Castor oil

On the 5th day, I will drink the castor oil. Leading up to that day, I am self-massaging with oils to loosen up the tissues. I use the strokes recommended in the Encyclopedia of Ayurvedic Massage by John Douillard. Most of the strokes are exactly the same or similar to those I received in Kerala under the guidance of Sherifka at Kerala Kalaripayyat Academy. I found those treatments so helpful and restorative.

So, the castor oil will allow my body to naturally detox by pooping a lot. It is not for people who are pregnant, nursing, having IBS, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, hemorrhoids, under 18 or older than 70, fighting an illness, significantly underweight, having rectal prolapse, trying to become pregnant, having hypertension, having heart disease or on medication (check with physician).

I’ve done this three times before, again while in Kerala. It is, in fact, a lot of pooping. So you should expect to be kind of low energy for the pooping day. The diet surrounding the day of pooping is adjusted such that you are eating only very simple, easy-to-digest, minimally-seasoned simple foods on the day of purging, and only after waiting until the purging in done.

Day 5 is Saturday. Sunday is my 30th birthday.

So, this will be a sort-of starting anew for a new year. ūüôā


Catching myself in the “religion” of Ayurveda, falling short

By the heading, I’m referring to that feeling I get when I’m supposed to be doing XYZ, and despite my efforts find myself falling short. There are so many lifestyle suggestions in Ayurveda. And intuitively, they seem simple, straightforward and easy to do. For instance, waking up early. This is recommended in Ayurveda for a number of reasons and conditions. For me, I’ve always been a late night person. However, on camping trips and retreats, I do love waking early, greeting the sun, and falling sleep with the sun at the end of the day. I just can’t seem to get a hang of it when I’m back in my apartment with so many options at the end of the day for staying up.¬†

This is just one example. By not adapting to every one of these changes, at least to try them out, I am experiencing the feeling of many people who have a hard time making changes in their lifestyle. 

It’s not that big of a deal. It took a friend to point this out, but learning that change is difficult is learning. And more empathy. It also harkens back to this idea that I’ll grasp on to from time to time, sometimes¬†very¬†tightly, that¬†I have to be perfect before I am worthwhile, or can contribute, or valid. Underneath that is the main cause of my separation from Source, as far as I can tell: I’ve got to do it all on my own — or — I’ve got to get it right before I go to God for love or healing or strength. I forget — and this is Ayurveda, too, and more important than any single lifestyle change — that I am created of and in essence the very materials of the Creator of the Universe.¬†So there is no unworthiness to be had. The endless checking up on myself to see if there’s progress, the comparing to imaginary others or imaginary versions of my self — these are generally just activities separating me from the reality of who I really am…… what my old mentor Adrian told me:¬†a child of God just learning how to act like it. Except that I think it’s slightly different, actually. A child of God just beginning to realize it.¬†


So, today I spent a good deal of time at Whole Foods stocking up on various spices and herbs that will be useful in my working learning more about the biological aspects of Ayurveda. I’ve been playing a lot lately with the various Spice Waters (just pouring hot water on top of different spices that are energetically activating within the context of Ayurveda). I even brought a big pitcher over the a Super Bowl party yesterday. It was a big hit. It was made with Fennel, Cumin, Coriander and Ginger. Just the raw seeds. I was pleased that it was so well received.¬†


