Category Archives: Meditation

North India Roadtrip – The Video!

Here is the full feature movie of our 3 weeks in North India. A roadtrip across the states of New-Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Himachala at the northernmost point of the country !

Such a great trip in many beautiful cities like Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Dharamsala, and many more. Amazing sceneries, great people, dirty roads, sacred animals everywhere, and sometimes bad weather, but always a real adventure like nowhere else!

Here is the last movie of our Beautiful World Tour before we returning to Europe where other adventures are awaiting for us.

Enjoy !

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North India road-trip – The Photo Album

This is it. Our time in India is almost over, and we are leaving the Himalayas today.

After the retreat, we could enjoy the Dharamsala countryside, visiting waterfall, temples including beautiful Norbulingka, craftsmanship centers and a beautiful Tibetan school, all under the lovely monsoon weather (I think we didn’t see the sun even once;-)

 

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Norbulingka gardens and temple near Dharamsala

This area of India was definitely the most peaceful once, and it was great again to see all those communities living together in peace. It was also quite moving to see this Tibetan community thriving here, perpetuating the Tibetan culture and arts, with the desire to be able to go back one day in Tibet, be it a free country, or an autonomous province within China, the “middle-way” proposed by the Dalai-Lama. With their many monks & nuns and living compassion culture across all ages, the Tibetan people are a living exemple of what world peace & love should be.

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Norbulingka Buddhist temple

We will be back here one day!

Please find the complete North India road-trip photo album here, with the best pictures of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himichala states we visited.

And below a quick snapshot of the last days in Mc Leod Ganj. Now heading back to New-Dehli before taking-off for Europe!

May Tibetans we able to return their home country any time soon!

 

Tushita meditation retreat – The inner journey

What an experience ! I was expecting something strong, and I haven’t been disappointed…

This Meditation retreat took place in Tushita (literally “land of joy”), a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation center founded in 1972 by two Tibetan Lamas (spiritual guides or teachers), Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche (who is still alive) on the top of a hill in Mc Leod Ganj, a small village near Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama resides in exile since 1959.

105 students gathered from 30 different countries to attend the “Introduction to Buddhism” course, and surprisingly enough (for me), 60% were below 30 years old, which gives me hope for the future!
This 10 days course is very well designed, with a good mix of lectures, Q&As, discussion groups, and my favorite part, guided meditations.
All students committed to remain silent during the whole stay, but there where enough discussions during specific moments to engage in great debate about the meaning of the teachings.

So after traveling physically for 11 months around the world, this is the (rather long) story of a 10 days intense inner journey just out of the retreat.

Geshe La, our spiritual teacher

The “Dharma” (Sanskrit word describing the spiritual Buddhist teachings, particularly those of the Buddha, literally “which holds one back from sufferings”) lectures were given by Lobsang Tengyur, called by all “Geshe La”, a title given to monks who have successfully completed 20 years of study of the Holy Scriptures from the Buddha, kind of a Buddhist PhD.
Geshe La is a Tibetan monk who was born in Nepal near Copan monastry, and lived from the age of 8 in Sera Jey monastry south of India.

The Dharma teaching

As Geshe La was speaking in Tibetan, a Russian interpreter called Anna was doing the fantastic job of translating both the meaning of words and the philosophic meaning of content, which is a tough job, translating rich spiritual believes from a metaphorical language into the descriptive english language… So the lectures were well structured, and despite the language gap, the group could quickly discover or learn about Buddhism culture and Religion.

I personally believed I knew already a bit, but considering the depth of this culture, I discovered that in fact I knew very little. At the end of the course, I was really impressed that such a rich culture and philosophy of Happiness could emerge in North Asia, with concrete solutions for all beings, more that in any other culture.

During those ten days, we went through key concepts of the Buddhist philosophy & Religion, studying the law of Karma (the natural law of cause and effect), the Samsara of cyclic existence and related infinite rebirths in human condition or another (like animals), and for Four Noble Truths of the Buddha that included the causes of suffering and the path to be freed from sufferings, with the ultimate goal to reach Nirvana or Enlightenment, that is the cessation of sufferings and the end of the endless cyclic existences.

