A note on my three blogs

A note on my blogs

(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...

(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!

(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.


Sunday, 29 June 2008

On the unreality of imagination, clean floors and sprouting

Everytime I write on my journal about "future plans", they don't happen the way I was imagining. Now whenever I write something or tell someone about something I'm thinking to happen, somehow while I express it, I know deep down, that it will happen differently. But somehow it's not ready, I can't do anything about it. It feels like a vague knowldege impossible to phrase - a cloudy or veiled or dim presence in my mind. It is impossible to describe it with words.

I wrote in my previous post that I was probably going to go back to the yoga school daily. Now it won't happen, because following day I did go back, and Swami ji was indeed teaching, but (1) the time of the class has slightly changed and it has become inconvenient for me to go, and (2) (and most of all) Swami ji's English accent is SO thick, and he doesn't speak loudly at all, that I hardly understand anything he says. He spends half his class talking, too, and after one minute in a posture he tells us to get up quickly and "look it here" and start again "quickly" over and over again, so we end up doing five postures ten times in one and a half hour. I found it most frustrating.

So yesterday morning I started doing my own yoga practice in my room. I got bothered by the dust, though, so instead I turned my room into a beautiful yoga hall. There was a carpet of the size of my floor that had obviously not been cleaned for yonks. With the help of my Russian friend we moved the furniture, rolled up the carpet underneath my bed, and I broomed the floor, and cleaned it with water and cloth ("Indian style" like in the Khajuraho family, hihi, and with the cloth I'd bought the previous day to hold my violin but that didn't work for that purpose - how things work out beautifully!) What a relief! It was SO dusty underneath that carpet! And I had two beds, one of which foldable, so we folded it, turned the mattress into a backrest for my other bed which now looks more like a beautiful sofa! How trivial! but it's the first time in india that I get the chance to move my furniture into a personalised room; it feels like an event in itself! I have now a lot of clean, wide, and cool and non-slippery floor for yoga. I am very happy. And today my practice was very satisfying indeed.

This morning I sent a text to Vijay. In it I said I was going to practise violin soon. Whilst I was texting somehow I knew that something was going to interfere with the practice, yet I couldn't help it but continue with my text. Yesterday I lost my OM & stone pendants that had never left my neck for two years. Three weeks ago Vijay & I had found a new string for it, but one that I had to open and close (as opposed to the old elastic one that I didn't need to open to get over my head). I had thought that it would probably open and I'd lose my dear pendants (as with so many pendants Ive had in the past), but of course I had not phrased it outwardly. [This time I had not said it...] When it happend yesterday it wasn't a surprise and I was hardly sad because it was so expected. At least I haven't lost my big "protective turquoise" so I was grateful. And so this morning, after sending the text I went downstairs to the ashram's reception because they have beautiful OM pendants. I went through the first room that is normally a sort of lounge. Suddenly it was completely bare, with four HUGE blocks of ice on the floor. What on earth was this for!? The receptionist wasn't there and I had to find him outside the gate. He told me that a Swami from the other affiliated ashram had left his body. So they were going to bring his body here on display this morning. On the blocks of ice, obviously. I didn't buy a pendent this morning. I went back to my room, which is just above the reception, and watched the scene for a while. I didn't know this man but somehow my breath was more intense. People visiting, hanging out in the yard, the ambulance car. I went down to see the body, for about five seconds, and went back up to my room, still looking outside. I heard some women screaming with tears. I was not going to play violin this morning, was I.

