The Vata Dosha is insidious –insidious being defined as intended to beguile or entrap. It can present itself as a weakening of the self, shown as a lack of energy, fickleness in endeavor and reduction of integrity resulting in obstruction of prana (vitality). Fear can be the strongest movement of energy there is. It can propel anger and suppress dreams. It can lead you up the garden path of must-do’s and better-be-carefuls. It is to be reckoned with and a bitch to try to tame.
When Jessica came to see me all I could see was “stuck”. Stuck was manifesting as a ganglion cyst on her wrist, ovarian cysts, fogginess in the mind, mild acne, dry skin, anxiety, heaviness after eating and hypoglycemia. The fire was out. “Stuck” also showed up in expression. Here we were facing each other, about to start an intimate relationship as practitioner and client and between us was the thick fogginess of fear. How could I show her that she could trust me? I couldn’t. I just needed to wait patiently to see whether she could feel comfortable in my presence.
In time, Jessica would reveal as a fascinating young woman. She is filled to the brim with creative ideas and sharp insights on herself and others. She is a leader and visionary. She is a lover and wife and daughter of two incredible parents I was fortunate to meet. She is grandiose and poetic. She is gentle and giving. Ayurveda is a wonderful tool. It doesn’t yell and scream at fear; it holds out to shake a hand and sits with it until it gently moves away. You see, the tools used in Ayurveda aimed at freeing and moving prana are insidious as well, but this time it’s playing for the good guys.
Jessica’s story tells of inner strength; the move from intellectual prowess to a more robust and grounded intuitive strength. She cut her hair short very soon into the sessions but unlike Samson, she just grew stronger and surer of herself as time went on. I saw Jessica from April to October, initially weekly, then every other week for awhile and then monthly for the last couple of sessions. I also had the fortune of having her parents for an initial consultation, a gift from Jessica. It was a real treat to observe the influence of the family unit.
I’m grateful I was able to provide a space of trust for you to flower in Jessica. Thank you for sharing.
1. What was your main concern when you sought Ayurvedic consultation?
This question gave me pause, as I struggled to remember why it was I had sought out Ayurveda to begin with. I recall listing complaints of mental cloudiness and persistent low level headaches, a cyst at the base of my left thumb, which I had been chasing the meaning of nearly as long as the mental fogginess, two bouts of ruptured ovarian cysts within the previous year, and hypoglycemia, which I had uncovered in a blood test along the way as I worked with Naturopathic doctors and acupuncturists on the other ailments.
2. What was it about Ayurveda that you thought could help your situation?
I had been feeling at a loss with Naturopathic medicine and acupuncture as my process of healing plateaued with each of them in their own time. The science of Ayurveda lured me in with its comprehensive approach to well-being and its empowering principles that can transform the patient into the practitioner. It was promised to be a healing way of life, not a quick remedy. In my first meeting with Sandra, she explained that our work was to get me acquainted with my body, so I could eventually self-heal and consciously balance and harmonize my systems on a daily basis through how I interacted with my world. This sounded complicated at first, but as we began to discuss my prakruti and vikruti, breaking the world down into a handful of qualities, and arming me with foundational practices the road map came into focus and I became more facile at meeting my needs through self-care and practice.
3. What activity in your life do you believe contributed to your main concern at that time?
I think my work life was the main contributor to my imbalances at the time. It was not only that I was juggling two jobs, one as a farmer and the other as a waitress, but also the intricacies within each of those jobs that drove me over the edge. Both were very physical and there was always a lack of time to sleep adequately and eat enough as I shuffled between the two jobs. Both were emotionally taxing, though in different ways, and it was a mental frenzy between running a farm business, collaborating with business partners, keeping up on the food and wine program, and remaining on top of my customer’s orders, requests, and the execution of a beautiful meal. In retrospect it makes me dizzy to consider my life then. I can see how hard I pushed myself to perform and to tough it out with a smile on my face all the while. There was very little room for gentleness and rest, which was also the way I had run my life since I was quite young. In my mind it was always a race against time to conquer the world. Go, go, go!
4. What was the most difficult lifestyle change you were suggested and why?
The most difficult lifestyle change requested of me was to slow my mind down, or rather pretty much stop thinking altogether. I have always been in my head, mostly in a pragmatic and intellectual way. I was an intense and dedicated academic during school, gaining two BA's in Anthropology and Philosophy in the standard four years and graduating summa cum laude. I did have a dreamer side as well when my nose was not to the grindstone and I would experience the most fanciful dreams and unbelievable meditations as my mental life let loose to play. My mind was my life; it was my identity and the totality of my worth. To ask me to not think about anything was, well, unthinkable to me. What the practice became for me was different than I expected however. It was not that I stopped thinking or dreaming, instead I shifted my awareness. Instead of feeding my intellectual life I turned my attention to my heart, my sensations, my body. It is a realm that is unbelievably rich but speaks without words. The chatter of my mind began to slow increasingly as my awareness of everything below my neck heightened. My intuition grew and my healing accelerated. More often than not these days I find myself witnessing rather than thinking about this or that and it has founded a stillness and groundedness that had been forgotten.
