Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ganges calling

'Bliss Divine' by Shri Shivananda influenced us to a great extent when we read it in the early 80s. For our visit to Rishikesh in August 2016, we booked our room in the Shivananda ashram. I was looking forward to imbibing all the positive energy from the ashram. We knew that Swami Shivananda had stayed here and Neem Karoli baba used to visit some times.

We reached the Shivananda ashram in an auto with all our luggage, and it started raining. The auto driver told us to get down with all luggage. We were three of us, my husband, daughter and myself. My husband told the driver, 'Just let me find out whether this is the correct place. '

The auto driver was in no mood, 'You just get down and search.' My husband told him sternly that he will just go across the road to the office and find out. He came back after ten minutes and since it was the correct location, we got down  in front of the ashram. There were about fifty steps to climb. He told that he would first go and see the room and then we all could go.

My daughter and I were standing below those fifty steps, there was a small shelter, but the water was flowing down the steps and coming toward the luggage, it was a tough job to not get them too wet. We stood there for about 40 minutes. Many people, some of them in saffron and white clothes passed by, nobody asked us whether we needed any help.

Three men and a boy of about 12 years, and another person in saffron dress came to the area where we were standing, to escape the rain. The saffron clad man started smoking cigarette, standing close to the boy.

Meanwhile my husband came down and told that the bed sheets in the room were not so clean and the geyser was not working.  We decided to search some other place to stay and returned the key of the room.

Again he went out to search and in ten minutes came back with a hotel boy who took our luggage and we walked down to the hotel, 'Ganga blossom'. The staff was helpful and when we came into the room, we forgot all the difficulties encountered so far. The room had a huge window, overlooking the Ganges. Oh! What a refreshing sight! We could just sit on our bed, look at the Ganges and meditate.

The Ganges wanted us close to her, that's why our staying in the Shivananda ashram did not work out. Thank you Ganga Ma!

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Only you can heal yourself

When people come to me for healing, my first attempt is to make them understand clearly that I am not doing the healing. They themselves are bringing about the healing, I am just channelling more energy to them to make it happen.

For the distant healing we fix the time and the number of days and at the stipulated time, they are supposed to sit in a particular way to receive the energy. Many days after a client’s healing period was over, she messaged me, ‘I could sit only for two days to receive the healing. I got too busy afterwards.’ Oh, really? That means the healing was not in her priority list at all. Looks like it is the healers’ responsibility to bring the results. Many are ‘too busy’ to even sit for ten minutes to receive the healing vibrations. Do they really need to be healed?

Roughly 90% of the clients who come to me believe that they are suffering because somebody has done black magic. I am greatly surprised when even Reiki channels believe this. Reiki is pure positive energy that provides full protection and if one is doing daily Reiki self healing, no black magic can affect them. One doesn’t have to look too deeply to understand the actual situation.

Just like the ethical discipline and practice of correct conduct are necessary for Yoga, they are also necessary for Reiki practitioners and spiritual aspirants. This is the basis of yama and niyama, the two moral backbones of yoga.

Yama, the first limb of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga means ‘taking a vow’ while niyama, the second limb means ‘rule of conduct’. They are interdependent and niyama strengthens and safeguards yama. The five yamas listed by Patanjali in Yogasutra are nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity/marital fidelity and non-possessiveness.

The niyamas also consist of five limbs, shaucha, internal and external purification; santosha, contentment; tapas, austerity, swadhyaya, self-study and Ishwara pranidhana, surrender to divinity.

During conversation with the Reiki channels who are suffering due to the ‘black magic’, it becomes apparent that they fall short in yama niyama aspects. Many of their sufferings can be explained on the aspects that they have not incorporated into their lives.

For example, a Reiki channel fixed appointment for Reiki IIIA class. The teacher was waiting at the appointed time for the lone student, and when there was no sign of the aspirant, a message was sent to find out what happened. Then the reply comes, ‘Sorry, due to unavoidable reason I am not able to attend today’s class’. This person was going to be a master healer!

Every action that we do has a consequence. When we are so careless in our thoughts and actions, the consequences are bound to happen. Then by making a hue and cry of ‘black magic’, nothing is going to improve. What is needed first is a reality check on our character and conduct. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The rustling of coconut leaves

I love coconut trees, and having born and brought up in Kerala, there was no dearth of coconut trees around. The word ‘Kerala’ combines the sound and meaning of two words, kera (coconut palm tree) and alam(land/ location/ abode) to form the word Keralam, which means ‘Coconut land’. During vacations spent in grand parents' place, all of us cousins would roam around in the compound with many types of trees. It was fun making chains with tapioca leaves, flutes with papaya stalks and to watch with great fascination how coconut leaves were converted to sheets for thatching roofs.

