Seeking God

Un-gods of Google

traditional-vedic-hospitalityIf I ever needed a reminder of the importance of the natural way of life, I just got one.

I returned yesterday from a natural healing resort called Kairali in the old Kerala town of Palakkad. The resort is a sort of Ayurvedic hospital with rooms designed in special ways to maximise ease and healing, lots of massage treatment rooms, a herb garden, an organic vegetable garden, and in-house Ayurvedic doctors. The food served is mostly vegan with a few dairy-based desserts once in a while. No black tea and coffee! (So I had mild withdrawal symptoms for the first couple of days.)

Anyhow, one of the main things that stuck with  me about the stay was a conversation with the ancient old resident doctor at the resort. He was so old, he would fall asleep at his table when no one was looking. But he was so sharp, he knew just what was happening around the world in terms of lifestyle and technology. And some of the things he said really had me sit up thinking.

For one, he said that people who work all day on the computer have a whole new set of problems, both mental and physical. The latter because offices are designed uniformly with all computer terminals at the same level and chairs of the same dimensions. But human bodies are individual and different so one size doesn’t fit all. Women and men who are shorter or taller than the general size designed by the furniture designer obviously lose out, and end up with back and neck issues. Secondly, staring at the computer screen for hours is straining for the eyes.

There are mental disadvantages too, he said. A computer is hypnotic. Google is a great weapon but also a great curse. We have become used to typing in a query and getting an instant answer, instant gratification. It has become so easy that we cannot imagine life without it.

But there are no instant answers in nature. Nature forces you to wait, teaches you patience. A baby takes nine months to be born. A tree needs years to grow to full height. Every spiritual question asked by a seeking mind requires silence, stillness and some amount of wait before an answer is received. We cannot Google for God. It is foolish to imagine that enlightenment can be had as quickly as the click of a mouse.

In the process, we’ve become a strange new breed of humans, cut away from the slowness of nature, the serenity of a growing forest, the calm of a gurgling stream, the occasional impersonal violence of a carnivore seeking a prey. We’ve become addicted to everything fast — food, thoughts, answers, entertainment, meaning — when in fact there is value only in the opposite, in lovingly cooked home food, the balanced strain of a yoga posture, the pauses in the activity.

We rush to fill in silences, when the silence itself is the real conversation. We distract ourselves with smartphone apps when boredom itself is the birthplace of creativity.

We cannot wish away the Internet but we can become aware of its power over us, its hold on our minds and deeds. Take a break and take a deep breath. Shut down the screen and walk away. Blink. Move, turn your neck. And don’t get used to instant answers. Like Google results, they aren’t always complete or right.

There’s no substitute for earnest effort and personal experience, whether for material knowledge or in spiritual growth.

Seeking God

Sleepless in soul-searching

The day we moved into our new home over a month ago, I lost my sleep.

At first I figured it was the Vastu of the room – we shouldn’t be in the North-east of the house, and our heads shouldn’t be facing north. So we tried sleeping sideways. Then my brother wrote in about some Feng Shui rules in their new California house, and I learnt facing north was okay. (Unless it’s different for North America and Asia, I don’t know).

Then I figured it must be the mattress – I was probably uncomfortable in a new bed, and it was made of foam, which is really unhealthy, you know. So we got a cotton one, natural fiber and all. Worked marginally, but I was still awake.

Then I thought it was too much light in the room; so I covered up the window with chart paper and we painted over it. But no luck.

Then I developed a major allergy and figured it was the blocked nose and sneezing that was keeping me up. So I began taking an anti-histamine. It worked one night and then I was back to lying eyes open in the dark.

By now I had bags under my eyes and my fatigue was unbearable; I had to take a day off from work because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. So I went to an Ayurvedic doctor. They charged me Rs 3,500 and gave me an Abhyangam and Shirodhara, along with some medications. I felt relaxed but still couldn’t sleep at night.

Then I figured I was missing my kids after so many years of sharing their room. So I went to cuddle them and did the coochie-coo and bonding thing for a bit. Didn’t work.

Then I got another Shirodhara and a morning out at a fancy five-star hotel where I did nothing but read and nap, and I came home all very happy and renewed and laughing. But I was sleepless again at night.

In frustration I went to a real sleep specialist at a real hospital. He took Rs 1,000 to tell me that I needed a special diagnostic analysis of my sleep and I’d have to check into a hospital or they’d do it at my home. It would cost me Rs 12,000. He couldn’t give me any medication until then. And I didn’t have the courage to take sleeping pills without a prescription.

In the meantime, I changed my anti-histamine and my diet as per the naturopath in the five-star hotel, and shared my woes with my girlfriends on Whatsapp. One of them said something that struck me pretty hard: “Give yourself a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

It struck me hard because I realised I was unable to actually give myself a break and I was killing myself for my sleeplessness. I wanted to be in perfect health. I wanted to be superwoman. I wanted to be able to handle everything without a hitch. Being sleepless and allergic and tired was a blotch on my CV. I was ashamed of being caught human.

So three days ago, I decided to heed her advice. I decided to give myself a break and not be so hard on myself.

It meant giving myself a break to be sick. It meant not being so hard on myself if I was sick. It meant treating myself with some compassion and allowing myself the luxury to be sick. It meant looking at my own sickness the way I would look at one of my loved ones’: Going ‘awww’ and hugging myself, and cooing, ‘Everything will be okay’.

It meant being understanding with myself, and comforting myself saying, ‘You know sweetheart, you have been through a lot lately, marriage and moving and all, and it’s totally natural that your body is a little shaken up. See what Lea Carpenter says: “Certain events sure shift you from center. A wedding, for example.” Give it time, it will be alright in a while. You will find your balance. Time is the greatest healer.’

It meant respecting my body and hitting the sack when I was tired, even if the laundry was yet to be folded and put away. Even if the kids needed me for homework. Even if everyone else was still up.

It’s been three days and I’m sleeping better. Maybe it’s the new mattress, or the new anti-allergy pill. Maybe it’s the new fruit-rich, caffeine-poor diet. Maybe it’s the effect of the Ayurvedic medication, finally.

Or maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s time, and maybe I have learnt what I needed to learn.

I don’t know what the answer is. But I think my God is glad I changed the question.