Category: Ayurveda


The Waves

So I wake up this morning, still trying to shake this weight of pending doom, and I just lie there.   The pipes are worn and overworked from trying to heat the flat for so many months now.  They creak and whine.  The window frames are rattling, defenseless against the rain that has seeped so deeply into the wood, that they barely stand straight anymore.  My mum’s got a shift at the hospital to get ready for and I can feel the resentment through the walls.  How disparate are situations are right now.  Me, desperate for work, desperate to get on….she, in need of rest and respite from the long, understaffed hours.

I keep my eyes closed and focus on my breath.  Even though it’s not just me who’s out of balance right now…the whole world is out of whack…you have to start somewhere.

I read an article yesterday – a pleasant one – from Kino MacGregor about taking time out each day to check in with yourself.  She was saying that even if we can’t do a full practice – then 5 minutes is fine.  Anything!  It’s not about how much we do, it’s about recognising and honoring the fact that we deserve a little bit of “me-time” everyday.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kino-macgregor/kino-macgregor_b_2924748.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

It resonated with me, not because she was saying anything new, but because it was an appropriately timed and gentle nudge to do just that.

The first step is to identify the things that make us happy and give us a sense of peace and serenity.

Is it an early morning run along the river; a swim at lunchtime; being creative in the kitchen; knitting a scarf for a friend; playing the guitar; catching up on the phone with a loved one…it doesn’t matter – we all have something/many things that makes us feel good about ourselves, and if done regularly, make us feel better-equipped to cope with even the shittiest things that life throws at us.

As I scoured my body – patch of skin to patch of skin – felt patches of heat and the rise of irritation and frustration, followed by trembling and anxiety, I knew that it was the Pitta and Vata imbalance in me that needed to be addressed.

The uncertainty and lack of routine is agitating my Vata; the food I’m eating and temperament of the flat is flaring up the Pitta; and the cold, wet winter is most certainly playing its Kapha-part in dampening spirits and discouraging action.

So I take a look at all of that, and I think about all the things that make me feel better about myself, that make every day – whatever happens – a good day all-in-all, and I realise how I’ve let all of that go, and I need to start bringing it back in again!

My problem is that I have developed a rather elaborate ideal daily routine.  It consists of meditation, pranayama, yoga (preferably in the shala), a strict Pitta-pacifying-Vata-Kapha diet, any number of weird little eccentricities of tongue scraping, abhyanga, neti throughout the day, and to top it all off a recognition that I need to be following my heart, and doing what feels right in order for things like friendships, family and love to fall into place.  It’s quite a lot to hold together and maintain, especially at this particular stage of my life.  I’m trying to start up my own business and its going to be a while until I’m self-sufficient.

Its all too easy to fall back into old habits – eating crap, watching too much tv, putting off my practice until x,y,z sorts itself out – and blame my circumstances and the hand that feeds me.  It’s the coward’s way out.

And every now and again…I’m a coward.

That’s ok.  I’m not going to beat myself up over it.  We are all cowards, as we are all brave.  We are everything.  It is the awareness of such that enables us to make changes and grow.

So what am I going to do about it?  Bearing in mind that I can’t control the weather, I can’t change the moods or temperament of those around me, and I can’t force people to have massages or hire me for some part-time work.

Well, I meditated this morning which is a start.  I rolled my mat out, and did ten minutes of surynamaskara As and Bs.  I did about 3 minutes of pranayama, and have just finished my pitta-vata-pacifying rice and coconut milk porridge.

It’s hardly the 3 hour morning ritual I’d climbed to at the peak of my health and spiritual well-being….but once again – I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

I won’t compare today to yesterday, or long for what I want tomorrow to be.  It just so happens that in this moment, I’m struggling ever-so-slightly.  My enthusiasm for life has taken a bit of a dip, and my focus and dedication to my practice has waned.

Kino says she walks down to the sea every evening to listen to the ocean and watch the waves crashing against the sand.  Of course, her environment is slightly different from mine.  Eastbourne is not Miami, but we do share the sea.  What’s here may be a little more grey, and pebbly, but it’s beautiful all the same, and perhaps that’s just what I need.  Not just my yoga or my meditation or my pranayama – but a blast of fresh air, and the incredible sounds of the motioning waves.

the waves

Out of my head

There was a point, maybe 2 months ago, when I had to make a theoretical choice.  I was to keep plugging away at the job market, applying to every charity I’d ever heard of, exploring entry-level digital roles here in Brighton, anything….anything that would block out my days from 9-5 until I had enough money together to pay off my (ironic) career development loan, and get me on a flight to India for the yoga teacher training course in 2014; or I could take a step back and look at what makes me happy now…not what I need to do to be happy 2 years from now.

That choice set me free.  This massive weight seemed to slide off my shoulders and the possibility of so many things rushed through me.  It felt right in my very core, like I’d hit a truth so deep, I can’t believe I’d been ignoring it all this time.  And theoretically, I still feel that way.

