Monday, October 26, 2009

Finishing school and giving back in the desert

After my last email i am sure you all are beginning to think i am a shopping addict and may never return home as i will owe too much money to seedy jewel sellers in the back streets of Jaipur. But have no fear i have broken myself away and am seeking salvation. These three weeks in Jaipur have been amazing. The school has been incredible and i am bursting with info to share. Our host mom was lovely and put up with us coming and going. Diwali was a blast and shopping was to die for.

My experience in learning and experiencing Ayurveda to it's full extent has left me wanting more and more. The simplicity of it all is amazing. It is stuff we all know and yet have forgotten in our busy and crazy lives. I hope that i can bring some of this magical wisdom to all of you and everyone else in the west. To stay healthy and happy so little is required and yet we get such major benefit. Just through identifying our own nature and not that of the herd, we can maintain our health through diet, herbs and the right exercises for us. We are all so unique and must recognise this. I will definitely be continuing my studies who knows how far.

As i spoke of at the beginning of this mail we have chosen to seek salvation from the devils within. Our original plan was to travel for the next 5.5 wks to the south of India but as we have both realized, first from our experience in south east asia and now here, we are not the backpacking types. We long for connection and sharing, to give back to this amazing place. So after a weekend full of research and many emails sent off to NGOs we have found just the place for us. It is called Sambhali trust and was started in Jodhpur originally with just a few women learning skills and basic english it has now turned into a training centre for the lowest caste, a scholarship program for disadvantaged girls and a school for girls and women in a small desert village called Setrawa.

So now we find ourselves in Jodhpur after a long bus ride at an amazing guest house which is also home to the training centre. Govind the man in charge is quite the character, all business and all smiles. The project seems perfect for us. As we only have five weeks we will be doing mainly projects with the girls to help them develop unity, self esteem and independence. It is a very traditional village, so it should be very interesting to experience. I look so forward to going out into the desert to dance under the stars and live a simple life. In the mean time you can check it out here

Twinkling lights + precious gems = Laxmi Personified

This weekend as you may or may not have known was the Diwali festival, the biggest and brightest festival in India. As we had three days off during this exciting event we went to town, literally and figuratively. Saturday, Sunday and Monday we slept in till 7 and then after getting ready we headed for the old city. Each time planning on making it to see the sites and each time being distracted by shops full of goodies and very charming men selling jewellery. By the end of the three days we had been in at least ten jewellery shops and had sat and had tea with at least 20 jewellery sellers.

These men are truly a breed of their own. They sit on the sidewalk or walk along the streets in pair, dressed to impress with killer smiles, waiting for foreigners, women mainly to walk past and try and strike up a conversation. They are always willing to help and if you are in search of food or a bank or a temple they will gladly show you where it is and after "no pressure of course you must come and see their jewellery shop. They have no expectations as they are wholesalers not common shops selling to the public and they have a great deal for you". Naturally they do have amazing jewellery and for some of it it is reasonably priced. The best part is the chatting though, they bring you chai and will sit and talk to you about all sorts of things for hours. I think we spent a total of at least two to four hours each day in jewellery stores. We did of course buy some jewellery. I got a blue sapphire ring to balance the saturn in my chart, Caitriona and i both bought earrings for presents.

The ultimate jewellery experience was on Monday however, another pair of nice men try and chat us up and say we must see the Krishna temple up above. So we go and check it out and one of them appears after a while and invites us for tea. Ok Caitriona says and we follow them down the steps and along the street into yet another back road up some more steps to surprise, surprise a jewellery store, at which point we inform them we have no desire in jewellery. Oh it is just a cup of tea no looking at jewellery and they do keep to their word. Somewhere along the line however we begin to talk about energy work and how one of them is studying under an amazing Guru and we must meet him. A call is made and within 30 mins we are standing outside of another jewellery shop!! Oh what adventures. So we enter and are escorted into a back room where we wait for another 30 mins. Suddenly the Guru appears smiling. We are talked to separately and what he says is amazing, he truly reads one like an x-ray looking at your aura he tells you of blocks you have, illness(es) you may not be aware of but have begun to form. It was one of the most interesting readings i have had in India and effected me the most, things i had long forgotten came up and i realized many things. It is going to take a long time to process them and i am confident in my healing powers. Naturally, we left his shop with more jewellery ;) A special pendant ritually made for each of us to help with our blocks. I got 4.5 carat emerald from Brazil and Caitriona a 4.5 carat blue sapphire from Sri Lanka.

Jewels are not all that Jaipur offers although sometimes you think it is. On Sunday we went nuts shopping and by the end of the day my arm ached from the weight of my bags. The old city is broken into bazaars, whole streets that sell only one thing; jewellery, clothing, bikes, bangles, sports goods, spices. It is amazing. Each shop is an experience unto itself. The sellers are charming and as you look at their goods you hardly realize you have spent 30 mins trying to haggle down the price of a shirt by 50 cents. Oh but it is all worth it. I wish i could buy everything and send it home to all of you and perhaps my new persona will allow this wish to be achieved. It seems my shopping bags and overall appearance seemed to transform me into the goddess Laxmi under the twinkling lights. My blonde hair sparkled as did my jewellery and people began to flock to me bringing their children to shake my hand and take pictures. Whether they truly saw me as Laxmi embodied or not it is quite funny as i got Laxmi tattooed on my arm in Cambodia in January. Laxmi for those of you who don;t know is the Hindu goddess of wealth and Diwali is her holiday. People pray to her and give puja in hopes that she will come to their home and spend some time and bless them with good fortune and as people came up to me i only hope i provided them with something so marvelous.

