English: Dhanvantari (धन्वंतरी), known as an a...

English: Dhanvantari (धन्वंतरी), known as an avatar of Vishnu is the Hindu god associated with Ayurveda. The above photo was taken at a recent Ayurveda expo in Bangalore titled ‘Arogya’. ಕನ್ನಡ: ಧನ್ವಂತರಿ. संस्कृत: धन्वंतरी. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, way back, before I’d been on the Vipassana course, before I even knew what Vipassana was, I had a brief fling with Ayurveda.  I say fling.  It was a one-night stand that spun me out of control.  It turned my life, my sense of identity upside down, and so I decided I wasn’t quite ready for it, and let it rest.

Now, I’m back in the UK, have very little to do other than maintain my practice (it’s actually REALLY hard) and apply for jobs all day, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to revisit that blue hole.

I hope you don’t mind flitting from meditation to Ayurveda like this.  It just seems to be the way it works.  You get the taste of something, and that leads onto something else, and that goes hand-in-hand with this and that, and eventually you’ve gone full circle, and its time to add another layer onto what you learnt the first time round.  For me, this type of process is wonderful.  Absolutely wonderful.  Because I love learning new things.  Especially when it all has this ancient and magical resonance.

With the little bit of Ayurveda I’ve been exposed to, I knew, without a doubt, that despite no real physical symptoms I was out of balance.  Paying attention to my sleeping patterns, my response to things, my coping mechanisms, my appetite, trips to the toilet (if you’re interested in Ayurveda, then it is essential that you have a good sense of toilet-humour), and perhaps most telling of all – my yoga practice, I’d kind of started to self-diagnose which dosha was in excess, and why I was feeling the way I was.

So.  I did my research.  Brighton’s great for this kind of thing.  I knew I’d find someone respected in this particular field.  It’s a risk, paying for something like this.  But, when I sat opposite her and answered her first question, “why are you here?” My immediate response, “I don’t feel like me, I feel lost.”   reassured me that it was a risk worth taking.

Let’s revisit my priority list:

1) Spirituality

2) Health

3) Friends and Family

4) Work

If I’m going to take this seriously, adhere to the things I learnt, and really, genuinely try to turn my life around, then I have to listen to my body.  And right now, my body’s confused and completely out-of-whack.

So there I am.  Sitting on that black leather couch, across from the kindest, jolliest dr I’ve ever met.  Within two minutes I’m at ease with her and laughing about family life, travelling, the English demeanour.  I trust her.  There’s an openness that’s very rare.  She drew me in.  Thirty minutes, without knowing how it’s happened, she knows everything about me from my first period, to now, and I’m crying my eyes out over a flipping break-up that happened years ago.  Jesus!  Am I still not over that???  What’s wrong with me? It took her a bit of probing to get me there, but once she hit the spot, that was it.   The whole sorry chain of events that happened after that came spilling out, until I took a breath, sat back and said…”sorry.”

She was leaning in, ever so gently, and listening with every part of her body.  I realised then, that the reason I was crying, is because no-one has ever asked me those questions before.  We don’t do that do we?  Sit across from a friend and ask and ask and ask, until the tears come spilling out.  No.  We buy drinks for each other, pat each other on the back…there, there.  Happy to listen, of course, but if it gets emotional, we all get a little bit uncomfortable and sigh with relief when somebody makes a joke.  It’s not because we don’t care.  It’s because we don’t feel equipped to deal with it.  It’s not in our culture.  My Dr said that treating Westerners is an entirely different process from treating people back in her home, Sri Lanka.   She can treat stomach issues with her patients directly, whereas with westerners, she has to go in two stages….first the head, then the stomach.

So many of our illnesses and injuries are psychological.  We are so in our heads all the time, and have so few channels through which we can release it all, that we get all uptight and blocked up.  If we do make contact with it all, and let it spill out of us, where can we go for support?  We don’t have temples and compassionate monks, and even the family dynamic is not what it used to be.  Not in every case, of course, but I think its safe to say that most of us go it alone most of the time, and bottle things up.

So, I guess that’s one of the many reasons that I’m drawn to Ayurveda.  You see, she recognised, probably the second I sat down, that there was a lot of stuff going on back there I didn’t want to talk about…that I was hiding from.  Her job is to cure the source of illness, i.e. imbalances within us.  In lots of cases that’s repressed emotions.  Unspoken anger and hidden fears.  Pains we don’t admit to, and just that exhausting tension of constantly, forever lying to ourselves that everything’s ok, when deep down we’re really fucking hurting.

The fact that I still – after all this time – carry those things inside me is frustrating.  I’ve worked really hard at all of this.  I’ve faced up to so many things, and when I progress with my Vipassana story you’ll see how intense that all became.  So how much more can there be left in me?

I guess now’s the time I find out.

She diagnosed my imbalance, which I’ll address in the next “Ayurveda” instalment,  administered numerous sachets of powders, provided me with a list of foods I’m to favour and to avoid, and sent me off with a loving and warm embrace.

Tomorrow I start the remedies.  Let’s see if this particular risk pays off….