Carrying the healing within me

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Today, marks my 26th day, my final day of panchakarma treatment in the Ayurvedic hospital I admitted myself into in Kerala, India. I have spent 26 days inside, not going out, moving very slowly, focusing on deep healing on all levels; eating a lot of herbal medicines, receiving intense herbal body treatments, sleeping deep, meditating deep, laughing hysterically, and loving everyone and everything around me. I ushered in the new year here, and have been dancing and meditating with my fellow patients! The treatments go deep and the effects have at times been harrowing, and at others light and breezy. I have been allowing others to care for me as my body sheds toxins and reconstructs itself.

Today, I am leaving the hospital, and starting the next phase of my journey. I woke up this morning at 4am, with a smile on my face thinking, wow, I’m actually allowed to leave the hospital grounds today! Then suddenly a whirlwind of thoughts and fears blew through me, shaking me to the core. The sun had not yet risen to end the darkness of the night. As I’ve always known fears to grow bloated in the shadows, I lit my little oil lamp and sat for meditation. I called with all my heart to the one fathomless source of my creation, to the light within me, my heart blazing through the darkness and shadows calling out to connect to my deepest core. After an hour, a waft of blissfulness moved through my heart and forehead, and started percolating through my entire body. I then smiled and greeted the daylight as the sky lightened.

I’m so amazed at the force of the power within. When I am scared and sick and overwhelmed, it feels so incredibly real, yet it’s possible, just a moment later, if my body and mind are touched by that untouched core, it can all fade away like a bad dream. Just as the sunrise lifts the darkness of the night, in a moment, leaving the sky drenched in pink and orange.

I realize now, every day, no matter what may happen on the inside and outside, I can decide to have a blissful day of love and connection. It’s not a mental exercise or an intellectual decision, but a deep connection that is possible to keep alive. This deep connection can feed me at all times, no matter what. After having suffered much in life, as all humans alive can attest to! I can’t believe it’s actually possible. Yet, as they say seeing is believing; or more accurately I’d say, direct personal experience is the truest teller. I now stake my entire life on this core, with no logical explanation needed. When my entire being reverberates with blissfulness, what logical explanation do I even need?

Words can’t express how grateful I am to my Guru, I know that the beauty of my entire life is due to his grace.

Right now, I sit on the balcony of this tiny lovely hospital, looking at the chipmunks scurrying up the mango tree, the coconut trees dancing in the breeze, and the vast blue blue sky, and I give greetings to all this life! May all of us continue to heal every moment of our lives, and enjoy every step of the journey!

A glimpse of the Lover…the Devotee

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This is my ode to the path of devotion and love…an ode to the modern day Mirabai…inspired by, but not recounting the life of 16th century poet Mirabai or the countless nameless lovers who came before and after her.

There she was at the top of the mountain where she could see the vast blue sea below her, and the vast blue sky above her. She was so weary, so empty, so alone, and so free. His eyes called to her, no longer from a particular face, but from deep within her heart. She fluttered open her heart, her wings, and with one last exhale, took flight off into the blue. Never to be seen again.

What to say of her life? She was a nobody, a true devotee. The kind everyone around thinks is a witch, crazy, a bit off, too much, sensitive, empathic, healer, open hearted, dancer, poetess, singer, artist, lover, always crying or laughing too much, bipolar, psychic, psychotic, and weird. She lived from her heart, what the Yogis call the Anahata. The Anahata is said to be a mysterious plane where there is untold blissfulness, and also untold terror and constant life altering challenge. Which is exactly how her life was.

Many tried to harm her, and crush her body, mind and spirit. I can’t tell you why. Maybe they found her innocence grating, or misunderstood her deep emotion for weakness. She went through much violence, and yet, just kept forgiving and forgiving. Letting go and letting go of all the pain, rejection, terror and horror. Despite the constant danger, she refused to live with walls, protection, or even scabs. She let her wounds bleed freely until every one of them healed.

Since she was a little girl and heard of what love was, she had always wanted Shiva, the first yogi, the powerful ascetic dancer God of Hindu mythology, as her husband. She looked for him in every pair of eyes she met, in every experience, in every night sky, and in every dark time. Yet he was always a step away, never could be embraced. He was stolidly silent no matter how much she longed, and how much she cried.

She met him over and over again in every man, child, and woman, in every animal, tree and flower. She had had many lovers. She was reckless with her own heart and life, yet gentle and worshipful to the other. She was utterly fearless, giving herself up completely to everyone; and yet never had a home to call her own or was ever possessed by anyone.

She was someone who would give the very shirt off her back if she felt someone needed it. She couldn’t help herself. Another’s pain grated her heart like her very own.