On top of all this shopping we also got to participate in the celebrations of the family we were staying with. The children all came home from Delhi and we ate delicious food and each night held puja and aarti for Laxmi. After the rituals were all done the streets exploded and i mean exploded into a virtual war zone. I have never in my life seen or heard so many fireworks go of at a time. The fireworks you can buy here and for a reasonable price are awesome and dangerous. It was lots of fun until we tried to go to bed and were kept up with visions of exploding streets until well past midnight.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Astrology, Ayurveda and Abhyanga

Our time at the ashram is over and in order to top off our amazing experience in Uttarkhand we went on our second last day to visit Prateek the astrologer in Rishikesh (thanks again Adrian!!) Prateek is (i believe though it may have been longer) the 32nd generation of astrologer in his family, his fore-fathers having read the stars since the 7th century. Vedic astrology is slightly different than western as it is much more ancient beginning before a major transformation in the skies, which alas i forget the name of at the moment. In Vedic Astrology i am not an Aquarius as i always believed but a capricorn, my moon is not in pisces but aquarius and my ascendant is in virgo not libra. What does this all mean you ask, well a great many things. In fact the things that Prateek told me based up my charts were amazing; my parents were menat to go in seperate ways, i have a step-brother, i have more tattoos on my right side, the list goes on. Of course all of this was in the past, so what of my future, well as many of these things go it is stuff you already knew deep down inside but need an added boost to remember. I am very creative and will succeed greatly in this field, I would be great in any therapy work and should definitely not live in Canada (big suprise). I think my favourite part though was of my previous life, in which i was the third life of a muslim man and had a very hard and repressed life, Therefore my karma in this life is to enjoy as much as i want!!! Can't argue with that now can we. There was much more but i will save that for a time i see you alone and If any of you come to Rishikesh you must go and visit him.

Now we find ourselves in Jaipur studying hard and it hardly seems possible a week has gone by. Our school Chakrapani Ayurveda is amazing. The staff are wonderful and the information is inspirational. Each morning we have 1.5 hrs of theory dealing with the basics, diet, herbs, doshas, panchakarma...... Then 2.5 hrs of practicals in which we get an example massage performed on us and then we practice on each other. How can you go wrong with two massages a day!? So far we have learned head, foot, spine, face and full body massage. I am sure you are now all dying for me to get home to give you all a massage ;) I would love to tell you more about all of this but i am afraid you may get bored, so you can wait until you experience it in person.

I also decided to get another consultation and do some panchakarma (cleansing) while i was here and had a good reliable place. So every afternoon Anita my therapist comes and finds me in the classroom and she procedes to give me 2.5-4hrs of treatment. Each session includes Abhyanga (oil or powder massage), swedana (sweating either in a chamber or by a heated bolus), ear oiling, Basti (oil or decoction enema) and a special therapy (pain relieving oil on my hip or knee, eye oiling, shirodhara). It is all very enjoyabole except perhaps the decoction enema which gives major cramping in order to remove all the built up Ama (toxins) in the colon. All in all it is making me feeling amazing, though a little tired as detoxs usually do.

As for Jaipur, I can;t say alot yet. We have been so busy we have had no time to see the city. I finish my panchakarma on friday just in time for divali and we will go and wonder through the lights of the city.

Worshipping the Goddess Cleansing the Temple

The very last day of our impromptu class has arrived and boy has it been amazing. Two and a half weeks of knowledge is nestled into my brain and i am excited to learn more and share it all with you (although i think that will have to wait for an in person lesson). As i may or may not have mentioned the course fell over the Navrati festival, 9 days of worshipping the goddess, most specifically Durga who is the destroyer she slashes at demons, ego and bad habits alike with her many arms and many more weapons. This is a major time of cleansing and fasting, a time when the seasons change and the sun turns southward.

This was also week filled with many many birthday celebrations, Caitriona on the 22nd, Joel on the 23rd, and Agnis on the 27th. And let me tell you i have never experienced such an amazing celebration. First, the room is decorated with a yantra or mandala (a symbol of great honour and worship). The first two nights Gangotri made an exquisite lotus flower out of different coloured flour and on the last Mandakini made a conch shell. The lotus symbolizes the individual on the inside spreading out to the world around. Inside and around the lotus were little clay lights representing each year of life and the new one to come. First songs are song asking the gods to bring light, love and health to all present. Then the lights are lit by all present with the first and last being lit by the birthday girl/boy (as we all are born and die alone). By lighting the lamps the dark memories from that year are turned to light and happy memories abound. After this each person is given a hand ful of flowers and spend a few minutes filling the flowers with all the wishes they have for the birthday and then as we all sing we go one by one and pour the flowers over the birthday girl/boy. It was the most amazing ceremony and i hope to share it with all of you :)

On the cleansing front as a part of our class and a way to get rid of all the Ama (toxins) i have accumulated i and many others did the total cleanse, Shanpakshalin, kunjal and jal neti. This involves first drinking a liter of warm salt water at a time and then doing a series of Asanas, going to the bathroom and continuing until all that flushes out of your anus is clear water, cleaning your lower digestive tract. After this you drink another liter of salt water and puke it all up cleansing your upper digestive tract. Finally you fill a neti pot with salt water and clean out your nasal passages. Let me tell you you feel very clean after such a procedure. With all the healthy food, strict routine and asanas I am feeling really fabulous.

I can not fully tell you all i have learned and experienced yet, but i can say this. I have learned how crucial discipline, devotion and commitment are to leading a happy life. I have started and plan to continue the ayurvedic lifestyle and can already feel my body mind and soul tingling with life.