If you embrace this path of the Dharma with the superior intension of “Bodhicitta” (the wish to liberate yourself and ALL sentient beings from sufferings), you will become a Buddha, following this path shown by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni 2600 years ago (known to be the 4th Buddha), with many more to come.

This is possible because all sentient beings share the same “Buddha Nature”, the potential to reach Enlightenment, even if it might take just one life or thousands, depending on your karmic accumulation (Buddhists have a much broader perception of time, counting in “eons”, some kind of beginning-less eternity measure).

This theoretical knowledge is completed by very pragmatic practices, from the practice of the Six Perfections (virtues leading to Enlightenment), and of course Meditation, with different practices aiming at progressively approaching the realization of the “Emptiness of inherent existence” of all phenomena we perceive, a notion that helps to understand our distorted or exaggerated view of reality (called Ignorance or Delusions) as the main cause of our sufferings together with Karma.
Once this false view is reduced, it unleashes the human mind with its natural abilities for Loving Kindness and Compassion.

The “Emptiness of inherent existence”, wait – what?

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The Emptiness of my room;-)

This is a very confusing notion for most people, that is presented as the key to eliminating Ignorance. It is pretty obscure to most of western minds, because told in hundreds of different ways in the Buddhist tradition, but also because this realization transcends our cognitive abilities.

With several other Tushita friends, we got really passionate about the understanding of this concept that is taking a huge part of the past and current Buddhist literature, with experts such as Jeffrey Hopkins and His Holiness who have written dozens of thick books on the topic.
My personal obsession was mostly that the notion was so confusing that it might turn people away from practicing Meditation, so I tried my best to give it a concrete meaning with actionable insights.

As this is a complex topic, you can find my humble executive summary of what I understood at the bottom of this post (probably too boring for most people;-)

Universal Secular Ethics

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Buddhist Stuppa at Tushita: a symbol for Peace & Compassion

The great value of all those teachings was the non-dogmatic and non-proselyte approach, Geshe La always insisting of the universal nature of some wisdom (what the Dalai-Lama is calling “Secular Ethics”) beyond any religion, and what was a matter of personal believe (Religions):
“Never take what I’m telling you for granted: you always need to check by yourself, from you own experience!”
“Only take was is meaningful for you and leave the rest!”
“You have the right not to believe, but you have the responsibility to respect others beliefs.”

This really is the gift of Buddhism to the world: values that can be shared across Humanity and across all Religions. This is the current message of the Dalai Lama who is bridging over other spiritual leaders to make such “Secular Ethics” emerge for the good of Mankind.

Two small frustrations

In these lectures, I have been a bit frustrated by two points:

1) It got a bit too far (for me) in the pure religious practice dimension of Buddhism. Many consider original Buddhism scriptures, the historical Buddha Shakyamuni own words from 2600 years ago, are a philosophy or psychology of happiness, with many concrete advices and results you can experience and verify by yourself to achieve peace of mind and happiness.

Of course, through time and contact with other Religions of the East, different religious forms have emerged (Mahayana, the actual form of Tibetan Buddhism, Theravada in Sri Lanka and South-East Asia, etc…), with many codified rituals and believes that I call “Myths & Legends” (like any Religion has), with all due respect. Some of us got a bit overwhelmed by some Mahayana complex world descriptions (like the 6 Realms), and it’s of course at that moment that some Orthodox Buddhists (if such thing exists!) got nervous about protecting the original Holy Buddha’s scriptures, which is what leads to integrism in any other Religion. How wrong.

Because Meditation was presented as included in the “Religious Practice” part of Buddhism, I was afraid that non-religious people would turn away from it, even if Geshe La was quite specific about the universal dimensions of the Buddhist philosophy and practices that should speak to all, and of the ability to pick and choose any of the practices that make sense for one.

Buddhism doesn’t do any proselytism: the believers do not try to convert anyone, they just give the Dharma to those who seek happiness.

