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Days In Pondicherry

For the past few days, I’ve had thoughts I couldn’t wait to document in my journal. Now, here I sit at breakfast pen in hand with little desire to write. I rather sit and enjoy my cappuccino, eggs and toast. Soak it all in. Record the memories in my heart rather than on paper. As if talking about them or writing about them would somehow rob the moments of their magic. While I can offer details of what I did and the things I saw, undoubtedly my explanations would never equate to what yogis call bhav – feeling or sentiment. Words would undoubtedly fail to describe what I smelled when I walked past fragrant jasmine and garbage simultaneously. Or what I tasted when I took that first bite of homemade local bread from Auroville with fresh melted butter. Or the colors and emotions that exuded from an artist’s music and dance performance in the intimate setting of his own salon. No. Words would not suffice.

I don’t want to describe in detail what transpired during my time inside the Matrimandir or all the divine circumstances that led me there without the compensatory orientation. I protect those moments and sensations in my heart, like a momma clutches her baby to her breast.

In a world of incessant sharing of every detail of our lives on social media and Did it really happen if it wasn’t posted on Instagram? it’s tempting to share all the events of my time here in Pondicherry. Normally, I enjoy doing it. Offering a glimpse into the wonders of parts of the world you may otherwise not see or experience. But something inside me restrains me. Prevents me from over-share. Besides, as any of my friends who have journeyed alongside or before me will attest, words would be a miserable substitute for true knowingness.

All I know is somehow, a force greater than my own will has guided my time here. The people I’ve met, conversations we’ve shared over coffee and meals, the serendipitous moments – cataloguing them all is unnecessary. Memories of the heart will remain there and, like flowers nurtured by the sun and water, continue to bloom as I bring them to the forefront of my mind. Whether or not I tweet them.

 

 

Oil Meltdown

Lest you think it’s all fun and games here at Somatheeram Ayurvedic Spa in India, allow me to tell today’s tale.

My day started quite lovely. After three meals consisting of little more than rice gruel, I was able to eat enough veggies last night to feel somewhat nourished this morning. I awoke before 6am, got dressed and attempted to chant along with my morning prayers. While the words are still a mosh of jumbled Hindi, I found myself humming the tune throughout the day. I’m on the right track.

I practiced some self-massage with my Yoga Tune Up balls followed by some asana. It felt good to move my body after 24 hours of having barely enough energy to put one foot in front of the other.

At 7am I attended a pranayama and meditation session. I was happy to join along with some of the chanting including Gayatri, one of my faves. (Yes, I’ve become one of those yogis who randomly hums mantras throughout the day. Annoying to some, I find it rather soothing. A reminder of my connection to something greater than myself.) If they ever create a mantra greatest hits album, Gayatri should be on it. While I prefer my melodic version over the teacher’s, the meaning and soul of the mantra remained in my heart as I floated back to my room for my personal meditation.

I emerged at about 8:45am for breakfast, one of my favorite times of the day. Mostly because I get some protein in the form of egg whites. Apparently it’s only the yolks that are potentially toxic on an Ayurvedic cleanse so, much to my dismay, I’ve made the concession to eliminate them. I even decided to back off of my coffee intake taking only a small cup of the resort’s brewed coffee, which tastes like water. Up until now I’ve relied on my one-a-day Starbucks Via which is more akin to rocket fuel. And then there’s daily papaya. That just makes me happy.

After an hour or so on the computer for necessary travel arrangements, blog posts and requisite social media posts to advertise posts, I notice myself getting sucked into the irretrievable void that is the Internet. I forcefully cut myself off and bounce myself to the beach. I’m finding improved habits at every turn as I slather SPF 35 all over my body and 50 on my face! Did I mention I think I’m getting wiser with age?

I took a walk on the beach and did some strengthening exercises for my hips and booty. While I’m fine with my decreased exercise regime here in India, what I’m not okay with is a bum knee and low back. When I don’t do squats, lunges and other exercises prescribed by my physical therapist, these areas pay the price. I tired easily and feel my body not as strong as when I left. I’m okay with that, truly. But I don’t want to be in pain.

