Sometimes in life you have an opportunity to reset your habits, your thought, a belief paradigm or all of the above. This might be after doing certain professional trainings, going to a personal growth workshop, participating in a cleanse, or as you develop and hold a daily spiritual practice. Whatever the catalyst, afterwards you usually find your body and mind finding a new definition of normal.
For me this has happened after every professional training I’ve done - massage school, yoga teacher training, life coach training and my study of Ayurveda – as well as after day long meditation events and Ayurvedic cleanses. Each of those experiences changed the way I viewed life and myself and altered some of how I lived so that I created a new “normal”. As a self-claimed explorer of life, I value these opportunities and find them important steps along my path of striving to be my best.
Fresh herbs harvested for making a medicinal paste
My travels to India were not designed to travel and explore the many areas of India. Instead, this trip was to connect with the Motherland of Ayurveda and to see this ancient healing science through its eyes after spending the past five years studying Ayurveda here in the United States.
Vaidyagram is designed as a self-supporting eco-community. The buildings blocks are made from the soil of the land, cows provide the milk used in the foods, many of the herbs used in the medicine and treatment products come from the land and the food is locally obtained where possible. The buildings were comfortable but simple. Being made of earth blocks, they felt steady, comforting and, well, earthy!
Altar outside of kitchen
I appreciated the simplicity of life there – devoid of much of the clutter that distracts and drains my energy in our more “advanced” world. There were no TVs, stores, tasks to do or many of the other distractions that pull at my attention when I’m at home. And though I admit to gathering at the community hall almost daily to tap into the sporadic internet connection, overall I spent far less time wired up to the electronic world.
Instead I got more tuned in to my inner world. I read a couple spiritual books, participated daily in morning chanting and breath exercises, practiced walking meditation as I strolled under the covered walkways linking the different buildings together, and enjoyed spiritually enlightening Q&A time with the doctors during daily Satsang.
Weekly meal schedule
The simple structures and rhythms were soothing and nurturing. Perhaps had I stayed there a month or longer, which is the average stay of someone going to heal, I would have become restless and bored. Or not. Maybe I would step more fully into the space of being comfortable with the quiet, the inactivity, the sound of just the breeze blowing on my face while sitting on the covered porch off my shared room. I plan to go back in the next year or so to participate in an extended Pancha Karma, the cleansing rejuvenation process Ayurveda uses to heal and restore balance at the deepest level, and find that answer out!
However, while there I found the pace of life to be languid, relaxed and nourishing. My constantly churning and striving mind and mildly sapped nervous system reveled in its rejuvenating energy. I loved the daily flow of morning and evening prayers, of having a shared space to connect, and the open expanses of time to sit, read, think, reflect, and to simply BE.
One day’s breakfast
Being in an environment that creates a space to slow down, to pause, to re-connect to myself, and recharge my inner health was exactly what I needed. It was the quiet, the lack of daily responsibilities, the chance to step outside my busy life and look at myself and what I want from a new perspective which is the treasure I found in India.
It is not having a ready-made community holding the space of health and common intention and connection that feels like a void. And upon returning home, it is this quiet simplicity and structure of the community that helps hold me to be my best that I miss. I notice how the energies of our culture, the responsibilities of my family and business, and the presence of the electronic world make it more challenging for me to carve out that space of quiet and peace which fill me back up. And although I have a daily meditation/yoga practice and try to stay consciously connected throughout the day, I do it in smaller amounts and it doesn’t feel like enough in the context of the busy, modern world.
So I’m left in the space right now of trying to decide what I really want my new normal to be. I know that some things I can’t change. I have a husband, two teenagers and a dog at home that need daily support, and a job in which I feel blessed to serve – all of which are a part of my current path. However, I also want more of that bliss and simplicity that I had in India.
So far here is what my normal has become:
- After 8 years of being a vegetarian followed by 17 years of being primarily vegetarian but with some fowl and fish, I am back to being a vegetarian. It simply feels better for me and I no longer have any craving or desire to eat the animal flesh.
- I am placing a higher priority on activities that feel body and soul nurturing to me – longer yoga and meditation, making extra time to go for the walk in the woods versus on my neighborhood streets, and taking pauses during my day to breathe and BE.
- I’m cooking more simply, using some of the recipes from my time in India, and this helps daily food nurturing feel more manageable.
As I continue to explore how I can weave it all together in a patchwork quilt of balance, the one piece that keeps it all together is to start each day with remembering my intention of simplicity and connection and taking action from there.
©2013, Jamie Durner, Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner & Wellness Educator at Ayurveda Wellness in Brookfield, WI