Thursday, December 5, 2013

chanukkah. lights within and without.

The menorah ablaze in full glory is an expression of the light in my heart, your heart and everyone's everywhere.

okay, so, here's a question. why do we celebrate the first day of chanukkah, not 8th day? here's what comes to me. it takes a lot of guts and faith to start lighting menorah with just one day of oil while more oil won't be available in another 8 days. just to refresh, the main thrust of chanukkah story is this. menorah in temple was lit 24/7. so when people reclaimed temple they wanted to get menorah lit up asap. there was one day of oil on hand. btw this oil was prepped from fresh olives in a certain method. it's an 8 day process. so, to light or not to light? evidently the people did.  what a remarkable leap of faith. indeed this teaches me that i can only keep my eye on doing the right thing, however you call it, dharma in sanskrit, tsedek in hebrew, it's the same thing.  lighting up menorah is the right thing to do. just do it. start doing the right thing with whatever i have. let go of worry. that's poverty consciousness. i show up, do what i can and let grace takes it from there. in bhagavad gita lord krishna says to arjuna, yoga is skill in action. it really just means throw yourself into the task at hand and let go of expectation of outcome.  such ancient wisdom still shines bright of truth. how lucky we are to have such guiding light 24/7. halleluja.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

i want moksha

It's 3.30 am. I'm oiled hair to toe and I am also immersed in incomparable bliss. i never thought it would be possible for me to meditate and chant all day in the full glory of pujari outfit, and then keep up with daily ayurveda treatment during full immersion retreat schedul, not to mention preparing food according to ayurveda guidelines from dr harikrishnan. but then with guru's grace, full-on support from hwubby, and a burning desire to know my own Self anything is possible. so here i am. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

vata. hashem.

chinese say, being patient long enough makes one doctor. i won't go so far. i would say, though, being someone 'vata aggravated',  after two full rounds of panchakarma and two years of home treatment and medicine i am certainly more aware of it. a person passes me by and i think to myself, i see vata aggravation.  here, in this case, i'd say, hwubby is the opposite of it. vata pacified. seriously. look at him. he's shining, radiant, glowing, rosy. i have the aid of cosmetics. he has none. think about it.

ayurveda says the growth of a tree trunk is a nice metaphor in connection with this. the newest growth is supple, moist, smooth, tender, translucent. think baby skin.  as time goes by, new growth become old. eventually what once was young sap becomes bark. dry, flaky, wrinkled, cracked, rough.  think arthritis.

salutations to the ghee we take everyday ( i make my own ghee on full moons ) and daily oil application. they keep our skin amazing, joint lubricated, and so on and so forth.

scriptures say it is not unusual for yogis to have lifespan of 160 years.  examples are everywhere. moses was called to lead hebrews out of narrowland at 80. g'd called avram to leave his fatherland at 75. so hwubby is very, very young. hallelujah.

i thank our guru for guiding us to find each other. i thank the rishis for bestowing humanity with the knowledge of health. i thank vaidyagrama for making authentic ayurveda available. such great good fortune.

blessed i am to have such a marvelous husband.
no matter how much i think of him
he thinks of me so much more.
he's such a bright, warm light.
he is illumined and he illumines me.
his sweet, brave light brightens mine.
i know his light is always on for me.
two lights as one.
when i wave the sacred flame i experience his love, guru's love,
god's love,
my own love.
one love.
ever young. ever fresh. ever brilliant.
adonai eloheinu. adonai echad.
the force of hashem is in all. the force of hashem is One.
he's of the form of love.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

day after yom kippur. pujari. teshuva.

fasted on yom kippur. all day service. got up next morning, sunday, at 3, meditated, chanted rudram, went to ashram to prep for pujari seva, chanted guru gita with sangham. then, ta-da, hwubby came with some family to see me wave the light in temple. such joy.

it's been kind of like this. longer and deeper meditation. loving rudram more and more everyday. stabilizing into a groove of rewrites on the novel. all while handling worldly affairs and in a state of happiness. just like my name. sukh. in sanskrit it means 'happy place.'

the other day someone sent feedback to hwubby, that something i said and did made her uncomfortable. i didn't feel offended at all. i didn't feel the need to defend. instead i had this surge of, for the lack of a better word, compassion. inwardly i sent blessings to this person. outwardly i discussed with hwubby what i ought to do. quickly i came to conclusion that i would, thru hwubby, let this person know how apologetic i am that i have done and said something that has upset her and that it has never been my intention to cause her any discomfort in any way.

the truth of the matter is, nothing anybody says or does can add or take away what i am. i am the wonderful, happy self that is fearless, resilient and ablaze.  that is the truth. that is the truth. that is the truth.

just as the scientists don't know what caused big bang, what created gravity and what makes the physical universe all still hanging together i will never know how exactly panchakarma works on a biochemical and physiological level. but it's all right. i feel such growing gratitude for being part of all this. i thank gravity for grounding me. i am so thankful for being led to vaidyagram where i can experience the benefits resulting from the deep meditation of rishis from five thousand years ago. if it were not for the trust in my guru i would never have landed in this place populated by brilliant and dedicated ayurveda doctors, therapists and staff. to me that is divine gravity working. i am drawn towards that which i long for. that which helps me move towards moksha, liberation.

i so enjoy waving the flame to the seat of the guru, to bade baba, to baba. i thank them for showing me my own flame and how to keep it burning high clean and pure. let's crack that coconut and keep grace flowing.