2) The lack of reference to Science, which is probably a miss as Buddhism is the only Religion than openly engages with Science to seek for commonalities and mutual enrichment in theory and/or experience. Those efforts have gathered many believers and scientists for a decade, with very interesting research conducted in Neuro-science, Affective Psychology, and even Quantum-Physics. Some Buddhists monks did even specialize in making this bridge with science happen, like the french monk Matthieu Ricard who has been working a lot on the Neuro-science dimension.

Even if many scientists are careful about definitive conclusions on similarities and on the nature of the reality described in Buddhism, I believe it is worth mentioning those research with science, especially about the efficiency of Meditation and its multiple benefits on stress management (called “MBSR: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction”), cognitive enhancement… and of course happiness! In the latest experiments of neurologic signals of happiness as measured on non-meditators / beginners / and advanced meditators, the Buddhist monks (including Matthieu Ricard) were completely “off-chart”: their measures were in multiples of others!

Those were my two small frustrations, but they didn’t prevent at all to enjoy the rest!

The Lama (Guru) inestimable gift

In fact, my true personal realization was the importance to receive such spiritual teachings from a “master” (Lama or Guru in Sanskrit) who is speaking from his heart and leading by example. This might be even more important than the content itself…

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Receiving precious Dharma from Gueshe La in the Gompa

Geshe La was teaching for his very first time, and I have been moved by his incredible sincerity, humbleness, and very warm heart that did show great compassion to us students without any possible doubt. This is the kind of experience and knowledge you can not get from books, but only through this very warm and connected human experience. That’s why the Buddhists insist so much on the importance of having a master and keeping a “lineage” of teaching across time.

Geshe La, being very modest, was insisting that he was not knowledgeable enough yet (to his point of view) to be a teacher, and that he was just a “postman” of the Buddha’s words, and a friend. For a first teaching to such a challenging audience, I believe he did very well, and I truly hope he will continue giving this precious gift to people seeking to become better and more happy persons.

Q&As: the cultural & language “canyon”

The Q&As were the only real frustration of the retreat, as the gap mentioned above become a “canyon” during the interactive Q&A between the teacher and the western students.
Clearly, it’s a tough job for a monk who has very little experience of our world to engage in challenging questions from the (sometimes) tortured mind of westerners😉

So we often got “lost in translation”, not really going into the depth of the thinking, but again, it was striking to see Geshe La doing his best, always staying very humble and providing very concrete and simple answers when he could. He was otherwise honestly sharing his own limits with laughter:
“How would I know, I’m just a monk!”, or “I don’t know well enough yet to speak”, or “Check if my answer makes sense to you, and verify by yourself!”.

Engaging Discussion Groups

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Vincent, Inbal and Sanjay from Group

One hour a day, we could discuss with each other in small groups of 8 to 10 people like during an MBA class (“Master of Buddhism Administration”;-). I was so lucky to get in a group with a lot of diversity: 3 Israeli, 1 Indian, 1 Danish, 1 South African, 1 American, and 1 french (me). The very diverse backgrounds allowed to share many different point of views, and I believe this was the very best way to debate an integrate the meaningful teachings for each of us.

Through the discussions, and sometimes just presence and empathic listening, I made strong contact with several great persons, like the wonderful Inbal from Jerusalem. Those are contacts made for life!

Amazing Guided Meditations

As explained, the number one Buddhist practice is Meditation, and the group Meditations at Tushita were particularly well made. Better than what I ever accounted before.

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One of the meditation halls

They were conducted by a young Irish guy called Tommy, and he found a very efficient way to guide this large group of people with very different experiences, from beginners to more advanced practitioners having done Vipassana Meditation before and having several years of practice.

The efficiency came from the unique blending of classic advices for a good posture, a good flow, some opened suggestions to trigger motivation or visualizations, some personal experiences, and always a great sense of humor (with funny anecdotes like when you queue for a long time to access the only joy of the day, peanut butter, and the guy before you finishes the jar;-).

Everybody could relate to him, and I believe this kept everybody really engaged with the practice even in the toughest moments (like when your knees start really hurting after sitting still for an hour…).
Moreover, he was very generous with his time, always answering all questions after session with the sincere motivation to help us all.
I will miss Tommy’s voice!