* * *

What you imagine to be never turns out to be real. That's why I am becoming more and more uncomfortable about making plans and - most especially - talking about them, and so I try to talk about what is only. What has happened only. I've known people who always talk about what they will do tomorrow and in the future and they're so excited about this and that. But do they talk about what is? Does it happen at all? Isn't this all empty? When I heard about Yann Tiersen coming to play in Glasgow a couple of years ago I was so excited I was almost exctatic in my room. I was imagining myself dancing like a little child to his wonderful, light, oh-so-childish "Amélie"-type music. Four months later I listened to his concert almost indifferently, trying as hard as possible to enjoy the moment, to recognise the childhood in, and appreaciate the quality of his loud rock music (!!). What a waste of energy being excited by the unreality of my imagination four months before! What is will manifest when it is ready. If you talk about (what you think 'it' (is) too much in advance, it won't manifest that way. You have to give time to the seed for it to grow. If a child was to start walking before she was ready she would fall. One day she suddenly starts to walk yet it is not sudden at all, only the outward manifestation that we can see, is. And the manifestation is but the expression of a long, invisible preparation. It is the same with events.

* * *

My Russian friend always gives me good tips. He has now inspired me to start my own sprouting. Indian mostly eat cooked vegetables thus killing their most nutritional qualities - they don't really know the concept of "salad". I am lucky in the ashram because we do have raw vegetables at lunch everyday, and fruits morning and evening. But sprouting is a great addition because it has life, and it is SO easy. I knew it was so easy but for new things it is easier to be shown them isn't it. I had been thinking about sprouting for a while without having anyone to show me. Now it's done! And man it's so easy it's hard to believe it's true! And if you're travelling even, all you need is a bowl, a plate to cover it and some (filtered!) water! So I had my sprouted mung daal this morning; it made me happy.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Panchakarma, ayurvedic oil and cucumber juice

I am clean! I mean, inside out! My skin is soft and unctuous everywhere like a baby's bottom, even on the back of my calves and upper arms which previously were a little spotty and granulous. My nails are very smooth and my hair is even silkier and softer than it was before. My tongue is rid of its previous (although very slight!) coating, and my pulse is more balanced. My tissues - and even my head - have been liberated from their toxins and my intestines cleaned out and nourished. My three doshas (vata/air, pitta/fire, and kapha/water&earth) are better balanced. And my mind is clearer, too. Today I also noticed that my violin practice has slightly improved, and that my headstand got steadier. I am happy.

So the ten-day panchakarma therapy for me was like this:

Every morning I woke up at 6.00. Around 6.30 a member of staff would bring me a glass of yummy hot lemon (and honey) water. After drinking it, I would go down for a 20-30 minute walk (focusing on my diaphragmatic breathing!) Around the beautiful flowery garden of the centre, after which (7.00) was one of our three daily yoga classes. Soft yoga, with 'joint and glands' exercises, systematic relaxation, and re-learning how to breathe - slowly, regularly, and diaphragmatically. 8.00 was lovely healthy yummy breakfast with fruits or sprouts and porridge and paratha or couscous or rice/veg/morning mix and chai. Then I'd go up to my room for a little embroidery (I took the panchakarma's free time to repairing my Nepalese top; it was a lot of (fun) work!). 9.00 was my daily, lively, doctor's visit. He'd feel my tummy, look at my tongue and eyes, and study my pulse. Not only my body, he was also studying my temperament. We would talk about what the therapy would be that day, and being a big fan of ayurveda, I was always bubbling out with enquiries and questions...

Around 9.20 it was time for the two-hour panchakarma therapy:

PREPARATORY PROCEDURE: (1) Head ayurvedic oil massage
(2) Vigorous FULL body ayurvedic massage (full includes the ears, the shoulder blades, the buttocks, the joints and, the tummy and the chest, the feet and soles of the feet and toes and heels and sides of the feet, the face, etc. etc... well, EVERY-where apart from the genitals) - with a LOT of warm oil. The massage was performed on the two sides of the body - symmetrically - by two therapists.
(3) Steaming - whereby I would sit in a wooden 'steam chamber' with just my head popping out from the hole at the top. It was funny, I felt a bit like I was food being cooked... with the steam I got all oily and sweaty and the oil penetrated into the pores of my skin and then into my tissues. (Before the steaming I was given alternatively freshly made orange or cucumber juice - that's how I discovered my great love for cucumber juice - yes, it is delicious!)
(4) Sirodhara - that's relaxation aided by warm oil dripping on my forehead.