Friday, August 30, 2013

cell and molecular biology. panchakarma

there we are celebrating my wonderful and gorgeous niece hellie...drum roll please...moving into ucberkeley as freshman. my brother-in-law andrew says, suk wah, you really look healthy and vibrant, before adding, not that you didn't look good before, and you too, ben.

btw i was not in this saree ensemble but i would like to think my inner beautiful light is not dimmed a bit because of it, don't you agree? :)

anyway hwubby starts talking about panchakarma's effect on us,  how rishis from 5000yrs ago saw in deep meditation the interconnectedness of everything, that a certain plant leaf can heal a specific condition, the role of oil in bodily purification and so on. i can see hellie, this smart and bright young person, is paying attention.  suddenly something comes to my mind. yes, she is going to major in cell and molecular biology. surely we can talk about that.

so i say, look, hellie, the theory of panchakarma goes like this.  over time, thru improper metabolism, toxins are accumulated in cells and molecules. like hard stains they are stuck at cell bottom and onto cell walls. certain oil, like clarified butter, ghee, can loosen these toxins. what's truly remarkable is this. when the body is saturated with the right kind of oil that is taken in the proper manner - so suk wah, pls don't take this as the justification to binge on fried, oily food - the cell walls are porous and the toxins can float easily across the cell membranes. btw this is an intense treatment that can last up to 7 - days. it must be done in hospital supervised 24/7 by doctor, just like a major surgery. then, in the next phase of panchakara, with the use of another treatment the toxins are drawn into the digestive tract, to be flushed out thru applying yet other treatments.

i know. this can all sound overwhelming. it's like looking at a fixer upper it's hard to see how it can be a spacious, bright and beautiful mansion. believe me i felt the same way until i finally took the leap and plunge. now i can say with all my hearts doing panchakarma - and hwubby and i are going for the third round this december at vaidyagrama - is the third best thing i have ever done. the first is meeting my guru, second is, yes, you guessed it, marrying hwubby. and, you know what, they are all connected. i wouldn't have been led to this incredible panchakarma place if it were not for my guru and hwubby. with panchakarma my gratitude and appreciation for my guru and hwubby are escalating in leaps and bounds. vast clear sky's the limit to our love for each other.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

rudram. vivek. vaidyagrama

with shastri vivek in satara, india
i chant shri rudram everyday. with this man. no, not hwubby. the one in center, clad in white. it took me a while, actually years, before i got into chanting rudram. not an easy chant this one, being a substantive section of vedas, the indian scriptures that have been in existence for more than 5000 years. to cut a long story short, once i started doing in everyday with shastri vivek bhau, yes, vivek's this man's name, i love it more and more everyday. vivek bhau is a 15th generation brahmin priest. that's 1000 years. think about it. chanting vedas is in his blood and gene. he started memorizing the sacred texts since he was a small child. he chants nothing but sacred texts and mantras. as chinese saying goes, the vibration of his chanting wraps around pillars for 3 days. his voice infuses every syllable with fearlessness, sweetness and enthusiasm. it tucks my heart that much closer to god, to my own self.
puja with shastri vivek in satara, india

 i love chanting rudram so much that i want to keep doing it when i am in treatment in vaidyagrama. however knowing i tend to get carried away in chanting, meaning, VERY LOUD i was concerned that it is disturbing to other patients. hwubby says, no, don't stop, just be more aware of your voice level and others. well, guess what, turns out the doctors in vaidyagrama LOVE it. yes, 'we love suk wah's chanting' is what they say. in fact, one afternoon, dr ram kumar came to sit with me while i did shri rudram. you see, all the doctors in vaidyagram know the healing powers of chanting vedas and sacred mantras. in fact, they themselves can recite ancient ayurveda texts off the top of their heads. when hwubby asks them questions like, why i am given this treatment, why is this treatment done in this way and not that way as in those spa-like panchakarma places on the beach, doctorji would spit out a sloka from ayurveda text that prescribe why this treatment is done for this condition and why it is done in this particular way, whatever the question is. these doctors truly dedicate themselves to practice authentic ayurveda according to ancient text. if it's not in the text, then forget it. once someone asks in the daily satsang, is zucchini a suitable veggie for ayurveda diet? doctor says, what is zucchini? once it is explained, doctorji says, it is not in the text. then he continues to say, there are many vegetables listed in the text, i suggest you try them out. there you have it. they are purists and i love them for it. they are the real deal.

where were we? right, chanting. of course i can go on and on about how lovely my voice is and so on and so forth. while that is true, :) and all kidding aside, ayurveda text stipulates that healing happens on multi levels. there are medicines and treatments that deal with the body level. then there are the healing powers of mantras. that's why in vaidyagram chanting is an integral part in daily schedule. a doctor leads morning and evening chants. there are text chants like 'thousand names of vishnu.'  i love that one too. there are mantra chants. in mornings we chant lord ganesh's name 108 times. every riday afternoon we chant to meena the cow.
friday puja to meena, the cow, in vaidyagrama, coim, india     photo by nat

during our second round of panchakarma, daniella, the wonderful ayurveda cook who stayed in the room next to mine said, o, suk wah, that song you sang is so beautiful. it was arati karun. so on the eve before daniella left vaidyagrama dr ramdas gave me permission to do arati karun, waving light to the true guru, in honor of daniella. it was so beautiful. o, i forget to mention that during major treatment like snehapana, doctorji would chant mantras to the cup of warm oil before administering to me. by the way i really believe there is that much more power when doctorji chants simply because the pronunciation is accurate.

on that note let's get back to shastri vivek bhau. he pronounces the syllables exactly as they ought to be. it is said that the full benefits of vedic mantras come thru fully when they are pronounced accurately. it makes sense, doesn't it? i love someone, i say  'i love you'. of course the feeling in how i say it counts but if i blur or speak chinese to american, the full and true meaning will not come thru that well, right? which is why i love to chant rudram with vivek bhau because i want to learn to say the words as they should be.

anyhow vivek bhau, besides being a master of chanting and performing all the wonderful and marvelous services that a bramin priest does he throws himself into living a dream of his. He has a school. he takes in 25 kids, as young as 7. he teaches them vedas and all the skills and disciplines that a brahmin priest ought to have. this is radical and historic. these are kids who were not borne into a lineage of priests the way he was. it has always been for thousands of years a family thing and passing the knowledge on thru oral tradition. these kids live with him. he's like a father to them. he teaches them everything from how to milk a cow, to memorizing sacred texts, to studying astrology,  and so on and so forth. there is no words to describe how i feel when i watch this young boy memorizing text with such a sense of awe and wonder and focus.

