Dubai: Land of Wild Imagination

I’ll be honest…I really didn’t think I would like Dubai. I had conjured up images in my mind — of women forced into wearing hijabs, afraid of making eye contact…and me, getting myself thrown in prison for being a loud-mouthed American female.

Dubai is nothing like I expected. It is fun here…there’s no other word for it. Women run around town in mini-skirts, shorts, designer dresses and high heels. Gastronomy and shopping here are Olympic sports. What’s more, the architecture and man-made islands here are simply unbelievable.  (As a Fine Arts professor, I’ve used several of the architectural achievements here in my classes for years as examples of the kind of breathtaking architecture and construction that are possible given enough imagination, attention to detail and unlimited funds.)

My husband, Leon and I visited Dubai twice in two weeks: the first time was for a client meeting that Leon had to negotiate — and the second, a short vacation with my close friend Leesy and her two kids (our godchildren).

Our first visit was nothing short of perfect. We arrived on Sunday at around noon, and Leon went to a prep session for his client meeting the next day, while the hotel driver took me to the Dubai Mall to spend the afternoon. I wandered around the huge mall for a bit and then met up with Indu, one of my friends from Kalari Rasayana. It was so lovely to see her in her own element, looking so happy and beautiful. We sat for a long while at Angelina’s Cafe where we chatted over perfect French croissants and cappuccinos. Then she left to do some shopping for her new granddaughter while I went to the 10,000,000 gallon aquarium for a “behind the scenes” tour.

After his meeting ended, Leon joined me in the mall, and we ambled over to the 7pm “Dancing Fountains” show in front of the Burj Kalifa. The show was beautiful and fun: all sexy Arabian music and dancing waters. Then we made the loooooong walk around the fountains to the Armani Hotel (located inside the Burj) to have dinner at their Italian restaurant there called “Ristorante.” While sitting in comfy, overstuffed chairs on the terrace there, we watched the fountain show once more, this time from three floors above with the Burj itself rising 160 stories up…behind my chair. It was one of those “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this is happening” moments that you never forget.

As if that weren’t perfect enough, the hostess of the restaurant suggested that we go to the Atmosphere Lounge to enjoy the view and have a couple of signature cocktails. She got us reserved seating and ushered us to the private elevator that leads to the highest restaurant in the world (on the 124th floor of the Burj Kalifa). They gave us a table with an incredible view…the city lights laid out like a flying carpet at our feet. It was the most easy, laid back, beautiful night we’ve had in years. If any of you have the chance to go to Dubai, do yourselves a favor and copy this night exactly. It is heaven…absolute perfection.

The next day, Leon had his big meeting so we split up again, each to do our own thing. I got to meet my friend, Jan’s beautiful Italian wife, Rosenda, for lunch. (I can’t believe that after spending a month in a hospital in a remote section of India, I flew to Dubai within two days of my discharge, where I got to hang out with TWO different new friends that I had met through that same hospital. I mean…what are the odds?!?!?!)

Rosenda and I hit it off immediately. She is not only gorgeous, but smart, interesting, extremely loving and almost zen-like in her quiet calm. We had the best “Girl Day” ever: first a fun lunch at the only health food restaurant in Dubai, then window shopping for jewelry at the souq — where I found a gorgeous sapphire and diamond pendant that we both fell in love with. After admiring it a bit, the two of us went cruising over to the Gallery Quarter to wander through gallery after gallery. Before we knew it, the day was over. What a beautiful “first date” with a new gal-pal.

The second time we visited Dubai was only two weeks later — when we went back for a long weekend with my close friend, Leesy, and her two children, Zach and Maddie (our godchildren) while they had a two-day layover after visiting us in India. We stayed in the Atlantis on Palm Island as the kids really wanted to spend a full day at the water park. It was a total zoo there — completely packed with people from all over the world. Leon and I tend to favor small boutique hotels that are quiet, elegant and far less crowded, but the Atlantis was all about service, and the kids loved it, so all in all, it was great fun.

The first thing we did when we arrived was eat a burger — the first beef I’d had in seven months (since moving to India) and every bite was heaven! Then…all five of us piled into a touring jeep and went on a Desert Safari.

