I awake to the sound of the plane's wheels screeching as we touch down. The wheels, which were not spinning a moment ago and now are full of motion, seem a fit analogy to my arrival in India. The man next to me makes sure to give me the snack in a box, what appears to be an interesting Indian version of a PB&J, that the flight attendant left. I breathe a deep sigh of relief knowing that my flying is now done with the conclusion of my fifth flight. I somehow managed to sit near an enthusiastially crying child on 4 of my 5 flights. They must have been given the same sandwich.
In Hyderabad I danced between hundreds of luggage carts all going in various directions and waited 45 minutes for my luggage I received an accurate foreshadowing of the driving here. After being car sick for the first time in my life and noticing the saints and deities on the dashboard of the cab, I arrived at the Vasanta Institute of Ayurveda, Dr. Lad's Ayurveda Ashram outside of Pune, Maharashtra where I will be studying and helping with the 6 week Panchakarma Intensive. Panchakarma ("five actions" in sanskrit) is a powerful and ancient series of treatments which form a very important part of Ayurveda. These treatments permanently remove the aggravated qualities in an individual which start the disease process so that they never return to pester the person again. The goal of these treatments is to return us back to our G-d-given state of peace and health.
Though I'm only a volunteer here I have been taking part in the full-training because they were 1 male short. We are only one week in and thus far we have spent the whole week learning Dr. Lad's exact abhyanga (oleation massage) sequence. I feel honored to be learning this techniqe from Junko who has worked in the panchakarma department at the Ayurvedic Institute for 15 years. I'm also equally grateful for her incredible patience. After another week of training the patients arrive and we will be giving all of the treatments to the patients which Dr. Lad prescribes. With Dr. Lad guiding each patient's unique program of treatments we will be side by side with the patients as they go through this panchakarma therapy. It struck me while practicing the treatments how much of an honor it is to be in that space with a patient. When they get up off the table or out of the sweat box and you can see a clarity in their eye that was there before one receives a powerful glimpse of the potential of this medicine.
The beauty and sacredness in India is astounding, the juxtaposition between that sacredness and the rampant pollution is maddening. How does a nation/region with such a long history of being connected to what is sacred become so wreckless towards the place which G-d created? The other morning I awoke to a weird sense of nausea as an overwhelming smell filled my nose. I realized that what I was smelling was plastic being burned down the road. While walking down the street garbage is everywhere and one is constantly stepping over it. How do we make that which as been turned profane sacred once again? The questions which we get to ask in our leisure over coffee and cake in the west as we sit in our pajamas lay on the doorstep of every Indian family. India's problems here are our own and we need to devote our love and utmost attention to this very serious situation.
Yesterday we visited one of the eight sacred sites devoted to Ganesha (the ashtavinayakas), the elephant headed god. Here in India the yearning to contact what is sacred is as apparent as one's heartbeat because one cannot live without either. At the sacred temple of Chintamani people waited in a long line just to be able to touch the ground where their ancestors have been coming to worship for generations. I'm inspired by the unbroken connection to the past, the constant focus on what is sacred and the way that this is central to their culture. I left this site of devotion feeling as though I just completed some sort of pilgrimage and could not help but wonder what my own country would be like if people waited in long lines for things other than sales on Black Friday...
Back in my room and reflecting on the number of sites we visited today like the one above I ask you, how can you bring what is sacred to you into your life in the most palpable way possible? How can you align your life with your best intent and highest good? I know the answers you find will not only fill your life with happiness but they will also remove the garbage from the streets in India.