suffice to say vivek is a 21st century brahmin priest. he is on facebook, he skypes, he sends mantras via dropbox ( i don't even know what that is.) but what he transmits thru these technologies are ancient and timeless. when he performs a ritual in strict accordance with how sacred text prescribes he would explain at various points in english what he is doing. hwubby has a deep appreciation of this because he feels that much more included when he comprehends what's going on. recently vivek bhau performs a maha puja via live streaming. tens of thousands of seekers and students around the world get to be immersed in these ancient rituals being performed with immense devotion and love. i, for one, got to be this couch potato yogini. what do i mean by that? i sat sit in front of computer screen at 6 am in pyjamas, right there with him in my home as these beautiful mantras flow out of him. for 4 hours. just him and divine presence. no cue cards. no chanting book. enchanting melodies and sublime syllables steadily flow out of him. not a crack in his voice throughout. just pure joy and enthusiasm. he is truly a treasure beyond measure, major boon to humanity, a real deal holy man. he has helped and blessed me and hwubby in so many ways profoundly.

such great good fortune, just sitting still and all these gems and jewels and divine lotuses fall into my lap.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

sukh. healthy place. happy place.

what is good health? dr ramkumar gets asked this question quite often. while brilliant and knowledgeable  he is also very quick-witted and funny. i would go so far as to say that joking around and laughing with him are medicine to me big time. in fact i have so much fun goofing around him that sometimes i think i forget what a brilliant, brilliant clinician he is, his grasp of scriptures and, above all, that laser focus to bring authentic panchakarma to modern times. where was i? anyway, in this particular satsang when one patient asks this question he throws a glance in my direction and says, with his signature sunny grin, let's start with suk wah's name. you see, "suk" sounds like a sanskrit word "sukh." he goes on to say this. "sukh" means happiness, happiness that is whole and wholesome. To be healthy is to be in a happy place, happy body, happy mind.

what is really great about this place is i don't have to look for it anywhere outside. i am this place. it is who and what i am. i do have to take care of it though. this place of mine is a splendid palace, a spectacular mansion. just like any other dwelling there are any number of things that can clutter up the space, clog the drains, crack the paints and so on and so forth. hwubby and i take good care of our house. as part of maintenance, periodically we have to employ the service of a drain specialist to snake out the bath tub drain. it is very sobering to watch him do his thing. it's dirty and hard work. it never ceases to shock and stun me to see mounds and piles of slime and grime and hair being drawn out of the hidden pipes. not a pretty sight. but when i see the flow down the drain so smooth and the tub wall is not smacked with slime i have no doubt that all that effort is worth it, all that unpleasantness are necessary. temporary too.

this is why panchakarma makes so much sense to me. you see, every bit of improperly digested food, every negative thought and emotion, generate a little "slime and grime and hair" that stick to the walls of body and mental tissue. over time the inner pipes are clogged, energy flow is slowed down. even though i kind of know that i am beautiful and bright i don't always feel it as i want to feel. my strong meditation practice does a lot of "snaking out."  as a matter of fact it is in deep meditative state that i realize i need to do panchakarma. the rishis saw this thousands of years ago in deep meditation. they saw how treatments and herbal medicine, when applied properly, can profoundly purify body. since the state of mind is closely related to that of the body it is natural that i feel remarkable difference in my inner state, like seeing through clean glasses. hwubby says, this panchakarma gives a new baseline to what i think good health should be like.

for years i looked at the saree-clad ladies who wave light in pujas and negative thought came. i don't look good in it. therefore you could imagine how surprised i was when soon after my first round of panchakarma i was invited to a pujari training. two things. first, i noticed i felt excited about it, i wanted to do it. something moved deeply within. i could see, in a subtle yet clear way, this elaborate act is 'spontaneous' in the sense that i feel thankful about what the guru's path has gifted me so i want to express gratitude in a beautiful and intimate way, a way that is both timely and timeless. i perform a ritual in the present according to what's prescribed since ancient time. the gestures and moves are alive, aligned with how i feel about myself, everyone and everything.

i did say two things, didn't i? second thing is, timing. all those treatments to cleanse and purify and rejuvenate help me to see and feel as my own true self. it becomes a joyous desire to invest attention and time to prepare myself. it throws a sacred light on applying cosmetics, draping jewelry, pinning head flower and placing pleats to just so. i am not doing things to make me into something i am not but, on the contrary, reflect my own beauty and luminosity.

it is so thrilling to be the vehicle to channel divine blessings to beautiful newly weds. the goddess that I am is showering loving wellwishes on the god and goddess that they are. the experience is humbling as well. It has taken the knowledge from the rishis, dedication of my vaidyagrama family and my guru's love to get me to this place. sukh. huwbby says, you have to acknowledge your own efforts too. he's right. he's always right, isn't he, the greatest god in my world.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

radical eating shifts

seriously. if anyone predicted even just 12 months ago that i would be happy eating congee and mung bean day in and day out i would roll my eyes up to deep outer space. yes, i did have congee diet for entire 6 weeks of treatments in vaidyagrama. that's because i was determined to get the most out of the treatments and to really get my agni, digestive fire up. from ayurveda's point of view and the rishis saw this 5000 yrs ago in deep meditation, that there is deep connection between our wellbeing and state of digestive fire.

by the way let me confess one of the eating habits of mine that has really messed up the firepower of my agni. downing ice drinks/water while eating. that's like pouring ice water into oven while something is cooking. totally screwing up digestive process. sure, in my teenage years and twenties, youth vigor compensated for it. fast forward i am sleeping in the bed i made up. anyway i noticed a tangible difference in my wellbeing baseline after the first round of panchakarma. and as my guru says again and again, you need a strong and pure body to attain the highest goal of the path. so i went ahead and did 6 wks of congee. i mean 3 meals a day.
look. here's breakfast. congee. whole mung. papadam? just a gesture of taste. sometimes there is a half teaspoon of ghee in congee. btw i make my own ghee during full moon. a very soothing thing to do and homemade ghee is so much more fragrant and flavorful. anyhow, believe it or not, the modest combo is filling. i don't feel heavy and it takes me thru the morning clear and light and, surprise, there is no craving for snack. bye bye to potato chips. in fact every so often i would offer the papadam to hwubby. by the way he did 6 wks of congee diet as well. every now and then he would have thoughts of pastrami and lox and bagel. one day he saw this feature in local newspaper about some special idlee, fermented rice cake, with spicy dippings, he went on and on about it, really wanted to go and have some. it was fun watching the doctors kindly and patiently trying to talk him out of it, saying things like, o, it's overhyped. but, i have to give credit to hwubby. he let it go and had a good laugh out of the whole episode.