But practically, the nerves are beginning to fray and the reality of what lies ahead has given me a bit of a jolt.  I think we each have our purpose, our drives, our needs, our paths in life that if we fulfill make every moment happy.   And when we come to that point in time when we consciously step onto it, we celebrate and mourn.  Mourn, for the life we’ve led up until that point, and all the expectations for our futures that must pass away.  We celebrate, for the first time it seems, what suddenly is, and not what should, or ought to be.  But then,  we realise that whilst our hearts and our spirits have already crossed over into that place, we have to drag our physical selves over to it in order to make it an experiential reality.

And that, I’m discovering, is a bit like strapping yourself into the most menacing, high-reaching, twisting, inter-galactic roller-coaster, and just as the belt locks, you think, “SHIT!”   What about…..Can’t I…..What if….How about….AHHHHHHH!

I’m two weeks into my Ayurvedic massage course.  I have 5 weeks left until I qualify, and in that 5 weeks I must:

  1. Find somewhere to live
  2. Find a home for Lady MacBeth
  3. Learn a HELL of a lot about an ancient science that precedes anything I’ve ever known
  4. Draw up a business plan and put it into action
  5. Recruit guinea pigs to practice on
  6. Sort out a place in a clinic to practice
  7. Create a website
  8. BUDGET
  9. Study my arse off
  10. Learn the sanskrit
  11. Find and maintain my balance
  12. Try and maintain positive relationships with those I love and care about
  13. Understand taxes and insurance, etc etc etc…

And with all this going on in my head, the most important thing is to remember to live in the moment, and to enjoy!  I had a bit of a kick up the arse last Friday.  The morning session went well, but by the afternoon, I don’t know what happened to me.  I lost my focus, I was feeling a bit tired, and I think some stuff had come to the surface.  We massage each other for a few hours each class for practice, so anything that’s dormant, or hiding gets drawn out and I was caught off guard and was put back into line with stern words.

It really hit something in me.  All the fears, all the doubts, and insecurities flooding into my reddening cheeks, and stinging the back of my eyes.  I went quiet for the rest of the day and felt a bit shell-shocked….this is it!  This is real!

I don’t even know if the words were stern, or whether I was just in a hyper-sensitive place, but whatever it was – it was needed.

That night I sunk into the deepest sleep I’ve ever had.  I dreamt of people who have inspired me, and heard kind words from each of them.  Words of encouragement.  Not just to stay on this path…but to write about it too.

When I woke up I wrote down each of my fears, and looked right into them one by one.  What if I’ve got it wrong?  What if my teacher got it wrong, what if she was wrong to see this in me, what if I disappoint her?  What else is there?

I don’t necessarily have the answers for all of these, but what I do have is the strength and the resilience to ask.  I need to be able to challenge myself, and be challenged.  I need to be able to look into myself and feel these fears, experience them, and then let them go.

My biggest barrier is to get out of my head and into my body.  I think back to Bali when I arrived at Radha and Prem’s shala.  The two months of dismantling my ashtanga practice and building it back up from scratch.  The repetition of each posture…over and over again.  Surynamaskara A 8 times, Surynamaskara B 8 times….back to the start.  Doing it over and over, and then onto the next block of asanas.    Slowly building, slowly adding.  Mentally – I’m a quick learner.  Quick to learn, quick to forget.  Physically – I’m slow.  But once its in my body, I never forget.  Once I stop thinking, what’s next, what’s next, worrying whether I’ll get it wrong or not, and start feeling the rhythm, the flow of energy and breathe….then just like my yoga practice, the massage will come.

Ayurveda: in dreams

Soooo, I went back for my two-week appointment, having ALMOST followed her guidelines meticulously.  There were a couple of days here and there where I deviated from the food plan and my dedication to crushing three teaspoons of coriander seeds into a glass of water every night waned, but all-in-all I was feeling like a good…I want to say student instead of patient.

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Whether it would be a simple – check up and go – here’s your diet plan for the rest of your life, or a thorough reevaluation.

Having monitored my toilet breaks, written about my emotional ups and downs here on the blog, I’d felt prepared for both, but still, when our conversation got going and some of the more probing questions were introduced I was caught off-guard.

My understanding of the remedies and what they do, and how they make me feel wasn’t particularly acute.  In fact, it was all a bit of a blur.  I knew that one made me hiccup, some had more bitter tastes than others, but how had they changed me?  What were they doing to me?

I’ve decided that over the next two weeks (until my next appointment) this will be my primary focus.

Night Remedy.  1 tsp of dark brown powder mixed into small cup of hot water – “are you sleeping deeply?” she asked me.  I had to think for a bit.

“Yes.  Mostly I am.”  In fact, I’d been sleeping better than I had for a long-time, but every now and again I’d wake up in the night, or feel really groggy the next day.

