey.
JANET ATTWOOD: I can really tell just from your voice that this is a huge passion for you. I loved what you said, that one of the great gifts is that you get to see others’ lives transformed because of the knowledge that you share with them, which is so great.
JOHN DOUILLARD: Yes, absolutely.
JANET ATTWOOD: What is the difference between Ayurveda and other forms of medical treatment?
JOHN DOUILLARD: I like to think of it like “medical buffets.” You eat at a buffet, you get to take what you want, and you leave the rest. There are three choices on the medical buffet. One is Western medicine, which is designed to save our lives at any cost. It uses whatever it takes to save our lives, and I think it’s critically important that we honor, use, and respect Western medicine.
Then, there’s naturopathic medicine, functional medicine, or integrative medicine where we use natural things to do the job for us such as natural laxatives, natural bioidentical hormones, and things like that. They do the job for you but in a more natural way. Then there’s Ayurvedic medicine, which is a system of medicine designed to help bring ourselves back into balance so our body can have the clarity to employ its own healing system to heal itself.
Ayurveda allows the body to heal itself by restoring balance with lifestyle, diet, herbs, and things like that. Naturopathic does it for you naturally with natural medicines, but it does it for you. Then Western medicine does it for you at any cost. I think the three all practiced together are a powerfully integrative approach that is really in the best interest of our patients.
Of course, most importantly, we all as patients should realize the value of all three and not stiff-arm or be antagonistic to any one of those three. Really, when we use all three as needed, it’s the best way to keep ourselves healthy.
JANET ATTWOOD: From the perspective of Ayurveda, what is the fundamental cause of disease?
JOHN DOUILLARD: The fundamental cause of disease is what’s called the “mistake of the intellect.” That’s where we start to think, and here it is; we’re two years old. I’m so happy; my mom’s nursing me. I roll around in my crib and my playpen. All these things are wonderful. My heart is fully exposed. I go to pre-school and I realize these kids are mean and make fun of my lunch box, my backpack, my hair, my shorts, my shirt.
Everything’s not good enough all of sudden for the first time. I have to now, with my mind, create a personality to make me feel safe and secure all over again. That personality that I project on the screen becomes my illusion of safety. I’m going to become a straight-A student. That makes my parents think I’m wonderful. Therefore, I feel safe. I’ll become the bully in class, the pleaser, the class clown. I’ll become quiet. I’ll become withdrawn.
I’ll become whatever I can figure out to make sure I feel safe when I interact with these crazy, mean people. I literally create molecules of emotions to support those belief systems. Those molecules of emotion are projected on the screen of my personality, but they’re stored in my fat cells as fat-soluble molecules of emotion that remotely make me do the same dumb stuff again and again and again.
We all know we do that. We get in the same situation and, “Here I go again,” acting the same way, reacting in a similar situation in the same way. We can’t break those patterns by changing our mind because the problem, even though it was created in our mind, is now stored in our fat cells. You must convince the body that it’s safe enough for it to burn fat. That’s the key word, “safe.”
When the body feels safe, it will burn your fat. When the body feels unsafe, it will store your fat. I don’t care how fat or skinny you are, fat-soluble molecules of emotion, fat-soluble cancer-causing chemicals, and fat-soluble chemicals store in our fat cells, and they stay there for 20, 30, or 40 years. The treatments that we do here like the Colorado Cleanse and the Short Home Cleanse have been found to release cancer-cell chemicals, like dioxins.
Once those molecules of emotion store in the fat, they can stay there forever, rearing their ugly heads when you are under stress. The cause of disease is when we make that choice between creating that personality of safety and security, which we all do as children, as opposed to letting who we are out; our more vulnerable, our more delicate, and our more powerful self out. That’s our job, our role, and our mission as adults.
The goal of Ayurveda is to purify the density of the physical body, mentally and emotionally, so we have the clarity to see the choices that we made at a very young age that we still are projecting on the screen today as adults; and then drop those patterns because Ayurveda has released them out of the fat cells and we now we have access to the emotional patterns of behavior that we can transform and let our more powerful self out. That’s what Ayurveda is all about.
JANET ATTWOOD: In your writing you’ve said that there are what are called “sheaths,” different sheaths that are described by Ayurveda. What are these sheaths and what is their purpose?
