Seneca, Pantanjali, and The Philosophy of Chiropractic
When the Roman philosopher Seneca counselled Lucilius “to cultivate an asset that the passing of time itself improves,” he was not talking about a wine cellar. He was talking about employing the practical philosophy of Stoicism to steady the mind, to see things as they are, and to be deliberate in thought and action.
In a very different culture but in a very similar way, the author Patanjali of the canonical Yoga Sutras described Kriya yoga, known as the yoga of action. Kriya yoga is the practice of moving with a purpose or goal (kriya) to cultivate a calmness of mind (yoga). The active practice of moving through the yoga postures (asana) and the intentional integration of breath (pranayama) promote heat (tapas), which serves to purify the body. The meditative practice of self-inquiry (svadhyaya) encourages us to ask who and what we are and how we relate to others. The third element of kriya yoga is a quality of action (isvarapranidhana), to focus on how and how well we are acting in the moment instead of being wrapped up in the expectation of an outcome.
In yoga, avidya refers to the root obstacles that prevent us from seeing things as they really are. In many respects, this is the main challenge we all face all of the time. This is the illusion and the veil that is projected by the conditioned mind to reinforce a sense of separateness within our own selves, with one another, and with Nature. The beauty and the value of the disciplines like Stoicism and Kriya yoga is that they clearly identify the obstacle and also provide actionable steps for liberation from unconscious conditioning.
In the original chiropractic philosophy, we understand that avidya - the obstacles that prevent us from seeing things as they are - can manifest in the body as clinical expressions of dis-ease. We have traditionally referred to these expressions of dis-ease in the body as subluxations, which in the philosophical sense can be understood as “a reduction in the expression of light.”
Operating from the premise that life is the expression of intelligence through matter, we see that when there is an impediment to how this energy and intelligence is coordinated in the body, it affects how a person can move, sense, feel, and heal. When a person is disconnected from their body and themselves for long enough, they become ill. When people are disconnected from each other because they’re disconnected from their bodies and themselves, the culture becomes ill.
The beauty and the value of chiropractic, when drawing from this philosophical heritage and refined through the science and art of clinical practice, is to provide an adjustment with one goal - to entice the Innate Intelligence that resides in each of us to shine a little brighter. Just as we cannot be in growth and defense at the same time, the derivatives of Fear that currently saturate our culture cannot last when the veil of avidya is lifted.
Seneca and Patanjali were talking about the same thing. The practice of moving deliberately to cultivate a calmness of mind is an asset that the passing of time itself will improve. The disciplines of Stoicism, Kriya yoga, and philosophically-based chiropractic serve to promote and advance this practice.