“Have you been having dreams?”  She continued…and it was then that I drew a blank.  Dreams?  I usually pay really close attention to my dreams.  They’re often incredibly vivid and action-packed, so the fact that I drew a blank, made me assume, “no.  I’m not having dreams.”

It was then that she told me the night-remedy is about encouraging deep sleep, and its in deep sleep that we heal, that we recover.  I am aware of all of this from the yoga and meditation, but realised that now, with the changes in my diet and additional herbal concoctions, this point was particularly prevalent.

My ayurvedic treatment is, much like my meditation, about purging and letting go.  Letting go!  It’s difficult to believe how much stuff I’ve been holding onto.  The weight!  The unbearable weight of it all…and it just keeps falling.

The last two nights I’ve kept a notepad by the side of my bed.  Pen at the ready.  As soon as I wake I make a quick note of the main things I’ve dreamt of.

Friday night – it was traveling and train journeys, amends with estranged friends, and facing up to a far-too-obvious truth regarding an ex-of sorts.

Last night –

36 Henley Street.  Landlords.  Housemates.  Being back there.  New kitchen.  Eating the pizza – lying, making up excuses, feeling guilty.  Don’t lie in the first place.  Don’t eat the pizza!!

A bit random, perhaps, but it relates back to a similar break-through from when I was in meditation.  A traumatizing experience with the blue bucket.

Day 2 – soooo restless and bored (now that I wasn’t allowed to sleep in my rest breaks and private meditation).  Decided to give myself a make-shift pedicure.  Hmmmm….blue bucket.  Right, fill up the blue bucket with hot water and soap.  Place bucket on floor by bed, soak right foot, sit back and relax.  Ahhhh, this meditation malarkey isn’t so bad.  A few minutes have passed.  Time to empty the bucket…but my foot’s going to drip across the floor.  So, I cleverly decide to hop, and slide my feet towards the shower drain.  A LITTLE bit of pressure on the floor of the bucket, but ah well.  Sure it’ll be fine.   Now its time for the left foot.  Hot water and soap in the bucket, left foot placed into the bucket, lean back and relax….hot water everywhere!  Seeping, from a thin crack in the sky-blue plastic.  Fuck!

Now, any normal person would have mopped up the water, gone to management, told them about the bucket and requested a new one.

I, on the other hand, went through 4 distinct stages.

1) Denial.  Rest of day 2 – day 4.  It must have been there before.  I can’t believe they gave me a broken bucket!

2) Partial Acceptance  – day 4.  Ok.  It was me.  I broke the bucket…..now what the hell do I do about it?  Panic, fear, will they charge me for it, can I swap it with somebody else?

3) Make-shift Resolution – day 5 – shower-cap on the bottom of bucket = no more spillage!  Hoorah (short-lived).

4) Taking responsibility for my actions.  Day 7 – particularly intense day of meditation, in which I identified this whole bucket scenario as being symptomatic of a much much greater issue.  Recognition – Acceptance – Dissolution.  If I was going to start to combat this destructive pattern, then I’d have to face up to the bucket once and for all.

Day 9 – I marched up to management – bucket in tow, and in my noble-silence sign language admitted my mistake, made my apologies and held my breath waiting for the consequences.  She looked at me, confused as fuck…

That bucket, much like this pizza I ate in my dream, haunted and taunted me, creating so much guilt, and stress, that could have been avoided if I’d just throw my hands up into the air and say straight off the bat, “I’m sorry, I’ve been a dick and done something stupid”

Where has this crippling fear of making mistakes arisen from?  All I can do, and what I’ve learnt, is that it doesn’t really matter what the root cause is as such.  If you can break the habit in the now, then all the past stresses and weight unravels.  It gets stripped out of you, along with the root cause, and you are set free.

Since my return from Thailand I’ve been making a conscious effort to stop lying.  It’s usually about things like agreeing to things that I don’t really want to do, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, or saying I like something when I don’t, covering up a spillage on the carpet, or hiding empty wrappers of chocolate bars…in breaking the habit its manifesting as the panic-striken yell of, “SUE!  I’VE MADE A MISTAKE!”  Bobbles from the window blinds sucked up into the hoover; declining an invitation to a party because I just can’t afford it;  no more elaborate excuses and just admitting to my Ayurveda dr I’d double-booked, any chance of rescheduling?!

It’s surprisingly hard, and I find myself going down the path of creativity and pulling myself back in again.  NO!  TRUTH Laura – TRUTH!  Plain and simple.  Perhaps it will get easier in time, and these dreams will leave me.  Perhaps even just admitting it, and being open about this particular struggle of mine will help me to let go of whatever it is.

Perhaps that’s why I’m struggling so much with this whole job-seeking thing…because as recruitment processes stand its going against this new-found determination.  I came across a job I felt excited about the other day.  The salary’s lower than what I was on before I went away, but it was the first company that invited people to apply – and be creative, be them!  How refreshing it was, and how fearless I felt in getting in touch and saying this is me…if I’m a fit – GREAT let’s chat, if not, it doesn’t matter.