ACTUAL TREATMENT: (5) And then, the actual panchakarma treatment. On the first three days, only points 1-4 applied, for preparation of the body. on day 4 i had to drink a purgation (laxative) herb (Not Yummy!) decoction. On the last four days I had enemas - whereby about 1 litre of a oil/herb decoction would be pumped into my rectum (sorry, not poetic! but necessary!) and ten minutes later I was emptying it all out in the toilet with great relief. No no it is not that scary, a lot less horrible than I imagined really. By the fourth day it was just routine work... And on the last three days, before with the enema, the lady poured two drops of oil in each of my nostrils, that I would sniff in - so even inside my head got nourished (and liberated from toxins) with oil.

After the therapy I was even given shampoo - and freshly made exfoliating ointment made of gram flour and many herbs to wash my body. Nice!

After that I drank lots of water and had about two happy hours of embroidery.

13.00 was yummy lunch time (I was always happy to eat), then more embroidery in my room, then 15.30 yoga class number two followed by 16.30 herbal tea and then another walk round the garden and a bit of reading on the bench and 18.30 yoga class number 3 and 19.30 lighter but no less delicious dinner. I was in bed around 21.30 everyday.

Most of the time I was keeping silent. (It seems I definitely have been influenced by my two completely silent vipassana retreats!) I like keeping silent; I never liked small talked anyway. It's amazing when one realises how speaking dispels energies. So it is good to keep quiet to focus energy into cleansing the body (and mind).

Well, I have to say I am surprised that my body didn't feel weakened by the all thing. The young woman I had met last month who had done the panchakarma therapy was weakened, didn't eat much etc., and so did I expect to be. but I feel completely normal really.

* * *

And here comes an EXTREMELY BRIEF explanation of the ayurveda treatment for the curious... I have read about eight books on ayurveda in the last three or four years, and have pretty good intuition about it, but I feel very ignorant and poor at talking about it with words. Obviously it is an extremely vast (if not infinite, ha!) subject. It is a science (ayurveda means 'science of life' in Sanskrit) as ancient, and closely connected to, yoga.

Ayurveda works on the five elements in the body. According to these there are three types of body constitutions (doshas): vata corresponds to the space/air elements; pitta to the fire element, and kapha to the water/earth element. But the doshas don't relate only to the physical body, they also relate to the temperament. For instance, understandably a kapha body is stronger than a vata body (for earth and water are more dense than air). Kapha people also tend to put weight on more easily than other types and tend to be more lethargic. But kapha (water) is also reflected in the temperament, or mindset (I guess). To take me as an example, as a kapha person I am very emotional, yet balanced and quiet also. But my pitta (firy) side can also make me bubbly sometimes (as many of my friends have come to know... :p)... But, more on the doshas here.

So, one can have a single dosha constitution, a dual dosha constitution (I am pitta/kapha) or a balanced version of all three doshas (a rarity). Everyone has all three doshas in their bodies, but for instance that I am pitta/kapha means that I have a predominance of the fire and water element. Ayurveda's aim is to balance the doshas. If you have too much of one, reduce it and vice-versa. With diet, if you have a predominance of pitta then eat less 'firy' food (bitter, salty in taste, or spicy) etc. In my case the pitta/fire was mainly in excess so that had to get out of my body.

In panchakarma therapy, the aim of the preparatory procedure (oil massage + steam + sirodhara) is to cleanse and nourish the tissues with oil. The tissues are: blood, bone, fat, marrow & nerves, muscle, plasma and reproductive organs. When the digestive system is in disbalanced, the nourishment it gets (food) is not completely well processed and so some of the waste is not properly eliminated through the digestive system - instead it gets into the tissues and stays stuck there. the oil helps the tissues to rid of the toxins into the digestive system (so toxins go from periphery to core of the body, as i like to see it) - after which, the treatment helps to eliminate the toxins in a natural way:

For pitta with help of a purgative (laxative drink) and out through the rectum, with vata with help of enema and out through the rectum, with kapha through vomiting therapy and out through the mouth (I must admit I am glad that I didn't have to get that one!) regardless of body constitution, everyone is to get enemas to get vata (air) balanced because air is what gets the other two (pitta/fire) and kapha (earth/water) into movement - naturally, they are on their own otherwise stationary.