before i left vaidyagrama, i decided to get a pressure cooker. that's a huge decision on my part. i had a terrible experience with pressure cooker before, you know, things splashing all over the walls. but kavita, the food expert in vaidyagrama, said definitely  that in order to get that kind of texture for whole mung it had to be done in pressure cooker, not to mention it takes a lot less time to cook. that makes it so much easier to have fresh food instead of eating leftover. that pressure cooker turns out to be a huge blessing. without it i wouldn't be able to eat the way i am doing now.

This is lunch. main meal of the day. congee, boiled veg, buttermilk. the buttermilk in vaidyagrama is made from what's left after churning butter from homemade curd. this is the one thing i have to cheat. i just dilute whole yogurt  with hot water,  turmeric and salt. i suspect it's something to do with the amount of curd. for two people it doesn't make sense to make a liter of curd just to get two small bowls of buttermilk. a lot of waste. i will have to look into that when i go back to vaidyagrama this december.

well, back to where i am. five months after panchakarma. i am still eating congee day in and out. i can feel the energy baseline is higher, energy level even. telltale sign is meditations are better than ever. i sit 1 1/2 hr easy and it feels less and less a struggle to hold that state as i go about the day. i truly taste what the scriptures mean by 'living in a witnessing state.' it's kind of like what my guru's guru says, 'have preference, but no attachment.' i am very happy to eat out - well, i am more aware of food combinations but that's another blog entry - and enjoy. as my doctor harikrishnan says, 'if you can digest it, once in a while, in moderation.' wise, don't you think? so we enjoyed good dogs and burger  and ice cream for july fourth, wiped out a fabulous ethiopian feast of injera and lamb with my cousins and nephew and niece in a summer celebration,  but i am just as happy having my boiled veg and kitcheri for supper night in and out. fine with either.

i can see the way i related to food was more like an addict.  now i am in the driver seat, i'm leading the cow, not the other way round. a major step towards true and lasting freedom.  mooo.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

birthday bliss. birthday sari.

birthday bliss. birthday sari. there i am in changing room getting unwrapped from sari, yes, the one in pix, i hear 'knock, knock.' who's there, i say. fast forward a few minutes later i am  talking sari colors with this woman who followed upon seeing me passing through the temple. she says, ' i've seen beautiful colors, beautiful saris but this. and the way it is all put together.'

well, i sure accept the sincere compliments with gratitude. as i contemplate about it i realize something. when i saw this sari i knew i wanted to get it. the pic doesn't do the fabric and design justice. there is an intricate interplay between red, fuchsia, orange and pink. just like sunrise and sunsets. once wrapped in this six yard of silk and gold i can't help but experience the reality that i am inside a benevolent furnace. the fire of grace removes dross and gold remains. my outer appearance matches the inner experience, that i am the Self which is always beautiful, ever golden and dripping with cooling, pearly moonbeams.

i was more than willing and happy to take the time and effort to learn how to wrap because it is a beautiful and tangible way to express gratitude for the benevolence and abundance that has been showering me all these years.
btw i was invited to wave light in ashram after i returned from first round of panchakarma in feb 2012. in my mind the purification treatments help prepare me to be ready to perform this beautiful act of worship. while i am waving flame, making offering to the guru without i am also acknowledging my inner guru, my own light within. it is with this understanding, this bhav, that i find choosing a beautiful sari, applying cosmetics, adorning myself with jewelry and head flowers become sacred actions. i see clearly why i am doing all this. this outer beauty is a reflection of who i am, a celebration of how i lead my life.

Friday, April 12, 2013

golden rule. shoes. abhyange

photo by nat
between shoes, golden rule and ayurveda treatment i’m making quite a leap, don’t you think?

okay, here it goes.

to cut a long story short, these walking shoes i got from the store, they are great for my bunions but they are sooooo expensive even on sale. $168 after 40% off. hwubby said, you walk so much better in them, it's worth it. o, have i mentioned that joanna, the mephisto consultant - yes, that's the title on her card - went thru several pairs and brands and then spot-breaking to get to this point. she worked hard. none felt right until this baby. i had no idea what the alphabets 'mbt' on the shoes meant. i thought that's some kind of mephisto. later on i found out that it's a brand on its own. mbt stands for masai barefoot technology. seriously. folks, they develop technology to try to replicate the experience of walking barefoot in paddyfield. okay, back to my shoe story. i hemmed and hawed. finally what cinched the deal was i could return them in 7 days. i thought i would definitely return them. i just couldn't see myself pouring out almost two hundred bucks for sneakers.

photo by nat
next day. i walked around in them inside house. well, i have to be honest with myself. it's refreshing to feel the feet securely and comfortably housed. also standing in these shoes the body naturally and gently rocks back and forth, kind of like aloft over hawaiian waves. still, the price tag gnawed at me. an inner msg came. online. so i did. sure enough midway down the first page of google search results there’s a site that caught my eye. fast forward a few more hits later i am in this online shoe store exclusively for mbt shoes. check this out. the style that i got from the store is half price here. wooohoooh, i am thrilled. immediately the i-love-bargain tendency took me over. ask hwubby. he would tell you, my darling wife loves to get something for a penny on the dollar. yes, i'm proud to call myself cheap. i love hand-me-down. way back when i was living in ashram, there was a room where donated items were placed. guess where i got all my garments. i call it vintage. now i have a generous and gorgeous sister-in-law who happens to be same size of mine, with fabulous taste, and periodically send me boxes of beautiful stuff. i call it heirloom.