Let me just say that a desert safari is pretty much the perfect way to spend an entire evening having fun with your best friends, and that’s exactly what we did. Leesy, Zach and Maddie are our family, and we all squealed and giggled our way through the evening together. We played and laughed the entire night — doing what I believe might just be the perfect adventure tour of Dubai. The safari started with something called “dune bashing.”  That’s where they drive the jeeps kamikaze-style…right at these 50-foot high sand dunes and then climb over the top. While you’re at the top, the car starts to tip over the edge, and you can’t see anything on the other side. It feels like you are about to fall off a cliff. (The jeeps, thankfully, have roll cages, but I think that was more disturbing to me than comforting!) There is sliding and slipping and sailing through the air…and a lot of screaming (at least from all of us!)

Then we went to the camel farm to look at the baby camels with their moms. That was pretty adorable. After a short break there, we piled back into the jeeps and headed over to the private camp (complete with actual plumbing in the middle of a desert). My first stop was the camel rides. I ran, really ran, (like a little kid) to be the first in line. That was one Bucket List item checked off — first thing!

Once we had settled into the tiny, private city, Leon and our godson, Zach, went sand-boarding. Both did very well. Leesy and Maddie signed up to have their hands painted with beautiful designs in henna while I made friends with a falcon under the watchful eye of his handler. After a bit of wandering around from shop to shop, we all sat down for a beautiful dinner under the stars. At around 8:30, the live stage show began, and we capped off our evening complete with a whirling dervish, a fire-eater and a belly dancer…A marathon of fun!


The Burj Al Arab is the only seven star hotel on the planet. Frankly, I never thought I’d even see it in person, but my friend Indu and her husband, Kishore are members there so they invited us to dinner at Scape, the hotel’s beautiful poolside restaurant. All I can say is that the entire experience was once in a lifetime, and the company was the best part…by far.  Leon and I had the most wonderful time. After a gorgeous dinner on the outdoor terrace, the manager took us on a tour of the infinity pool area, the private luxury cabanas and the lounge area (complete with sand they import from Saudi Arabia because it’s heavier and won’t blow into the pool in the wind!)

After a good look around (and quite a few vacation photos taken by the manager) we took the gold-plated elevators up to the “Gold on 27” cigar bar to get a quick look before settling into the retro “Sky Bar” to have one last nightcap with our friends before saying goodbye. Dinner and drinks in a seven star hotel…Wow. Talk about a fairy tale night!

The most wonderful thing we did on that visit though was to go snorkeling in the huge aquarium at the Atlantis, stuffed to the gills (pun intended) with 65,000 tropical fish, 22 sharks and four different species of sting rays. Swimming with zebra sharks, grey reef sharks, bowmouth sharks, and giant guitar sharks simply blew my mind.

At one point, I felt something graze my hair and looked to my left where a three foot zebra shark was looking me right in the eye…ten inches from my face. I laughed so hard I had to bob up to the surface to catch my breath. Then the guide did the same thing. He and I laughed for so long that Leon popped up to ask if something had gone wrong. Nope…just laughing at the three foot zebra shark making eyes at me in the man-made lagoon…in a resort…in Dubai…on the coast of the Persian Gulf.

You just can’t comprehend any of it, so you laugh at the overwhelming disbelief of your life in that moment. And to see all of these gorgeous varieties of stingrays swimming next to and just beneath you as well…wow. Eagle rays, cow nose rays, marbled rays and cow tail rays just lazily floating past you as you lie weightless in the water. What a charmed experience.

On our way to the airport, Leon told me we were stopping at the jewelry shop where Rosenda and I had found the beautiful sapphire necklace that she and I had fallen in love with. Long story short, he bought it for me. Now, whenever I look at that beautiful, artisan pendant around my neck, I will be reminded not only of him, but also of my beautiful friend, Rosenda who helped me pick it out, her husband Jan, my friend Indu, my “sister” Leesy, our godchildren and the magic of the amazing city of Dubai. So many memories from one tiny jewel. My own personal treasure from the land of the sheikhs.

Day 28 – Thank You, Kalari Rasayana


These photos were taken during my goodbye ceremony. The staff “gifts” you a ride around the lake to say goodbye to all the memories you have of Kalari Rasayana. (The women behind me in the dugout punt were there to hold umbrellas over me if I got too warm. Talk about thinking of everything!)  The second photo is me with some of the Ayurvedic staff. My sweet therapist, Greeshma is standing on my left — I told you she was tiny!

