Healing journey in Vaidyagrama

About 1 ½ years ago it was suspected for 2 days that I had a cancer of the bladder. It was a very interesting moment. I considered that it could be true and looked at my options.

Soon it was clear that I would immediately go for my long postponed Panchakarma and take full responsibility for my health. If after that I was to be terminal I would want to spend the remaining time with my guru in the ashram. It all turned out well and there was no cancer but my resolve to finally make time for Panchakarma was now clear.

To find a good place in the new age world of ayurvedic spa’s and other hotels, clinics and resorts was not easy for a lay person like me.

Luckily I have a good friend who is an ayurvedic practioner who could guide me and suggest a very good and traditional clinic to me.

Upon visiting, the clinic proved to be beautiful but too close to the city for my taste.

My search continued and led me finally to Vaidyagrama Healing village. It was situated in nature, it followed all the principles of sustainable living, ecologically responsible building, organic farming etc.

Based on ideals that make my heart sing, they seemed to also serve the community around them. It seemed the best of all places.

Then the next step: Freeing enough time in my busy schedule to go away for one month.

Once all that was done, I wanted to prepare myself for the adventure. I found a good doctor in Amsterdam and had 5 months to slowly get introduced to Ayurveda with its daily oiling of the body, taking the herbal medication etc. Still I did not understand much of the how and why and I did not know where to start reading or studying. My doctor advised me to take another month off after treatment to have time to come home and integrate.

Like that I finally got on my way. I was a bit apprehensive. In the past I had made two very bad experiences with unqualified Ayurveda practitioners and a friend had come back from a ( unqualified) Panchakarma more sick than when she went.
But here I was. I had postponed my arrival by a few days by visiting Fort Cochin because I wanted a bit of holidays after all and for sure a masala dosa or two! After a wonderful train ride through the lush monsoon greenery of Kerala I had finally come to Vaidyagrama’s doorsteps.

The reception was wonderful. My room(s) much more beautiful and bigger than I had expected. It was 7 at night. The place was so silent. Everyone seemed to be asleep very early. I thought I had arrived in heaven.
The crickets were singing, the wind in the trees. I stayed up till ten just to breath in the atmosphere and listen to nature’s concert.

The first mornings I was a bit shocked to be waken up so early but honestly, soon I got into the rhythm and found it wonderful.

A very happy surprise was to discover that no day would start or end without the prayers and meditation. For some time I joined and meditated while the deep voice of dr. Ramadas recited the prayers, later I came back to my own prayer and meditation routine. But I always felt held by the communal prayers. Thank you for that!!
What was really not easy at first was to be in such an enclosed space. I had chosen a place in the countryside as I had planned on long walks in nature. To me that belonged in the realm of resting and not doing anything. For most of my life that has been such a source of nourishment and relaxation. And now I was not even allowed to walk in daylight as all the walkways were covered!!! I rebelled and the first two days I escaped for some short walks but soon came to understand that the digestive fire has to be brought to a minimum and so activities have to also be minimized. Still until the day I left, it remained a bit hard not to have the open space and open sky available.

Over the next 4 weeks I was gently taken in and seduced by Ayurveda and the wonderful doctors and therapists of Vaidyagrama.

For me it was a truly seductive process. The treatments were so pleasant, so soothing, so oily, so loving. And I did not have to do anything for it!  A great treat for a busy bee like me. Just to receive and to relax.

My doctor would come every morning and spend up to half an hour examining me and just listening to all my details of health.

Which doctor in the west has more than 10 minutes of time available??? This was amazing!!  In the first days Dr. Harikrishnan often also came in the evening just to reassure me as he sensed my apprehension.

Twice daily there were satsangs. They were the highlights of my day. Ample possibility to finally ask all my questions to Dr. Ramkumar and Dr. Ramadas!! And there were new questions every day.
Like that, step by step I was introduced into the amazing science of Ayurveda. Slowly all the different expressions like dosa, datu, mala, pita, vata and kapha became like normal words to me with a meaning.
Clarity arose in the vast labyrinth. Understanding started to dawn and with it came great inspiration to take up once again full responsibility for my health, something that I had tried several times but it had not been so successful as either the method was not holistic enough or I was not mature enough. Now at 62, I was ready.

I began to see Ayurveda in its proper context. It was not aiming at health for health sake but it is completely in service to the transformation and self realization of the whole body, mind and soul.

There is no health when not all these aspects of our being are healthy and in balance.

It honors the body as the house, the temple of God.
In my life I have seen so many health system come and go, but they all faded with time. And here Ayurveda still stands after all these ages and is as effective as it was 4000 years ago!!! All encompassing!!

There were tears of gratitude to finally have come to the wholeness of my journey.

A beautiful place like Vaidyagrama naturally attracts wonderful people. My fellow patients were beautiful. Many were involved in different spiritual, charitable or other paths. Even though I did spent most of my time alone, the short meetings were so helpful. Sometimes touching, often hilarious (let us discuss our bowel movements ), supportive and inspiring.

I was happy that I was supposed to eat alone always in my room. I prefer to eat in silence but I would not have wanted to miss our Thursday night communal dinners. They were “the event of the week” in a way.

We sang songs to each other, touched each others hearts and shared our stories and sometimes even got some salt for our kanji!!

A short note on the diet. For a westerner like me, who had already kicked off spicy and salty food a few months earlier, the diet was really fine. Sometimes of course a little boring but mostly really okay and my taste got refined because of eating so little salt and spices. I know for our Indian friends who are much more used to and attached to spices it was often more of a challenge.

Believe it or not, I am home now for 10 days I started to cook kanji and green gram cause I miss it. It is so good on the system. I even cook it without salt.
I am leafing through my diary to see what else was there.

It was a profound journey inward that brought many new insights and in a way a shift that is not so easy to put in words.

After 33 years on the spiritual path I have a bigger, wider, new perspective. Leaving me more grateful, more humble and hopefully more simple.

Oh I forgot the cooking classes with dear Kavitha. My upma is still not as good as hers and I am still struggling to get all the ingredients and instruments together for idli but I know I will manage one day.

The last two weeks, the journey was in a way more “difficult”. I had expected it to be the other way around. After my Vasti’s ( detox) I felt so vulnerable and so super sensitive. I was irritated more often by the sounds around me, annoyed more and generally taken for a ride by my ego more easily. Taking things personally and too seriously and things like that. Some days I really struggled with that.

I am home now, since 10 or 11 days. I can advice everyone to take some extra time off after the treatment if you can. I find it very helpful that I don’t have to work right now.

Now that the seduction phase is over, Ayurveda is becoming a more stern mother, urging me to do my daily routine, to truly take responsibility, to walk my walk, cook my food and prepare my medicine. Most of the time, I enjoy her, sometimes I protest like a stubborn child that wants to have what it wants to have ( I am less mature than I thought I was J), but so far she always wins.

She mothers me so that I can mother myself back to health.

And who can ask for more???

My deep gratitude to everyone at Vaidyagrama.
Every single person there has contributed to my journey. I received endless support from everyone.
Not just from the doctors and the therapists ( I call them “the girls”) but also from the cleaners, the gardeners, Kavitha who would go shopping for whatever I needed, the invisible ones that cooked and prepared and built…..

You are truly a wonderful group of people. You call yourself a family, it suits you. I experienced Vaidyagrama more like an ashram but that is all a matter of names and words.

Thank you , till we meet again.

Rani Willems