I’m also drawn to a comment made by a friend who had gone through quite a bit of personal turmoil before settling into what is now a very useful, content, fulfilled life. He said that while his life was in disarray but he was really beginning to strive for a deep, meaningful relationship with the Source, his life was just “crumbling into place.” I’ve thought over the past 5 years since I stopped drinking that this experience had happened to me, indeed several times. First, for the initial 1.5 years, there was a near magical euphoria, where I could just see God pouring love and wonder into all aspects of my life, where there was nothing more needed to convince me of miracles than the fact that “I am here.” My business just flowed, I met friends and made trips, had adventures, cried a lot, laughed a lot, freaked out often and made lots of amends. Then, moving to Michigan and getting into the rather laborious work of studying to¬†become a medical student, there was a bit of the dryness and blind faith that didn’t always¬†feel juicy and rich and infused: I started meditation groups, reached out a lot to friends, got really into my daily prayer & meditation ritual and sort-of hunkered down. Over the last 1.5 years, life took on new wonder as I found love with my partner, Swetha, and learned qualities like boldness in the face of disapproval of others, resistance to interracial/intercultural partnerships, and – frankly – a lot of day-to-day relationship skills and self awareness that I just don’t think you can learn by¬†not being in a relationship. It triggers stuff like nothing else – I swear by it. So now, as Swetha looks to be going to Atlanta for a PhD program and I look to be away from her for medical school, I am experiencing some of the uncertain anxieties about life. “If this is the right path, why does it feel upstream at times?” “Is it just too damn late for me to become interested in holistic health?” “Aren’t I supposed to be living in a house, having babies, and establishing a retirement fund?” “I’m going to forever be a drain on society, always studying, never contributing.” “Is it possible to go to medical school so full of the conviction that holistic healthcare is not only possible but necessary?” “How will I find my useful place in society?” “Am I too old for all of this? Why didn’t I just figure my life out sooner?” At times, there’s just an ocean of anxiety, worry, concern, future projection, etc., and I find myself “What!? Where did I go wrong? I thought I was¬†over this level of fear, feeling of faithlessness, etc.? Is it a sign of imminent doom?” “How far have I¬†really¬†come from the little kid who just wanted everyone to like him and was afraid to not get an A in every class?”

So, yes, right now, things may also be crumbling into place, at least on an emotional level. Uncertainty, fear, a lot going on at once. Time to just¬†let it crumble, and keep doing the little work to move forward. Rather than obsessing about how to create this ultimate reality for the future, let’s just practice for today being here, noticing, accepting, and making a conscious decision to engage with love, and joy and happiness. Like what I’ve learned so far and in Ayurveda itself, if your heart goes¬†directly to the Source and relies upon it, the details of life are less and less important. They just express whatever is going on inside and within that connection to the spirit. So here we go, unknown.¬†

Juice Day and Post-Interview Thoughts

I decided to have a day consuming only juices once a week for now. Whole meals are fine, as long as you throw it in a blender, so your stomach doesn’t have to do the work. It felt great. On Sunday, I just had soup at the airport. It got the job done. It’s amazing how much more aware of myself I become when I pay extra attention to what I eat, and am giving my system a break.¬†

At Duke’s interview day, I had a chance to talk about my interest with fellow applicants. Some looked at me like I was kind of nuts. The administrative coordinator for our interviews seemed really fascinated. My last interviewer of the day gave me this wide-eyed nod and smile, as if to say “wow, I can’t believe you’re actually doing this, it’s awesome.” Because of the nature of the interview, I wasn’t allowed to know whether she was a doctor, patient, administrator, or any other role. Her encouragement was encouraging.¬†

Interviewing at Med Schools with Ayurveda on the Mind

Sitting at the airport in Raleigh, NC waiting for another interviewee to arrive so we can share a cab into Durham, where we will interview at one of the top medical schools in the country. As I’m sitting here, I’m plowing through books and videos (as the Internet will allow) on the subject of Ayurveda, a system of medicine that runs parallel to modern Western medicine, with a few interesting intersections. Ayurveda is based on systems of energy — and already this sentence could be bothersome to many within medical schools — people who have dedicated decades of their life studying the extremely complex, detailed, systematically-validated, and highly specialized bodies of knowledge within modern medicine. I’m going to these interviews — and into medical school — asking for a place to learn what they have learned. To begin to learn an incredible amount of information over the next 4-8 years. And begin the challenging work of staying true to myself, my passions, my intellectual and personal curiosity, a balance of life, a priority of love, family, friendships and a sense of well-bring…. during what many describe as a very trying, energy-demanding period of study.

I’ve gone about finding mentors within the medical community who are completely competent in practicing western medicine, and also completely competent in other disciplines of healing — therapists, movement workers, meditation teachers, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, homeopathy, yogis and the most strong of all the warriors in my opinion, the many friends working daily in abstinence-based addiction and spiritual recovery. It is in these circles I find myself at home. And there are plenty of people nodding their heads, saying “yes, you can go on, study medicine, be a doctor, and keep your head screwed on straight in the process.” There are also camps that are seemingly opposed to modern Western medicine. That is — as a complementary medicine doctor told me at a yoga festival while hula-hooping — “until they really need a doctor.” So, I’m going to be living a life somewhere in between — between the large, marble corridors of modern medicine, and the love and flow of natural healing — and we’ll just see how this process unfolds over the next few years.