March 2, (DAY 28)

To the beautiful, loving staff here at Kalari Rasayana,

Today is my last day; I leave tomorrow morning at 7am. I felt it was important to thank you properly for your kindness and compassion during what was a very stressful treatment process for me.

From the moment I stepped out of the car on arrival, each of you took it upon yourselves to treat me like family: some cherished relative to be pampered and cared for with all your hearts. I will treasure my time here, not simply because I learned lessons about how to safeguard my health, but because I got to experience time and again just how much love and kindness India instills in her people.

This place feels like coming home — to your own body, mind and spirit. It is hard work, made even more challenging because you must relax into the work and not force it. Helping on that front are the curious herons always poking around at our feet and the melodic prayers chanted from the Hindu temple next door every day.

Gazing out onto that beautiful lake surrounded by tens of thousands of coconut trees and watching the color of the sky change every morning from indigo to pink, then to light blue…Watching it change in the evening from light blue to orange and back to indigo again is not just peaceful, but meditative as well. And seeing the fisherman every morning and every night, toss their nets into the water and gently pull them back up into their dugout canoe is a zen experience in and of itself.

I thank you for the memories of this place — and of this time with these people.

Yours sincerely,

(Thank you to all of the people who make this place run so beautifully.  Front office staff: Mani, Reshma, Aathira, Mukesh; Dining room staff: Ashok, Jibin, Pradeep, Revathy, Giopika, Deepika, Reshma; Housekeeping: Xavier, Rekha, Manjush, Aswathy, Nandhu, Sujith, Anandhu, rejitha, Sarita, Anitha, Joemon, Sandeep; Ayurveda Department: Dr. Sreelal, Dr. Poornima, Dr. Nidhish, Dr. Thushara, Dr. Sandra, Dr. Sreeraj, Greeshma, Reshma, Anirudhan, Shaji, Shinu, Rasheena, Aji, Niju, Vishnu, Niya, Jithin, Aswani, Rajitha, Sruthi, Krishna, Ratheesh, Joseph, Jinil, Aparna, Meenu, Anju, Sreekala, Archana, Kavya, Radhika, Rajelekshmi, Prijimol.)

Ayurvedic Daily Journal – Day 27


(On the left, a photo of me with Dr. Sreelal Sankar. On the right, my beautiful therapists: Greeshma and Reshma.)

March 1 (Day 27)
I may not be cured, but I sure have gotten a lot of information that will serve me for the rest of my life. I know which foods will work with my body and which ones won’t. I know that for me at least, meditation and pranayama are non-negotiable. I know that by the time I hit 60 and the arthritis kicks in, my back is going to require some sort of treatment. Most importantly, I’ve learned that “control” is out of my control. (Now…if I can just remember it all.)

My sweet therapists, Greeshma and Reshma, have been a quiet blessing every day. Here at Kalari Rasayana, they usually switch therapists out from day to day, or at least from week to week, but for me they kept these two smiling girls pretty much the entire time I was here. (I’m guessing they thought that my health situation was complicated enough that I might need some extra support.)

I will always remember Greeshma’s beautiful smile and Reshma’s shy looks as she’d see me each morning. These two have made all the difference in getting through these sometimes scary treatments…no doubt about it.

I have a confession to make. Dr. Sankar’s full name is Dr. Sreelal Sankar and he actually goes by Dr. Sreelal.

In parts of India, the last name of the man is usually the first name of his father. The boy, once he becomes an adult, is then referred by his first name as a last name, for example: Dr. Sreelal for short. I didn’t learn this until about a third of the way through my time here, so for consistency sake, I just kept referring to him as Dr. Sankar in my articles. But for this, my last reference to him, I am going to set things right.

Thank you Dr. Sreelal, for all your hard work and dedication. You have taught me many things. “Let things go, be patient. You must look for calmness in the peak of stress. Life is a journey. Take things slowly. Health is a complex system to maintain.” And, the funniest lesson of all – is the little phrase that you shared with me to constantly remind me what causes ulcers: “hurry, curry, worry.”

