We tend to appreciate blessings when they become the past. Having good health and living in a healthy environment is the best natural blessing humans can be given. We slowly lose it by living against nature. Often times, people only realize this when they have symptoms and it is too difficult to reverse the effects in a timely manner, so they go to a doctor for immediate results without realizing that drugs are only supposed to be a supplement to living a healthy lifestyle.
Although medical treatments are effective and beneficial, we need to adopt better lifestyles in order to achieve and maintain good health. Relying on medical treatments alone has its drawbacks and can even be detrimental to our health. The following statistics show the risk involved with using health care alone to achieve an optimal sense of well being.
A total of 225,000 Americans per year have died as a result of their medical treatments according to several research studies in the last decade:
• 106,000 deaths per year due to negative effects of drugs
• 80,000 deaths per year due to infections in hospitals
• 20,000 deaths per year due to other errors in hospitals
• 12,000 deaths per year due to unnecessary surgery
• 7000 deaths per year due to medication errors in hospitals
Thus, America’s healthcare-system-induced deaths are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.
I was born and raised in a very healthy environment surrounded by my father’s farm filled with many mango trees, other fruits like coconuts, bananas, chikoos (almost like kiwi), and many other herbal plants and flowers. This natural, clean environment took away the stress from the air we breathed.
My blessings of excellent health are history now because I did not learn to maintain it over the years. The pollution that surrounded me started covering the cells of my body slowly because of my poor lifestyle choices. I did not realize soon enough how far I was from healthy living. But after living in India for five months, I was shocked to know of all the changes in my Aura and how deeply my subconscious was buried with thoughts of desires, wishes, and plans for the future; also, regrets from my past generated stress and anxiety within me polluting my peace within. I was caught in thoughts of the past and future and so was not able to live in the present.
One of the best blessings I have had for most of my life is being able to sleep peacefully regardless of the time, place, and stress of the challenges in my life. All of the sudden this blessing started to fade. I did not attribute this to depression or stress because my life had not dramatically changed in that way. My doctor was focusing more on my physical and mental conditions rather than the side effects of my blood pressure medication. I was not able to function as well during the day because of the insomnia I was experiencing. After a few days, I googled “sleep disorder” and found out that it could be caused by my blood pressure medication. I asked my doctor to change my medication and soon after I was able to sleep well again.
“Prevention is better than cure”. This has always been my motto, but at this stage in my life I wanted to know more about the cure also. Prevention may sometimes not be enough. My mother has always been my best health care advisor. She is in her eighties and is living a strong and healthy lifestyle. I stayed with her at our home in India for more than a month, and I already felt more in tune with nature there. Even though being home really helped me, my stay at the Ananddham Nature Cure Center in Katch made much more of a difference. The treatments I received there included massages, acupressure, magnet therapy, organic foods suggested by doctors, fresh herbal drinks, yoga, physiotherapy, hot/cold packs, mud packs, etc. These treatments were scheduled for participants based on their need. The loving and caring doctors and staff at the Center really added to the experience.
At Ananddham I also learned more about yoga.
Yoga is a practice that connects the mind and body. Movements of the body during yoga are a result of the messages sent by your mind when it is at peace and without any stress. You should not change your regular breathing pattern during yoga. It is an exercise of the nerve system starting from the centers of brain to the ends of each organ, all while maintaining a peace of mind. Your nerve system gets stronger with regular exercise and as a result the flexibility of the body increases slowly but surely.
When I started yoga, the flexibility of my neck and back was way below average and way below my own expectations. I learned that this was the result of not having myself under control. I was under an illusion that I can control myself whenever I wanted to. I also learned that I am not able to carry my own weight on my feet for long periods of time. I was losing independence that must be gained back, and the only way to do this was to practice yoga everyday.
One day while I was practicing yoga, I closed my eyes and I saw an image of a human body. This image stayed for a couple of minutes. I did not believe that such type of experiences existed. I always thought our mind only showed us what we wanted to see by creating an illusion, but I did not wish or expect my mind to create any type of image at this time. I talked to my yoga instructor about it and he said that an image can be a bridge between your mind and body. It is a short cut to improving my health, but if I really would like to connect with myself, I should not focus my attention on the image that I was seeing. He told me to let my mind see it, but to try to pay attention to realities not images. What he meant was to not focus on images and associated feelings, but instead focus on what is really happening. Images can only help you feel better temporarily.
I had a choice to make here in order to be healthier, one between illusion and truth. As a believer of truth I chose not to pay attention on any illusions and decided to include yoga in my routine.
At Ananddham I also met an internationally known heart specialist, Dr. Ramesh Kapadia, who stayed at the center to write a book about heart disease. I also met his friend/patient, Ramesh Sanghavi, who is a well known writer and highly respected for his social work. He is running a non-profit organization that pays parents so that they can relieve their children from labor work and let them go to school.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity of talking to both of them personally about my physical and spiritual wellness.