It reminded me that its worth holding out to find the right job…the one that encourages balance in an individual – celebrates it.

Whenever I feel that fear creeping up, like when I’m standing at the till in the Oxfam shop, and have to press the buttons just right, I take a step back…look around me…if I make a mistake so what?  The manager behind me is smiling away, ready to help if I need her, the customer is smiling away too, probably thinking, “Ah, bless.  Volunteer on her first day!”  I think back to that wonderful TED lecture that Tamsin posted on my blog ages ago…Ken Robinson’s “schools kill creativity”.

If you’re not prepared to be wrong you’ll never come up with anything original….[in business] we stigmatize mistakes….[in education] mistakes are the worst things we can make…as a result we are educating people out of their creative capacities

(if the link’s broken – try this: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html)

In Ayurvedic terms my constitution is predominantly Vata.  When in balance this is movement, creativity, generating of ideas and thinking quickly.  Then I am Kapha – which is grounded and caring.   Wanting to look after people.  But when we go through a competitive “Pitta” education system which gears us up for an even more competitive working environment, then where does that leave the Vata/Kapha types?  On a back foot…out of balance.

If I take an even bigger step back, I can see why this stage in my life, this point of transition is so fundamentally important.  Look around us.  The education system Ken Robinson pulls into question in such an inspiring manner, the  distrust we have in business, in the banks, in our politicians.  Our POLITICIANS!  I went to boarding school for two years, and watching them heckle and bully in the house of commons is about as inspiring as getting caught in the cross-fire of the absurd abuse of the Wargrave and Gonville boys in the Common Room when I was 17.  It’s a disgrace.

Where do we go from here?  What are our alternatives?

I guess we have to start from inside.  Each one of us.  My Ayurvedic dr says its important to stay true to yourself, echoing the advice of Matthew, of Goenka, of all these inspiring people who are helping so many others to find balance and happiness.

I can see my path, where I’m headed.  It’s the now, it’s the short-term that I’m struggling with.   And perhaps that’s because right now, I’m still out of balance.  I still have a lot of purging to do, and habits to break.  In being patient and holding out for a job that encourages creativity and individuality then perhaps I will break one of my most crippling lifetime habits of all.  In breaking with the system, I lose that fear.  I find truth and balance.

I return to the Ayurvedic clinic in 3 days time to evaluate my progress and see whether all these potions and strict diet regulation has had its desired effect: has it brought down my pitta, and brought my Vata-Kapha constitution back into balance?

Anticipating the spectrum and detail of questions that lay ahead, I think I might start monitoring these next three days closely, and see where I’m at.

As an overview, I can say that physically there still seems to be some imbalances happening.  Trips to the toilet are still rather frequent and unceremonious, and my sinuses are playing up, (Pitta and Kapha traits), but my skin is clear and soft, where it was dry and flaky (Vata), and my eyes, whilst still a bit heavy in the morning, are no longer blood-shot (Pitta).  I have more energy, sleeping better, but my body is cracking and popping a lot in practice (Vata).  So what I’m seeing are elements of each dosha flaring up at different times and now I’m starting to be able to recognise that, it really is quite wonderfully liberating.  Ayurveda translates as life knowledge, and even if I’m not completely in balance, my awareness of my body and my surroundings is becoming more sensitive and finely tuned.  Maybe that’s not down to Ayurveda in itself, and more a combination of the yoga and meditation, but I think they’re all just incredibly useful tools, that when used in collaboration, are truly empowering.

So – take my practice for instance.  90 minutes spent with such close attention to my physical body, my breath and its movement allows me to identify any differences, changes…how am I responding to the intensity, the heat?  Do I feel energised or lethargic?  Would I prefer moon or primary?  Am I feeling dense and heavy, or light?  What’s the state of my mind?  Am I  focused and have my teeth clenched, or a bit scatty with a silly smile on my face?   Am I getting angry about the poses I can’t get into, skipping them all together just to get to Savasana, or dreading Savasana with crazy monkey perched gleefully on my shoulder, waiting with strumming fingertips to dive into my brain and create a whole bunch of chaos?  Each variant of the above tells me what particular dosha is in excess, or depletion, and even though I’m at the beginning of all of this, I am starting to get an inkling, or have ideas of what I can do to help to reign it all in.

Ayurveda isn’t just about diet (although I think that is where my greatest gap in knowledge is in this particular moment), but our surroundings and environment.  Is it a stupidly hot day?  (Probably not  – it’s the UK). But just imagine it is, then a really intense, faster paced Primary series probably isn’t my best choice.  If it’s a bit cold, and I need a bit of a jump-start then primary it is.  The people around us.  How are we reacting to them?  One of the first triggers that got me to the Ayurvedic clinic in the first place was an uncharacteristic irritability and misplaced frustration.  i was aware enough at the time (largely due to the meditation) that it wasn’t about anyone else or my situation…it was about me.  My inability to cope was an imbalance somewhere….and I needed help from someone to put it right.