where are we? right, shoes. hmmm, i shall return what i have and order online. the mind is totally sucked into this old tendency when all of a sudden i heard loud and clear two words. GOLDEN RULE. i tried to ignore it but it wouldn’t go away for good. it kept flashing big and bold on the mental screen. the stubbornly lodged tendency wouldn’t budge either. this is about a hundred dollars. why wouldn’t i want to spend 50% less to get the same thing. yet, something strange is happening within. i thought this would be a no brainer yet i experience this unease, queasy feeling. something is not totally clear. not yet. there is a real tug of war within. i know enough by now that i decide to let it sit a little bit instead of pushing ahead.

half a day later. as i do my daily abhyange, an ayurveda treatment that involves rubbing medicated oil over joints and body, i feel this squeeze in the heart. i rub a nice scoop of warm oil over the chest, feel better, and i remember something, something that happened years prior but the pain is fresh as ever. you see, i was in mortgage work at one point. i remember i worked hard, jumped thru fire hoops, to get a difficult loan through only to have the borrower walking away just before closing because they found a loan with lower interest rate online. technically they could do that. according to the industry practice none of the effort i put into mattered. yuck. i remember that ugly feeling vividly, as oil quietly permeate every pore of mine. i hate it now as much as i did then.

aaaah, wham. golden rule. don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do to you. legally, technically i could return the shoes. but i would be treating people in the way i don’t want to be treated. i love a big saving but at the end of day this is about me walking the talk, living what i believe in.  as i contemplate this i realize something subtle has shifted. some veil is lifted. the mind, through which i think, speak and act has been cleansed in a deep way. the light of the heart is able to come through. i am able to discriminate, to see what truly matters is that i act from the place of the highest and most sacred self. that's the source of abundance.

so, now, how about i give a shout out to  abhyange. i truly believe that the treatment, prescribed according to my condition and performed authentically and diligently, contribute to diminishing the grip of such an old tendency on me, cleansing the lens thru which i perceive myself and the world. from that state i can see the connection between the teaching from an ancient sage and the situation at hand right now in 21st century.
photo by nat

there is more. it’s not that i didn’t have this realization before. i just didn’t act on it. it's not even that the old tendency comes back no more. far from it. the difference between then and this time is that i experience huge unease when i try to entertain the idea of returning the shoes. it’s a feeling of betrayal, turning my back on my own nature, my highest self. the force of highest self outweighs the opposing tug of old tendency. the pull is so strong that it becomes so easy to decide it’s smarter to yield to it. it's a physical sensation in the body, sickening, almost nauseous. emotionally i can't bear the horrific feeling if and when i return the shoes and say i get a better price online even though i wouldn't even know about this shoe without your expert service. the bottom line is this. the old tendency is no longer in the driver seat. my highest self is. once a patient, after much haggling with dr ramdas over her treatment plan, said, all right, i’ll surrender to you. dr ramdas said, no,  you are not surrendering to me, you are surrendering to your self.
dr ramdas showing me how to churn butter

i love money but, at the end of day, as dr ramkumar says, money is not the driving force. never. welcome, suk wah, to a deeper level of purification. amen.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

drinking oil out of love, with love, for love.

photo by nat

i think that everyone who goes to vaidyagrama to do full panchakarma after much deliberation having some sense of what they are getting into. wouldn’t you think so too? boom. i couldn’t be more wrong. check this out. there’s this guy. he’s indian, young, open face, always carrying a cheerful smile and walking around radiating lightheartedness. one day i overhear him telling another patient he has a construction company. i say, wow, that’s quite a commitment you make, to come for panchakarma. he says in an easygoing manner, no, i didn’t come for treatment. i say, what are you talking about, you are drinking ghee for 7 days. he says matter-of-factly, i mean, with no drama, just like it’s the most natural thing to do in the world, and what does he say? listen to this. he says,  my wife has to come for treatment, so i stop everything and come with her. just like that. yes, folks, meet vikram, the guy who tags along with his wife and ends up doing full-on panchakarma. i salute him. he just dives in with a nice dose of good cheer and always ready to burst into a good laugh.

my hwubby always thinks of me first. in vikram he has found a match. on christmas night i put on a blinking red nose and sang ‘rudolph the red-nosed reindeer‘ during the group dinner. next morning, vikram came to me and said, with this mile-wide grin and happy, wide open eyes, thank you, thank you, my wife loved your nose, thank you, you make my wife so happy. i was deeply moved. i told hwubby about it. hwubby said, give her the nose. we went to their room and presented reshmi, a lovely, sweet young lady, with the gift. she was thrilled. vikram was just beside himself watching his wife being happy. snehapana means love drink. vikram truly drinks ghee out of love, for love and with love.

photo by nat
so now i think his wife is so lucky. well, i'm happy to be wrong because after getting to know reshmi just a little bit i realize, in fact, it's vikram who is truly fortunate. reshmi has this full moon lakshmi face shining the warmth of morning lights. she is a young working woman and lives the best of timeless virtues. as they tell me the tale of how they have come to commit to a life with each other i learn so much from them. they stand in their hearts and treat their family with deep love and respect. my american friends, we have to understand that in india families play a big role in marriages. i'm humbled and impressed with vikram's clarity of mind and unwavering determination. since knowing reshmi from childhood he had no doubt that if he had to marry this would be the girl. here's to you, vikram, you have an eye for a great wife. well, almost as good as my hwubby. :) once knowing what he truly wanted he pursued it with thoughtful calm, respectful persistence, tireless efforts and endless patience.  truly their story is a living example of 'love conquers everything.'

i heard their story on my 7th day of drinking oil. i have to say that really helps me to digest that 180 ml with total ease. there's no end to the power of love.

