Day 20 of Panchakarma – more non-European flavours & a miracle!

First off – apologies to all the vegetarians, vegans and anyone who loves healthy food. My last post included an offending image for some. But stotties (and other carb-laden foods) remind me of my childhood in the North East of England. The years when, I’m sure, my penchant for all things stodgy began.

Right, back to India and this Panchakarma lark. Attending the clinic twice a day for hours on end eats into a lot of time each day. There’s not much of the day left to crack on with other projects – some of which have deadlines. So for the past two days I’ve been eating breakfast at a new restaurant where I can do work rather than cycle home and cook my own breakfast. My Panchakarma Comrade mentioned the restaurant to me because they have an Ayurvedic-friendly menu. Sure enough they cooked my food in ghee and kept things simple. The first day I had a rather delicious kitcheree and paratha. Yesterday I went for a smaller meal – the ragi roti as pictured. When it arrived it looked like a delicious dark chocolate pancake of some sort. Sadly not (although munching on that much chocolate would have felt a lot less delicious by the end). I don’t use ragi, but after yesterday’s roti I have a new-found appreciation for the grain. (In case you missed my mention of ragi in an earlier post – ragi is a whole grain/cereal and a type of millet that originates from Africa). May have to add that to my slim culinary repertoire.

I’ve no doubt my telling you that ‘Panchakarma’ is a Sanskrit word will not come as a surprise. ‘Pancha’ means five and ‘karma’ means action, so a Panchakarma treatment consists of five core treatments. However, my earlier understanding of the word karma was the law of cause and effect, which can mean all the affects occurring in our lives in all sorts of ways. So, fancifully perhaps, I had linked that understanding of karma with the recent experience that I’m not just having a physical cleanse but also a karmic one. Seriously, I feel there is a depth of healing taking place that is hard to imagine given I’ve only been on the overall treatment programme three weeks, the core Panchakarma treatment a mere nine days.

Initially I thought I was getting rid of crappy build up from the past few years. But as the treatment progresses I get the sense that the cleanse is so deep, layers of gunk from decades ago are getting hauled out for examination and release. I feel as though I have Ayurveda elves sifting through my body machinations – like one of those factory conveyor belts and as bits of me pass under the hands of the Ayurvedic elves all the unhealthy, unnecessary deadweight is being chucked off the conveyor belt and out of my body, out of existence almost.

So apart from the visible signs both good (weight loss, muscles and flesh firming), not so great (dry, flaky skin), and that uncomfortable pain in my lower abdomen now mostly gone, last night’s discovery was, ta dah, a miracle!

I was lounging around on the sofa when I happened to point my toes (I know, who the fuck goes around pointing toes? but if you’ve ever done a lot of dance or some such it’s not so strange) and had another one of those “Oh my god, it doesn’t hurt” moments.

Under the ball of my right foot I’ve had what I assumed was a bony growth, a hard lump at the base of one toe. It’s been there for about 15 years and can give me problems when I’m standing or walking for too long (see, I told you I was speeding towards decrepitude faster than Humpty- Dumpty fell of his wall). Because of the location of the hard lump, it also restricts movement in my foot, giving me a cramp-like sensation when I point the toes, rotate that foot or ankle, or even, on those rare occasions I bother, to massage my foot. I figured I was stuck with the bony growth and it would eventually get worse to the point of surgery. But no! Woohoo – Miracle! My toes, my foot pointed and no pain. No cramping. Nothing in fact. That my friends, that is a bloody miracle. I’m flabbigasted (OK, not enough to not write about it, but still – AMAZING!).

I’ll be honest, I’ve been griping about my days being consumed by treatment time, but when small miracles like disappearing lumps happen, a rapid regain of flexibility  and an overall reduction in pain are showing up – I reckon I best shut up and put up.

I wish you a day where your miracles appear too – they are out there…..!

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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!

Day 4 of Panchakarma – hunger has returned

Today’s post is a short one as there are no significant updates. With Day 2 and Day 3 of Panchakarma consisting of concoction and a light supper each day, this morning my hunger monster’s kicked in. Craved coffee and ragi biscuits and bread. Fantasised about a hunk of bread to go with the ongoing doses of rice soup. That said, way to go me, I offered and made Mr D a fresh coffee today. He’s not been feeling too good the last couple of days – mostly self-inflicted, if you get my drift… – so I was rising above myself in all sorts of ways. My coffee is good and strong, made from fresh ground stuff I get at a local supermarket. I satisfied myself with feasting on the smell and visuals alone (insert martyred sigh here).

On another note, after this morning’s concoction-sipping I took myself off to the main ashram of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. The ashram gates are right on a busy main road, yet as soon as you walk through them the atmosphere changes to peaceful and serene. For about 20 minutes I wandered around the familiar spaces of the main samadhi hall and the adjoining one while the brahmin boys chanted Vedic hymns, their rhythmic sounds washing over everyone, whether standing, sitting in meditation, or circumambulating the shrines. A sweet slice of loveliness away from everything else going on and one of the pleasures of being here is having access to an ashram open to all throughout the day.

As an added bonus, shortly after I arrived into the ashram compound I had the good luck to see a white peacock displaying its tail feathers. In the photo is a white peacock but without long tail feathers. I took that photo in the ashram back in 2007. Today’s white beauty was a stunner. His feathers in open formation looked like silken lace.

So that’s the state of play for today. I’ll be back on the morrow.
Have a good evening all – and stay lovely.

Curious Questions

Recently I was contacted by Jason at Howlarium. He was reaching out to fellow writers to share their thoughts in his online Q&A. He sent me what I considered to be a curious question. I say curious because it was not something I could immediately resonate with – despite the fact that it held elements that have and do touch my life. Namely meditation, writing and compassion for others. Jason’s emailed question included information on the subject in the form of a truncated quote asserting that meditation and writing for the ‘ignorant person’ are just ways for people who have not gained any knowledge or understanding to withdraw and leads to an increase in ignorance, which has no compassion in it. Then the question … Continue reading