JOHN DOUILLARD: These sheaths are called koshas. We start at the center like the sun is the center of the solar system and the sheaths are like the planets. At the center is the sun, your heart or bliss sheath, just like the sun. It gives light and warmth and love 24/7. That’s who we are; ultimately, that’s who we are. Your mind says, “Whoa! If you do all that loving and give yourself fully too much, they’re going to take advantage of you. They’re going to rip you to shreds. There’s no way you can do that, so you better protect yourself.”
That’s where the mind, the mental sheath, comes in. It creates a protective version of our personality with sensory stimulation and emotional drama in our lives to somehow keep us a little bit more secure and definitely detached from who we really are. The mind works on mathematics, and everything has to balance out in our mind. If I love you then I want you to love me back equally.
If I buy you a $20 present and you buy me one from the dollar store, you owe me $19. It does this so we stay safe. If I don’t get my $19 I’m going to feel hurt and will react. I might react by throwing pots and pans, yelling, being passive-aggressive toward you, not talking to you, or maybe drink a bottle of wine to drown my sorrows. Whatever I do, it’s to make sure I mathematically bring balance back to my physiology and my nervous system so I feel safe and secure.
What we do with our minds is a little crazy. It’s a little nuts. It’s not really in the best interest of ourselves, but it keeps us feeling safe enough to continue to function. That’s the crazy drama that takes place in our mind.
Outside of our mind sheath is the “prana,” the energy sheath that moves the life force, your breath that connects the outer sheath which is the physical body.
Your breath, prana sheath is the connector between your mind and your body. In my research in Body Mind, and Sport, we talked about how you can nasal breathe during exercise and produce a meditative brainwave pattern during vigorous exercise, which means being dynamically active, composed, and calm like a meditation while you’re running as fast as your legs can carry you.
That’s the breathing sheath integrating the mind and the body. It was beautiful. It’s really amazing research. Here’s the best part: underneath your mental sheath is what’s called your intellectual sheath, and then the bliss sheath, which represents your true self. The junction between the mental, intellectual and bliss sheaths is called the “great barrier sheath.”
The mind and the great barrier sheath separates you from yourself, from your source, from your light, from the ability for you to give freely and love freely where your mind says, “No, no. You can’t love them like that. It’s way too risky. You have to hold back a little bit.” I relate the great barrier sheath with the Mahabharata or the Bhagavad Gita. In Ayurveda and Vedic Science, the epic battle, called Mahabharata, pitted good against evil.
This war continually wages in our minds in the great barrier sheath, at that junction point between your mind, which is all emotional, needy and mathematical, and your bliss or your consciousness, which is based on physics. Its nature, like the sun, is to expand. Ayurvedic medicine’s role is to purify the physical body so we have the clarity to see what’s happening at that junction point so we have the choice now to act on the old, protective patterns of our mind and the old tapes that we play.
Or, we can experience the vulnerability of true love and let something more vulnerable and more powerful take place. Let yourself love in the face of affliction or learn to respond to adversity or hurt with affection. This is the nature of us, and this is the action step so often forgotten in Ayurvedic medicine.
JANET ATTWOOD: How does stress affect these different sheaths?
JOHN DOUILLARD: Stress impacts. Of course, there’s a major impact of stress on the physical body. The mind gets stressed. It produces stress-fighting hormones. Those hormones are incredibly toxic and degenerative. They impact the intestinal tract in a major way because there are receptors and the microbiome. There are tens of thousands, even millions, of receptors in our intestinal tract.
Our gut, our elimination, and our digestion become affected. Stress is extremely degenerative to the lining of the intestines. It affects the quality of the body’s drains, the lymphatic drainage system. Physically, the body’s limited by how well we move waste out. Your intestinal tract and your lymphatic system in Ayurveda are critical. The lymph system is twice as big as your blood supply system.
Commonly, the only time we talk about the lymph is when cancer arises. The lymph is the number-one system we treat in Ayurveda to make sure the drains are open so the body can move nutrition in and waste out. If those cells can’t get their waste out, imagine you can’t get the waste out of your house. You start to swell. You hold onto water. Your rings get tight. You get rashes, get itchy, get allergies. Your breasts start to swell when you menstruate.
