I left New York on November 18, 2010 so I’ve been traveling for two months now. It has been so rewarding and educational that I very much look forward to what the next two months will bring. I am really beginning to feel settled with my routine here at Ayurveda Yoga Villa and I’m happy that I have another week to spend here before moving on. Even my ayurvedic treatments, which at first felt so foreign and uncomfortable, feel more relaxing and today during my treatment I actually noticed myself surrendering to it. I am sleeping better and more than I have in months, and I am as content as I can be.
Even though my body is feeling great, I have been having some trouble with my meditation practice. Yesterday evening my mind was bombarded with so many thoughts all at once that I almost became angry with myself for not being able to control them. I think when you are aware of your thoughts and want so desperately to calm your mind down, it has the opposite effect. You end up focusing more on those thoughts than anything else. So I tried to let my anger go and I just watched the thoughts drift in and watched them drift out. I learned that the desire to want to achieve, to accomplish, and to control comes from my pitta side. According to my ayurvedic doctor, I am vatha-pitta. Vatha is air and space, and pitta is fire. Kapha, which I have little to none, is earth and water. I’ve been told that I am more vatha than I am pitta, so it turns out I am not a “type A” after all (I think that’s what pitta would be described as in the West) but I definitely have some fire tendencies. This vatha-pitta dosha of mine actually makes a lot of sense to me and I think it describes me pretty well. Isn’t what I am doing, leaving everything behind to travel the world, dreaming about what is next, etc, all very airy and vatha like? There are physical characteristics of vatha that I fit exactly as well. With my treatments and medicine, the doctors here want to reduce my vatha (air) to balance me. I guess it’s better than increasing my pitta but I’ll have to ask about that tomorrow.
Regardless of your dosha and what treatments you are under, we are encouraged to take walks during our stay here. So far I’ve taken three different paths when going for a walk outside the compound. One sunny afternoon a fellow guest showed me a path up the river, through some coffee plantations to a ferry crossing that takes you to a neighboring island. We saw a beautiful butterfly, a gorgeous purple flower I could not name, and prickly gourds I had never seen before. Yesterday morning, I walked along a badly paved road and watched uniformed children make their way to school. Every one of them smiled and said hello to me. This morning I followed a path to field after field of rice paddies. I went a little farther today by walking past a small bend in the road, to discover a murky pond that sprouted the purest white water lillies with a velvety yellow center. Everyday I am blessed to find so much more beauty than my eyes and heart can take in.
During my walks I’ve been thinking about how much I have gained and how grateful I am to be on this journey. This trip has been wonderful for my yoga practice, not because I am learning any new postures or getting “better” but because it has helped me cultivate my self-practice. My home practice has never been very strong and certainly not very consistent. Being on the road on my own without a reliable yoga class to attend everyday has really forced me to find the time and schedule when and where I would practice. It also makes me think through what my body and mind need that day, and I find that the process allows me to evaluate and reflect on myself. It is a work in progress but my self-practice has definitely benefited from my traveling. Almost every Indian person I have met so far has told me that they don’t practice yoga because they’re too busy with their lives and with their work. I realize that it is a luxury to have the time to focus and devote to my physical and spiritual wellbeing. For that, I am grateful.
I have always believed that I am mentally and physically strong, and have a high threshold for pain. During the last two months I have kept my wits about me as I navigated through airports and train stations on a few hours of sleep, followed a rather grueling ashram schedule for two weeks (5:30AM to 10:30PM) starting with the day I arrived in India from Paris, learned to live on and enjoy two small vegetarian meals a day, carried a third of my body weight on my back through wildly varying climates, and happily traveled alone. Recently a close friend of mine had a serious health scare and I’ve met people at this ayurvedic center who have suffered so much because of their illnesses. I joke sometimes that I come from “peasant stock” with a low center of gravity, short sturdy legs, and enough stamina to work a rice paddy all day. But I know that I’ve been blessed with a strong constitution and a healthy body, and with it I get to experience the joy of traveling. I am thankful for that as well.
I can now definitely confirm that I don’t need a lot to live and love this life. I came on this trip and to this faraway ayurvedic center with no expectations and no set goals for myself. I wasn’t sure at all what, if anything, I would get out of my journey. I am learning that I can be happy and content with good company, culture and nature all around me, some good reading material, and of course, delicious food (vegetarian or otherwise). I am living on less, doing less, certainly producing and accomplishing so much less than I ever have in my life, but feel as if I am absorbing more. I am definitely seeing the beauty and freedom in all that is less.
I always knew that I could be alone and enjoy being by myself, and I can now testify to that fact. I’m thinking of keeping silent for a week or two when I go up to Rishikesh to an ashram in April. Where will my mind go if I have no outlet to speak it? I can easily spend a few days not talking to another human being. After those days, I hear myself speak and find the sound so odd. Did I always have a nasal quality to my voice? At this ayurvedic center you can be as social as you choose to be. During the first few days of my arriving here I kept mostly to myself, ate my meals silently and alone. I see others taking time out for themselves as well. I still do, at times, go to the dining hall and just read as I take my meals. But I have met a really wonderful group of people here and throughout my trip so far, and I am grateful to them for sharing their time and thereby enriching my experience. As much as I like being alone and appreciate the silence, I have really enjoyed getting to know so many travelers who seek new experiences, open to others’ ideas, and love to find adventure.
I think most of all, traveling humbles me and traveling in places like India puts my life into perspective. I see beautiful birds and plants, different people and culture I don’t know anything about. There are 14 languages spoken in Cochin alone and I know that those languages are made up of sounds I have never heard before. I’ve tasted tea so sweet I thought my teeth would melt and daal so spicy my eyes watered. A woman on the ferry from Ernakulum to Fort Cochin held out her hand to offer me some of her roasted peanuts the other day. There is kindness and generosity of spirit that go beyond money and status. But there is poverty here I cannot begin to imagine and suffering I’m not sure I’m ready to see. It all humbles me and I know myself to be so very lucky.