The three culprits that start all the trouble in your gut. For me the three things that led to my ulcers.
1) When people are constantly hurrying around, rushing from thing to thing, not living in the present.
2) When people eat curry (or some other spicy food) that eats away at the lining of their stomach.
3) Worrying about things that are out of your control.

These three pitfalls are the source of all my troubles. I need to learn to say goodbye to them once and for all. (I’ll try to chant that to myself every so often so I don’t forget it, but I’m betting it will be harder in Mumbai, than here in a resort on a peaceful lake in Kerala.)

“Unity is strength…When there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” — Mattie J.T. Stepanek

Ayurveda Daily Journal – Day 26


Sandra, my yoga/pranayama instructor on the left. Poornima, the doctor of nutrition (and Dr. Sankar’s wife) on the right.

Feb 28 (Day 26)
Indu left yesterday morning. It was a little sad to see her leave, but I was happy for her to get to go home. She had a granddaughter who was born while she was here — one and a half months early…but healthy! Indu really wanted to get back to be with her family. Besides, Leon and I are meeting Indu and her husband for lunch at the Burj Al Arab in a couple of weeks when we go to Dubai, so I’ll get to see her very soon.

I have a wonderful yoga/pranayama teacher here. Her name is Sandra. She’s tiny and slim, utterly still with a dry sense of humor that lays me out; she makes me laugh at least once a day. Sandra is trying to wean me off of my habit of chronic worry and upset which have fed my ulcers to the point of landing me in the hospital here.

To remedy this, she has pointed out on more than one occasion that I try too hard…even during pranayama  i. I push myself trying to achieve perfection, so instead of allowing the breath to feed me, I end up making myself exhausted and dizzy. Her solution was to “gift” me a mantra to break the spell and allow me to focus on “going easy.” I think it’s perfect…at least for me. So, from now on, “Happy and Chill” is my new mantra. Every time I focus on my breath, I think to myself, “Happy and Chill.” It instantly makes me smile and stop taking life too seriously.  I love Sandra.

The nutritionist here is Dr. Sankar’s wife, Poornima. Translated, her beautiful name means “Full moon.” Every time I see her, I think of her as a full moon…full of light. What a beautiful image to carry around with your name. She doesn’t get as much attention on my blog as her husband has, but she is patient, thorough, loving and has helped me tremendously. I have met with her every day to talk over my reactions to the different foods we have tested for me during my stay. She is trying to help me sort out what will heal my body and what will harm it. We are spending the next four days working through all my questions about what rules are the most critical versus those that are just guidelines.

Yesterday she told me, “Your stomach is like a baby’s stomach. The transition from breast feeding to actual food is a very important time for babies. They can get very sick if things are rushed. You are in the same situation now. We have spent a month eliminating all toxins from your food & purifying your system. Right now, you are in a very delicate place. You must be very careful when you go back not to rush into old habits or you will get very sick. Be careful.” (I’m officially nervous!)

One other thing she said that I thought was incredibly helpful was “DINNER…decides your weight.” What she then went on to explain was that you can have a big breakfast, you can have a big lunch — even a slice of cake in the afternoon once in a while, but you must be VERY careful what you eat for dinner if you want to keep your weight in check.

One last insider tip, never eat dessert after a meal if you can help it. It screws up your digestion. (Who knew?!?) Instead try to eat your fun sweets in the late afternoon between lunch and dinner so that your stomach isn’t playing “war games” as your dinner and dessert fight things out at night.

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” — Ben Sweetland

Ayurveda Daily Journal – Day 25


Feb 27 (Day 25):

There was a murder in Kansas the other day. Two Indian men were sitting together after work — just talking to each other, doing nothing to draw attention to themselves, not causing any trouble. In fact, both of these men were known to be very nice, friendly guys. They both had valid work visas. They both had wives. One of them had a baby on the way. These men were just hanging out together at one of their favorite places after a day of work…like all of us have done hundreds of times. But these guys had the audacity to be “brown” in public…One of them was murdered for it, and the other is still in the hospital.

Right before the murderer started shooting these two innocent men he yelled “Get out of my country.”  I’ll say that one more time…Right before this man fired bullet after bullet into the body of  this father to be…into the bodies of these husbands, he yelled, “Get out of my country.”

