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A glimpse of the Lover…the Devotee

071 -Manasarovar @ Night

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.

Ancestor Stories

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For the last 8 years, I have been on a journey of connecting with my ancestors. I traveled all over South India, and met beautiful beings who related stories to me about where I come from, and the lineage of powerful beings before me, my ancestors. The picture above was taken by a beautiful friend I met on one of those journeys.

But its truly in the past few months, that these beings have become a part of my everyday life. Out of gratitude to them, I’d like to share a couple of personal experiences with you.

A few months ago, I had a terrifying pain in my chest, not long after seeing a patient in clinic. Despite the excruciating pain, I had a strong intuition that it was not of a physical origin. I had an urge to call my close friend, despite it being almost midnight. He answered, and with his soothing voice, without even asking me anything, right away launched into the most beautiful stories from his life about connecting with his ancestors. At certain moments in his story, I would feel my chest hurt deeper and sharper. I finally mentioned the pain I had to him, and he suggested that I ask my ancestors for help, that I must have some Vaidyas (Ayurvedic physicians) in my ancestry who would know how to heal me. So I did. This was my first time consciously contacting them. I just followed my intuition, and called them. I laid out my favorite peacock blue shawl out for them, and I called the ones I knew, who I had heard of, the ones I admired, and all the ones whom I did not know, but who could help me. I called the Ayurvedic healers, the Jyotish (Vedic astrology) masters, the warrior Kallari martial artists, and the powerful crazy Goddess worshipers. And I drifted off to sleep around 3am.

The entire night I felt like I was in conversations of deep spiritual communion. I could not recollect the content, but I just knew I had been at home. I awoke on my own at 6am and my chest pain was completely gone. I felt deeply rested despite only sleeping for 3 hours, and I felt a waft of blissfulness moving from the state of sleep to awakening. I went to take a shower, and while I was feeling the water pour on my head and down my body, I had a vision. It was of an Indian man, whom I didn’t know, wearing a munde, a Kerala man’s daily outfit similar to a sarong, having his early morning bath in a river. With this vision, came an extremely blissful and supportive feeling, like he was with me, protecting and helping me from another dimension. I came out of the shower to my living room, and to my surprise, I saw that outside my door, one end of my Tibetan prayer flags had been untied; as if someone had come through my door in the night, and wanted to show me they had come.

I bowed deeply in gratitude towards the prayer flags. I couldn’t believe that there was this much support available to me; just by calling out, these beautiful beings had come and blessed me, taking care of a health problem that I had no idea how to resolve!

My friend had told me to find a physical article which could represent my ancestors, and help me stay connected to them. I decided to choose my prayer flags, since I felt like they had been touched by those very beings. I also chose an art piece, which had been given to me by my mother and father, a black metal piece with the Goddess Saraswathi (the Goddess of wisdom) painted on it, in classic Kerala style. I took this to my clinic and hung it on the wall. Every day before I leave the house, I bow to the prayer flags, and every day before I see my patients at clinic, I bow to this picture, representing my ancestors’ wisdom, and ask that they please support my work in healing.

I spoke to my father and mother later that day, and they said that same night there was supposed to be an ancestor worship in my dad’s village home in Kerala, but it had been postponed. I felt that the ancestors had come to visit my home in Canada instead!

My mother and father are visiting Kerala currently. Last week they told me that the rare ancestor worship, which had been previously postponed, was to be done my time Friday morning.

I put my alarm on so that I could remember to join the worship in spirit at the right time. However, unbeknownst to me, that night my phone died, and my alarm with it!

Yet, Friday morning, I woke up suddenly from a deep sleep with a clear thought, I need to join the ancestors worship! It was 7:19am. I got up from bed and ran to the altar in my home, sat cross legged with my shawls draping me, my palms open on my lap, and connected through my heart and forehead centers to my mother & fatherland, Kerala.

