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Why Grieving is Important: Understanding Sadhaka Pitta

Our culture often encourages us to ignore hard feelings, including sadness, fear, and grief, but allowing yourself to fully feel all of your emotions can lead to a whole and healthy life. The Ayurvedic concept of sadhaka pitta helps us realize when we’re putting up walls.

In This Article

What is Sadhaka Pitta?

In Ayurveda, there’s an aspect, or subdosha, of pitta called sadhaka pitta that controls communication between the heart and mind. Sadhaka pitta is essentially the heart asking the mind to listen to its feelings. It’s the heart saying, It’s now time for me to hold the reigns and drive this chariot; it’s time to stop thinking and worrying, and start feeling.

When we experience loss, the pain is often too great to tolerate, so many of us emotionally wall off that part of ourselves, creating an imbalance in sadhaka pitta. It’s natural to retreat, protect ourselves emotionally, and become numb, but it can also prevent us from processing loss and feeling whole.

Sadhaka Pitta and Grief

Grieving is a process of starting to feel again, and it can be extremely painful at first. But it’s through grieving that we learn to tolerate pain as we move through it. Grieving is an important part of the process of becoming whole again after loss, regaining one’s passion, and even building a spiritual connection with those who have passed.

Many years ago, when I was codirecting Deepak Chopra’s Ayurveda Center in Massachusetts, I had a patient I diagnosed with a sadhaka pitta imbalance. I first noticed it in his pulse, then I inquired about his emotions and asked if there was any recent emotional trauma or heartbreak in his life.

His eyes immediately welled up and he told me that two years ago his son, the quarterback of the high school football team, crashed his car into a tree on prom night and died.

My patient was a well-known real-estate developer in the area and I remembered hearing about the accident. It was very disturbing news for everyone in that small town. The patient told me that he hadn’t built anything since his son died. He said his wife wanted him to be with her, but he couldn’t connect. He told me: “I just go for long walks all day, come back, eat, and go to bed. I just want to be alone.”

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Treating Sadhaka Pitta

Ayurvedic practitioners often treat patients for sadhaka pitta imbalance when the connection between heart and mind is lost, severed, or broken from emotional trauma or the passing of a loved one. It’s also treated when there is a strong desire to know God or experience true love.

Sadhaka pitta is a defensive strategy often described as a protective block in the emotional aspect of kapha called tarpaka kapha. Kapha is the heavy (earth-water) dosha and tarpaka translates to retain or record. You can think of kapha tarpaka as memory, as well as stored emotional trauma (in some traditions this is called samskara).

Kapha tarpaka is linked to congestion of lymphatics, or the glymphatic system, in the brain and central nervous system. Congestion of these newly discovered brain lymphatics has been associated with a series of health concerns, including anxiety, depression, inflammation, infections, cognitive decline, and even auto-immune issues.

To remove lymphatic congestion in the tarpaka kapha and restore balance to sadhaka pitta, as a way to free old emotional trauma, Ayurveda has developed a deep cleansing strategy called SAN, or shiro-abyhanga-nasya. This is a series of nasya treatments that involve sniffing herbalized oil with ginger into the deep sinuses.

Learn how to perform this Ayurvedic spa therapy at home.

Creating a Spiritual Bond with a Loved One Who Has Passed

There is also a Vedic idea that helped me find peace and then a deeper relationship with my dad when he passed a few years back:

Pain and fear are directly across from bliss. The reason for pain and fear is to get your attention so you can go to the pain, through the pain, and then access a deeper part of yourself and let that part out.

The extent that we loved someone and they loved us is the extent that through their loss we—through the pain—have access to a deeper part of ourselves. According to the Vedas, when someone passes, they shed their emotional armor and find themselves yearning for and finally free to love us fully, purely, and deeply in a way they may not have been able to do while here.

When a loved one passes, they tug on our hearts, encouraging us to go through pain and grief so we too can shed our emotional armor and feel the love we have buried inside.

What is the point of all the pain of grief? To help us find a place in our hearts where loved ones are waiting to have a new, heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul relationship with us. According to Ayurveda, we can have a new, different, but somehow deeper, relationship with them, one that they are ready for now because they’ve shed their emotional pain, and so have we through grieving.

We can sometimes find a place of peace, love, and deep contentment that we may have never known before.

When our loved ones pass, they sink a hook deep into our hearts that they will never let go of. It tugs on us to grow, shine, and be free. This is a special holy time, as it is the birth of a new relationship, and this time, it is eternal!

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I dedicate this blog to a dear friend who lost their father too soon.