Monthly Archives: February 2007

Sacred Musings from a Time in India

On the surface, my mind says, the ways of this country are not for the faint of heart, yet there is a deeper truth and a depth of FAITH that pervades life in India. It is in this truth that my spirit surrenders and all experiences are opened to, through this innate trust that all is well.

I am moved to preserve my impressions of this mystical place known as Varanasi, an ancient midevil city; in fact, one of the oldest cities in the world with a population of over 3 million. The description of this holy city, also referred to as Benares, made by Mark Twain in 1897 could not have said it better: “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” ancient city small

Reminiscent of times past, wandering side streets where shrines appear in unexpected places; anointed with flowers, incense and offerings made to the great one. Temples at every turn indicate just how much spirituality is woven into the threads of daily life. Ritual offerings of pindas (rice and doughy sweets made from flour and milk) blessed by priests are fed to my mouth. One cannot help but be changed, molded by the ways of this divine space.

Life in Varanasi is active 24 hours a day. The air, thick with smoke, incense, woody scent of sandalwood, the sweet bouquet of jasmine; and heavy, tainted with the singe of burnt flesh… but an ashen memory from the cremation sites along the Ghats. Everywhere there is sound, layers of sound the dull roar of foreign voices, -enticing, selling, sharing, chanting the endless beeping of horns (some horns yodel the continual vocal melodic trill of never ending chords) then deeper sounds of this sacred city. Chants of mantras fill my ears, sung with intention to evoke ancestral beings, the beating rhythm of drums, haunting melodies of flutes and the high pitched tinkling of Tibetan prayer bells.

herbs smallSalesmen beckon, through endless touch, forever persistent -an intense in-your-face hard sell attempting to close a sale of small statues, ivory, perfumes, or glass bangles. Others present their wares draped on their bodies, colorful prayer beads in layers round the neck, tulsi beads layering an arm.

Small shops line the narrow dusty streets. A unique doorway catches my eye -a miniature door, 3 feet tall! The door is ajar. I peer in. Electrical stuff from floor to ceiling, the salesman, hand on my arm, tells me“A mechanical shop!”

Do I look up or down?? Crowds everywhere. Weaving through cow dung Watch Your Step! And I am still holding my breath! Yet draped above me, textiles, fine silk, muslin, pashmina, and woolen scarves, the colours of silk, all hues of the rainbow, their softness entice and draw me in, an esthetic experience, senses overload.

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water smallLife occurs along the river. Bathing ghats, religious ghats, cremation ghats, separated for Brahmans, sadhus, the poor. Here burns a fire, its flame faithfully tended too, kept burning for thousands of years. The same fire burning for centuries! The fire of Shiva at the burning Ghats. The energy of this place is ancient, sacred secrets in every wall, each turn, every sound. Varanasi, known as the City of Shiva, the cosmic lord, the pure one, the creator and sustainer of life and death, lord of ash. It is believed that Shiva is a deity who purifies through hearing the simple utterance of His name. His spirit wanders in the cremation sites along the ghats. He exists in every happiness, each pure thought, every sorrow, each breath of life and the last breath before death. After every fire, only ash will remain. So is posed the question, where is the need for pain, sorrow, anger and greed, if all things eventually return to dust?varanasi small

It is the obligation here, for the wealthy to pay respect too and financially cover the cremation expenses of the poor. From far and wide, the poor travel with intent to die in Varanasi, as the ganga is considered the ultimate place to be purified, the soul instantly liberated, and released to heaven. At death, it is a great wish and honor be cremated in Varanasi and have ones ashes and body thrown into the Ganga River.

To read other blogs and view some photos of Vanarasi click here.

Cows: Sacred Pets in India!

In India, cows are considered to be sacred be-ings and intelligent pets.

taj sm2In the city of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, cows are left to wander free, adding to the population of over 3 million… Casually meandering through the streets in pairs of 2 or 3, (reminding me of window shoppers!) or laying down in the road -calmly observing the chaos of traffic flowing around them. Are these communal cows I pondered? No, I was told! Cows are pets, they know their homes and return home at night where they are fed.

There is a cow in Varanasi that lives in a shop, he goes outside to pee, our guide proudly cited this example as another reason that cows are intelligent.cow small

While in the narrow streets, a bull meandered up to our group and wanted to pass; with its horns it caringly and gently nudged a member of our group out of the way, so he could pass by….

What IF cows were intelligent?? I certainly have seen other ways of viewing reality, seen a side of things here that leaves me to wonder. When allowed to be beings, they ARE intelligent be-ings, as we permit, so they are. If we treat them like animals, so be it. Animals are saints, if we see this side in their nature. However it is the animal nature we most often choose to see.

Furthering Your Relationship With Plant Medicine

~ written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist

You have heard about herbal medicine and are wondering how to begin furthering your learning?? How does one gain experience with the ancient concept of the using herbal medicine to nourish and support the bodies internal healing mechanisms.

One can easily enter into the plant/human relationship by selecting an herb to study in depth,and get to know the personality of that plant, just like you would a close friend.

  1. Select 1 herb to become familiar with and use for non-emergency situations, such as indigestion, sleep support or relaxation and continue to expand your knowledge and personal experience with each plant. Humans tend to learn through personal experience and being creatures of habit, we often reach for what is most familiar; begin incorporating herbal choices into your daily living and over time, these plants may be more likely to be used in acute situations.
  2. Spend time reading about the plant, (ideally from more then one author) and ensure that the author has in-depth training and clinical experience with plant medicine, rather than being an expert in another field and simply providing “opinions”, without personal clinical experience.
  3. Identify both the main action and secondary or supporting action of each plant. Traditionally plants, being complex be-ings, have more than one use in the body. When used in combination they can become supportive catalysts for a stronger herb, or help to restore the overall function of a specific organ. Some herbs are tonics in nature, others have sedative properties, are astringent, stimulating, or nourishing and taken like a food.
  4. Decide on the method of use for your selected herb, are you preparing a herbal tea by infusion or decoction,making an infused oil or using a cream or tincture?
  5. More is not necessarily better, once reading on the use and dosage of a plant, follow the instructions and stay within the recommended dosage.
  6. Give yourself time to use the plant on a daily basis and notice any subtle effects in the body. Develop a relationship with the plant. Identify the taste, subtle flavor and scent of the plant as well as take in the appearance, visuals can tell much about the personality of the herb; is the plant delicate in nature, or appears robust and solid, are you using a hard seed or a fragile stem or flower?
  7. Remember that herbs have consistently fewer side effects than conventional medicine yet herbal medicine does need to be respected and used mindfully.
  8. Plant medicine is subtle yet can be powerful. Tune into your body and respect the plant medicine you are using. Visualise the plant working in the body. For any chronic condition and especially when one is using medication, booking a consultation with a herbalist trained in-depth with the use of herbal medicine is always recommended.