Now, being from the United States, and having lived in India for the past seven months, I feel uniquely qualified to speak about the Indian people from the point of view of an American.  In my entire life, I have never met a culture so accepting, so welcoming as people from India. They are deferential, compassionate and reverent. They are accepting of all religions, all races. They welcome people from all other cultures and countries. They value contribution and inclusion. In fact, the overriding tenet of their belief system is “Do no harm.”

For someone to murder anyone because of the color of their skin is unforgiveable, unthinkable. For some reason, however, the fact that the targets were people from India hits me especially hard — because I have lived here long enough to see what this culture is all about: love and acceptance.  Since this attack, I have been ashamed to be the lone “American” walking into every room that’s filled with dozens of these loving people. I have felt responsible somehow…guilty by association to a degree I can’t even describe.

I am ashamed that our country has allowed itself to feed on this kind of hateful, racist venom. I will not let this murder stand unrecognized for what it is. Simply put, it is a symptom of the disease that is killing my country…hate.  If each of us doesn’t get busy, and I mean really busy, protecting everyone in our country that is being insulted, demeaned, marginalized or attacked, at some point we’ll have to admit that we are as guilty as the ones doing the shooting.

I believe with all my heart that we are predominantly a country of idealists, of hopeful citizens who still believe in compassion and want to do the right thing. I know the problem seems insurmountable, but whenever I get discouraged I remember the parable about the man showing his son the importance of family. He stood by a pile of sticks, picked them up one by one and snapped them in half easily, with almost no effort. Each time saying, “Do you see how easy it is for me to break each one of these twigs when they’re standing alone?” Then he picked up a large handful of the sticks and tried to break them…but he couldn’t. He turned to his son and said, “THAT is why you always stand together in the face of trouble. On our own we may be weak, we may be vulnerable. But together, we are strong. Together, we are undefeatable.”

Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about my treatments and doctors again, but not today…Not today.

“A fight is going on inside me,” said the old Cherokee to his grandson. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “THE ONE YOU FEED.” — Old Cherokee parable

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” — Ryunosuke Satoro

Ayurveda Daily Journal – Day 24


(Jan and me right before he left for the airport. He looks a little intense, but the sun was in our eyes!)

Feb 26 (Day 24):

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” — Amy Poehler

Jan left yesterday morning. We spent virtually every evening talking together since the day we met. He’s so positive and happy, so interested and engaging — what a remarkable man. I’ve been so blessed on this trip. It’s the best feeling in the world to meet a truly kind, compassionate, fun, interesting person, and then to get to spend hours just getting to know them better — what a gift!

I was fortunate enough on this trip to meet two remarkable men that I think may just be friends for life: Emil and Jan. (Thank you, Lord, for that little miracle.) I did get a bit blue when Jan left, but I know how much he wanted to get back to his gorgeous Italian wife. (I cannot begin to describe my joy whenever I see a good man utterly besotted with his wife.) Indu and I have been spending time together since Jan left, and that has been great…Girl talk is always fun.

I won’t know how much these treatments and medications have really helped my ulcers until I get back home and into a normal rhythm, but when Jan came here the first time over two years ago, he was in agony with gout, and he hasn’t had an attack since. In fact, many of the people who come here end up returning every few years after their first visit because their health is so transformed. I am holding on to that thought and trying not to worry about results. It’s tough to simply  “relax and breathe” when I feel like I have poured so much of myself into this process. But, since my “Aha! Moment” on Day 20, I know I have absolutely no control over the outcome, just the path that I walk…The hero’s journey is in walking it.

They punched me with the bags of mineral powder again and then poured milk on my head for an hour — same song, 46th verse. I have to confess, the only way I’m getting through the treatments now is by counting the days to freedom.

We are down to the home stretch! After today, I have only four more days left before I fly back to Mumbai. The rest of this week will be spent answering questions and fine-tuning what medications, pastes and pills I take home with me.