Friday, March 29, 2013

oil bath. oil bliss. samosa. passover.

photo by nat
vaidyagrama is not a spa. i said this before, i say this again. doctorji would, patiently and kindly, say, goal of treatments is not to pamper on a superficial level. yet, there are times when i say to myself, this is as good as it gets when it comes to pampering. treatment in point is...drumroll please...pizhichil. that’s what it’s called in sanskrit.  i call this samosa treatment. turn and turn you in hot oil till you are cooked properly. got the picture? physically it’s oil bath. emotionally it’s oil bliss.  it’s oil heaven, i'm not kidding. come on, suk wah. what are you talking about?

here’s how it goes down.

picture this. 3000ml of very warm medicated sesame oil. 3 therapists. one therapist on left, another on right. they work in sync over the body parts in choreographed movements while abundantly and steadily streaming warm oil over the body part. third therapist collects oil draining from the neem treatment table, warm them up in a big pot over a burner, and keep supplying buckets of warm oil to the two therapists. it’s an elaborate and complex treatment. very hard work. a luxurious extravaganza. a treatment fit for queen.

how sublimely royal i feel as blankets of warm oil drape over feet. waves of relaxed feeling steadily swell up all the way to crown of head. i experience this resplendent empress shining brightly within me and that’s who i really am. all that layers that hold me back from living in that place are being washed off me. meanwhile oil sheets flow over and into everywhere, front and back - depending on whether i am lying on stomach or back or sides - permeating every pore. so calming. folks, there is a sky of difference between calm and spacing out. true calm implies alert, vigilant and focused. focusing on what? what else, where else but the present moment within the serene grounds in the midst of forest.
photo by nat

as viscous warm oil irrigate body parts i see the mind being pulled back from the usual frenetic thinking pace.  mental activity is restored to its natural pace....close to nil. only a silent hum, that is in sync with the natural breathing, remains. whatever thoughts, emotion appear they are weak. i see them form and dissolve, come and go. it is utterly evident that this is how my inner state ought to be, not the other way round. it’s like seeing with clean glasses. i realize i have been seeing myself and the world with foggy and smudgy lenses that are smeared with limitation and negativity. seeing now comes from an inner place that is quiet. still. serene. alert. clear. this is like the inner swiss clock that has been running a mile a sec is being returned to the easeful tick-tocking it ought to be doing.
photo by nat

as i type this i just came out of a full-immersion meditation retreat a few days prior. for 12 hours everyday we meditated and chanted om namah shivaya. this is something i do at least once a year or as often as ashram would have it. this time around it was so effortless to enter into deep and profound silence very soon after i sat into easy cross-legged posture. it became so easy, a given, something natural. i experience the teaching that says, meditation spontaneously happens. what’s even more amazing is that i am able to go thru worldly activity while carrying this state within me days after the retreat. it is still going strong. before i would see this precious state gradually weakening. in my heart of hearts i see the connection between this strengthening and the impact of having gone through seven days of ‘samosa treatment.’

look, there are two types of ama, aka toxins in body, one from improper metabolism of food, the other guess right, mental ama, residuals of negative thoughts, feeling and emotion accumulated over a period of time, say, a decade, or, in my case, a few. i hear that the mind produces 20-30 thoughts per minute. that’s 30-50,000 per day. you do the math for a few decades. there is a chinese saying that goes like this. dripping water pierce rock.

since  i am writing this during passover, it comes to me what some rabbis say about the way pharaoh keep changing his mind about letting jewish people go. after changing his mind a few times torah says pharaoh’s mind is ‘hardened.’ to me, at this moment, it means to me the vibrations of his negative thoughts, speech and action became ama. they didn’t get eliminated. they snowballed,  ‘hardened’ the way he thought, spoke and acted. since i am a hassidic kind of girl, i like to read the passover story as my own story. all that negativity i had in the past don't just disappear. they stay, take root, and keep steering my body and mind away from optimal level. they gotta go. let my inner queen leave the bondage of negative vibes. let all that ama go.

photo by nat
my doctorji, dr harikrishnan, is a very grounded, head-on-the-shoulder fellow. i ask, what exactly does pizhichil do? he says, body has to be oiled before act of purification, you just came out of purgation so you need to be oiled before we perform another act of purification on you. in all my excitement i tell him all this wonderful feelings and experiences i have in the treatment. he listens intently, nods, and says in his ever even tone, ‘i see. you like it.’ well, ‘like’ is an understatement. if i were in a spa i would tick off, on the treatment menu, pizhichil and mark it big and bright, DAILY. unfortunately this is not a spa. panchakarma is equivalent to a major surgical procedure. just like surgery it has to be done in a hospital. pizhichil is a powerful treatment, part and parcel of panchakarma. just like surgery it has to be done in a hospital, as prescribed by doctor. o, well, i take this as another opportunity to cultivate letting go of wanting what i like and embracing what i need. good news is, here, what i need is  no different from what i like. om namah shivaya. cool.

Monday, March 25, 2013

panchakarma sets new baseline

photo by nat
hwubby has this one line response when people ask him, what does panchakarma do for you? he says, panchakarma sets a new baseline for how healthy and well i can be. so, simple. i like it, i hear the ring of truth in it but i don't really get what it means for me. now i do. here's what happened. for last two days i was in a full-immersion meditation retreat in ashram. by the way while i was meditating 7 hrs a day and chanting om namah shivaya several more hwubby was in stockton having a grand time in a glorious music festival. i was invited as well. it was a wonderful and tantalizing event but my heart just can't say no to  being able to meditate in deep silence with fellow meditators, drink and eat and breathe the sound of om namah shivaya. never ceases to amaze me that i would have such an unconditionally supportive hwubby. om namah shivaya indeed.

anyway, what am i supposed to be talking about? right, panchakarma, new baseline. from the get go let me pat myself on the back by saying i do have a pretty strong meditation practice. i thought i was doing really well, having all this marvelous connection with my innermost and highest self, fantastic insights, beautiful visions and so on and so forth. but, wow, my experiences in these last two days have been like, looking at  wall-to-wall high def, better yet, retina display, no pixel can be detected whatsoever, after watching a good quality one for a long time. it was excellent before but now it is off the charts clear, vibrant. another metaphor is this. looking into golden gate bridge from east bay after a huge storm when the air is squeaky clean, dust free. and, believe me, i had a few 'sky is so clear that i can see forever' moments before.