Putting the physical symptoms and effects to one side, in just 11 days I’m a new person emotionally and mentally.  My circumstances haven’t changed.  Employment still eludes me, with an incrementally higher degree of pressure….(checked my bank balance yesterday), weather’s still shit, and I’m as single as I was when I turned 30, but I can process it.  Deal with it.

On Sunday I was travelling back from London on the train.  A rare blast of sunlight penetrated the glass and washed my face with heat.  I could have been in Burma in that moment, riding the bus from Inle Lake to Bagan, two monks sitting across the aisle, that light inside
me beaming away.   I opened my eyes.  This was England, and I can still feel that joy.

It’s not been easy coming back.  It still isn’t.  There are elements of my trip that I miss sometimes.  Such as the undercurrents of compassion and acceptance of a Buddhist society, the hilarious jokes about opening chakras and gate-crashing tantric workshops, that can only really be appreciated by the circle of friends I grew to love in Bamboo.  But there’s always skype, and for fear of pulling you into a world that really doesn’t make sense, when I close my practice with Metta loving-kindness meditation, I can feel other people doing it too.  It’s a connection above and beyond social media, its something that you feel right there in your centre.

I guess where I’m at, 11 days into my Ayurvedic treatment, and one month back from my incredible adventure, is back to a place of acceptance.  The lessons I’d learnt, I feared I’d lost, and yet with all these challenges I’ve faced and knock-backs, I’ve come back to  “This is my body, and this is real.”  How amazing it feels to know inside, without a doubt, that despite everything, I’m on the right path and I’m still moving forwards.

She did warn me….

That emotions were going to come up, that it was going to be difficult….

But flippin’ heck!  It’s not just been the odd sniffle during a film, or having a bit of a cry in the shower…its been torrential, stomach-clutching….what’s wrong with me?  type crying.

How can this stuff still be in me?  I continue to shy away from it, hide from it…feel ashamed of it.  Why is it so hard to just embrace it and let it go?  What’s with that feeling that it needs to be justified…you have to analyse it, intellectualize it, mask it behind something…when surely its one of the truest things you go through.  That feeling inside, the relief as it comes flooding out, and how empty you are, when it starts to slowly subside.

I think I’ve put some pressure on myself.  Having spent these last few months doing so much inner-work, with all the yoga, meditation and travel, I think that the sense of stability and happiness it built up inside me should still be there.  That ability to find everything around me beautiful was something I thought might stay with me a little longer.  I feel guilty, and I feel fearful that it has all gone so quickly.

But that’s not the case at all.  I’m starting to feel lighter.  All this emotional upheaval would ordinarily stiffen everything up, create tension in my hips and body, act as a barrier in my morning practice…but yesterday I went through the sequence with great focus and steadiness.  I sunk into my hips without too much resistance.  I did all the add-ons that Matthew taught us…the standing back-bends, and 30 breaths in Baddha Konasana.  With such a positive experience behind me, I began to prepare myself for lotus in the finishing sequence.  Sat up straight, lengthened my left leg in front of me, scooped up my right foot and gently eased it into position, cradling it firmly in my hands, careful of the knee, breathing into the hip.  I sat there for a few breaths.  Summoning the courage, the determination before I bent my left leg, and let it rest on the floor in the shape of a right angle.  This is it.  You can do it Laura!  I lifted the left leg by the calf and foot and felt the muscles clench and tighten as I pulled it towards me.

Easing through the stiffness, respecting the sensations of my lower body, and paying attention to my breathe…it was ok…it was ok.  Closer and closer the heel of my foot came towards me, until I was ready to let it go… And look at that!  I’m in lotus.  If you could have seen the trauma and fuss this position has caused me over the past few months. The way I screamed “FUUCCKKKK!” into Matthew’s patient ear when he was helping me into it, showing me how I could practice this at home…and there I am….In lotus!  Not quite as elegant and natural looking as my fellow yogis, but its a lotus all the same.

It was an important moment for me, because it marked progress at a time when I felt I was sinking back to where I was 6 months ago.  It was a reminder that everything takes patience, practice and perseverance.   Life is not going to be easy now because I’ve sat cross-legged in a meditation hall for ten days, and spent several months in a shala.   And I wouldn’t want it to be.  I will still struggle to remain compassionate to myself and others.  I will still crave the comforts of things that are bad for me, and have strong aversions to things that are ultimately good…like finding a job!  I will still struggle to maintain contact with the present moment when I’m faced with things that are hostile, or uncomfortable.  I will have doubts sometimes, and lose confidence that this path is the right one for me…like when my younger brother walks in on me practicing and laughs uncontrollably, or when my heart stops at the sight of my ever-diminishing bank balance.   But in moments like getting into lotus, it pulls me back together.  With a practice such as this, nothing external can ever take it away.  Despite the storm of tears and emotional instability I currently find myself in, I know that there’s strength in there too.