For me, having a (little) bit of experience, the true discovery was the Buddhist Meditation mix, a mix of “Stabilization or Focus Meditation” (pure focus on the breath to stop all unwanted thoughts), “Analytical Meditation” (after the mind is calmed, razor-sharp analytical thinking on a problem to reach a conclusion or insight helpful to progress) or “Generative Meditation” (training of the mind to generate positive emotions through visualizations for example).
This made the meditations all different and productive, so such a sequencing will definitely be part of my routine!

Thank You Tushita!

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Mystic forest around Tushita

Having done a fantastic Vipassana Meditation retreat long time ago, I wanted to do such a retreat again, and the end of the Beautiful World Tour was really to best moment to do it!

The place is wonderful, peaceful and quiet, and the staff and volunteers were all great people, fully dedicated to making our experience truly transformative.

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Fighting for food with a cousin

We all had many memorable moments. Rapid eye contacts while keeping silence with wonderful beings. Endless debates on profound teachings. Sometimes pain during the (not so) long Meditation sessions. Hours watching the monkeys and understanding why we (I) feel so close to them, and where some our angry and caring behaviors come from. Eating the delicious food every day. Sometimes fighting for survival when a monkey male was stealing your food (see picture)… I think I truly enjoyed every single moment of those 10 days! 

I left with a lot of learnings, some moving experiences (than are too personal to be shared), new friends for life, and hopefully a bit more wisdom.

“Happiness is as simple as a little bit of Loving Kindness and Compassion to your family, friends, and other sentient beings if you can.”

A big thank you to the Tushita institution for allowing already 10000 people to experience Dharma teachings made accessible to all, including western minds like mine.

For all those interested in Meditation and Buddhism, Tushita or any of the 160 FPMT centers in the 38 countries around the world are a must!

The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT.org) is an international, non-profit organization founded in 1975 by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, aiming at teaching how to develop compassion step-by-step to make a positive contribution to world peace every day.

 


BONUS: The “Emptiness of inherent existence” – my humble executive summary (for those interested)

IMG_9612Here is my humble understanding of this complex topic after reading quite a bit (especially HH the Dalai Lama who had the clearest words on the topic):

Things (phenomena) are “empty of inherent existence” because:

1) At physical and philosophical level:
One can demonstrate (mentally) that things only exist relative to causes and conditions, to dependence on parts, and are constantly changing at any moment in time. They are therefore Interdependent and Impermanent, thus NOT existing in absolute terms (“in and out of themselves”, Absolutism), NOR non-existing at all (Nihilism).

Concretely: it means you need to look at things, events, people from a broader perspective to understand the Interdependence and Impermanence of what we perceive.

2) At physiological and psychological level:
The real world objects are perceived as phenomena from our senses that are providing only certain information to us, what they can provide (we see only a small portion of visible light, etc…).
This give a certain image of “reality” that is then interpreted by our brain, automatically projecting a concept (our cognitive processing works mostly trough conceptualization: that’s how the brain works) and attributing subjective qualities.
And this is were the biggest distortion happens to my humble point of view, but also where we have to most ability to correct.

Indeed, our “Ego” (perception of self), so crucial in our lives for survival (inherited from our animal condition), can perceive and project dramatically wrong attributes to things through anger and/or attachment.
Just think about your first love at the very beginning, how you have been emphasizing the good qualities (often the ones that flatters your ego) and discarding the bad ones, and how your perception completely flipped around at the end of the relationship when you could only see the bad qualities.

This realization leads to the understanding that :
A/ This mis-perception self-maintains in a vicious circle both Attachment and Anger as the two root causes of our Ignorance of reality: realizing this dramatically reduces our habit to rely on Attachment and Anger, freeing us from destroying afflictive emotions that are very well described in the Buddhist system.

B/ Our happiness almost solely depend on our own mind, very little on external conditions such as material comfort (if you are of course not desperately suffering from you body because of a disease in a terminal phase…)

Concretely: “Dissolve your Ego the best you can, and you will be much closer to the reality of things, and a much more happy person!”

