Santosh Puri Ashram

It’s taken a while to write this one, because I wanted to have some resolution and understanding.  As fortune (or Something) would have it, I arrived at Santosh Puri Ashram four days earlier than than the Yoga and the Baghavad Gita course I planned to take, right at the end of Ayurvedic Cooking.

So I have learned here that eating everything from the earth is ok, in moderation.  Moderation has always been a scary word to me because it is not black and white.  It could mean anything, really.  In the past, I have not interpreted it correctly.

There is a word in yoga and ayurveda – sattva.  Sattva means pure, balanced, spiritual.

I came out of the Panchakarma clinic on Vypeen Island feeling sattvic, maybe for the first time.

My blood was cleansed; my liver detoxified; the callouses on my toes from hiking were buffed to a beautiful shine.

(Excuse me.  I was just interrupted by Ananda something, wearing an orange nightdress-looking thing and a Tennessee VOLS colored beanie and fleece.  He offered me prasad (blessed gift) of a section of orange and began to explain Krishna to me.  Here’s a part of what I understood – when you have purified your senses in the service of the master Krishna you have perfected your life. Then he started explaining the rest to my chest so I told him I needed to work.)

But yes, my senses are purified.  I feel much more clear, and I naturally eat now in moderation.  I am a delicate flower, it seems.  A few bites of any meal and I am full.  Amazing what happens when your physical systems are detoxified and you train yourself to eat at the same time each day.  I think the body is a little bit like a child.  Mine is anyway.  It is very relieved and comforted by routine, in terms of food and sleep.

Also, at the ashram, we are encouraged to treat the acts of cooking and eating as worship, which has been profound and lovely.

Here’s what led up to this.  I had a final consultation with Dr. Subhash, who was going to prescribe natural remedies for my various minor complaints, and give me a diet plan.  (Not like a DIET; a diet – using the correct foods as medicine for the body to continue to heal and then maintain balance.)

“You are not a thin person,” he said.

I heard the words but I was in a tunnel, or a glass container.  The words were disembodied and floating.  The words were like the words at the end of your life, when you wait for God to tell you if you’ve been good or bad.


I don’t pass the test.  I have failed at all the minutes and hours, days, years that being thin, acceptable, desirable have consumed me.  All the times I pass on the food I would like to eat, and wake up two hours early to hike the Telluride Trail before work.  All the mornings I open my eyes and immediately begin to negotiate the calorie ratio for the day – what I can eat versus what I will do to make up for it.

I. AM. NOT. THIN.  The words keep recycling like stale air as Jancy gives me a final oil massage.  My mind is a dirty vent, and the words keep gathering bits of dust and clods of debris.

Transformation is not always quick.  I am willing to let go of how I look, but all the triggers still exist.  Sometimes it seems like I’m sinking.  I get a firm grip and then it dissolves and there is just mud again.

Peace is not a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.  It is being the the midst of those things and still being calm in your heart.

I repeat it like a mantra, but the other is too powerful.

I let the words, coated with dust bunnies and debris, sit in my chest cavity.  There they are – sitting, rigid, with sharp points.  I let them be.  I can’t go for a run here, or turn on the TV, or call a friend.  They sit, unnatural and solid.  They are ice.

Gradually (in that space) the words lightly pulsate, turn softly warm and milky green.  Just barely.  It is like the thaw before the real thaw.  Like in Telluride when you begin to see some brown ground in spaces between snow.  Then it snows and the ground is covered again, but you know the real spring is coming.

Baby Goats in the Jungle - Vypeen Island, KeralaI go back to my cottage in the jungle after the treatment.  I practice Surya Namaskara.  Folding forward, I am enveloped in a night-black space of anger.  I get the sense that here in India, I am expiating not only my sins of false-belief, but those of generations that preceded me.

All the women in my family, maybe all the women in my life, that have accepted being objects, emptying themselves of all their precious vital force to settle for being reflections of themselves.

Sliding from Eight-Point Pose into Cobra, feeling my triceps engage and my heart open, I think we are better, certainly more, than this.

I release and lie face down on the mat, breathing hard from something other than physical exertion.

This Panchakarma stuff is brutal.  Cleansing toxins from my body is the easy part.  It’s the brain-cleansing that I didn’t expect…


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