After two years, I got to visit India with my two children and had the great privilege of living on a rural farm. The long travel to the other end of the planet served as the perfect excuse to reconnect with nature and reset habit patterns toward healthy living. The lifestyle that we aspire to have in Ayurveda is one where you live in harmony with nature and according to your natural biorhythm. This is hard to find in cities with a fast-paced life. Thankfully, the countryside provides a sanctuary that still holds space for our reconnection to nature. I wouldn’t have known how precious such a space is if I wasn’t exposed to Ayurveda and Vedika’s ancestral teaching classes. Reflecting on the teachings and my experience in the countryside brought up the virtuous cycle below:
Reverence for nature makes us better observers. We start to see interconnections that were not visible earlier. The more we observe, the better our intuition gets. Over time, intuition transforms into logic that allows us to scale our intuition through formalized frameworks. These frameworks then deliver insights that go beyond what our individual intuition could deliver. The insights in turn deepen our reverence for nature. And the virtuous cycle continues.
Below are some highlights from my farm experience that helped me deepen my grounding in the elements of the virtuous cycle through an Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Waking up at 4 AM: In the initial part of our trip, the three of us would be up by 4 AM at the latest, not by choice but because of jet-lag. We used this as quiet time to just soak in the morning peace and silence. Ayurvedically, great emphasis is placed on waking up at Brahmamuhurta (which translates to 'creator's hour'), which is placed about 96 minutes before sunrise and lasts 48 minutes. The creator's hour is a time for us to tap into the deepest part of our creative self where there is stillness and joy. My mother would give us company every singe day as that’s usually her 'wake-up and meditate' time. She would finish her morning rituals and join the three of us to sit together. Because of my infant, sitting in meditation at that hour was not an option but slowing down and being present in whatever I was doing was a form of reconnecting with my self.
Spa for the teeth: Bitter and astringent tastes according to Ayurveda are great mouth cleansers. In the tooth cleanser category, there are a couple of trees that work well; the one we used was neem (Azhadiracta Indica) which besides providing shade also provides great dental health. Every morning, my daughter and I would take our neem twig and chew on it with gratitude for this opportunity. Planting seeds at a young age are very crucial.
Growing up in India for the first twenty one years of my life, I never had any appreciation for nature. However, my grandparents and parents had planted the seeds early on. The memory of it was so potent and deeply implanted in my subconscious that when I actually started appreciating nature, it all just came back. And, now I am trying to pay this forward by implanting the same seed. Now, I feel so much reverence for trees in general and especially the ones that participate in our healing. While a cultural grounding in nature's interconnection with us is terrific, natures' medicine becomes that much more potent for you when you have the knowledge of what it will do in your body.
Farm to Table: Every day, my daughter would go to the vegetable patches and pick the vegetables that she'd like cooked that day. Her school had done a field trip to Trader Joe's which was a great experience. However, when I asked her where the vegetables come from, her response was "from the shelf." Having a farm-to-table experience allowed her to learn that vegetables don't grow on supermarket shelves. Ayurvedically, eating fresh is a very important aspect of health. Although in the United States we source our vegetables from Farmer's Markets, which is the closest we can get to the farm in our busy lives, harvesting from our garden and eating within a few hours connects us to the soil and builds gratitude like nothing else can.
Eating earth: Our food was cooked in clay pots, on a clay oven that was fueled by cowdung cakes. Environmentally, you can't get any eco-friendlier. The clay pots lend an earthy taste to the food. Witnessing the cooking and savoring the earthy aroma was an unforgettable experience.
Cowdung is a natural fuel and lends itself well to slow cooking. I learned something remarkable about cooking in a clay pot. Even though the food was getting cooked, when I touched the upper part of the pot, it was not hot! Perhaps because the food was slow-cooked, every meal was digested very easily.
Holy Cow: The cowdung mentioned above did not come from the market. It came from the cows on the farm. Cows have been treated as sacred animals in India for thousands of years. This is not hard to fathom from the numerous ways in which this animal has supported human health. Ayurveda gives great importance to ghee (clarified butter) as an excellent medium for cooking. Ayurveda recommends cow milk as the most nutritious for human children. Added to all this is the recognition that even cow poop has great value for humans. Baked Cowdung is used to disinfect homes. It is an excellent fuel that can be used for cooking. When cowdung is used as fuel, it emits an aroma that is totally counterintuitive. Please note, these cows are grass-fed and not fed foods that are unnatural to their species (like meat). They are not given antibiotics or hormones. Traditionally, when cows stop giving milk, they'd be donated to temples where they are cared for. On the farm, these cows became family and even though some of them don't give milk anymore, they are cared for just the same as you would for any elderly family member or pet.
Making Oils and Teas:
Using one's hands to connect with nature is a powerful healing experience at so many levels. I took this time to make Brahmi oil, Aloe vera oil, Hibiscus oil and Rose tea with my six-year old daughter. My daughter would collected Aloe vera for me and the first time she did it, she came back with a leaf and told me to put that in her hair. She had attended a class with me at Vedika last year and remembered the teaching of how good aloe is for the hair besides other things. Making things of utility with one's own hands was termed "khadi" by Mahatma Gandhi, and given an important place in one's life in order to develop respect for labor. My own khadi experience certainly did that, and much more. My heart filled with reverence throughout the process, from the first pluck to to the point of completion where the aroma of the finished product deepened my gratitude for nature.
Having knowledge of the Ayurveda framework and using that knowledge to make self-care products for my own use with my own hands triggered reverence for the interconnectedness of life that words cannot describe.