Dr. Kapadia has helped many who were about to go through bypass surgery suggested by other specialists. He helped them heal without surgery and live healthy through changes in their lifestyle and proper medicine. He said that death through a heart attack is a painless death. Heart attacks do not last for even a minute, but the long lasting fear of having one makes it much worse. People who have survived from heart attacks do not have less chances of living a longer and healthier life if they can change their lifestyles. He said that the fear surrounding death makes the condition worse than it is. The doctor’s and patient’s confidence makes a big difference. He also said that a doctor’s only source of income is his patients so money can sometimes take control of the situation. If this happens the focus may shift from treatment, especially when the patient is wealthy. Sometimes their egos do not allow them to establish kindly relations with each other. Dr. Kapadia is a rare kind of successful, spiritual doctor. His web site is www.universalhealing.org
Another memorable meeting was with a well known writer, Kathakar Poonjal Rabari. His book “Trofavo Ruda Trajva” is available for sale on Amazon. He writes in a folk language with a unique writing style. He is running a well respected non-profit organization named “Mangal Mandir” which helps children, who may not have gotten a chance otherwise, get an education. He is 74 years old and has a plan to start another institution named after Dhanbai (the mother of Dula Kaag, a well known poet) to specifically help girls get an education.
A true story he wrote about Mother Dhanbai touched my heart.
Here is an excerpt of his story translated by me: “Dhanbai was living in the forest area. One day she found recently born puppies in her yard. During this time her son, Dula Kaag, was just a new born baby. The next day, she found the mother dog killed by a wild cheetah. It was believed that if puppies were not fed directly by their mother during their first week of life, their eyes would be affected and their vision may not be as clear. With her extraordinary loving heart, Dhanbai took the puppies under her care. As soon as she took them in her lap, the very hungry puppies started sucking her breasts for milk. She could not take them off because she kept thinking it would be cruel to do so with motherless puppies. Her neighbor witnessed her breastfeeding these puppies for a week before giving them food in a plate. She saved their lives.”
What “oneness” she had with other creatures! I was moved by this story.
The center also invited a couple of musicians. One of the musicians, named Umesh Jadiya, played an instrument called morchang.
The “morchang” also called “morsing” is placed between the teeth and held firmly in the hand. It is struck, using the other hand, to produce sound. Movement of the player’s tongue, variations of the throat, and blowing and sucking of air through the instrument produces different sounds or overtones.
Umesh Jadiya played beautifully and told us some facts about his instrument. He had collected about 800 different sizes of morchangs from all over the world, starting from as little as two inches to as big as one meter. However, he lost most of them during an earthquake. In India this instrument is usually played by Maldhaaris when they are looking after their cows and other animals in the field. He had performed in many countries and on television programs. When a Russian lady heard him on TV talking about losing his collection, she mailed him her morchang to add to what was left of his collection.
This instrument is known in many different cultures by many different names. The common English name “Jew’s Harp” is controversial and is avoided by many speakers. Another name used to identify the instrument, especially in scholarly literature, is the older “English trumpet”; while “guimbarde”, the French word for the instrument, can be found in unabridged dictionaries and is featured in recent revival efforts.
Learning the Vipassana meditation technique:
The director of the nature cure center, Dr. Jay Sanghavi, suggested that I go to the Vipassana Center for ten days. I did not think I was physically or mentally prepared to meditate for twelve hours a day for ten days, which was how they meditated. But he said that it was actually not as difficult as it sounds and encouraged me to at least try. He said they allowed you to take a break and go to your room or sit with back support when necessary. So, I went to the center located in Katch, a district of Gujarat, near a beautiful and clean sea shore. The center was surrounded by nature. More than half of my stress evaporated just by entering into the garden filled with fresh air and clean oxygen, away from the pollution produced by civilization.
The first thing they do there is take away all of your belongings, including cell phones, books, money and anything that may take your focus away from meditation. They return everything at the end of the ten days. You are not allowed to connect with the outside world in order to divert your mind to look inside of you only. Now you have no choice but to be with yourself. You are now free from the world and are away from worldly worries as well. The world cannot enter your space through your eyes or ears here, but the tough part is the meditation. Shree S. N. Goenka who started the teaching, knew the difficulties associated with doing meditation 24/7 would make people want to leave early even though lodging and boarding was free, so he suggested only giving the boundary of time for ten days. Quitting is not an option until the ten days are over. For me ten days were too long for learning and too short for practicing since practice should increase gradually.
The technique is scientific. Vipashyana means to observe. It is a Sanskrit word and can be spelled this way as well (and is commonly spelled this way on the internet). It is not just a meditation. Vipassana changes the way you handle any situation. It teaches your mind to stay calm during good and bad times and appreciate life in the present moment. With long term practice the inner energy forces turn into positive loving forces of life which remain calm forever, even when they leave the body and enter into space.
This is the only way to reduce the great amount of stress from the world. You have to start from your inner space and spread to outer space. It is not associated to any religion. It is not believed that Buddha is the founder of the technique; instead that he was practicing and teaching what he had learned from old masters.