I braved the pull of the tide and cut through shallow waves to eventually swim out to somewhat calmer waters. I enjoyed a few sets of strokes back and forth, but my intuition told me it was a little too rough to swim with abandon, so I heed caution and paddle into shore… with a suit full of sand thanks to my first failed ocean entry attempt .

I followed this with a little more exercise and yoga. I’ve become quite fond of doing Pilates on my beach chair in addition to yoga and pranayama. A short meditation and chanting brought me to lunch. I’m delighted by fresh veggies and fish and am accompanied by a wonderful book by my grand teacher Pandit Rajmani Tigunait called The Power Of Mantra and The Mystery Of Initiation.

After digesting a bit, I read a little more and rested for my 4 o’clock treatment, pleased by my day and just tired enough to thoroughly look forward to my daily oil rubdown and whatever else was in store for me. The “whatever else” abruptly put an end to my sweet, idyllic day.

The treatment started dreamy as not one, but two, therapists massaged me with what else? A liberal dose of oil. Unfortunately that was the last bit of bliss to be found in the next two hours. My main therapist, Sulu, who I’ve come to adore, directed me to sit up on the wood table as both women continuously poured hot thick oil all over my body. They repeated this process for what seemed like forever – on my back, on both sides. I sloshed around in large pools of oil. When Sulu would abruptly tell me to flip over, I would slip and slide like a fish flopping when pulled from its natural habitat. Keep in mind it is 95* outside so while I may have welcomed the treatment on a wintry day in NYC, in this heat and humidity, it felt suffocating.

The room felt so stifling I had to sit outside. The barely existent breeze dropped the temperature by a degree. I found little relief. Next thing I knew there was a large metal instrument against my ear blowing “medicated” smoke. Apparently to clean out my ear canal. Not convinced of this method. It seemed toxic to me, but I trust these Ayurvedic peeps know what they’re doing. The procedure itself was relatively harmless, however I was silently suffering from heat exhaustion.

Just when I thought it was safe to breathe, I was thrown back on the table for a traditional Shirodhara treatment. I usually love some hot oil poured over my forehead for 30 minutes but after the events of the past 40 minutes, I was certain I would spontaneously combust.

The remaining treatments ensured every other orifice in my body other than my mouth (we covered that one the other night) had something put in it. Yes, EVERY orifice. Except the one that men don’t have. But I hear there is a treatment for that too. It was a little unsettling to say the least.

I slid back to my room feeling woozy and slightly traumatized. Despite several attempts with different shampoos, I’m pretty sure I’ll never get all of this oil out of my hair. (Jamie Boone, you’ll have your work cut out for you when I return to Los Angeles!) I spent a restless night sweating and woke at 3am to take a cool-ish shower. I greeted the morning weary and dehydrated.

I suppose this takes some getting used to. I forget that I am purifying my body of toxins – physical, mental and emotional – on a deep level and that’s no joyride. I also had the thought that the rough ending to my day was possibly payback for my flat tummy pride from the previous post. Karma certainly can be a bitch. Rest assured, I had no ego left this morning.

Post Purge

After four days of rubdowns in enough oil to put Houston out of business and “massages” of pounding bags of hot rice on my body I had reached the moment of truth in my Ayurvedic treatments – what’s known here as “purgation”. Last night I downed a small bottle of oil with a chaser of warm water. A far cry from a tequila shot with lime, but the results were somewhat the same had I had 10 of those. After a somewhat sleepless night and several trips to the bathroom later, it was fair to say by 9am I was empty.

I’m not going to lie. I looked and felt awesome (never mind the fact it felt as if someone had siphoned every last drop of energy from my body.) The 28 year old in me loved how flat my belly was! I indulged my ego and stood in front of my mirror checking all angles. More than once. And yes. I took photos. To say I enjoyed this moment would be an understatement. Where were the cameras when you wanted them? I’d shoot a cover or video like this any day!

But this was also the look and behavior of a girl who constantly struggled and was always looking for acceptance based on this perfect appearance. It was a hard show to maintain. This girl was deprived of love, joy, and inner peace.

