Prayers for Nepal

Buddha Eyes, Swayambunath (Monkey) Temple

Buddha Eyes, Swayambunath (Monkey) Temple

I visited Nepal in April 2013, staying for a little over a month. I also missed the marathon bombing that occurred that month.  I was drinking masala chai in the sun in Pokhara when I heard the news.  Voicing my concern, I got perplexed daggers. The people I had been traveling with were from Iran, Venezuela, Tibet. Tibet! I didn’t bring it up again. I made sure that my  friends running the race and my family were ok and dropped the subject. I was in Asia traveling with people from very ravaged worlds compared to mine. I was in Nepal and was practicing being present. It was a bittersweet trip. I made the 24 hour flight with a bad back and was across the world but I had an overwhelming sense of sadness and this ‘I may not have a chance to travel this far away again’ feeling.

I missed all of the media coverage on Boston. When the case came up again in the news this month, my boyfriend of one year got frustrated with me because I didn’t know any of the details of that day. “I was in Nepal, on the other side of the world, I missed all of this,” I declared every time, “How do you not know any of this?!”, came up. Honestly, I’m thankful I missed it, even though being a Boston native I did feel very far away and homesick at the time.

Here we are two years later, on the anniversary of the bombings, the trial and sentencing of the bad guy is also this month, and I’m feeling nostalgic of Nepal, it brings me to a happy place – to escape. The news barely permeates. I’m thinking about the dusty air, the hot pink and golden landscape. The smoky smell of trash and incense burning.  And then suddenly, Nepal suffers the biggest earthquake in history.  News is coming in slowly and delayed. Ancient temples are ruined. I think about the crowded streets and how I once bumped heads with a baby in a mother’s arms while she manueavered through the tight lines of people hurriedly.  The news is now on the riots in Baltimore. The death toll in Nepal climbing past 5,000 people. Peace. Peace. Peace.

I feel indebted to Nepal. Nepal provided a safe-haven-buddhist-bubble for me during a chaotic time in Boston. And not just for me, but for the countless world travelers that have gone to Nepal seeking peace. I hope that we all will give back to the country in it’s biggest time of need. The natural disaster that has wreaked havoc and deplorable conditions on Nepal makes all of the other worldly evils that much more evil. There are those just trying to survive. Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

Below is the Medicine Buddha Chant that I was first introduced to in Nepal.  May our eyes be transfixed on peace like those of the Buddha Eyes; the national symbol of Nepal.

Medicine Buddha Mantra:

Om Namo Bhagavate Bhaishaja Guru

Vaiduria Prabha Rajaya Tathagataya

Arahate’ Samyaksham Buddhaya

Tayata

Om Bekajye Bekajye Maha Bekajye

Bekajye Radzaya Samudgate’ Shave

Back on Track

I’ve been on hiatus lately. Some call it a “setback”, others: me, call it “one of life’s learning lessons”. I herniated my disc at L5S1 and had a bulging disc at L3L4. In other words, my back shit the bed. How’d I do it? Hula-hooping. Not flipping my car last March. Not skydiving in July. Not falling off a dj speaker in August. Maybe it had more to do with falling last winter learning to snowboard? Maybe I should have stuck to skis. It came out of nowhere – 1 morning after hula-hooping at a spa friend’s house, she was eager to show me how she keeps her abs so trim with a five pound hula-hoop. I hurt my back with a hula-hoop? Was this a joke?

I woke up and couldn’t actually get up. I crawled through my apartment, called out of work and cried my way to the emergency room. They gave me an x ray and said “good news, no broken bones” and sent me away with painkillers. I could barely walk and I couldn’t stand up straight.  This didn’t feel like good news.  My body is my livelihood, if it doesn’t work, I don’t work.  I also have to look the part.  I stared at the floor not because of my dismal predicament but because my back was so hunched over, looking up was physically impossible. The face of health and wellbeing turned to a grimace between ‘what the?’ and ‘ouch’. I drove home for the holidays and expected to drive back to Vermont on Christmas night.

I was now in the care of my divorced-now-back together-newly retired parents-turned-fulltime nurses-to me: their baby. There was nowhere to run and if there was a place, running was certainly out of the question. All of the risk factors for low back pain did not apply to me. Not stretching? I do yoga. On a more confident day I might admit that I’m a yoga teacher. Weak core strength? I taught a really long utkatasana in every class working the core. Overweight? I lost weight but was never really over weight before. How could this be happening? Christmas and New Years soon passed and I was still camping in the family room.

3 trips to the emergency room, an x-ray, a cat scan, an MRI, 3 weeks playing hooky from life, and 1 cortisone shot later, I still wasn’t feeling any relief. Painkillers weren’t doing anything for the pain, just screwing up my stomach. The pain management doctor referred me to a neurosurgeon. After 5 minutes with said surgeon he recommended surgery.  SURGERY!? Teenage angst had taken over my 32 year old being. My life as I thought it to be was “totally over”, my back was busted and my career as a body worker was finished. It was approaching a month in very real time.

