India, 24 December 2017
I'm fascinated by my journey in India and how it fully serves the intention of my sabbatical time, which is to break all the habits that sustain the current personal reality (or personality) I embody.
Before coming to India I had imagined being overwhelmed by the mass of humanity present in this amazing country.
I had been expecting to see the worst of poverty (as I’ve also witnessed in other countries I’ve visited) but instead I find myself in Kovalum, Kerala - a beautiful and gentle part of India where I believe the tradition of Ayurveda began. And it isn’t overwhelming in any way at all. All my fears and expectations were, as usual, a waste of energy.
Probably the most challenging aspect for me has been booking myself into an Ayurvedic Hospital and surrendering to 10 days of treatment under an ancient model of medicine that bears no similarity to the naturopathic and herbal medicine I’ve studied and lived by for almost 30 years! That’s definitely a concrete way to challenge my habits… especially as I know very little about this medicine.
I’ve discovered that all my “naturopathic rules” are the opposite of Ayurvedic eating, at least at this hospital. Rules I’ve held such as always eating fruit before, rather than after a meal (to activate the digestive enzymes), don't mix fruits and vegetables in a juice or meal, never drink water with meals (depletes digestive enzymes), don't eat rice and potatoes in the same meal, and never combine too many different types of foods in one meal.
Instead, here it's no fruit on an empty stomach, drinking water and tea while eating, and 8-10 different dishes on offer at one meal! :-)
It’s been interesting watching my thinking around this… and watching my body have a physical response resulting in gastric pain, which had nothing to do with “catching a bug” or eating anything unhealthy. I wonder if I was just struggling with my strong beliefs?
Added to this, I wasn’t responding to the medicines in the way they expected and I seemed to be a bit of a puzzle to the doctors for a few days. This took me into my lifelong story about being “the difficult one”
If I’d suffered from caffeine withdrawal headaches and been missing my glass of red wine, I wouldn’t have been surprised, but my gut is not my usual area of weakness. More puzzles for my brain to ponder … or not!?
The emotional journey has been even more fascinating. Day one brought up a feeling of needing to surrender deeply to being mothered. Day two presented me with some unconscious rage over an old issue I thought was long gone… day three brought up a lot of tears along with the physical pain and resulted in a big release on this level. I thought with relief that the worst was over…. Then on day four I had a past life experience while undergoing the treatment – not a past life in India – but something quite disturbing.
I’m pretty sure the treatment isn’t meant to work in this way, but following this new past life information coming into my conscious awareness, the gut pain was gone. It was then that I realised I could definitely not work this out with my head - and funnily enough I'm not sure the doctors could either! They've been dancing around me with their daily prescription of treatments and vile herbal concoctions - and together we've reached a better place.
In this moment, all my naturopathic knowledge is irrelevant, and any ideas that my body is responding to the new way of eating, the Indian herbs I’m taking, or to the treatments, have been released.
Whatever I’m here to move through, is what will move through me and some part of my past self will be gone in the process, leaving space for new possibilities.
The treatments themselves require a level of physical surrender and vulnerability that makes it impossible to stay in my head, and there is little to no explanation given for the procedures I encounter each day.
It's an interesting experience having a consult with your doctor in a lovely open verandah room amongst other people waiting for their consult and listening to your personal bits and bobs!
Each day the head doctor surprises me with a new outfit! One day a sarong and t-shirt, the next jeans, and today LYCRA! Lucky he can carry it off very well - he's handsome and well-built - and extremely healthy of course!
Every day I’ve had a one-hour massage on a mat on the floor, with loads of oil rubbed into my body, by the very strong and agile feet of Hadida, a beautiful Indian woman. This practice of massaging with the feet is based on an ancient martial art called Kalari and a dance/drama performance art called Kathakali.
I’m sure my body will feel the benefits of Hadida’s deep touch for many months to come, as it has released internal toxins, stimulated my circulation – arterial and lymphatic, and profoundly nourished my outer skin.
Following this, each day I’ve had a variety of treatments delivered by three lovely young women working as a team for another 2 hours. They’ve given me a steam box, milk baths (I’ve been pretending I’m Cleopatra), medicated hot water baths, medicated hot water or oil streaming onto my belly to successfully ease pain, and onto my head to calm the mind, dry herbal powder massages, and Shirodara, which is warm oil running over the forehead for 30 minutes at a time. You can see this procedure here: https://www.nuayurveda.com/…/shirodhara-massage-therapy-be…/
Today I’m over half way through the process and there is a new balance emerging in my body/mind/soul and my eyes are bright and my enthusiasm has returned. Presumably this is a balance of my doshas that I would not have found through my western understanding of life.
And maybe there’ll be a part two to this blog… as a potential new personality emerges in this new personal reality I’ve chosen to experience.
People speak of India as a transformative place.
As an Australian, the surroundings and climate bear a lot of similarity to home, and what effects me the most is the sweetness of the Indian people as they invite me to soften and smile. I find myself observing how us western folks love to be in control - me included.
Ayurveda has forced me to let go of believing I know anything, which is interesting timing given that I was just thinking about doing some teaching! For a while now I’ve been letting go more and more of working on the physical level, despite this being my original training in herbalism and naturopathic nutrition, so maybe this is another step in that new direction.
Definitely! I wonder what the universe has in store for us all in 2018?
Wishing you a wonder-filled holiday season wherever you are.