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.