It turned out I was exactly on time for the start of the ancestor worship to the animals including the cows, who had lived with us in the past. The picture below is of this very pooja.

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Later on that morning, once it was sunset in India, the rare large worship for the ancestors was being done.

I joined again in spirit; I did not want to miss an opportunity to be with my ancestors and thank them for being in my life. It never ceases to amaze me at how anything and everything in the universe is accessible through the heart and forehead centers of our very own beings.

I lit my ghee lamp and incense, which turned out to be at the same time as the pujari (one who performs the worship) in Kerala, and bowed deeply to all my ancestors. I said, Thank you for everything, for your wisdom, protection, knowledge, love, purpose, and strength. May we all attain ultimate freedom and fulfillment together.

I got up once I felt the Pooja (worship) was complete, and walked over to the kitchen to make my favorite beverage, chai with loose black tea, freshly ground cardamom, and dry ginger.

Suddenly, I felt an urge to search my bookshelf. I was drawn to open a book I’d never actually opened before; it was a disease and diagnosis book of Ayurveda. I flipped it open ‘at random’ and just gawked at the page. It was a description of Divine Unmada, which translates as insanity or mental imbalance due to the Divine! I was just floored by the wisdom of my ancestors who were able to distinguish through the root causes of different types of mental illness, from ones due to seizures, mental and thought imbalances, and even the blessed type due to the influence of the Divine!

The rest of that day, I would just open this book at random, and it would answer my questions on my patient’s health. Deep wisdom just poured out in front of me, teaching me. The entire day felt blessed by the ancestors.

Every time I ask for their presence and help, my ancestors are there. Their wisdom, energy, guidance and knowledge pervade my life now. I am eternally grateful!

Falling Up

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From such heights

of bliss, capability, experience & hope

I tumble

crashing all the way down

to the depths of excruciating pain…

physical, emotional & mental.

In one moment

everything completely turns on its head,

as if the very earth shifts beneath my feet.

Crushed

demolished

eaten alive by life

body in  shambles

emotions like tsunami waves.

All capability, ability & accomplishment lost.

All purpose, role & meaning again gone.

So I let go…

and welcome

disability

disease

& even death.

All are guests sweeping my home clean.

If destruction of self no longer causes fear…

then I wonder…

what doors may open to me in the depths?

I will keep falling up…

Unlock that heart of yours

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Yesterday afternoon I saw the sunlight peaking through,

the blue sky coming out to color our world,

and decided to go for a walk on the forest trail in my neighborhood.

The parking lot was full; there is a dog park there.

I want to share with you in a poem what I saw through my eyes and my heart.

The picture above is of myself, my cousin & our family dog in India.

I feel it helps to bring out the heart of my poem.

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Y’all are walking like zombies with your hearts locked up

and all the love in your life is tied to that leash, in that little cute dog beside you.

His joy, his love, his loyalty, his energy & enthusiasm

are all you have to keep you out of the zombie grave.

You walk around with your heart on that leash.

You get to the dog park, and you let him run joyfully with all the other dogs.

You let your kids giggle & play with the other kids.

Their joy and abandon keeps you breathing. Gives you some life to live.

But why do you just stand there like a stone

not even able to make eye contact with the other humans?

Your dogs and your kids mingle without a second thought.

And yet each of you just stand there all alone in your individual worlds.

Minds never mixing, hearts never spilling, hands never reaching out.

What are you so afraid of my friends?

What is so scary about other humans?

What makes a dog so lovable, but a human not?

How is your heart? How is your breath?

When is the last time you checked if your heart was alive? Have you heard it speak?

When is the last time it told you its deepest desires, its purpose, and wild longings?

I’m lonely out here, a human with a full free heart.

Join me, it’s beautiful out here

with a wild heart thumping in your chest spilling into everything and everyone.

Unlock that heart of yours, trust me,

it’s not as scary as you think.

Your dogs & children are beautiful teachers.