I will have to be incredibly careful with my diet for the first month. Otherwise, I’m told that I will get very sick. The food here has been very pure so my system has been able to heal. If I jump back into bad habits, I won’t be able to tolerate it. I sure hope I can be a good girl. Right now, all I want is grilled chicken nachos with table-side guacamole, lobster, Bubba’s fried chicken, an Outback cheeseburger with fries, Shawn’s barbecue beef ribs, a steak from Capital Grille, a loaded baked potato, a large coke, a bottle of champagne, chocolate soufflé and a cappuccino…all at the same time.

If you are interested in travel, especially trekking through the Himalayas, click on Jan’s company’s link below. (You can also see an incredible photo of him that was taken back in the 70s when he started his company. He could not look any cooler!)

Ayurveda Daily Journal – Day 23


(This is Narayan Nair, the head chef here at Kalari Rasayana. He’s been healing people with his food for over 35 years.)

Feb 25 (Day 23)

“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.” — Adelle Davis

You cannot discuss Ayurveda without talking extensively about the food. The entire Ayurvedic philosophy of healing embraces “food as medicine.” Food is, after all, the easiest and most profound way to alter your health. It can not only nourish your body but poison it. Ayurveda is very focused on only putting into your body what it needs to thrive. Therefore, taste is secondary to the various healing properties of the meal.

Anyone who has read the articles on or, knows how much my husband and I love food. So, please believe me when I tell you that this food here at Kalari Rasayana is outstanding. Every recipe is created and prepared by an excellent chef named Narayanan Nair. Narayanan manages to make beautiful meals despite the fact that Ayurvedic food must be prepared without any salt, sugar, butter, animal protein, yogurt, preservatives, dairy, or spices and very little oil. The chef here at Kalari Rasayana is as utterly devoted to your healing as the doctors are.

Chef Narayanan’s commitment to Ayurveda is deeply personal. He used to be a successful chef on a boat, but then he got sick…very sick from an ulcer. The doctors all told him that he would need surgery to repair it, but Narayan refused. He started doing research to see if there was a natural way to allow his body to heal itself, and he found Ayurveda. He started preparing everything he ate the Ayurvedic way. Miracle of miracles…It worked! As a result, he decided to devote his life to healing others with his Ayurvedic recipes.

There is no refrigerator here at Kalari Rasayana, despite the fact that Chef Narayan prepares hundreds of meals a day. Let me repeat that…NO REFRIGERATOR in a kitchen that feeds everyone at this resort. (I can’t even wrap my brain around that!)

Everything that comes out of the chef’s kitchen is made within about 30 minutes of its being set on your plate. He abhors white sugar and flour almost as much as he does artificial coloring and preservatives. He won’t even prepare oatmeal here as he cannot get the oats to this part of Kerala without preservatives. Trust me when I say that this is a man with a mission.

His soups are without a doubt my favorite part of the meals here. They are all amazing — the perfect start to a dinner. They calm the stomach, soothe the mind and focus your attention on the meal to come. And they are all delicious. Chef Narayan has promised me the recipes, and I am going to start making his soups when I get home: pumpkin, white pumpkin, ash gourd, chick pea, beet root, mixed vegetable, barely, Lemon-lentil, spinach. I have absolutely fallen in love with soups again, and it’s all due to this place — and Chef Narayan Nair.

I did the “punching treatment” again this morning. This afternoon, I had the mud-paste scrub and the one where they pour milk on your head.  The best part about  today’s treatments is that I got to wash my hair within an hour of my treatment, so clean hair for the whole afternoon! Yippee! (The three showers a day thing is getting seriously old though. I’ll be glad when that’s over.)

Dr. Sankar said that from this point on, we are going to try to focus our attention of laying the groundwork for my return to Mumbai. We will need to document what foods I will be allowed to eat when, what foods give me trouble, which medicines I will need to take with me. (Fortunately, they are all covered in the cost of my stay here.) All of these things will be fine-tuned over the remaining five days, and then I’ll be given a goodie bag full of Ayurvedic medicines to take home.

The photo of Chef Narayanan is courtesy of Rosenda Arcioni Meer, the wife of my sweet friend, Jan. (Thank you, Jan!) Rosenda is an accomplished writer. Here is the link to Rosenda’s blog on the Kamalan website too, in case you’d like to read more about travel.

