Days 23 to 25 of Panchakarma – orange is my favourite colour, but …

I’m turning orange. Or rather my skin is. And no, I’ve not been ‘Tangoed’ – but it’s starting to feel that way.

Since my last post I haven’t felt inclined to sit and tap away at a keyboard. Some days are just like that. Also, I’ve been well tired (waking around 3:30am can do that to a person) as well as a feeling a bit battle weary – but I’ll come to that in a moment. First, that orange thing.

A few days ago the sand rub down that comes as the last section of the massage changed. Where before it was a darkish sand colour, now the rub is with a similar kind of powder but much darker. The texture is almost the same but the colour reminds me of red earth. Also this stuff has an aroma to it. Since the change of medicine for the powder rub-down, I now also get sluiced with warm water by the harem while I’m still on the massage table, after which I tread carefully to the shower. I’m still kind of orange even after that.

As for feeling a tad battle weary. That’s a delicate issue to be airing publicly, but I will because I’ve already written honestly about the potentially funnier side of things.

Let’s start this way: A couple of days ago I tallied up the days I’d done and the exact end date of the treatment. When this is over I’ve got shit loads to do before I return to London, including visits out of town. I need to make arrangements. I need to know the date I’m free to get on with my life again. When I asked Dr A for confirmation I had to repeat my request, that I wanted to know she had the same date as me. I did not, do not, want any surprise additions. As it was, she seemed to be under the impression I would be doing an extra week. Fuck me but – NO!

I’ve also taken to arriving at the clinic later than the time specified by Dr A – by about 30 minutes – because otherwise I am just left sitting for about half an hour waiting for my treatment to begin. Even arriving late I can still be waiting. Pre- and post-treatment time the doctor always seems keen for me to sit and eat or drink with her. Again, no thanks. The little time I have outside attending the clinic is precious to me, as it would be to anyone with a life – which means everyone I know or can think of.

Another stress point is the pocket of time after the morning treatments where I dash home to cook, eat and digest breakfast before trotting back for the afternoon massage. Perhaps if during the many waiting times I was learning something relevant to the treatment process, or what to expect afterwards for example, then that time would be well-used. As things currently stand that’s not how it’s playing out.

Adding to my frustrations and weariness is the whole diet thing. Or to be more precise, the  lack of clear guidance.

Because I’m not residential in an Ayurvedic health resort the responsibility for my dietary intake rests with me. Ordinarily that would mean (having been on various healing diets over the years) I would have been given clear guidelines about what foods I can eat and therefore what to buy and how to cook it. The guidelines from Dr A have all been verbally given and even then on a drip-drip basis. She prefers to ask after the fact about what I have eaten only to find a way to tell me I’ve eaten the wrong thing or didn’t prepare it the correct way. So the other day, when there were no other distractions for her (of which there have been several this past week or more) I tried to pin her down over a few things and ask for clear guidelines. Her immediate response, and the one she repeated by interrupting me even as I was explaining what I needed, was “Don’t worry. You can come and ask me anytime.” Despite my asking her several times to listen and understand from my perspective I did not get what I wanted. I don’t want to have to seek her out every time I want a fucking meal. I don’t want to go begging her for information about what to shop for every time I go to the grocery store.

All of which means I’m feeling battle weary because communications with the doctor are like that – a lack of true listening, with the knock-on effect, of course and yet again in these situations, there is no win-win just loss-loss. I lose out on being heard or getting any kind of satisfactory outcome. My interlocutor (currently the doctor, but this is a recurring theme ain’t it folks) loses my respect and willingness. I become less compliant and less accommodating. We all lose. That actually makes me sad and, frankly, exhausted. I’m an introvert. I’m easily over-stimulated by interactions at the best of times, but when the people I’m interacting with are overbearing, domineering, pompous, know-it-alls who need to be right rather than happy, I retreat. I pull up bridges and deepen moats around the fortress in the forest I withdraw to.

As I write I am at the start of my last seven days. I’ve had doubts about continuing. I still have those doubts. How much more can be achieved in these next seven days when for the past few I’ve not noticed any significant changes? OK, significant may not be the thing. Other subtle changes might be going on. But still. Each day almost a duplicate of the last. Also, my skin is looking and feeling sore and overstimulated by the daily massages. I guess I thought my skin would be glowing and happy by now – it ain’t.

But the truth is that I’m probably going to see this through to the end. And here’s why:
– My spine feels looser and more straight
– The sharp pains I used to get at the top of my right shoulder have reduced
– Yesterday I started expectorating proper gunge instead of just mouth foam – seems it takes around 8-9 days for that to happen, I took longer
– The weight is staying off
– I guess I’m getting to practise the encouragement from Brecht “…you’ll go down if you don’t stand up for yourself.”
– I usually see things through to the end

To close today’s catch-up post, I thought I’d leave you with some images I captured the last couple of days.
– Black-faced monkeys visiting a neighbour, who doled out bananas
– Peacocks at the main ashram
– A lovely bunch of coconuts Mr D is enjoying

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2017-02-23-black-faced-monkey-2

2017-02-23-black-faced-monkey-4

2017-02-24-ashram-peackcok-white

lovely-bunch-of-coconuts

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing – stand tall, stay strong, be brave, find the beauty. Peace out.