We can experience the presence of God only if we are breathing. Breathing is the real connection between our existences with space. This technique starts with focusing on breathing and then travels inside of the body with focus of the mind. You learn to observe sensations through stability of the mind, whether it is painful or joyful. Both are temporary. Try not to change anything. Things will change regardless but try not to interrupt natural changes. The thoughts our mind generates affect us the most. So try to wish well for all beings while meditating. The everyday practice transforms ordinary energy into divine energy and peace becomes natural all the time, including the time of death and beyond.
We love joy and hate pain. Feelings of hate (even in painful moments) are not good. We waste our energy removing pain and when we fail, we get disappointed and sometimes depressed. The only wise thing to do is to accept the moment as is and feel the sensation, happy or sad. Stay calm. If we do not learn to be calm and humble in happy moments it is hard to be calm in sad moments. Practicing Vipassana can help us live with balance. This is my understanding of Vipassana.
Just as most people have, I have painful and joyful sensations when my mind travels throughout my body. I tried to tolerate the physical discomforts and pain that came with sitting for long periods of time without any movements. My mind was giving up sooner than I thought it would. I was tired and was always being strict with myself. It took me almost a week to close my eyes and sit down properly for an hour without changing positions often. I was very relaxed but not because of the success of meditation. I think it was because I was away from my stressful routine and I was close to nature. I was free from doing anything other than sitting down and trying to meditate. The food they provided was also very good and the diet helped me feel lighter.
These ten days certainly helped me because I wanted to be with myself away from the world for a while. Learning this scientific technique of meditation was a plus. During sittings, I had no choice but to pretend like I was trying even when my mind was not ready to try. I do wish I could have walked around when I got tired of sitting. I think very few people go back there again because of the long hours of sitting. In my opinion, I do not need to go to the center if I am capable of doing meditation for that long on my own. Here, I also saw light and images a few times but the toxicity in my body did not allow the proper flow of energy throughout my body. I could feel physical blocks more than mental. Maybe because of my wrong lifestyle choices or perhaps as a result of past mental blocks, I do not know. However, I certainly can tell that enemies (body cells filled with toxicity) are inside me, blocking my space. I know I need to change my lifestyle and I am trying, but it is hard because the mind always finds excuses for not exercising or not eating a well balanced diet.
Experience with Universities in India:
It has always been my dream to further my studies. I was married at the age of 19 and became a mother at 21. I studied for two years after marriage but then my priorities changed and I started putting my education aside. Finally, I thought now, after my kids have grown, I can start again, but getting admission through distance learning was difficult for me. My friend, Nilam Doshi told me about SNDT Women’s University which offers distance learning, so I applied there. I found that communicating with them was very difficult. They did not have an answering machine nor did they answer my e-mails. The phone numbers they provided were either busy or disconnected. Then, finally, Dr. Balvant Jani (Dean of the Arts faculty at Saurastra University) helped me and I got admission into the MA of Gujarati program. I already had my Bachelors in Microbiology and Education from the last time I was in school. I always liked to read and learn more about literature in my mother tongue, Gujarati, so I thought this would be a piece of cake, but getting the material in my hands was a pain in the neck. I do not think I would have gotten what I needed without Dr. Balvant Jani’s help, who had a cousin who was working at the University. I do not think I will go back and finish even though I already started because of my priorities and the difficulties I am currently facing. However, I am enjoying reading the books in the syllabus. Dr. Balvant Jani asked me if I would like to participate in publishing Gujarati Diaspora, literature written by American Gujaratis. I was very happy about the opportunity but it was not high on my priority list.
I met many people during this visit, some famous and some unknown. A man who was painting my sister’s apartment, where I was staying, told me his success story. He was a beggar before and slept hungry many nights. He had a family of five, parents, wife, and a child. Even though he was away from his home, he was happy providing bread to them everyday. He was very happy that he was no longer on the street begging for food. His dream of earning food with dignity came true. For him, it was a success. His daily wage was increasing as a recognizance of his honesty, loyalty, and hard work. His daily wage was less than five dollars a day but the joy of his success was no less than a famous man’s.
During these five months I accepted some opportunities to give something back to the community, but it felt like putting a drop in pot when glasses upon glasses were necessary. We all know that the joy of giving is greater than the joy of possessing. Giving back to the community is necessary and should not just be through volunteering, but many people may not understand the necessity of giving. I think people who can give (not possess) are more fortunate than people who have more to give but do not. They are caged by their possessions.
As immigrants we experienced identity crisis when we moved to the USA from India and that is why our thought processes are different. Ego and identity are two sides of the same coin. The past and future meets in the present and may feed our ego. When we try to make a map of our future we need to know where we came from, where we are going, and where we want to go. Our future with our children is in the USA and our past with our parents in India. Both of them play a huge role in our identity. Even with the differences in cultures, we take pride in both. It is hard for me to tolerate opposition of either culture.
During this visit I have spent some time and money designing my website www.southasianheritagegroup.com Visit it sometime!
Thank you for reading about my experiences. Your comments are welcome and appreciated.