Also, the disbalance is seed for disease; disease being the manifestation of disbalance. Unmanifestation of disease may not mean that we are healthy. That is why I love ayurveda so much; it has always resonated in me: western medicine sees health as the negation of disease; in this way it is negative. Ayurveda works the other way round; disease is negation of health. So ayurveda is positive, in the way that it helps prevent disease by keeping the body in balance.

Without even knowing of the existence of ayurveda, I wrote these lines in 1999:

Les hommes définissent trop souvent la santé comme étant la négation de la maladie: avoir la santé, c'est ne pas être malade. Il faut regarder la définition dans l'autre sens, et dire: La maladie c'est la négation de la santé: quand je n'ai pas la santé, alors je suis malade. Et ainsi, on peut soigner sa santé, plus que sa maladie.

So ayurvedic treatment can be a cure for the body in which disease has already appeared, but it can also be maintenance/prevention/rejuvenation (as in my case) for a healthy body, in which disease is yet absent.

I love the completeness of ayurveda. Western medicine sees disease as something happening to the body, as if coming out from the outside. But ayurveda recognises that disease can only come FROM the body. From its unbalance. Disease is not outside you, it is in you, it is part of you, it is you. And of course, ayurveda is connected to yoga. Yoga is the union of body and mind (and soul). Ss such ayurveda also recognises the interconnection between body and mind. Not only the body can be a seed for imbalance and disease, the mind also. As such, it will not just treat a physical disease. It will advise a diet and a lifestyle. It goes even as far as including the time of day and the seasons. It takes into account our five senses and how we use them; it uses the taste of the food we eat. The discipline of getting up early closer to the sun's timetable, the relearning how to breathe, the relaxation of my body so my mind wouldn't interfere with the panchakarma's cleansing, the walking and the yoga work on joints and glands, they were also working in line with the treatment. Unlike Western medicine ayurveda doesn't want to step out of or challenge nature; it works with it, it works in harmony with nature... And who are we but Nature and a part of the Universe...?

So that is it. My skin is happy because the toxins are gone. My doshas are more in balance, my digestive system clean and happy.

Note that the centre was excellent. Part of a big hospital + university + Swami Rama centre + guesthouse + alternative therapy centre. the staff very friendly and always helpful and understanding, the rooms very clean, the place beautiful. the facilities and infrastructure made me forget I was in India (I would have forgotten without the heat and the powercuts, ha!) half the time I was the only patient and had the whole staff to myself, hihi.

So, if you want to go for a panchakarma (with a flight ticket to india, it works out cheaper than doing it in the west!) (and you have to be careful with the place that you pick of course, there are many and you should find a quality place with WELL-qualified practitioners - my doctor studied ayurveda for 12 years!) now you know that you can go there!

Rishikesh, mansoon and a new bow

So I am back in Rishikesh after panchakarma therapy. And it feels a little like I am home! Same ashram, same peaceful Ganges and beautiful garden, same room, same healthy food. And the Russian/American friend I had made last month is back at the same time, so I even have good company! My only concern about coming back here was about being able to play violin in this quiet ashram, but they've told me I have no neighbours in this room, so I am welcome to practise! And from tomorrow morning I can go back to my daily classes at the yoga school, except it is not the junior teacher but Swami ji, who should be the teacher. I am happy!

Also, the yoga teacher from the panchakarma therapy, a lovely lovely Indian but American-born lady, told me of an orphanage in the area that has an organic cafe and that focuses the on children's education. I shall visit the place tomorrow to check about future potential volunteer work...

