In Ayurveda, the ears are one of the five “organs of wisdom”. The ears – along with eyes, nose, tongue, and skin – are the sense organs that allow us to bring information from the outside world inward. Ayurveda places great emphasis on caring for the sense organs. There are a few very good reasons for this.
Ayurveda teaches us that there are three main causes of disturbance in our systems that are internal:
1. Change over time: this includes changes in the seasons and in our stage of life (like from childhood to adulthood). This one is out of our control. What we can do is learn to manage the changes. A great example is dressing more warmly in the winter, and not treating our body at 40 as though it was 20.
2. Mis-use of the sense organs: When we over use or under use our sense organs, the information we take in is not always accurate. A great example of this, in relation to the ears, is listening to loud music for a long time. When we turn it off, our ears are so sore and tired that theyring to tell us “wow, that was too much for me”.
If your sense organs stop functioning optimally, the information you take in about the world becomes distorted. Using the ears as an example, think of the ‘Telephone Game’. One person whispers something to the person next to them, so on and so forth down the line, and what started as “I love spaghetti” ends up becoming “what’s with confetti?” How can we make wise choices in our lives if the information coming in is inaccurate? Best to take care of the organs that give us this information so we at least have a chance of making a useful choice!
3. Mis-use of the mind: Ever do something you know wasn’t good for you (like eat a whole bag of chips while binging on Netflix)? Or not do something that you know is good for you (like skip a yoga class or workout or your meditation practice)? These are a misuse of the intellect, of our mental capacity. Every day we are faced with many, many choices. What we choose daily affects our health the most. Not choosing our health is the main reason we get sick.
Did you notice that two of three of the causes of disturbance in our system involve the sense organs? One involves them directly. They are involved in the mis-use of the mind as well – how often to you collect information from outside of yourself before making a decision? Probably quite a bit. And if your sense organs aren’t functioning optimally, there is a good chance that the information coming in is not accurate. So many ‘mis-uses of intellect’ happen as a result of faulty information coming in.
When I talk to people about sense organ care, the ears are often forgotten. People brush their teeth and wash their skin (shower or bath) daily, however few people even know what to do to care for their ears.
Here are some simple techniques we use in Ayurveda to care for our ears:
1. Cover your ears when you are outside: If you’re going outside in the wintertime or when it’s windy, cover your ears. Protect this sensitive and important sense organ from the harshness of winter and wind. Ears prefer to be warm and function most optimally when they are warm.
2. Oil your Ears: Use an appropriate oil (appropriate means you aren’t allergic or reactive to it. If you aren’t sure, do a small test patch on the back of your wrist and give it three days to see if any reaction arises – if it does, do not use that oil!!! Also, if it’s from a food you are allergic to, do not use.) – seasonally we are looking at oils like sesame, sweet almond, or olive oil. Warm a small amount of the oil, remembering it still has to be easy to apply to the skin without reaction – warm, not hot. Then take a small amount of the oil in your hands and massage the outer architecture of your ears – whatever feels good works!
You can also add 2 drops of oil into the ear canal itself. For this, I lean my head to one side, and put 2 drops of oil in the top ear canal. I take 5 breaths to let it move through the canal and absorb. Then I lean my head to the other side and repeat.
I do all my oiling before getting in the shower so that my shower washes off any excess oil, and keeps it from getting on my clothes.
3. Quiet Time & Nature Sounds: Since the function of the ears is to receive sound, basically when they are hearing or listening, they are working. Taking time of off work is good for us, and it’s good for your ears too. Give them a break by taking some quiet time. Since complete quiet is almost impossible to find in the modern world, the alternative option is to be in nature – nature sounds are supportive sounds for the ears to listen to (and the mind, and the heart).
It is through really being able to listen and hear others that our relationships grow and deepen. Caring for our ears is an important piece to this complex puzzle of human interaction – how can I connect and have compassion for you if I am unable to hear what you share with me? Care for your ears – not only for their sake, for everyone’s!
with peace & love,