I lie in the backseat in the car ride from hell with mom driving and dad in the front. We arrived safely from the surgeon’s office after my mom avoided 17 car accidents on the way home.  We got home and I looked around at my surroundings; I was waiting for doctors to fix me while staying at my parents’ house totally powerless.  I had had enough. I didn’t take any calls coming from the surgeon or no-name-scary surgeon’s nurse trying to schedule back surgery. I wanted my life back in Vermont.

The surgeon made back surgery seem like a walk in the park; only day surgery and I’d be on my feet in a week and just need a few weeks of physical therapy. According to the doctor, I’d be back to normal in 3 weeks. I knew better than that. I knew because my sister had back surgery twice. It was no walk in the park. I also knew from clients and my big sis that once you open the hood, there are always more problems, residual pain and nerve damage. I looked up this surgeon’s reviews online. It was shocking what I had found. This surgeon had a 2 out of 5 rating and the comments weren’t good. I felt like just a number; just a check from my insurance company is all my body was to him. I wasn’t letting him open my hood.

I gave myself one more week to get better this time trying a more familiar approach. I broke out the “Hare Krishna music” as my dad called it. I taught myself restorative yoga in 3rd person. My certification came in handy teaching the most difficult student of all: me. My voice was the insightful and demanding teacher totally disconnected from the student: my broken body. I YouTube’d guided meditations and listened while I envisioned myself pain free. I sent blessings to all of those suffering far more than me in the world and felt profound empathy in those painful and sleepless nights. I meditated to the color red for the muladhara chakra, the energy center located at the base of my spine where the problems were all located.

My low back issues caused a cluster f***; my sacrum was out of alignment, my glutes weren’t working, my toes were numb, and one hip was higher than the other. I saw my favorite massage therapist (which I should have done back in week one, but she is so good its impossible to get an appointment). I followed massage immediately with visits to the chiropractor. My mind became so determined to get better that my body eventually followed it’s lead. And no word of a lie, because hips don’t lie, I was able to drive back to Vermont after 1 week.

I write this now, 3 months after the night I hula-hoop’ed, and 2 months after being back to work. I’m back to massaging but not teaching YET. The punch to my ego for not being able to practice as I could a short while ago hurt just as much as the physical pain. This was a great lesson in the niyama, ishwara pradidahna, accepting this obstacle as part of my path and squashing the ego. I see a massage therapist, chiropractor and an acupuncturist regularly. I can’t do a downward dog yet but I can lay painless in savasana and for me this is progress.

My back is not yet at 100% yet but shifting the focus to facilitate healing through bodywork and a wellness practice was my best medicine. Healing began the moment I began to empower myself; taking matters into my own hands instead of relying on doctors and time (and maybe even mom & dad) to help me. Pain is an epidemic. They say it’s always best to get a second opinion.  In my case, the second opinion was my own gut – that took a back seat at first in the healing process. Lesson in life Chapter: Practice What You Preach: check.

In a Coconut Shell

I’m always researching and trying out new product for my skin, hair and nutritional needs.  What girl doesn’t? I’m a true believer that nature is the best medicine. I use products that are all natural and organic whenever possible. My latest obsession is coconut oil!  I’ve used it over the years but never knew all of its benefits ‘til I became hooked on those raw brownie bites this summer. Commonly used in tropical and Asian countries, coconut oil has the most medicinal and nutritional properties of all other oils.

For your skin: Use it as a body butter and/or facial moisturizer. Mix a couple drops of essential oil of lavender and apply on blemishes. Less is more.

  • Antibacterial and antifungal properties reduce symptoms of psoriasis, eczema, acne, and other skin problems
  • Balances the skin
  • Moisturizes all skin types especially dry skin
  • Keeps skin youthful and healthy looking

For your hair: Rub into your hands and apply it to damp clean hair. Follow with your daily hair routine or massage it into your scalp and use as a leave-in conditioning treatment.  Just a dab will do.

  •  Antibacterial and antifungal properties control dandruff
  • Provides proteins needed for nourishing damaged hair
  • Helps with growth of hair
  • Leaves a smooth shine and feel

For your tummy: Where the real magic occurs. The nutritional value of coconut oil blows the other cooking oils out of the water (and kitchen). Use it the same way you would any other cooking oil. The nutty flavor is also perfect for baking.

  • Antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties and contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that improve health in many ways
  • Fewer calories than other oils
  • Converts into energy immediately
  • Increases metabolism and digestion
  • Improves cholesterol ratio
  • Reduces risk of heart disease
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Prevents hardened arteries (Arteriosclerosis)
  • Improves insulin secretion

Younger skin, healthier hair, super healthy for your body and it keeps weight off? I’ll take it.  I may be a yogi but let’s not get it twisted, I’m still a girl. It’s best to buy organic coconut oil because it assures that it contains no added chemicals or genetically modified additives.  You’ll know that you are getting nothing more than pure coconut from the shell. The oil stores as a solid at 76 degrees and below and should be pure white in color. It melts in the palm of your hand or with heat and becomes a colorless liquid. You can find it at most grocery stores too. I fill a small mason jar to add to my toiletries and the rest lives in the kitchen cupboard.

Take care,
Gina