I loved to observe ropes being made with the fibers from coconut husks. The smell of fresh coconut oil, oh God, I used to go crazy applying it on my hand and keeping on smelling it. Since our coconut oil supply was from grand parents, we never stopped its use. During those years, (paid) doctors were publishing volumes of research that painted coconut oil as causing health problems and prompted people to buy vanaspathi (Dalda).

Coconut leaves in the moonlight

When we shifted to the house that my parents built, my room was on the first floor and in those days I could sleep with the windows open. What a blissful sight it was to look at the coconut leaves in the moon light, outside the window! They had a special effect on me as I was dreaming of the person I was going to marry. During the eight months between our engagement and marriage, I was preparing my mind to live without coconut trees in future. He was from the north where coconut trees were absent and we planned to set up our dental practice in his home town.

Destiny had other plans

As it so happened, we went with the flow of destiny and instead of setting up practice, got into teaching and finally settled in a place where we could plant coconut trees in our compound. As I lie down on my bed and listen to the rustling of coconut leaves, my heart gets filled with gratitude to that Universal force that made this possible. The sound of rustling coconut leaves is so conducive for sleep!

It doesn’t end here. My husband got interested in plants and he gets cold pressed coconut oil for our use. After my mother’s demise, I thought that then on I will have to buy coconut oil from the market as she used to supply my stock. The whole world is now acknowledging the miraculous health benefits of coconut oil, and oil pulling with virgin coconut oil is so popular!


1.      ‘40 years ago...And now: How Dalda built, and lost, its monopoly’



Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Tooth bleaching to increase beauty

For a large number of people today, beauty is in teeth color. Many commercials show film stars advertising for whitening teeth.

Tooth bleaching before marriage

When I did dentistry, I learnt to bleach patients’ teeth that had become dark yellow or black when the pulps were dead or after the root canal treatment. But now I hear that in big cities there is a dental package for those who are getting married, which includes bleaching for all the front teeth. The newly weds can then flash their dazzling white teeth on their D-day.

He wanted the lightest shade

During a tooth bleaching course in USA, one of the persons from the company declared, ‘I have got the bleaching done six times to bring my teeth to this shade’ and beamed. To me, his teeth looked lifeless. By nature, fair complexioned people have light yellow colored teeth and dark skinned people have whitish teeth. I believe that when Nature designed it so, there must be some reason for it, which we are not able to comprehend.

Increased staining frequency

Our teeth become slightly darker as we age. One of my friends in her fifties approached me for home bleaching kit as she wanted whiter teeth before her son’s marriage. I tried to discourage her, in vain. So she went off with the bleaching kit. She was very happy with the result. But now, every four or five months she comes for stain removal.

Last time when she came, I started thinking. The staining problem was not there earlier. Then it struck me. The bleaching procedure has made her teeth surfaces more permeable and they get stained fast. I thought of the  plight of all those newly weds who got their teeth bleached, and thanked God that for the monetary benefit I had never advised any of my patients to undergo ‘beauty bleaching’.

Other associated problems

Transient tooth sensitivity and soft tissue irritation occurs during bleaching. Some times it can damage the roots of teeth. Enamel treated with the bleaching gels also exhibits a small but significant decrease in abrasion resistance. This behavior is most likely due to an alteration of the organic matrix of enamel under the chemical action of hydrogen peroxide.

It may be worth spending some time developing the inner beauty instead of altering the natural color of teeth and suffer the consequences for the rest of one’s life.


Tuesday, March 01, 2016

For authentic Kerala food, go to Dubai

We reached Dubai by lunch time. While settling in the room, found that the water was leaving the wash basin very slowly. Called up the house keeping and a person came to set it right. My husband started talking to him and asked where we could get some simple food for lunch. I was glad that he was a Malayali and asked for any Kerala restaurant nearby. He said there were two good places at walking distance. One was Sara restaurant and the other was Oottupura.