Ayurveda Daily Journal – Day 22


Feb 24 (Day 22):

“Be kind whenever possible. It’s always possible.” — Dalai Lama

I am having Vata issues right now…Big ones. Dr. Sankar explained that Vata (the air and space dosha) manages both the pitta and kapha doshas (fire and earth) in the human body. The vata acts almost like a car, transporting the other two doshas around (the same way you need air for the movement of fire or earth in the world.)

Sometimes when you have an excess of pitta, it’s only after you have treated that issue do you realize that the the vata was the problem all along, pushing the pitta to an unhealthy level. The way he illustrated this concept to me made things much clearer to me.

He used the analogy of a clogged pipe under your house. You see the water and say, “Oh, I have a problem with water in my house.” In order to fix it, the first step is to turn off the tap. Then you remove all the water. Finally, you look into the pipe. Only then can you see that the source of the problem was not water, but a blockage that completely closed off the pipe. Once you remove that blockage, the water will flow normally. Until you treated the flood, you couldn’t see the underlying issue that was causing it. Well, we’ve treated the “flood” in my body; now we’re going to clear the  blockage.

This afternoon, I tried a new treatment called ‘Ksheeradhara” which, roughly translated, means, “pouring of medicated milk.” This is a lot like the treatment where they slowly pour oil on my head for an hour, but instead of oil, we went with the milk this afternoon, to cool off my mind. I like it much better than the warm oil.

The emotional rollercoaster just keeps rolling along…
We now have only four working days left until I leave for Mumbai. As a result the doctor has been ramping up all my medicines, trying to “push” as much medication into my system as Ayurveda will allow before I go home…It is making for a rough last week. This morning, everything hurt and I was crying for no reason. When he asked “Why are you crying?”  I replied, “I don’t know. I’m just having a bad day. Can’t people just have a bad day?” His reply was “No.” Dr. Sankar then began to explain an integral part of Indian culture.

“Having a bad day is contagious,” he said. “It affects everyone you come in contact with, poisoning not only yourself but everyone else around you. Fear and anger have never helped anyone. That is why you must discipline your mind to let the negativity go…so you don’t damage others around you. Being truthful and contemplative are regenerating for the human body. Being negative…pollutes it.”

He went on to explain another key difference between Indian culture and my own. “In European countries, when someone is depressed or sad, you tend to ‘let them be.’ You leave them alone to work things out on their own. Indians aren’t like that. We believe that when a friend is sad or in pain, it is our duty to pull them out of it…to coax them, tease them, take them out into the world to have some fun until they feel better. We never let them stay alone. We pull them along with us until they are out of the darkness…Our way is better.”

This made me think of how much physical affection you see on a daily basis here in India…Grown men standing hip to hip with their arms around each other — grown women hugging each other as they walk down the sidewalk.

It reminded me of all the times I have seen groups of school children in Mumbai walking down the street, physically pulling along one of their friends who looks sad. I’ve seen these kids teasing each other into a good mood, hugging one another, trying to make the quiet ones smile or laugh. Everyone here seems like family in the best possible sense of the word. I realized that I’ve been seeing this practice in action for months, and I didn’t even know what was happening right before my eyes.

There is a deep sweetness to the people here, a compassion and innocence. I think we’ve lost that in the United States.

I could use a little more Indian in me…I think we all could.

Ayurveda Daily Journal – Day 21


Feb 23 (Day 21)

“Walk towards the sunshine, and the shadows will fall behind you.” — Mary Engelbreit

Day 21: Today marks the first day of my last week here at Kalari Rasayana. I don’t know whether I’m relieved or sad…Maybe it’s a little bit of both. I’ll confess, I miss my husband. I’m tired of the same food every day, tired of the disgusting glasses of medicine I have to drink both before and after meals. I’m definitely tired of the ghee! But I have met some remarkably kind people here who have all taken great care to watch over me, to nourish me and to make me feel safe here. (That’s no small feat when you realize how alarming some of these treatments can be.)

Everyone here is invested in my health. They are all quick with a smile and a “Good morning, Grace.” And they all watch your face for any sign of discomfort, which will always lead them to call the doctor immediately. Everyone has your back here, absolutely everyone (doctors, nutritionist, yoga instructors, pranayama guides, front desk staff, waiters, gardeners and maids).