i can say that i was basking pretty much in this abundant state of consciousness the entire two days.  the truly stunning thing is it feels so natural, so easy, that i am really surprised that i didn't feel this way before, like, how did i live before this. i can truly see through inner eye that the qualities such as joy, courage, strength, steadfastness and many more are not stuff that i have to look for outside of me. there is this greatness shining inside me, this cosmic mansion that is bright as a thousand suns glowing in my center. like cloud activity that is constant in the sky, mental activity brewing from deep-seated tendencies come and go, form and dissolve. but they are not me. i am that cosmic mansion that is always shining. boundless. untouched. unchanged. i am within that and that is within me.
photo by nat

i have no idea how panchakarma works to help get me to this place but i can say for sure it has somehow dissolved that deep-seated tendency to worry. well, i shouldn't say that so soon but the tendency to worry has definitely much, much weakened, so much so that i can relatively effortlessly choose not to let it get in the driver seat of my thoughts, speech and emotions. now, for me, that is true freedom. it's like wonder oil has cleansed the lens of worry-dust through which i perceive the world.

in another few hours it will be time to commemorate passover, when the jewish people were led out of the narrow land through divine guidance. welcome to pesach, suk wah. it's time to move out of narrow consciousness for good. worrying is not what i am made of. believing otherwise is ignorance. and somehow the ancient sages in their profound meditation they saw that. what's even more astonishing is that they could see that panchakarma, with all that oil drinking, could play a role in dissolving this malignant tumor. this is why ayurveda text says the true goal of panchakarma is moksha, liberation.


photo by nat

as i was preparing food for tonight's seder i remember a recurring image that came to me in meditation in the last two days. it goes like this. i am looking out from a moving car's window. place is new york city. fifth avenue? well, wherever fendi the store is. for my friends in india, fendi is this long-time institution in italy this is widely regarded as among the top best in designing and making fur. anyway one garment in the display window absolutely catches my eye. i see it in meditations no less clear than i saw it then. a snow white, beautifully made hoodie. i love a nice hoodie, especially a nice and white one like that. this one has a special elegance that is beyond words. it is then that it dawns on me that this one is made of mink. a white mink hoodie. now that's what i call truly quietly expensive. what was i thinking at that moment? it goes like this. no, i couldn't afford that and even if i could it's crazy to spend that kind of money on a hoodie. what am i thinking when i see it in meditations? firstly, i don't need another hoodie. secondly, i see that those thoughts came from poverty consciousness that foments unworthiness, worry and their relatives. once i get this i look at this object with a new eye. i appreciate its beauty, craftsmanship and boldness. i have a strong sense that i already own it.

so, let me say it and say it again with a delightful yiddish flavor. let me get my tuchas out of mitzrayim already. dayenu. dayenu. may it be so.
photo by nat

Monday, March 18, 2013

drinking oil. wonder oil. mantra. japa.

photo by sonia
i have to confess. even after twenty years i really didn't have much of a relationship with the mantra om namah shivaya. until i was about to drink 180 ml of medicated sesame oil at 6.30 am on jan 1, 2013. the truth of the matter is i have always felt more naturally connected to the mantra Hamsa. fortunately my guru is totally okay with that. anyway there i am staring down into the cup of golden oil.  all i know is i am at a forkroad. either i am going to throw up is at that moment that quietly and suddenly om namah shivaya arises within. strong and clear. in another fraction of a moment i see within my guru's beaming face. we are eye to eye. i feel this surge of fearlessness steadily fill me up. i know exactly what to do. quietly i say om namah shivaya. i take a gulp. another round of mantra. another gulp. and so on and so forth. until cup is empty and my being is filled with pure golden oil and pure golden mantra.

two days later my sadhana study buddy emailed me the new year message from shri guru. what else but....mantra japa. and the mantra to focus on this year is...drum roll.... om namah shivaya.

i have to say that was such an 'ego massage' moment. i was seriously congratulating myself for being so tuned in. :)

all self-praising aside, ever since then my heart has been gushing with love for om namah shivaya. fresh love. sweet love. i would find myself loudly saying it and it is in sync with whatever emotion that is going thru me. i say om namah shivaya in an angry tone. i say om namah shivaya in a questioning tone. i say om namah shivaya in a 'whatever' tone. in a frustrated tone. in a happy tone. i say it anywhere. when i am waving flame in temple. when i am doing grocery, picking out mango and carrot. when i am drinking decaf - no, ayurveda doesn't say you shouldn't eat this or drink that, what the ancient text says is if you can digest it you can eat anything in moderation once in a while. om namah shivaya to the ancient rishis and my doctorji who follows the texts to the dots and tees, which, by the way, is why i love vaidyagrama so much.  doctorji's mantra is,'we only do what the text says.'

back from detour, suk wah. what am i talking about? o yes, the mantra om namah shivaya and snehapana, drinking oil. the mind would never be able to figure out the mechanism by which going thru this major panchakarma treatment would get me to the place of enjoying mantra repetition. but, hey, i don't know exactly how electricity works either. i can still enjoy the benefits of it. to me this is what panchkarma is about, clearing the way for me to plug into the source of divine love. let that sublime electric current flow thru me. by the way, a facebook friend says, wonder oil it is. he's right. this, ta-da, is the wonder oil treatment.  It unveils the light of the mantra. om namah shivaya
photo by nat

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

steam box. not sauna.

a question i frequently get is this, six weeks in india? where do you go? what do you do? sometimes i wink, smile and say, i go to a hospital, drink oil, and sit in a box. it's priceless to take in the reaction on the other person's face.

all kidding aside it never ceases to amaze me the depths and breadths of wisdom and knowledge that can be revealed in meditation. really. the rishis thousands of years ago in profound meditation see all this knowledge regarding health and wellbeing. how detailed do they see? look at this treatment. svedaa. here in vaidyagrama it is done according to ayurveda text. as authentic as it gets. check out my head. it is outside of the steam box. why? because the brain and eyes are the most sensitive organs in the body. one must not subject them to heat. then, the heat. what is the right amount of heat? according to what's prescribed in the ancient text, it should be just enough for me to break a sweat. last year i got stuck in a preconception that it has to be very hot. you know, like sauna, steam room. i kept complaining to the therapist, this is not hot enough. eventually doctorji had to come. he lightly touched my forehead and nose, examined the tiny smear of sweat and says, this is fine. yet in the back of my mind there was a teenie weenie bit of doubt. really, this is hot enough? fortunately it wasn't strong enough to impact my words and action.

