God, what do I know about treatments? I’ve had two massages in my life — both from Julie at Flow Yoga. She treats me good. But I am here, in India, and I’ve been told that this place can help me with back and neck pain caused by pre-existing injuries. They’re not the only pre-existing injuries I have. There are whole bunches, most of which I don’t really count, from a lifetime of competitive hockey. Three concussions, a partially town MCL, scores of sprains, endless bruises, fully lashed whips, and so on. Sticks to the face, torn flesh. All for glory and not a bit regretted. Hockey’s a game of instant karma, and I gave as much as I received.
When Gerhard Schmid (Jennifer Ellen’s teacher and a master Kalari practitioner himself) came to Salt Lake City, I sat down for a consultation. I presented him, in the accustomed fashion with a complete list of injuries and illnesses from my past, with detail on my current troubles, which include a bit of anxiety. He told me, and I’d never heard this before but it made sense, that head trauma can cause lasting anxiety. I suppose because you are protecting your body’s vital thinking-machine from further, possibly debilitating injury. Fair enough. But he said that he wasn’t in town for long enough to fix the problem. He suggested I go to India. It was a somewhat wild supposition that I’d actually materialize here back then, but I am here and so it goes.
So. I go in to meet the head Kalari and treatment dude here, in Kannur. Same list of injuries and woes. Treatments are prescribed in spurts of Malayalam, a bit of figuring with the head cocked sideways, some wobbling and some English. I don’t know how it works or if it all isn’t just some sort of elaborate improvisation. It can certainly appear that way sometimes here.
I was scheduled several times for treatments and actually ended up starting yesterday, with one night’s notice. That is the way here and much of life is about learning to sink in, to relax, to accept.
I went in for the first day of treatment and laid belly-down on a straw mat. Wearing nearly nothing. Sherifka asked me to remind him of my ailments. Halfway through he waved me off. We were ready to begin. Warm oil coated my backside as four hands worked up and down. Throughout my legs and arms, quick flicking with the thumbs and broad strokes worked deep into tissue and prepared my body. There was some of what I’d traditionally associate with massage, but mostly it felt very foreign. I couldn’t place quite what they were doing or why, as best I tried. And it’s not worth asking. I mean, perhaps you could have a conversation with them for academic engrossment, but I am learning to trust the process.
Day one ended with me more or less feeling like I had received a sort of weak sauce. Not much to write home about. Later in the day, as I followed the direction to just rest for the day, not sleep, not go into the hot sun, and just relax…. well I found that my muscles were mysteriously sore. My hunger was vigorous. I ate a lot for breakfast, had a hearty snack and feasted for dinner. I also got a glimpse of what I’m like spending time with myself. Doing nothing. Learning to relax. What an art form this is!! What lifelong adventure this discovery alone will surely embark. It brings to mind thoughts of “wow, what do I do at home,” “how do I forget about myself in my regular life,” and “how do you relax.” Good heavens.
Day two. Sleeping wasn’t plentiful for me, and I woke up thinking I had barely enough time to get ready. I had plenty, and spend a few restful minutes before the treatment reading a tourism book on the region from 1999, and enveloping myself in an appreciation of the vast diversity of even this region of this state of this nation alone. Good heavens, is India vast! I can’t even imagine the depth of a whole nation when even this oft-forgotten corner is more than I can get my head around, more healing, spiritual and body knowledge than could clean out the entire United States. Or what do I know, maybe I’m just falling in love with this place.
But in any adventure, they got me into the treatment room and I laid down again. This day’s massage was a slight variation on what I’d experienced the day before. Not quite the same. There was some interesting massage involving the lifting of the base of my spine: my tailbone. I won’t go into it. It was… interesting and I felt a bit vulnerable. Throughout the day (and we’re talking about the present day now), I really felt the soreness in my body, my arms and my legs now. Like I had been exerting myself against some unknown outside objects.
Today for my daylong relaxation, I ready some of the Autobiography of a Yogi, slowly. I played cards with some of the fellow students here, and did some leisurely talking. There’s also some time for quite a bit of reflection and meditation, but I won’t get into too much of that. There’s always more to sort out, more to learn by, more ways to grow.