One day she met a man whose heart she just fell for instantaneously. She loved him beyond herself. Oh did she ever. How the depths of his beautiful brown eyes seemed to glow when his eyes met hers and he smiled. He meant everything to her. She loved him deeply and unconditionally, despite not ever possessing him, or ever truly being his.  She was built in such a way, without ever understanding why, that every time she would see him, or embrace him, or make love to him, her energy would go up her spine like a train, burst open her heart, and burst open her forehead center, leaving her in a silently drenched ecstasy.

Sometimes this would happen when she was alone too, at moments when her heart would melt and she was left with tears of bliss quietly drenching her cheeks. It happened when she saw black birds flying in the light blue sky, a little baby’s smile, a pink and gold sunrise, the peacock blue sky of twilight, or saw the glowing full moon peaking out of wisps of cloud.

She desperately wanted him to call her. To write to her. To think of her. To let her merge with him. To let her come home finally, to rest her head and her heart on his chest, oh so weary with travel. Her feet ached from the countless miles of wandering without a home to call her own. She just wanted to lay beside him. She wanted to look into his eyes, leaning her forehead on his. She wanted him to hold her tightly. And yet, he never did call, he never did come to fetch her. So her heart broke, and cracked open, and the light shown through fiercer.

One day she met another man, whose presence she fell for instantaneously. This man was her Guru, and initiated her into meditation. He encouraged her to dance, sing and love in utter abandon. He also could never be around her physically, but she could feel his presence within her heart anytime she needed it.

Mira danced, and danced and danced, that day on the mountain top. Spinning wildly to the beat of drums and melodic singing. At first she danced her love, brimming over with longing. Next her pain, her tears, and her heartbreak. Then she danced her surrender, throwing away her life into the dance without a care if she died mid step, throwing away her breath and her heart into the beat, into the song. Then came the utter blissfulness, the ache of ecstasy, of being barely able to stay up, feeling so completely taken that she collapsed onto the ground into a pure, vast, immobilizing stillness, where the dance and song became silence itself.

She had lived through countless heartbreaks. One could say that her entire life was heartbreak and that they were an impetus for her heart to crack wide open, over and over again. Until it finally cracked into infinite pieces, that day on the mountain top.

She trusted life completely, without rhyme or reason. She lived every breath, loved every moment, and wandered every step, like it was her last, in utter abandon.

Her Shiva finally came to her, in those final moments when she took flight and never came back, finally at home, in the infinite.

 

The Struggle for Mental Health

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Mental health conditions are still taboo today. No matter how far we’ve come, it is still scary and risky to disclose that you are struggling for fear of losing your job or promotion, being ostracized or discriminated against, or at the least looked down on and dismissed as crazy. There are very few places you can turn to for real help. Often your doctor gives you a 10 minute appointment and puts you on drugs to numb you. Therapy is not for everyone. Hospitals make you feel worse. Many turn to self-medicating to get through the week. Modern society is extremely isolating, despite the busy cities, there is no longer true connection and community. Many are alone and struggling to just make it alive through another day.

Our opioid crisis and rise in homelessness have their roots in mental health. Our rise in cancer has more and more people facing their mortality in their 30s and 40s, facing intense internal challenges. More and more people are suffering deeply every single day.

Trauma is a terrible thing. It changes the way your brain is actually wired. Your entire nervous system reacts differently. Triggers come and the memories in your body can creep up on you and sabotage your life just when you think everything is going well. It can make you lose sleep, energy, logical thinking, and cause you a type of excruciating deep seated fear which no one around you can relate to.

I have struggled with PTSD for over a decade. I had some significant trauma in my young adult years which brought it on. My journey took me to deep and dark places within, and thankfully with courage, resilience, and loads and loads and loads of patience, I finally healed. Today, I’d like to share with you a couple of the methods which helped me get better.

Often when faced with trauma, our minds create parts that war against us, as a type of twisted survival mechanism. Like if I attack myself, no one can surprise me. This subtle self-hatred can be in the background, barely noticeable, but present all the time impacting our health. True healing involves radical self- acceptance and self-compassion. To become friendly within, to never divide yourself again.

Mental and emotional digestion is a topic little known in the west. In Ayurveda, it has always been known, that suppression of feelings, memories, and thoughts leads to disease. Many of the modern techniques for helping and coping with mental health involve suppression, unfortunately. In Ayurveda, there are many ancient methods to help one complete and optimize their emotional digestion: treatments of the body and energy system, herbs, meditation, breathing, and yoga.