5. Why did you cut your hair short?
Only a couple months into my time with Sandra I chopped all of my hair off. As a practice to reacquaint me with my womb and to inspire healing energy for my reproductive system I had been introduced to Shakti, the primordial Feminine essence in Hindu mythology. I worked with Her through meditation and contemplation, which brought many insights around my alienation from my own femininity and my past misrepresentation of sexuality and power. It turned out that all of these old warped ideas were tied into my hair, which had always stood in my mind as a wild symbol of my femininity, sexuality and power. I decided I wanted to really gain access to an understanding of those qualities by cultivating them from within. And so the crutch had to go; my hair had to go. As I prepared for this huge and daunting transition the act of cutting my hair became an apparent offering to Shakti, the keeper of the Divine Feminine, and so the desire to let go was supported by this dedication. I fully expected this process of cultivating these feelings to take time and practice, but to my amazement, a unique experience of each quality occurred simultaneously as the first lops were taken of my hair. It was like a wave of love that traveled up my body, pouring out of my eyes; creating large, clear blue pools where my old eyes had been. And in that moment I whispered "there you are" as I had the sensation of having just seen Myself for the very first time. Though the knowledge of my deep seeded power as a woman came in an instant, it has been a practice since then to comprehend what that means and to embody it fully. The fruits so far of this feminine exploration are consistent sensations of a grounded calm, confidence, body awareness, self expression, quietude of the mind, trust, surrender, and a comfortability with the unknown.
6. Did you see a change in your relationship with your parents once they got a consultation?
I was most touched initially by the transparency Ayurveda allows for. During my follow up appointment, when my prakruti and vikruti were revealed, I was astounded by the amount of things Sandra could understand about me, even describing things I had struggled to articulate. I felt seen. I instantly wished for everyone in the world to have the same experience I had had, to have their nature understood so clearly and lovingly by another, and so I gave my parents each a consultation. They are such champs when it comes to dabbling in all of my experiments and so they went with few expectations but curious minds. My dad's prakruti was no surprise and his current vikruti expressed itself in a way that was very similar to my own experience. I felt we have always had an unspoken bond based on this familiarity. He followed the recommendations like a religion and quickly started to notice results and to find relief from some of his concerns, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, an old wounded shoulder that ached, and restless sleep. He also found a compassion for his lack of focus and difficulty learning that had caused him to second guess his intellect for much of his life.
On the other hand, the conclusions of my mom's visit were an absolute surprise to me! Her vikruti was expressing itself so strongly and persistently for as many years as I can remember (largely induced by the use of antidepressants, which she boldly weaned herself off of shortly before this consultation) that I could have never guessed she had a dormant fire in her belly waiting to be released from the wet earth. She took note of the recommendations and implemented many of them while also experimenting with other ideas, such as gluten-free eating. The combination of regaining her emotional life and feelings along with some lifestyle changes allowed her fire to burn warmer and more clearly. As she began to express more pitta tendencies I began to see my own roots in her, which revealed shared obstacles and strengths that I had once felt alone in possessing. It has catalyzed an authentic bond between us and united us in the practice of understanding what it is like to feel your inborn truth. They have gone on to share their experience and the intentions of Ayurveda with anyone who is curious. I am continually amazed with their constant growth and insights.
7. Did you feel supported by your partner and friends when you started to implement the recommendations?
I definitely was supported and encouraged by my husband Matthew, parents, and friends as they could all see a shift in me. I was often like a beautiful mystery unfolding before Matthew, my parents were so happy to see my health and vitality returning, and too many friends asked if I was pregnant because of an undeniable glow. Everyone, including myself, could see the change.
8. Have your desires before and after the sessions changed?
This question makes me giggle because before the sessions I think I wanted to just not feel like crap. I wanted to feel like a healthy 24 year old, I wanted to feel safe and comfortable in an uncertain and ever changing world, and I wanted clarity around my life and purpose. I have achieved these more or less, though it is a constant balancing act, and I feel like my foundation of health and stability is solid, which allows me to focus on my loftier dreams and desires around developing my interests and honing ways of serving others on their own journeys. Because I am steady, I can joyfully reach out my hand to help another.
9. Have you noticed a difference in your emotional stability?
The difference in my emotional stability has been amazing and so nourishing. I am hardly ever frantic, anxious, or fearful. There are still some other deep seeds to work through here, but I am now able to rest in uncertainty, trust in the unknown, and believe in myself in ways that were a struggle before. I have become very good at surrender. And surrender with a couple deep breaths added in makes nearly anything in my world seem possible. I feel held by the universe and I listen to my heart and not my mind when big decisions are to be made. Humility and vulnerability have become some of my closest allies. When in doubt I open to my truth and the next step is revealed.
