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Body, Ageing & Care

I happen to be receiving Ayurveda treatment here where I am in Kerala, South India. I have studied Ayurveda life sciences since I was introduced to it in 2004 when I was studying nutrition, nourishment and healing arts in Colorado. But this is the first time to experience a full program of treatment and to receive it in its' place of origin is definitely something special. Unlike allopathic medicine that offers no recipe for prevention of disease, Ayurveda understands the human body as a whole organism made up of the same five elements as our environment. The approach to care and nourishment of the body (physical, mental & spiritual) changes with the seasons and the cycles of life and is specific to the particular dynamics that are present at any particular moment in time.

Following an initial consult with the Doctor, I was taken to the treatment room where my robe was removed and two women went about the business of massaging my body with warm oil - a common treatment called abhyanga. I had been doing this myself at home, but to receive this from others is something quite wonderful to experience. They kneaded, stroked, massaged and squeezed every part of my body front, back, top and bottom. Then I was taken to the shower where one of the women washed my body with soap and warm water. When finished, she dried my body and gently took my hand, guiding me out where my robe was then popped back on.

The experience of being seen naked as a 56-year old woman felt confronting initially. As they massaged my body, I could feel the soft tissue, now loose in many places that were once firm. I noticed a mix of feelings arise, there was what felt like grief and loss as I remembered my younger form, vulnerability at being seen naked, and a sweet tenderness as I softened into the experience of receiving the gift of touch and care. The old ancient voices in the head that echoed their judgements and lack of acceptance became nothing more than white noise, unable to hijack the attention that they once did.

As the days roll on and my body is revealed to others and myself as it is, without any overlay of thought, assessment, measure, or comparison, I notice the light of presence reclaiming the places that were once given to those ancient voices. A gentle release of tension, welcomed by breath to soften the edges of places I didn't know were mine. I notice my belly being breathed, with a fullness that expands to capacity and then releases back in its resting place. There is no big that is too big or small that is too small, just the natural ebb and flow of expansion and contraction and the 'being in and with' the experience as it is. Just like a mature rose that looks somewhat dryer, perhaps a little wilted and browned around its' edges, but with an even more potent scent than before.

Coming to love and care for ones' body as it ages is no small feat in a society that promotes youth and has fixed ideas of what beauty is. But I see clearly from where I am, that beauty is an innate quality of presence, of being what we are. When we view our body through the filter of conditioning it is difficult to bring acceptance and love for what we are seeing, rather the conditioned mind tends to judge, compare, and reject that which it doesn't want to see. Have you ever had the experience of looking at yourself in the mirror, but looking in a way that casts a light only on the good side, filtering out and shape shifting to fit the ideal image of what you want to see. It can be a subtle influence. It is like all the parts of ourselves that we don't like get disregarded and filtered out, but they are waiting for us, desperate to be seen, wanting to be included in the fullness of our expression. Inevitably, they find a way, and we either learn to welcome them or we spend thousands of dollars trying to erase them out of the picture as we cling to a dead image of what was never meant to last forever.

I look in the mirror and see my image as it is, lately there is an older woman staring back at me, she looks completely different to the image I have about my self, yet there she is. At first sight I don't want to see her, I don't want to accept her, she is too homely, too ordinary. But if I remain with her she is brought to life by the light of presence and I marvel at how unapologetic she is. She is as she is. She is my life, she magnifies all experience, she emanates maturity and wisdom, she is showing me my transient form and I am slowly growing to love her and see her beauty. You see, I have no choice because to care means loving, and to love means acceptance. This ageing body will get older and one day die, and just like we witness the ageing and dying process of a loved one, we can also bring that same quality of care and attention to the needs of our own sacred bodies. These bodies are our earthly homes, and make it possible to experience life on this beautiful earth; they are our earthly creatures.

Our body is our habitat and just like the seasons it moves with the cycles of birth and death. So love your body like you would a dear friend, spend some time with it. Touch it, feel it, and pay attention to it like you would the roses in your garden.

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