The doctor is trying to unblock my channels, so I got to do the Dhanyamladhara treatment again this morning. (That’s the one with the medicinal tea being poured over your whole body, making you feel like you’re in a soothing, hot bath for 45 minutes.) I love this treatment; it’s one of my favorites. And we also did the Nasyam again as well. (“ghee up the nose”) The Nasyam is certainly unpleasant for the first 30 minutes, but it means I can breathe for the rest of the day with no issues which has really helped me relax.

Dr Sankar said something today that really resonated with me. He was trying to explain how careful I will have to be with my food for the next year or two until we can get my health reigned in. He said that when you are mentally tired, you feel you deserve a reward, so you want to eat. You say to yourself, “I need this,” or “I want this” and that is moment at which food becomes an issue. He stressed the importance of trying to short circuit that thought. Reward yourself with FUN instead of food.

It reminded me of an interview I saw with Kirstie Alley years back. She had been addicted to cocaine and decided to go to rehab. She said that the entire time she was in rehab she promised herself that if she could kick her $10,000 a week cocaine habit, she would spend the exact same amount on flowers for her house every week. It was her way of gaining something beautiful rather than losing something destructive. I never forgot that interview. Now, I just need to figure out what my “flowers” are and use them as my reward instead of food.

So far, it’s been a good day. Maybe I’m growing up…


Ayurveda Daily Journal – Day 20


Feb 22 (Day 20)

GENERAL IMPRESSIONS: I heard from Emil today; that was fun. He got home yesterday morning and told me his very first dinner was filet mignon with a lovely glass of red wine. I literally laughed out loud — I love Emil!  Hearing from him so quickly was such a great surprise, and I needed something nice to happen today.

As it turns out, I’ve actually gained a pound over the past two days. I’m eating roughly 30% of what I ususally do at home; I have been drinking glass after glass of nasty medicines; I have fasted and purged. And yet, even with all that effort –despite doing everything the doctor has told me to… I have still gained weight.

That has led me to a realization that just might change my life: the outcome of all my hard work is completely out of my control. I can control what I put in my mouth; I can control my amount of movement and exercise, but my weight…has a mind of its own.

In fact, I’m finally learning the lesson I have needed all my life. There is no way to control the outcome of  anything….ever. I can give my friends advice, but I can’t make them follow it. I can raise intelligent, well-researched points regarding politics, but I can’t make people listen. I can point out the inhumanity of racism, sexism and cultural discrimination, but I can’t force a person to NOT be a bigot. I can research medical treatment for family, but I have no control over whether they use the information I give them.

I have no control over the outcome of ANYTHING I do. As a result, I’m finally realizing that the “doing” is the hero’s journey…That is where the satisfaction must live for me. Not in the outcome, but in the journey.   (You know, I think if that’s the only lesson I take home from this place, it will have been worth the price of admission.)

I had the Nasyam treatment again this morning: only three drops in each nostril, so it wasn’t too bad. This afternoon, I had another sinking spell where I almost fainted so they had to call the doctor to the treatment room to check my blood pressure and sugar levels. Both are in the normal range. I’ve been resting in my room all afternoon ever since — I’m on bedrest until dinner.  (That’s alright though. I don’t much feel like  socializing anyway.)

The doctor tried to make me feel better about my weight by telling me that we are playing a long game here. He said it will take one to two YEARS to get my health back on track, and not until that is accomplished will my weight start to fall into place on its own. (I have to say, his pep talks could use some work.)

He illustrated his point with a beautiful Indian parable though, that actually did make me feel better. You see there was this man who moved into a new neighborhood with his wife and 4-year old daughter, both of whom were very beautiful. Their new house was right next door to another family who had a 4-year old little boy.

The man watched one day as the little boy planted a scruffy-looking, little tree in the garden next door. Every week, the boy would lovingly care for the little tree and over the years, the tree grew and grew, until by the time the boy was 18 years old, the branches stretched all the way across the property line…and right over to the daughter’s balcony.

It was because the boy had the dedication and the foresight to plant that tree 14 years before he needed it, because he had the discipline to keep doing the little things to nurture the future that he wanted…It was because of his vision and his dedication that he ended up with the girl of his dreams. (The parable made me realize the doctor is absolutely right…But I still want a cheeseburger.)

“One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.” — Viggo Mortensen