We went to Sara for lunch and I had egg roast and barotta. Wow, what a lunch it was! We saw the menu and I made a mental note of what all I had to try.  Next day morning we had breakfast there and the appam  and vegetable curry were delicious. I saw some adas (grated coconut and jaggery filled inside rice flour dough spread on a plantain leaf, folded and steamed) at the counter and asked my husband to get them packed for our lunch as we had to go for a meeting. They were so good that on the subsequent two days also we did the same thing.
This time during my Kerala trip I had missed pazhampori (deep fried banana with maida covering), so I availed the opportunity to compensate that here. On the next day we went to the Oottupura restaurant and I got kappa biriyani (though they call it biriyani, it was just the tapioca cooked with some masala and then seasoned) and fish curry. I felt I was in Kerala having that heavenly food! Another day we ordered the vegetarian thali and got to enjoy a typical Kerala lunch. The puttu was made of parboiled rice flour and served with green gram dry sabzi. They had even kanji (rice porridge) and coconut chammanthi (dry chutney), which are my favourite, but we had only four days and the items that could be sampled were limited.

Somehow, whatever dishes I had, I felt they had more authentic Kerala taste than what we get in Kerala hotels. My husband had an explanation: In Kerala they are trying to get other tastes, but here, the people miss their home towns and by cooking food the original way, they maintain their closeness to their native places!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ostrich Syndrome

More than three decades of teaching in dental schools that had students of various nationalities gives some definite surprises, mostly very pleasant ones! We have been fortunate to visit some countries and wherever I am lecturing or giving a course, somebody would come and ask with a beaming face, ‘Madam, do you remember me? I was your student.’ I derive so much happiness from seeing my students well settled in life.

Many of them would insist that we should visit their house or at least have a meal with them. Sometimes old friends happen to see flyers of my course. They would manage to get my contact from the organizers and come to meet. Occasionally we have been taken on a long drive to their home for a lovely dinner!

As in other aspects of life, here also there is the other side. People, who are usually in touch with us, when we tell that we are visiting their country, suddenly will go underground. There will be no trace of them and they can’t be contacted. This behavior I found typically associated with two countries. In one of this, many professionals project a different picture of their lifestyle, but actually they are leading a tough life, driving cabs and doing something similar. I happen to see Indian dentists serving as assistants to the local dentists. Naturally they don’t want us to see the actual situation.

In the other country, people have insatiable hunger for materialistic wealth that they are always under stress and lack inner happiness. So they don’t want to take friends home. That is perfectly alright. The problem is, they will say, ‘Now that you have come here, you should definitely visit our home too’, not once, but many times, and no action will be taken. I find this very amusing and call it the ‘Ostrich syndrome’.

Ostrich Syndrome is denying or refusing to acknowledge something that is blatantly obvious as if your head were in the sand like an ostrich. Another definition of ostrich syndrome is ‘A peculiar condition marked by the person making absolutely nonsensical statements displaying pure stupidity and lack of common sense akin to an ostrich with the head in ground’.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Meditation and surgery

An enthusiastic youth came to discuss things related to spirituality. He is interested in meeting people on spiritual path, is a voracious reader, and incorporates many lessons into life. He was attuned to Reiki at a very young age, too young an age that he did not follow up the self healing practice.

‘I do meditation, but I don’t believe that you have to sit in a specific pose and all.’

That sentence set me on thinking track. Since he is a medical student, I thought in terms of that profession. As a doctor, one does surgery. For the surgery to be successful, a lot of stringent preparations are done. The operation theatre is disinfected, the doctors spent ample time to scrub their hands and the instruments are sterilized with great care.

Imagine a war scene. As many wounded soldiers are brought in, sometimes surgery is done in compromised situations. Because the priority is different in that situation. We cannot take that as the standard.

I see a similarity here with meditation. Meditation just happens, we cannot do it. We have to create a congenial atmosphere for it to happen. Some of the earliest written records of meditation (Dhyana), come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism around 1500 BCE. The Vedas discuss the meditative traditions of ancient India. Just like surgical textbooks give guidelines, our sages, especially Sage Patanjali has given guidelines to prepare for meditation through their experiences with the Divine.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra outlines the eight limbs of yoga, guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life. Dhyana or meditation is the seventh limb, where as asana or posture is the third one. Here, posture means the ability to hold the body still as a prerequisite for deep meditation. The spine is to be kept erect and the body relaxed. A sign of perfection in Asana is said to be the ability to sit still, without moving a muscle, for three hours. Many people meditate for years without achieving any notable results, simply because they have never trained their bodies to sit still. Until the body can be mastered, higher perceptions, so subtle that they blossom only in perfect quiet, can never be achieved.

If somebody is trying to do meditation at the fag end of life, he/she may not be able to keep the body in a relaxed and still posture for extended periods of time. For them, there can be exemptions (just like performing surgery in a war zone). But if one is into the spiritual path from an early age, it really pays to follow what our sages’ wisdom dictates.