India, a country with an astounding diversity of religions, languages, and cultures … unique and unparalleled, continues to captivate. The vibrant colours of the market flowers, saris, local bazaars, intoxicating incense, the ochre forts, shrines, temples, the warm people, wedding scenes …. it all fills my senses and forms this cornocopia of a particular kind of crazy that I love! India, that ancient civilization, the largest democracy in the world, home of my hero Mahatma Gandhi, who envisioned a modern day India that would embrace his highly idealistic dream of equality for all. There are so many more reasons to love this country than there are to ever dislike it and yes, I do tend to gloss over the negatives though I remain well aware of them … the caste system, the abject poverty of many, the disparity and inequality between the sexes and oh, the garbage everywhere!! …. the list could grow but what is the point in that? I prefer focusing on what I love.
It is a nation undergoing significant political, economic, and social change, while at the same time struggling to maintain many of its traditions and customs. India with a billion plus people, one sixth of the world’s population, is emerging as one of the fastest growing economies of the world. A vibrant youthful consumer society is taking shape and urban population is exposed to massive changes in life style, consumption habits, and cultural conditioning. Western conditioning … Gandhi ‘s nightmare realized!
It may appear puzzling to my friends and family, why I chose to travel to such a chaotic country for a meditative silent health retreat … the humour and irony do not escape me ….. but here I be, in Goa, Southern India, on tiny Divar Island, at the unbelievably quiet zen like Devaaya Ayurvedic Nature Retreat, accessible only by a short government run ferry over the Mondovi River, on the outskirts of Panaji, Goa’s capital city. The many touristic beaches of Goa feel a world away from Divar Island, although less than 100 kms away!
A return to India was to have originally been a return to Parmarth Niketan, the yoga ashram in Rishikesh, Northern India with my friend Madeline and where we had so enjoyed our yoga retreat four years ago, but for various reasons, she had to cancel. I had so looked forward to the spiritual ambiance of the nightly ‘Ganga Aarti’ at Parmarth … perhaps another year! I decided to rework my trip and go it alone, head South instead of North! Sometimes fate intervenes on our best made plans and the route changes lead us to where we need to be.
Just a short ten days ago, I flew into a bustling, sweltering Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, where temps sat steady in the low 40’s C …. At that point, I was seriously doubting the sanity of my decision to come here in May! For one most comfortable with temperatures hovering in the teens and low 20’s C, it appears I continue to test my ability to handle situations I find uncomfortable at best :), excruciatingly intolerable at worst. However, I’m doing okay ….
An interest in Ayurvedic medicine was the catalyst and Devaaya is reportedly one of the more authentic Ayurvedic retreats in India. The monsoon discount (I love a bargain so yes, of course I would ‘pay no never mind’ to the looming presence of monsoon season! Indians look forward to monsoon time so, congruent with my philosophy of respecting and often embracing local customs, so will I 😙!
Ayurveda is a field of medicine thousands of years old and reportedly used at some point by 75 – 80% of India’s population. Ayurveda translates as “Ayu … life”, and “Veda … knowledge” … the ancient science of life with the emphasis and motto being … “prevention is better than a cure”. Many of the plants, roots, nuts and seeds used in Ayurvedic medicine all grow right here in Goa and the Kerala areas. Healing or at least abetting the growing discomforts of creaky knees may be a side benefit … giving it a go!
I rarely go a year without a Global volunteer post booked and as luck would have it, Chennai had a time frame that works perfectly! I will tie up with the country hosts Stephen Raj and his wife Sheeba in mid June. Can hardly wait to meet up with them and the children I will be playing ….. errrrr working with 😗!!
Perhaps more importantly on a personal level, I needed space from everything familiar to gather my thoughts and feelings about these recent unsettling years of my life and what increasingly had started to feel like broken pieces of me floating around with little grounding focus. Did I really need to go to such extremes as picking a place halfway around the world to do so?? No, but I did anyway 😚. So, Southern India is where I have chosen to gather those fractured pieces, give them some tender loving care and redesign them into something that feels whole and complete again. Isn’t it in China, where broken pieces of pottery are used to create new and beautiful works of art? Well, for me it will be in India. … A jiggle juggled newish inner landscape.
Through the aid of the nurturing nature of Ayurvedic treatments administered by kind caring warm hearted therapists, a delightful sense of wholeness fills my senses ….. I am massaged, pummelled and wrapped daily in hot oils and muddy or powdery concoctions of all description … they are goopy, slippery, sloppy and messy … feel like a kid playing in mud 🙂 …. A twice daily dose of yoga and meditation sessions complete the healing circle. Early one morning as I approached the Vedic Center I came upon the therapists chanting and singing by the altar table with its bowls of various herbs and meditative paraphernalia! Perhaps I should not have been privy to the ritual but it was beautiful and I am glad I was early for a change! It may be that the therapists set their intentions for the day in that manner. How perfectly lovely!
An unexpected bonus … it’s mango season in India, home of the tastiest mangoes in the world?!! Only Cuban mangoes are a close contender! If my daughter Sarah, grandchildren, Aliana and Oliver or friends Bev and Dave were here, we would all be gorging ourselves silly on the king of fruits …… we are all mango aficionados …