Your tummy swells. You get cellulite. You get headaches, heartburn, sore throats, rashes all over your body, and acne. Those are just to name a few of the things that are caused when your lymphatic system becomes boggy. That’s classically caused by stress and the degenerative nature of stress. There’s a huge impact of stress on the physical body. That physical stress also causes the prana, the subtle energy, the life force, not to pervade the physical body and, therefore, the physical body begins to break down.
Of course, stress impacts our mindset. We create protective emotions to support and protect ourselves against those types of stress. Then, we have the impact of the mind and the molecules of emotion now being stored in the physical body that compromises the flow of the ‘prana’ affecting the function of the body and the mind. Those three outer sheaths, the body, the breath, and the mental sheath are ravaged by stress.
JANET ATTWOOD: It really is insane. OK then, what does Ayurveda say about eating?
JOHN DOUILLARD: In India, there’s an old saying, “One meal a day is for a yogi. Two meals a day is for a bogi,” which is like a laborer, worker-class person. “Three meals a day is for a rogi,” which means you’re like a sick person in a hospital, a mostly dead person.
We’re only asking folks to eat three meals a day, when according to Ayurveda you are mostly dead at three. In America we’re so addicted to four, five, six or seven meals a day, we eat here, nibble here, gobble here, snack here, snack there. This doesn’t allow the body to burn fat. As I mentioned, fat-soluble chemicals are pervasive in our culture. All the cancer-causing chemicals are fat-soluble. The molecules of emotion are fat-soluble.
The parasites are fat-soluble. If we are under stress, they store in the fat and they stay there. To get your body to burn fat, you have to give it a reason. If you have breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, supper, and snack, you’re just going to keep eating. You’re just going to burn what you ate all day long. If you have breakfast and nothing until lunch, guess what you burn in between? Your fat.
From lunch to supper you burn your fat in between. From supper until bed to breakfast you burn the fat. You reset very naturally the body’s ability to burn fat as a natural source of fuel. Fat is your calm fuel, your stable fuel. You feel calm in your skin. It detoxifies. It tills the soil. It turns the soil over so you can release some of these toxins out of your fat cells and not be stuck, too old to change; stuck in those old mental and emotional patterns.
We can turn those. We can make real progress in our spiritual life, which is hugely important for us to feel joyful and happy for no reason, which is the nature of who we are.
JANET ATTWOOD: Absolutely. It was a yogi, rogi and a bogi?
JOHN DOUILLARD: It was a yogi, one meal a day. A bogi, which is like a worker-class person-more like a thief, actually-eats two meals a day. Three meals a day is a rogi, which is a mostly dead person. We’re only asking for mostly dead here.
JANET ATTWOOD: When you say six meals a day, you’re counting snacking as a meal, right? That’s considered a meal in Ayurveda?
JOHN DOUILLARD: Yes. If you have a breakfast and a carrot, and then lunch, you’re going to burn the carrot between breakfast and lunch. If you have nothing, you burn your fat. The key is to have a good breakfast and a good, relaxing lunch, and a good, relaxing supper. We did a study on that in Denver with 22 people. It was based on my 3- Season Diet book. They ate 3 meals a day with no snacks and a big lunch and a light supper. They lost 1.2 pounds per week.
We also measured anxiety, depression, cravings, fatigue, exhaustion, and insomnia. It was amazing, two weeks later after getting off the snacks. They’d said, “Are you serious? We can’t have our snacks?” I said, “You can have whatever you want for breakfast. Eat as much as you want so you won’t starve. Have another meal at lunch and another meal at supper. Have three meals a day, the old-fashioned way.” We now have the entire plan available in my free Weight Balancing eBook.
Their anxieties, depression, cravings, fatigue, exhaustion, and insomnia were all significantly improved in just two weeks. It blew our minds. How powerful. When you’re under stress, the body says, “Store fat, crave sugar” and that is what we do: crave sugar, dark chocolate, coffee, chocolate, soda, candy, popcorn, and chips.
JANET ATTWOOD: I love this. I want to ask you, are you a yogi, are you a bogi, or are you a rogi?
JOHN DOUILLARD: I am a bogi for sure and generally eat two meals a day. This gives plenty of non-eating time for my body to maintain a fat-burning state. In fact, in my study, when the group got off the snacks and started eating bigger and more relaxing lunches, the majority decided to skip dinner and they too became bogis.