anyway here i am doing the second round of sitting in the box. the mind is quiet. the body is relaxed. i have faith in the treatment, therapist and doctor. in this stillness i actually sense there is a loosening up in a deep way happening in the body. as i type this, about a month after completion of a full course of panchakarma i realize a very deeply lodged mental knot is gone. it's that unpredictable lurch of restlessness, sudden grip of impatience, out-of-nowhere roar of get the pic. i clearly sense there is plenty of inner space that i wasn't aware before. they are pulsing sweetness, happiness, contentment, strength and so much more. just the simple sense of spaciousness lifts the spirit that much higher, expands perspective that much wider and bigger.

as the saying goes, proof is in the pudding. so i can testify that something did get pulled out. some garbage.

according to the text this is, briefly, how panchakarma works. toxins, whether from improper metabolism of food or negative thoughts, emotions and words, are stuck in cells and molecules. like stubborn stains in a cup. oil loosen them. oil also render cell walls porous and permeable. loosened toxin can then be drawn into alimentary canal, ready to be eliminated thru one of the five acts of purification. and there you have it. panchakarma. five acts of purification. sitting in the box is not an act of purification. it is part of prepping the body to be ready for the act. as a matter of fact, it takes two weeks to prepare the body, including but not only drinking oil and sitting in the steam box, for one act of purification. worth it? you bet. the even better news is, unless i keep piling on new garbage this is a lasting effect.

what other questions do i get? for example, what else did i do besides drinking oil and sitting in a box? hmmm, o yes, for one, doing puja to meenakshi, the cow. but, that's another post altogether.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

love potion # 7

what do i eat during snehapana besides oil? firstly, oil here is considered medicine. as far as food goes. if and when all the oil has been digested, which is probably late afternoon to early evening, i get to have  thin congee and broth. it sounds terrible. but once the oil is in me all i focus on is frequently sip hot water and pay attention to burps. do they smell oil? o, yes, and also, do i feel hungry? i mean, literally, do i feel thunder in stomach?

last year, in my first round of panchakarma i drank oil for 3 days. this year i am upgraded. to 7 days. a sure sign that this is digging into deeper stuff. honestly on the eve before the final day i saw doubts flickering in the back of mind. i am not sure if i could do this another day. this afternoon i walked into the treatment room for a short massage and, boom, i was nauseous just from the oil particles floating in the air. it doesn’t help that i feel belly ache, ear ache, dizzy. at 8 pm hwubby took charge and beeped doctorji. dr harikrishnan came right over, literally in moments. after all his room is just a walkway from ours. by the way according to ayurveda text the relationship between doctor and patient is like father and son? what does that mean? well, father and son live under one roof. here in vaidyagrama they want authentic text so  the doctors live with their patients. this is practically a home hospital. and i have to say i am deeply moved by the way the doctors here are dedicated to provide authentic ayurveda care, to the point they either move their families to vaidyagrama or visit. the way the doctors live is what they teach us. live simply. live well. live healthy. live happy. they truly walk the talk. their strong and pure intention infuse the treatments and meds with that much more potency.

anyway back to the night before oil drinking day 7. doctorji examines and treats me. the truth is, having him by bedside, tapping up and down the belly, feeling his kind and caring presence already makes me feel better. i ask the burning question as i chew the tablets he gives me, doctorji, do you think i can make it? he says, do you want to? wow. his question reveals the light in my heart. i realize i am the one who have to take responsibility for my health. as dr ramkumar again and again says loud and clear, doctors are not healers, they are catalysts to help you to heal. if i do want to be truly healthy i have to put in some effort. there is this source of strength and courage and happiness within. the reason i am here for round two is to access that place and reclaim ownership of it. answering doctorji’s question i say, yes, i want to, i do. indeed, this is why i am here, therefore keep my eye on the purpose. the rest are just situations to take care of.

and so i surrender to the highest self, plunge into my purpose, take another 180 ml of warm golden oil with loud repetitions of om namah shivaya and the understanding that i am taking another step closer to liberation.

this also happens to be jan 1, 2013. a major puja is going on all day.

 major prasad too. look at that. rice, milk, jaggery, nuts, banana. honest to my highest self. i look at them, appreciate them, happy that i am in such a glorious puja and i am totally satisfied that i am bestowed a morsel of prasad. doctorji is right. that's how prasadam should be. every particle has absorbed the vibration of mantras and the nectar of devotion. more than worth its weight in gold.

meanwhile what about hwubby? he is super brave. on 6th day he took a full cup of 210 ml. he jokingly says, what are they going to do on 7th day? a second cup? well, no. turns out doctorji is really clever and compassionate. hwubby takes one look at the cup and says, this is a bigger cup. he looks down into the half empty cup and says, how much is this? doctorji, with a twinkle in his eyes, says, will tell you later. yeah. or else the mind will go, o me o my i don’t know if i can do 250 ml.

i must send a big bravo to hwubby. thru out snehapana he has not had any lox and bagel thought. as a matter of fact, we have been here for 3 weeks and he has not had craving for latte. i am not doing that bad either. for six days during snehapana i have had not food craving. until the last. guess what i am think obsessively about? congee. not plain white congee. i am talking about congee, chinese style. the whole host of ways that chinese do congee. chicken congee. fish congee. beef congee. squid congee. peanut congee. thousand year egg congee. nonetheless i have to applaud the power of having congee for 3 weeks. here i am talking about congee for breakfast, lunch and supper. and boiled veg. anyway, after three weeks of congee-fication even food thoughts are simpler, purer. hey, look at it this way. i’m not craving for double cheese burger or deep fried chicken or barbecue spare ribs. i consider this major progress. to arrive at this state of being is nothing to sneeze at. i mean, look at this. i would have gone to town with them not so long ago. but now i behold them with such light and lightness in me. really i taste the sweetness suffusing my being. i have a realization. this is why prasad is always sweet. it is an outer expression of the innermost self.