It is now less than a week to my departure, seven days until I am in India. After a few years of studying Ayurveda and a decade of studying yoga, I am eager to be in the mother land of these deep wells of wisdom and tradition from which I have begun to sip.
I am not so much excited as I am suddenly focused. I have been moving quietly towards this departure date while preoccupied with the busyness of autumn and the holidays, like rafting down a lazy river looking out at the riverbanks, disinterested in the swift rapids that lie somewhere up ahead – until suddenly now I hear them, and they’re surprisingly loud. It’s got my attention now.
This focus is welcome. While I have done a fair bit of logistical planning over recent weeks and the collecting of necessary provisions (e.g., SPF 30 sunscreen, sun hat, fancy UV-ray water purifier, grapefruit seed extract to keep the dreaded food-borne bacteria away, cipro antibiotics in case that doesn’t work, essential oils to keep the mosquitoes away, scary DEET bug repellent in case that doesn’t work, etc.), but I haven’t given myself enough time to sit and think about what lies ahead. I haven’t mused sufficiently – a symptom, no doubt, of the all-consuming speed of my typical western lifestyle: my constant attendance to the siren calls of incoming emails, bills to pay, friends to see…. Somehow, simple reflection always gets pushed off the To Do list. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I wonder what he would think of our “progressive” society and its takeover of much of our global culture.
So I am going to India to study Ayurveda, and to immerse myself in the culture that gave birth to this vast body of healing wisdom. My plan, if that’s not too ironic a term to use in a country known for turning plans on end, is to spend three months at a small, rural Ayurvedic training and treatment center called Vaidyagrama. It is located 22 km outside of Coimbatore, a rather industrial town in the state of Tamil Nadu in south central India.
The name Vaidyagrama translates as “healing village” and it was designed as an entirely eco-friendly center, a concept with less pop-culture cache there than here in the States, but equally (if not more) laudable in a country that arguably has more pressing concerns. Opened in 2009 but still being constructed in stages, Vaidyagrama uses solar and wind energy, collects rain water, and uses other green building and energy methods. Here are some photos of the grounds. Not only are vegetable gardens in abundance, but many medicinal herbs are grown on-site for study and usage. As Ayurveda’s effectiveness, power and beauty reach a growing international audience (or dare I say “market”), even the immense country of India is being stripped of many of the ancient healing herbs, so efforts like Vaidyagrama’s to cultivate herbs sustainably represents Ayurveda’s future. I am eager to see how the new and the old concepts, the ancient knowledge and traditions and the modern sensibility and needs, are finding a way to sit side by side at this place.
I am told it takes an hour to drive from Vaidyagrama to town, so it may be a rather isolated three months on campus there, even with some weekend trips thrown in. This is one of the many reasons that I am so grateful I will have companions – six classmates from my program at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque will be there with me. I am thrilled to have a built-in community of like-minded people with whom to go through this experience. I am also looking forward to the lack of distractions, the time and mental space for contemplation and deep study.
After those first three months at Vaidyagrama, I may spend some time at an ashram, perhaps study yoga, who knows… In a very uncharacteristic move, for those of you who know me well, I’m leaving it up in the air. As my veteran India-traveler brother Ian said, “It doesn’t matter what plans you make, Ivy. India has her own plans for you.” So be it.
I am grateful for all of you who are reading this, who are embarking on this journey with me in spirit. As I move through the streets and fields of India, I know my view of the world will shift and spin, and I expect I will have more than a few moments of unease and anxiety, if not outright panic and identity crises! So please email me, or comment on the blog entries that pique your interest – your voices will help to ground me and remind me of my purpose on this journey. It really does give me a visceral sense of grounding and comfort to think of the invisible threads that connect me to each of you, and each of you to each other, creating this vast web that will hold me – that holds us all – even in the face of vast change and transition. I hope this blog may inspire you in some way, perhaps to see your own life in a new light, to open to new perspectives, to consider new pathways to balance, joy and health.
Happy new year, everyone. May yours be abundant.