Today is day 5 of my Ayurveda treatment, and already things are starting to perk up again.  My alarm went off at 5.  I was on the train by 6, and introducing myself to my new Ashtanga teacher by 6.30.  Her name is Sarah, and she’s kind and softly spoken, and I like her.  I really do.  She was encouraging without being pushy, and helped me to bind into Marichyasana B on both sides, and D on the left.  Which is like lotus x10!!  I’ve been paused there…and that’s ok.   I’m happy with that.  I accept now that its ok to take a couple of steps back sometimes and reassess.  It’s not a failure. I’ve come a long way, this is just a healthy pause to regain strength and stamina in a really, really tough practice.

Kind of liking the routine of all of this.  Powders before meals, after meals, before I go to sleep, as soon as I wake up.  A list of what to, and not to eat.  It’s forcing me to be conscious of everything I consume, and already, not even at the end of my third day I’m beginning to notice certain changes.  Physically, mentally and emotionally.

Yesterday was a difficult day for me.  I knew I had emotions surfacing, and I’ve been feeling hyper-sensitive to my environment and surroundings.  I’ve not quite worked out how to cope with the energies around me.  Perhaps that’s why I’m still tending towards isolation, and reclusiveness.  I’ve been on such an inward-facing journey, that there’s all this stuff coming to the surface in great waves.  Good, because it shows that I’m strong enough now to deal with it; bad – because it makes me vulnerable…and I know that’s not really bad at all – but in the context of trying to co-inhabit and reintegrate back into this very “English” way of life…well, its difficult.  I need to be strong, and I need to let all of this stuff surface and stir me up…so that I can experience it with acceptance and uderstanding….what am I craving?  What is it that I have such an aversion to?  Ah – there it is…stay with it, stay with it.  Breathe and experience it…Anicca, anicca…and then, just like that – it disappears.  The only thing is, when your environment is so unsettled, so uncertain, new aversions and cravings are being stirred up every moment.  Feelings of inadequacy and failure.  Fear for the future, and wanting to run away.  Wanting to help others, but needing to protect yourself.  That difficult debate playing itself out over selfishness or selflessness….I remind myself of my priority list:

Spirituality, health, friends/family….then work.

I look inwards and find some silence.  Listen to my heartbeat, and the chaos all around me – whistles blowing, trains screeching to a halt, drunken lads shouting about the football – falls away.  I begin to cry.  My giant red bug-eyed sunglasses, barely disguising the tears that are streaming down my face.  I’m still with that silence, and I’m making contact with this emotion.  The grip it has on my stomach and chest, the back of my throat.

A little boy looks up at me and asks me a question, “does this train go to Lancing?”

He’s tiny, and wearing a red beanie hat over matted black hair.

“Yes…yes it does.”  I hold his hand and help him across the gap from the platform to the train.  A sensation of love and compassion, rises up in the centre of me, and cuts through the sadness for a moment.

But still, the tears fall.

I get to Brighton, wipe my nose down my sleeve.  Wander into Infinity Foods on North street in the Lanes.  Pull out my crumpled checklist of what I can eat, and go about my shopping.  What I “want” to eat is beginning to change…I don’t need to refer to the list with so much precision.

Still the tears fall.

I pay with my card.  Not feeling that rush of belonging I usually feel when I walk through Brighton…until I see the art on the brick walls.

Hip-hop stars playing chess, and Aung San Suu Kyi looking so beautiful up there.  I get my camera out, and a stranger and his family stop in their tracks to see what I’m pointing at.

I like that I can feel all these emotions at once.  Recognise that they will pass, just like these strangers next to me.

It feels good to cry.  To become that emotion for a time.  It was with me well into my sleep, and traces of it are with me still.  But I carried on with my routine.  Remedy before dinner, after dinner, just before I go to sleep.  Coriander water when I wake, followed by my morning mix, and then I settled down for some meditation.  The house is quiet.  Mum’s away and Chris is addicted to those dratted computer games.  It was good to be still.  It was regenerating to be quiet.

I unfurled my legs and motioned straight into the moon sequence.  I could recite three-quarters of the opening chant by heart, and my heels were flat on the mat by my second down-dog.  I was more flexible this morning, and there was a fluidity I’ve not felt for a while in my shoulders and hips.  My breathing…not quite there…but for a minute or two I could feel the generous supply of oxygen swirling about in my chest, clearing away some of that tension, and how lovely it was to hear that empowering hiss of the ujjayi breath.  Even if it was just for a moment.

Taking each day, moment by moment…everything’s ok.  It’s all ok.

The remedies are starting to churn my stomach.  For the first 24 hours it was all a bit new and exciting, now I’m a little bit reluctant.