On my last two days of panchakarma, since I had finished my embroidery work (that's pretty much all I did during my free time there) I had nothing better to do but to take up the violin again. It seemed with less toxins in my tissues - my fingers moving more freely perhaps - and a clearer mind, I was playing it better than before. But soon while I was playing, suddenly PAF! My bow snapped. The second bow - PAF! followed soon after. With their horsehair loosened, broken in two parts, I felt very odd as though my heart too had broken. The same morning I had been telling my doctor I didn't like planning because it didn't work with me; he was telling me that still, a little could be useful. Next time in his office I was telling him that right now, again, the unexpected had happened and I was having to change my plans. I was not going back to Rishikesh with two broken bows and the impossibility to practise the violin. But my despair (this is an exaggeration for rhetoric effect, but my heart did beat fast!) did not last long, because the panchakarma centre is located near Dehradun where the good music store is - the one I had visited one month previously with Shivananda. So yesterday the lady doctor arranged for me a return taxi so I could go to Dehradun. And, understanding my concern, she let me stay one more night with two extra meals and for free so I would have time to go to the shop and come back to Rishikesh today morning. I was happy! So, I have a new bow! And the shopkeeper told me it was very good. And actually, it does feel somehow denser with a thicker steadier sound. As for my two broken bows, I left them for repair and donation for my Shivananda's charitable music school. It made me happy that I had broken my bows.

So it looks like I will be in my beautiful ashram again for about two weeks. And I have a newly found book on Indian classical music from the panchakarma centre. A very well-written book that explains Indian music in the exact same way that I was taught it by both my teachers. With good exercises and ragas for practice. As if to replace my two teachers until they return to the country. Varanasi teacher will be back in two weeks; Rishikesh teacher in three. Niko will be here in four. I am so happy I will see one of my closest Western friends again soon! I must admit that I have missed you guys*[see note below]! So in two-three weeks it will be time to move again. Though I feel that since I have left Khajuraho in April, I have only been in Rishikesh really. I almost feel geographically stable! But in two-three weeks it will be time to go back to Khajuraho and wait for Niko with Vijay, calling in Varanasi to say hello to my teacher for a few days perhaps?

* * *

I spent so much time on the internet typing and expressing today that I don't want to say how many hours I spent. But it was so good - there was so much on my mind; it is now a lot clearer and quieter. Expressing myself is a necessity. It keeps me sane. Before internet existed it was through letters; I would write a long letter to a friend at least once a week; it was a little like a dispersed diary. Tonight there was still some things unexpressed so I came back to the internet cafe after dinner to edit and write some more. When I came out the Ganges no longer looked like before, because now it is more grey with very low clouds and the air is very very moist. It is monsoon season; two weeks early the newspapers say. Monsoon has not been very 'impressive' for me so far. I am used to the rain. I have not seen very very strong rain yet - well a couple of times, with storms. Most of the time though for me it is just rain. Oh, there are more thunderstorms than in the West, the lightnings were very impressive three nights ago. But tonight when I came out I was drenched.
This last week it seems the weather has become suddenly a lot hotter, well I'm not sure, for sometimes it feels cooler. It is definitely a lot more humid though. Perhaps it's as hot but because the sky is covered with thick clouds, the sun is not so blinding; it gives a little rest to my skin and eyes (I don't like to wear sunglasses). But I sweat more - or perhaps it's the humidity of the air that comes to cover my body, because it doesn't smell as much. Basically I get very wet in my clothes. But somehow it seems cooler. Very hot yet sometimes with some cooling wind and rain; or do I just not notice the heat so much anymore? Getting wet in your clothes is not very pleasant at first but you get used to it. Or i guess I get a rest from the blinding sun so it helps me put up with the wetness. More sweat yet cooler. And tonight I got drenched like that for the first time; happily completely wet, people were hiding but it is a relief somehow, the rain, the coolness, like a breath of fresh air; I was smiling. I really liked it. Showering in the rain must be a very very nice thing - but then Indians shower with clothes on; and I don't know how to shower with clothes on...