Day 17 of Panchakarma – on the theme of dough

Not a lot to report for Day 17. I managed to have hot food for both my breakfast and supper. Supper was the bowl of rice, sautéd onion and cauliflower, and something saucy with mushrooms and other veg. The food felt healthy going down. The taste was unexpected.

The Culinary Swing Towards Asia
Mostly the results of my recent culinary efforts have tasted different from my usual output. Not only have I had to ditch the olive oil for ghee, I’ve started using different flavourings. Ordinarily my style of cooking tends towards a Mediterranean theme. Now, in my attempts to tow the Ayurvedic line, the slow swing towards an Indian style has picked up. For example, I don’t know what fenugreek is (methi in India), but I’ve started adding powdered fenugreek to dishes sometimes – and discovering that it has a slightly bitter flavour. Cumin (jeera in India) has always been part of my stock, but just in powdered form. I’m now incorporating the seeds too. For example yesterday, instead of plain chapatis for my (late) breakfast I added both cumin seeds and powder to the mix. What I didn’t add enough of was salt. But the chapatis tasted great. And to keep me sweet, I had one with a drizzle of honey.

That Enema Thing
At Dr A’s clinic yesterday, the enema came in the douche bucket and the liquid looked dark and oily. I swear, when it’s going in I feel I’m going to expel the thing along with more than just medical liquid. Even though I’m making every effort to relax (I think that might be some kind of oxymoron – effort & relax?!) my anxiety rises with the worry about what’s doing down. I stay on my side and try to ensure some absorption has happened before I get up. Also, at the first hint of movement around my back passage I head straight for the toilet. If I’m a bit premature I just walk around outside for a little longer before trotting back to the loo. And phewie, at least no accidents at the clinic. No, that came later. When I was home for breakfast I managed to misinterpret things and once more *shock, horror* I pooped my pants. Damn! Fortunately, my Panchakarma Comrade and I have fun sharing our various mishaps and incidents as they unfold. Mixed in with the embarrassment is plenty of hilarity.

Another Cooking Lesson
After my massage Dr A demonstrated a new recipe – I’m calling it the jazzed-up paratha. Ingredients included whole wheat flour, chickpea flour, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, turmeric, dried-leaf methi/fenugreek, a red-chilli powder (but which was not particularly spicy) and salt. Water added, the ingredients mixed then kneaded into a soft dough – as with a chapati. Not long after Dr A had started putting the ingredients into a bowl a few of the harem also gathered round to observe. When Dr A got to kneading the dough (a crucial element of the process to make the paratha light and crisp) I pointed out to the youngest harem member that during the last part of the massage I had been like the dough with four pairs of hands pummelling and pulling me as the medicinal sand was rubbed into my flesh.

The Daily Rub-a-dub-dub – two types of dough get kneaded
Seriously, that is so what it feels like – my blubber is kneaded as hands grab flesh and pull it in a different direction from the one it normally clings to. Hands working against each other horizontally across my body. Thigh flesh, belly blubber, hip wobble rubbed and knead under the fine sand. “Rub-a-dub-dub,” as my Panchakarma Comrade says. And rub-a-dub-dub the dough too. Needless to say, under Dr A’s expert hands and years of experience, the paratha tasted dee-licious. The two paratha I ate kept my hunger monsters occupied right up until supper. Which means the rub-a-dub-dubs of doughy flesh and edible dough are all working their magic – although I’m not looking to be crispy, just lighter.

Onwards – Hope and Trepidation
Day 18 will mark my seventh day on the core part of the Panchakarma treatment – the head decongesting, the medicine administration up the bum, the two-hour massages – and will mean I’m a third of the way through. Clearly, given the improvements so far, I’m hopeful for more and better, but I’m guarded about that expectation. Because we all know what happens with expectations, right? They rarely match up with reality. So with caution and trepidation I am hopeful of how I’m going to feel at the end of the treatment programme. The image that springs to mind is of Dr A’s previous patient (Dr A’s first Panchakarma patient here in Tiru). I happened to pass her on my cycle as she walked up the lane away from the clinic for the last time. She was free and she looked great. As I called out “Free at last,” she threw her arms outward, a smile brightened her already beautiful face and the joy of healthy freedom pulsated from her. Sweet. Remembering that moment is a totem of sorts. Reminds me of what I’m aiming for, of what’s possible. I may not end up looking as awesome as she did, but I might, at the very least, feel as great as she did that day we passed each other in a shared moment of joy.

For today
Let me encourage you to take care of your own health, starting now, in whatever ways work for you. One small step for today, one giant leap towards your improved health.
Keep it real and, go to it!