Coriander Water – LOVE IT!  So refreshing.  Will remember that for the future…

Half-way through my morning mix:

It’s really bitter and strong, burns the insides of my mouth and gives me the hiccups.  Definitely doing something to my stomach.

The doctor said that with the excess in Pitta it’s caused a big influx with my natural constitution, bringing out all the negative symptoms of all of them.  So in effect, I’m in the midst of a dosha storm…and its the Pitta right at the centre of it, its eye, stirring everything up.  If I can bring the Pitta down, then the rest of me should slowly fall back into place, and I can enjoy the positive sides of my constitution.  I wonder what that will be like?

Have done a little bit of reading and its around Agni – digestive fire, and the build up of Ama – toxins in the digestive tract that accumulate and eventually enters into the circulation of the body.  So I’m getting the impression, from the reading and my initial bodily response to the remedies, that I’m in the process of eliminating a whole bunch of Ama!

Trips to the toilet are frequent, and unceremonious.  Emotional outbursts brewing.  Hips (where I seem to store almost everything) were burning up last night, and then this morning the right side has begun that familiar throbbing sensation.

In terms of my practice.  I haven’t done much asana over the past week or so.  I’m not feeling very strong in my body, and my sinuses are so blocked up that I just can’t breathe, particularly in down-dog and forwards bends.  So taking a look at the opening sequence of the primary series – you can see why this is causing me a bit of a problem.  Remembering of course, that you hold each posture for 5 breaths…so that’s approximately 160 NON-breathes in the first 10 minute warm up (Suryanamaskara A and B).  So I’ve decided to use the John Scott video to motivate me.  Am just practicing Beginner’s Level A – which is warm-up and half the standing postures, and just taking each day as it comes.  It’s as a stark reminder of how fundamentally important the breath is to yoga practice…

On a more positive note,breathing whilst sitting cross-legged on a cushion is proving less traumatising..and my meditation is going well.  I sit for an hour in the evenings, just before my night remedy, and last night there was absolute silence.  I felt I was getting deeper into my practice and starting to make contact once again with the sensations that were coming to the surface at the end of my meditation retreat…ones I didn’t get a chance to fully experience and let go.  It will be a much longer process, working through stuff in meditation in a day-to-day practice, and I’m beginning to consider going back into retreat before the end of the year…but as a Dhamma Server.

I cheated, and actually started with my remedies last night.

1/2 tsp of beige powder before dinner, stirred into hot water.  Had a bit of a kick – but actually quite tasty!

Dinner.  Virtually EVERYTHING I had in the fridge had to be surrendered to the rest of the house…no tomatoes, cucumber, bananas, oranges, mango.  No salmon, bread, peanut butter, marmite.  No porridge, green tea, coffee, honey.  Just to name a few…

So I went back to the shops and ended up having a rather delicious tofu stir-fry with whole grain basmati rice, peppers, garlic and spinach.  Followed by…

1/2 tsp of a greenish powder.  Not so tasty!

Then I crushed 3 tsp’s of coriander seeds in a petri dish, poured them into a glass of water, and placed it on the side table to soak over night.

Finished my day with 1 tsp of night remedy, to which the pressure at the bridge of my nose suddenly lifted, nasal passages bursting open.  Made a right old mess, but ahhh, what a relief…even if it was only temporary.

Morning.  Drain crushed seeds out of glass of water.  Consume.  So cooling and refreshing – need to pee!

Now I’m working my way through a 1 tsp of yellowish powder, 1 tsp of pinkish powder mix…and the insides of my mouth are burning, just a little bit.  Something’s happening in my stomach.  A deep, hot-tempered rumble…movement.  I imagine I’ll have to go to the toilet again in a minute….

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So, the burning question….what is my dosha constitution?

First off, what is a dosha constitution?  I view it as a kind of health/nutritional horoscope.  Vata – air, Pitta – fire, Kapha – earth.  We’re all born with either one of these, or two, or – I think very rarely – three in combination as our prominent dosha type- and that is our mental and physical constitution.  It’s who we are, and doesn’t ever change.  Then there’s other factors in our ever-fluctuating environments that play a role in all of it too.  I could waffle on and not do any of this highly regarded, ancient system the justice it deserves…or you could (and I highly recommend you do) take a quick read of this overview:

http://www.theayurvedicclinic.com/index.php/about

The three dosha's and the 5 great elements the...