Honestly, my personal statement to get into medical schools was feeling a bit forced — it’s only been in the last few months that these kinks are unfolding, that a path forward is emerging. And this whole thing has been built on one leap after another of faith — leaving Utah, living at home, going to school, all of the expenses, the time and dedication, and walking forward even when I’ve felt blind and have reached out so many times again and again to mentors and friends saying “I don’t know where I’m going,” and they’ve basically said “you are here,” and that was sufficient. Right now as I type this, I feel waves of possibility built up behind lots of confusion, unsettling, fear, egoic walls, fear of what others will thing (too straight for natural healers, too hippie for med school). But it’s all just waves — in my quiet moments when I get to pull up to the head of the bed to meditate at night and draw deep and down, it really, really doesn’t matter. Over the last five years, I’ve just come to believe that a higher power, a great, loving power, is capable of doing what I can’t even imagine. So that’s the fuel. Whether the expression of my desire to draw close to that power is this kind of service or that is to some extent not to me. As my friend Clinton is telling me, you’ve got to do the things that sets your heart on fire, or slowly over time, it’ll burn less and less. Life needs life. Love needs love. You just have to have the faith and dig a little deeper, constantly be “telling on yourself,” getting open, realizing you were stuck, admitting your faults, embracing your talents, and finding the main stream and pulse of your own life. My brother was always saying to me “life is an adventure to be lived, not a problem to be solved.” So, there we go. And Swetha, the heart flower of my life, has been often sage-like. As Clinton says, “a prophet is often not recognized in her home.” When I think I’m the prophet, things don’t seem to go so well! So, I’m blessed continually.

I’m not sure what I’m going to say tomorrow during my interview. If they ask, I will answer.¬†I’m looking forward to meeting up with my fellow interviewee, and staying with current medical students. I have met a lot of really interesting, genuine people along the road of applying to medical school. I’m sure it will continue as I continue to stoke the fires.¬†There’s no sense in hiding what is within my head and heart anyway — it’s going to come out in the wash one way or another.

At the airport in Raleight, NC

Kirtan (sacred chant)

Last night, I went to Ann Arbor Kirtan, a place to practice¬†bhakti (devotional, love-based) yoga via call-and-response chanting. It’s a great place — you just sing whatever is sung to you. They have sheets of paper with translations of the Sanskrit chants. I have been going there for about three years now, sort-of off-and-on. Last night’s attendance was spurned by the Ayurvedic course. When learning about the different sheaths of consciousness (the physical body being the most dense, then energetic [prana], then mental/emotional, then causal/intuitive, then spiritual, then finally un-sheathed the Source), we were told that chanting is a good treatment for getting past the physical, energetic and mental/emotional bodies, and into the causal/intuitive. This makes sense to me, as in singing in a large group, absorbing the beautiful sound vibrations, the mind does in fact “lose” itself, and even the body just begins moving for me in a natural response to the bhakti practice.¬†

I also spoke afterward with Dr. Dennis Chernin, who is an organizer of Ann Arbor Kirtan group. I have shadowed him once in the capacity of being a pre-med student, and he’s also been a source of inspiration-at-a-distance, simply knowing that he has been able to integrate spiritual practices, complementary medicine, and Western medicine into his practice. I’m looking forward to connecting more with him, hopefully, in the future.¬†

Abhyanga (self massage)

For this week in the morning I am administering self massage with warm sesame oil. I use long strokes over long bones, large circles over joints and clockwise circles around my stomach. There are specialized movements along the head, feet and hands as well, as described in our course’s textbook, Encyclopedia of Ayurvedic Massage.

I placed an old towel on the bathroom floor and heated the oil in a simple pot on low heat for 10 minutes while eating breakfast. Then it is recommended to wait 20 minutes after the massage to allow the oil to soak in and to relax. I was planning to do my morning meditation during this time, but the lock got away from me, and I decides to try waking up earlier tomorrow morning to fit in the meditation during that time. As it was, I showered with hot water and a fairly abrasive all-natural soap (to remove oil), and dressed to drive my partner to work.

Yesterday was the first day of massagr, and I experienced some tenderness in the legs during the evening, as the massage likely loosened up the tissues.