One such treatment which I’d like to share about today is Shirodhara, an ancient miracle treatment. It is a neuro-hormonal-mental-emotional therapy which involves head massage with activation of energy points (marma therapy) and the continuous pouring of specifically chosen personalized herbalized oil on the forehead center for a period of time. It is a meditative and deeply relaxing treatment that helps to digest trauma and deep seated emotions, as well as rebalance the neuroendocrine system which can be at the root of many mental health conditions. It is amazing for stress, insomnia, anxiety, trauma, depression, and even psychosis. It is also effective in strengthening the nervous system in neurological conditions. I received 5 treatments of Shirodhara in a row, and I was deeply grateful for the journey which resulted in a true and lasting transformation.

The journey of healing is wrought with much darkness and uncertainty, but when you finally heal the deep wounds, the growth, perspective and wisdom you gain, allows you to live such a fulfilling and blissful life. We must let go of all the societal and internal expectations we harbor about ourselves and our life, to allow our true life to shine through. Only in being ourselves, is happiness possible.

It takes a lot to walk this path, but none of us have to walk it alone.

Disability, Autoimmune Disease & Deeper

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This winter I was disabled. Both my arms and my head injured, after an accident. A concussion, a busted left hand, and just as the left hand healed, a busted right hand! I was continuously learning patience, acceptance and understanding the importance of deeper levels of rest and non-doing for healing. My plans for the winter which included skiing, skating, travelling and working were completely wiped, and I was instead healing alone at home.

Disability has always frightened me. I live alone, and the thought of not being able to fend for myself, & be out in the world, brings up a deep fear. I faced this fear every day, and slowly over the days, I realized it was just that, a fear. I had disability, but I also had strength. I had disease, but I also had health.

2 years ago,  I had full blown joint swelling, excruciating pain, and stiffness in my hands and feet. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t open a bottle, pull the curtains, or walk out my door. I was scared and went to the doctor, and sadly as usual, he was dismissive, and told me to take Advil. I did not take the Advil by the way! After a few months of waiting, I saw a specialist, my blood work showed that I was ANA positive, and she said that I might have an autoimmune disease, maybe rheumatoid arthritis. She didn’t think I needed treatment yet; I needed to be monitored.

Being a lover and practitioner of Ayurveda, I wasn’t going to wait around for there to be something for the specialist to be interested in and to treat. Honestly, if a specialist was not interested enough to treat me, that was good news.

Let me tell you why it was good news. Ayurveda says that there are 6 stages of disease, or disease formation. Stage 5 and 6 of disease are when it shows up in your body as clear defined symptoms, your blood work shows it, and its a clear cut diagnosis; your doctor says yup you have this disease and you have to take this medication.

Stage 4 is when you have strong, yet shifting symptoms, blood work is showing inconclusive results, and the doctor often says its nothing to worry about yet, we will monitor you and repeat your blood work.

Stage 1-3 is when you have symptoms, you don’t feel well, but nothing shows up in your blood work, and your doctor says that you’re probably making it up.

I was in stage 3-4. I knew that if I left my joints the way they are, I was going to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in about 2 years. With Ayurvedic treatment, especially if you can catch it early, it is possible to heal, or take it back to an early stage where it will not become a disease. I started taking Ayurvedic herbs in high doses, practicing gentle daily yoga exercises especially for the joints, and performed daily self massage with herbalized oils followed by steaming. After a few months, to my relief, my joints became completely normal again.

My joints are a weak spot in my body. In Ayurveda this is known as Kavyaguna. Everyone has different weak points in their body, where imbalance can progress to become disease. The weakness can be from our genetics, or from an earlier injury. For example, someone who gets repetitive tonsillitis has a weak point in their throat, or another who had an earlier knee injury is prone to knee arthritis, and another who gets asthma attacks has a weak point in their lungs. These weak points need our awareness and care.

Every change in season, especially fall and spring, I must take preventative measures to care for my joints to prevent disease. This spring I am taking a daily detoxifying tea, and a combination of anti-inflammatory Ayurvedic herbs in high doses including boswelia/frankincense. My diet is anti-inflammatory, I’m avoiding sour and spicy/pungent foods. I am increasing my bitters, but not having them raw as this is hard for me to digest, but with healthy oils and lightly cooked. Being able to digest and absorb the healing diet and herbs is extremely important. Ayurveda pays close attention to the state of the person’s gut and digestive strength. Without being able to properly digest what we intake, no matter how amazing the diet, toxins build up and decreased immunity results.

Ayurveda looks at our bodies functionally, instead of structurally or chemically. It discusses how autoimmune conditions are often a battle of reaction between 2 main building block forces, Vata and Pitta in our bodies.  This is true on a cellular level, tissue level, as well as even on an emotional level. For me, on an emotional level, I need to constantly be mindful of the need to slow down, let go, and rest. Rush and relentless ambition are enemies to the one with an autoimmune condition!