The three dosha’s and the 5 great elements they are composed from (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first step with all of this life-knowledge stuff, is to establish what your basic constitution is.  I’ve had a bit of a nightmare with mine, and I guess the best advice I can give is to do some research.  Read a good book, take some online tests to get an inkling of what you think you might be.  What resonates?  What do you read and feel in your stomach – yes – that’s me!  That is so me!  Then take more on-line tests, do some more reading, and if you decide that you do want to deepen your understanding then book yourself in for a consultation.  They say you don’t need to prepare anything, but I would spend a couple of days paying attention to your daily routine.  How well do you sleep, when do you wake up, how do you feel when you wake up?  Do you go straight to the toilet, or have to drink a coffee first?  When you get to the toilet, well, I suppose this isn’t something that we do normally either, but pay attention to that too.  Like I said before, it’s better to get comfortable talking about your bowel movements and the likes, otherwise you might get a bit flummoxed and prudish, “Oh – I say!  I don’t poo!”  Which is blatantly untrue, so just put all that social etiquette to one side, and get on with it.

Think about what you eat, how regularly you eat, and what type of foods you fancy.  Chocolate, crisps, or a spring roll?  You can only choose one….what are you going to choose?  I ummmed and ahhhed for a good few minutes…I LOVE chocolate, but generally I prefer savoury…and a spring roll – well that’s a pleasant surprise, and would fill me up.  But how I enjoy a packet of monster munch…”You can only have one!”  She nudged me towards making a decision.  I went with the spring-roll.

Anyway, you’ll be answering all those types of questions, including the emotional stuff that I mentioned yesterday, and all the while she’s observing you…how you respond to things, what your body language is saying.  The way your eyes dart around the room when you touch on a topic that’s sensitive to you, or your left hand clamps down on your right shoulder…unconsciously massaging it while you try to articulate an answer.  God knows what else she or he will be paying attention to, but at the end of the consultation they’ll know what your constitution is.  They probably knew before you got through your first sentence…

Just to be sure, they take your pulse.  Breathe in deeply, breathe out.   Breathe in deeply, breathe out.  Ok.  Now stick out your tongue.

I have a good tongue apparently!

She pauses, and you can’t help but feel the rise of anticipation…what am I?  What am I?

For me it was particularly significant because this was my second consultation.  Before my first one, I’d done some reading…not much, but enough to feel a resonance with Vata.  Not physically perhaps, but in the way I feel and think and respond to things like stress and grief.  So when I was told I was Pitta-Kapha it completely spun me out.  I went away, spent sleepless night after sleepless night fretting and stressing about it…it was as disorienting as if I’d been told I wasn’t a Gemini afterall.  Had been a Taurus all this time.  Ok – I know some of you may scoff at the astronomy stuff…but the thing that’s important was that sense of identity.  I went back and challenged.  Having done more reading and self-observation it still felt wrong…

I mean there are parts of us that resonate with all the doshas.  I have a Pitta-look.  Blue eyes, reddish skin, freckles.  I have some of the Kapha symptoms – suffer from congestion and have a tendency to comfort eat, but then my mind is Vata through and through.  Difficulty sleeping, flitting from topic to topic…if I’m upset about something I become extremely anxious and highly-strung…not explosive like a Pitta, or reclusive like a Kapha…Anyway – you can see where some of the confusion comes in.

My constitution was reaffirmed as Pitta-Kapha, and I decided to sit with it for a while.  Either this was a case of me being attached to something and needing to accept that and let go, or it was a case of learning to trust myself above and beyond what teachers or experts  tell me.

I’ve been wrestling with that ever since.  Which is where I think Matthew was such a wonderful fit for me as a teacher.  He knows best…you know that.  His experience, his integrity as a teacher…but does he?  He wanted us to challenge, to have faith in our own convictions.  I remember when he was helping me and Thea (my fellow less flexible than the rest of the group yogi) get into lotus.  Groaning, and grunting, and cursing, we were part encouraging, part forcing our  legs into position, when he suddenly said, “come out of it!”  We released and he told us we had to listen to ourselves…know ourselves.  If a teacher, even if its him, is pushing us into something and the pain is too much, or something doesn’t feel quite right – then you ALWAYS listen to yourself…above and beyond what teachers or experts tell you.

So.  Here I am, second time round.  Sitting on the sofa, waiting for the diagnosis….What am I?  What am I?

Vata-Kapha, with a massive Pitta imbalance.

My response?

Initially – so, I’ve gone from a fiery-tempered fatty to an airy-fairy fatty…Brilliant!  Really pleased its the fatty bit that’s remained consistent….

A bit later on, as I head towards the seafront for a walk- hmmm, isn’t that interesting…an air and earth polarity?  Fatty isn’t so bad.  It’s about being more caring and nurturing.  Wanting to look after people.  I do want both…to fly away and lose myself in the air, but have a home and settle down.  I don’t get angry very often…I never have done, etc etc… Perhaps, for all this time, it wasn’t the Kapha I was resisting, but the Pitta…

When I headed back to the station, three hours later, Vata-Kapha was starting to feel right.

I’m going to sit with it for a while.  Continue to read and learn, and self-observe.  Stick to my remedies and diet plan for the next two weeks and see how it goes : )

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Here’s a ink to a fun quiz if you’re interested: http://www.whatsyourdosha.com/quiz/quiz.html