10. Talk to me about your changing feelings on motherhood. When you first came to see me there was a fear surrounding it.
This question could not be more timely as I had my IUD removed recently. Huge emotional-body shifts already. I now feel empowered through the vulnerability and delicacy I see in being a woman; there is almost always the potential to host life, and so a strong relationship between body and mind is imperative - either to skillfully avoid or to consciously accept this role. With the IUD there was no potential for creation and it gave me a false sense that I was invincible, which allowed me to perpetuate a disconnection from my body. Simply by having the device removed a new connection was created between my mind and body, a welcoming of my body. I am also seeing healing on my tongue already too. The life thwarting device nestled in my creative center is gone, hurrah!
Because my husband Matthew is nearly 10 years my senior, the urge to have children largely came from his end. I was supportive of this idea, but most of the joys of having a family were obscured by my fears around caring for a helpless being, losing my independence, and knowing that everything would change (change having some negative connotation in this scenario).
In the spring of 2013, shortly after I began with Sandra, some friends who lived on the farm I leased land from asked me if I would like to act as the nanny for their 8 month old son, Mateen. I was absolutely blown away that they would ask because I knew next to nothing about infants and I already had a demanding schedule on the farm, but the timing of their request was so auspicious that I had to let reason rest and I said yes.
This little boy was meant to be my guide and we had a very sweet and deep subtle-body connection from day one. He empowered me to be a wonderful caregiver, to speak without words, to embrace the value and wisdom a child brings, and most importantly he showed me that all the changes a child brings to one's life are enriching, not compromising. He cracked my heart open to the joys of motherhood and to the sweet purpose that lies in caring for the next generation. I was with him weekly from 8 to 15 months, and by the end of our time I had a deep intuitive sense that bringing a child into our life was my next step.
I was able to embrace this knowing because of the sweet comfortability I had cultivated around uncertainty and trust through my practice of Ayurveda. Once again I let reason rest and this intuition pulsed in every cell of my being and the longing to conceive was wrapped in the safety of knowing that this is what I need to do next. Currently, I see the process of pregnancy and motherhood as the final surrender to my body and the innate and primal knowledge it holds. It will be my embodiment of the vulnerability, delicacy and strength of a woman creating life.
There is always that initial hurdle at the beginning of sessions with clients when it feels like they have landed on your door-step fed up and wanting answers. When Vata's in the house, it's important to hold your ground and calmly explain change is going to take time and it's going to be bite sized with lots of chewing until it's absorbed. When the digestive capacity of the Vata individual is compromised, it would be difficult for them to take on too many “new” ideas.
In Jessica's case we had a bright mind (Pitta) in a sleight frame or what I lovingly call "big dog in a small dog body". Her voracious mind's appetite was not honouring her body's needs and this was causing an excess of Vata to start to stagnate in areas that did not have her attention. And because of this appetite, there was always a hunger for more knowledge, for more to do, for results to be now.
I always think of intellectualism as a desire to understand outside of ourselves and wisdom the knowing that what's inside is parallel to the outside. The bridge between is the prana. With Jessica's strong spiritual practice of Buddhism and daily meditation, the cross-over started to come fairly soon into our sessions. Her new attention to her female energy started to bridge the gap. Using a guggulu formulation to help move blood, hand mudras as well as castor oil packs it started to create sensation and movement in her reproductive area. Finally there was conversation!
The re-connection to her family with new insights was beautiful to be a part of. I observed her own foundation strengthen as well as her compassion for her mother. Now she could understand who she really was beneath her own vulnerabilities. Now they had a language to talk about what was going on and not take it personally. Family support is earth and it's the good stuff. Not the earth that weighs you down but the stuff that looks like scaffolding; it allows you to build from it. In reading why Jessica decided to gift her parents the consultation, it makes me smile. It was from her heart that she wanted to share her new world but as a bonus she unknowingly fortified her own structure.
When I was in India I shaved off all my hair. I felt wild and alive and more confident in myself because of it and so I understood why she wanted to “reveal” herself from under her hair. It was symbolic of coming out, of bouncing into butterfly-status and it was very real to watch her own definition of herself as woman expand. It's like a little mischievous spark got ignited and a brave intention to desire what's inside.
The farm life was the perfect setting for her to find her earth. She cooked and blessed the food she ate from the earth. She walked. She performed simple routines of asana and spent time with her partner and friends. And she practised the simplicity over and again because the intellectual mind wanted more. It was the simple and loving that was her answer.
Vata is a delicate energy and yet it can be very powerful in distracting you from your true self by constantly making you turn your head toward those things outside of you. One of the qualities describing the Vata dosha is lightness, so the good thing is that if you can keep to just one routine in your life, the lightness of Vata can revert fairly quickly. This is the way it worked with Jessica. The first hurdle took the longest but then once the connection to body was made and there was a turning point to routine, everything else fell/is falling into place.
And it will continue to do so because she has faith in herself - the best antidote to fear. Now anything is possible.