This 42 year old woman is dying for above referenced margarita, guac and chips and some fresh grilled fish. This wiser (I can only hope) more mature (this I know) woman still struggles from time to time with loving this body just as it is – bloated or flat, toned or flabby, tired or energized. But thoughts of weight and size don’t consume her minutes hours and days as they used to nor do they prevent her from sucking the joy out of life. I know I still have ways to go – evidenced by my need to document my fabulous figure post purge. But I do know I will not sacrifice my life to maintain this shape. For now, I’ll accept myself where I am and end this blog. Dinner is about to start.

Going Solo

It’s my first day truly on my own here in India. Up until today, I’ve been surrounded by friends or fellow yogis with a common language. People I could turn to to help me process and lighten the load a bit. Those who understand and support me.

Today I feel my journey starts anew after 2 ½ weeks in India. I love that I’m here by myself now. I truly enjoy meeting new people, making friends and connecting with new cultures. I’m good at it and it’s how I’ve come to experience some of my most memorable adventures all over the world. But now I’m feeling drawn to something very different. The bliss of solitude. A newfound love of being with myself. While there is little agenda here at Somatheeram other than my 4-6pm treatment time, somehow my days feel very full. With writing and walks on the beach. Swims in the ocean and pages of books. Returning to my mat only to find my practice anew after time in Khujarho. A new reverence for my practice – and myself. Some days include research and planning for the next destination and even that seems to impose on my time as I truly savor the present moment and not being attached to itinerary. Planning places me in the future. While I know it’s a logical must do, for now, I’m relishing in throwing logic aside. Which means not worrying about money and paying a little extra to get from one place to the next with the help of my travel agent in the States instead of wasting my time Googling ‘best hotels in Sri Lanka.’ Or deciding on a plane ticket instead of a 10 hour overnight bus.

I have over another week more here being pampered and cared for. The only thing preventing that is me taking care of myself. I feel I’m on the right track.

Hello India.

It’s my first day in India and already I’m experiencing some backlash. For a month, I couldn’t wait to get here. Now I find myself in a hotel in New Delhi that immediately makes me miss home (I knew I should have ponied up the extra $60 for the J.W.Marriott, damnit). Although, by Indian monetary standards, this place isn’t necessarily cheap. The photos always look nicer on the website, don’t they?

I’m forced to listen to a loud screaming Indian man either above or next to me (I’m unsure which as it seems to be coming from all directions). I’m watching myself get super uncomfortable. There’s this perpetual haze in the air here. In the hotel, it’s the residue of some awful artificial air freshener they insist on spraying everywhere. Outside, I’m assured by a local, it’s just smog. Delhi smog makes Los Angeles look like a freshly Windex-ed window. Either way, fresh, clean air is not available and my eyes have trouble adjusting to the pervasive fog. And my nose, the odd scent.

My room is somewhat stale and musty, with just a hint of a previous smoker, even though I’m assured it’s a non-smoking room. Probably the reason for the orange Renuzit scent.

My laptop seems to be having trouble connecting which frustrates me. I want to see photos, connect to the home I know. The one in which less than 36 hours ago, I woke up. The one with the awesome bed and open window evening cool. What’s the temperature in Austin?

Oh shit, I have a DVD to send.
I have to post a blog.

For the past month I’ve felt pulled to my mat yet this morning, it takes a little more coaxing to sit for meditation. As if I’m resisting something. All I could think was coffee.
Computer.

Can I unlock my iPhone? 
Where’s my routine? 
No hot water with lemon? 

I manage to maintain a few morning rituals. Tongue scrape. Net pot (yes, with bottled water). The important things. Eventually I sit. And I know I’m that much closer to the purpose of my trip. All is well.

Until I go to breakfast.

No kale???
Where are my veggies? 

Can a girl get some avocado? 
How about a dairy milk alternative? 

OMG will this man PLEASE SHUT UP?!?

Hands down it is the worst coffee I can remember.

Is this guy SINGING now?

There is something increasingly aggravating about loud voices in a foreign language. Much more so than the same annoying tone in your native tongue.

Like a child who misses his blanket, I have a strong desire for my blender and some decent espresso. Bullet proof coffee.

At least I have dark chocolate, which I will try to ration like Matt Damon allocated potatoes in that movie I watched on the flight here. That puts things in perspective.

Ahhhhhh, finally. Sweet silence. But my tummy is feeling a little funky.

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