* * * [note on "missing"]

I have always had a "problem" with the word "to miss" ("manquer" in French). It seems the Western way to miss is negative; like by the act of missing we miserably dwell our mind in the past, thinking 'boohhoooh I want to see him I miss youoouuu hooo'. It implies not accepting the Here and the Now. I never missed my friends in that sense, ever *(with boyfriends or when stronger emotions were involved, it has been a different case I have not ceased to work on in the last thirteen years - but I'm doing a lot better today!) I don't miss my friends - I think about them. They sort of visit my mind, they become a presence for a while, and a happy one.

I came to term with the verb 'to miss' through Hindi. I love Hindi. This language has great things like the ABSENCE of a verb "to have". No possession, horray! You don't say "i have this or that", you say "this or that is near me". With "to miss", well I recently discovered that we express the act of missing by saying "I remember you". And that, I love very much. It corresponds to the working of my mind. When i "miss" people, I don't dwell on the past, I remember them. It's a lot more positive and beautiful, no? Ah, how I love how languages mirror different ways of thinking and how learning new languages literally open one's mind... So, friends, I miss you in the Hindi way... :)

Friday, 13 June 2008

Next: panchakarma

The ideal routine in the wonderful ashram didn't last very long; just about a week. Soon I was refused access to the yoga hall and had to practise in my room. Gradually I realised that my south Indian singer seemed less disciplined that I had thought he was, and he lost motivation to practise with me. For various reasons we weren't as friendly as we once were either. Also, my friend from Khajuraho phoned me last week to say he could finally come and visit me. Suddenly most of my reasons to stay at the ashram had vanished.

So I left the ashram and Vijay & I spent last week in the touristic Laxman Jhula area of Rishikesh. It was lovely to see him after two months, and for the first time since I left khajuraho I had the company of one of my best friends. I realise now that I had missed it. We stayed in the beautiful ashram-type guesthouse I'd stayed in three years ago with Niko. For a week we treated ourselves with amazing European-style food, and I had a lot of fresh salad and fruits my body was very grateful for. Oh and I had carrot cake at the German bakery, too! Indian food is amazing but after a while, one realises that most Indian people do overcook their food so that despite the amazing tastes, all the goodness and vitamines of their otherwise amazing vegetable is lost. They mainly have no real nutrition awareness it seems - and this ashram was very 'Indian' in that way too. It is good because it feels more like real India, and most of the time I don't mind the food because my tastebuds love it, but I do have to eat my own fruits and vitamines from outside. India has many fruits but one wonders when and if indian people eat them at all... So, this week's holiday was a real treat for me.

Although - I did keep up with the Sanskrit classes with my Swami-friend of the ashram, even on 'holiday', because at least he has stayed very keen to teach me. And at the moment it is becoming my sole reason to stay around here really.

Now vijay is gone and I am back in the ashram. But for four days only. Swami ji is leaving for a while on Monday - so indeed I have no reason left to stay here whilst he is gone. Other things seem to have changed, too. There is a camp at the moment and so the ashram is overflowing with noisy people. The neighbouring streets which were so empty and quiet when I first arrived are now as noisy and busy and smelly as the main road. So, things seem to work out nicely, and on Monday I will finally go for panchakarma as I had initially thought out. Here. I am happy.

After that, as always I don't know. Though I may well come back to the first ashram I stayed in when I was going to music school - small and quiet ashram with healthier food (i.e. salad and fruit at every meal!) which I think I will need after ten days of intense body cleansing... I know my body will be healthy but temporarily weakened by the procedure so I will need a few days' rest...

It is mid-June already. I have been in india for seven months today, actually. I have just under four months left. Both my violin teachers will be back in the country next month. Niko, my best friend from Belgium and with whom I first travelled to India, will be here in just over a month - too. Yoohoo. :)