There is a true beauty I have learned in rest, and non-doing. It allows you to tend to your inner weeds, and grow a strong blooming fragrant garden, in time. The kind of garden, with roots of inner strength, that the next storm and strong wind cannot demolish.

It’s time I said it

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It’s time I said it: The medical system is toxic.

I’m a small brown woman, physically, and I must say, a lot of people I have met in this life have really taken advantage of me, have really hurt me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I have swallowed a lot of shit.

I’ve always been afraid to call out these people, because deep down I was truly terrified that they would destroy me in retaliation. Their lies are so well covered up in gold plated non sense, that if I called them out, I instinctively felt they would nail me with those gold plates, and find a way to blame me for everything.

But it’s time now, for me to let that fear go, and dare to be myself, truly and fully. I love myself, and I, just as everyone else, am alive for only a brief time on this planet, so here goes beauties.

The medical system is toxic. I know, not a huge news flash huh. But coming from a doctor herself, after years of being inside the above mentioned gold plated club, it’s a rare and radical thing to say, trust me.

Throughout my training, they called me too sensitive, weak, not tough enough, not fast enough, bleeding hearted, too compassionate, stubborn, disrespectful to authority, and outspoken. They tried to tell me that I was not allowed to take care of my health, that I was not resilient, aka I was not a robot, and that therefore I should not be a doctor.

I say I just spoke the truth and was just myself: loving, real, vulnerable, and in my opinion, truly resilient. I am a survivor, like so many young women of colour. And I know deep in my gut and heart, right from wrong. And I cannot and will not cross that, no matter what anyone tells me. No matter how much they threaten me. Is that disrespectful to authority, or do I just have a working heart and mind?

There were so many moments in my training that I was asked to do things that might put a patient’s life in danger, or would hurt myself or others. I refused each and every time. And I was punished, bullied, shamed and threatened. Sometimes I was just bullied for no reason at all, just because that was the culture, it was supposedly to make me a good doctor. There were also so many moments of racism and sexism, that were just a part of day to day. That you were expected to swallow.

I would always spend extra time with patients, because I felt for them, because if it was me in pain, I would want my doctor to sit with me and be there for me. But that is not allowed in medicine. There is no time for being present, there is no time for compassion. There is actually no time for healing.

There is also no time to grieve. I still remember when my first patient passed away, on a day when I was off, while I was in 2nd year med school. The next day when I came to visit him, and found his room completely empty, I asked some docs in the hallway, where is Mr John? The docs just said casually, who? room 232? he coded yesterday. For me, this was a real person, and we had a real connection, and now suddenly he was gone, and it never seemed to matter to anyone else. It was so heartbreaking to be in that environment for years, it was so hard on my spirit, and on my health.

But, I refused, despite the relentless pressure, to become a depressed, cruel, cold-hearted, and efficient doctor. I remained a healer, vulnerable, and open. I actually could never wear my white coat, because I was afraid I would become like many who wore it, arrogant and cold.

I love myself, as much as I love my patients. That’s right, I love my patients. I refuse to take love out of medicine. Honestly, I think love is medicine.

Also, I refused to drive myself endlessly and destroy my health, under the pretense of being strong. At one low point, I was on a portable heart monitor, hadn’t digested my food for years, and actually couldn’t sleep for 1 year straight…and I was still working 24 hour shifts in the windowless hospital.

One day, I had a strong intuition that if I didn’t stop living a life that made me miserable and kept going against myself, I would get breast cancer. So I quit. I gave up everything, just walked away, and started over. I went to India.

I thought to myself, my life is my responsibility. How can I help others if I get so sick and get so sad? Of what use can I be to anyone? And also, who is going to help me when I’m sick? These doctors? They have no idea what they are doing! Most of them are so miserable themselves, what do they know about health and happiness?

Ayurveda and Yoga saved my life, saved my heart, and grew my spirit. I healed myself, step by step, moment by moment, and kept myself open and loving. A breast cancer scare came and thankfully went. All my health problems healed, and my love for myself and my path got deeper and deeper. I finally understand there is nothing for me to be ashamed of. This is my path. Pain and suffering, doubt and loss, all led me to endless learning, deep healing and tremendous precious gifts, which can only be earned this way. I am so grateful for every moment of my life. For all the bullying, and for all the ostracism, because it made me who I am today.

It has taken a long time for me to forgive, to forgive everything that has happened to me. But now its time. I am a lone wolf. A badass. A fighter. And I have walked alone along a treacherous broke ass path. But I am now fearless, healthy, happy, and at times even blissful.

And for that I can only be thankful. Healing myself and others means the world to me.

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