3) At Physics science level:
This is where it gets really complex: many people in the last decades have been trying to compare the view of reality between Buddhism and Quantum Physics as both share the two key ideas above:
true interdependence of matter itself (2 particles like electrons that meet become instantly “depended” or “entangled” with faster than light information, whatever the distance)
interdependence between object and observer, with some events arising because of the observation itself!

Which made a famous scientist say: “What co-arises (inter-dependently at matter level) co-arises (from the mind)”.

Concretely: it means some highly realized meditators, those very few humans getting close to Enlightenment, are able to realize this ultimate nature of reality through direct experience in Meditation. For most people, it’s hard to believe they can achieve this in their current lifetime, so I consider this a research that should not block people in practicing meditation for the most approachable goal of dominating the Ego a bit better!

Last point, it is important to say that Buddhist scholars reject any Meta-physical interpretation based on the Emptiness understanding (like the existence of a supreme creating power for instance): it is supposed to describe the ultimate nature of reality, same as for the Quantum physicists (even if some agree that Quantum Physics is only a model of “what we can know”, thus not the ultimate description of reality).

That’s it for that topic. I’m now up for some more reading on the topic that is keeping some people busy for their lifetime. But if thinking is good, experience through “Calm Abiding” Meditations is certainly the way to go to become a Buddha!

Dharamsala, the Tibetan culture capital (in exile)

ENGLISH: Dharamsala is the north India city where His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan monks and citizens take refuge, fleeing from the invasion of Tibet by China that started in 1949. The atmosphere of this city is quite unique, with a blend of indian and tibetan culture that make the place unusually peaceful compared to the rest of India. That’s why many indians and westerners have been coming here for decades to discover the tibetan wisdom, often through its well conserved Buddhist traditions.

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Traditional tibetan dances in Tsuglagkhang temple

On July 6th, Tibetans, friends and devotees of His Holiness the Dalai Lama gathered in large numbers at the Tsuglagkhang temple, the main Tibetan temple in Dharamsala, to participate in the official 81st birthday celebration of His Holiness. Traditional dances, rituals and beautiful costumes where showcased, all generations being actively involved in this celebration, from very young kids to the elderly, giving a sense of harmony in this peaceful community.

2 days later, we were fortunate to see His Holiness coming back to Tsuglagkhang after his long trip teaching around the world. Many people came there to see him just a few seconds, and we were fortunate to receive a big smile from him.

We continue our discovery of the tibetan world for a few more days, the time to meet with Vincent again after his retreat.

FRENCH: Lieu de résidence de Sa Sainteté le 14ème Dalaï Lama, Dharamsala est aussi la terre d’accueil d’une grande communauté de tibétains ayant fuit le Tibet lors de l’invasion et de la répression de la Chine en 1949. Il y règne une ambiance différente du reste de l’Inde, les tibétains sont des gens très pacifistes, généreux et d’une bonté naturelle. Beaucoup d’indiens viennent découvrir ce lieu insolite.

Dharamsala à cette époque, est plus fraîche que le reste de l’Inde, la mousson est là. Les rues se transforment alors en un torrent d’eau qui dévale les rues montagneuses de Dharamsala , drainant sur son passage tous les détritus laissés sur les routes. Personne ne semble habitué à garder et jeter les déchets dans une poubelle, les gens préfèrent jeter par la fenêtre, tout ce qu’ils consomment. Les routes sont animées et étroites alors chacun klaxonne sans cesse pour imposer son passage. Il n’y a pas de trottoir pour marcher… il faut éviter les motos, les tuk-tuks, les camions, les voitures, les vaches sacrées, les chèvres, bref c’est une aventure à chaque déplacement !!!! 

Le 6 juillet, les tibétains ont célébré le 81ème anniversaire de sa sainteté le Dalaï Lama au temple de Tsuglagkhang. Il n’y avait plus un centimètre de libre pour assister à cette fête. Les danses traditionnelles se sont succédées au rythme des musiques et des chants. Chacun a revêtu sa tenue traditionnelle, les nouvelles générations sont aussi très impliquées, les enfants vont perpétuer les traditions. 

2 jours plus tard, nous avons eu la chance d’assister au retour de Sa Sainteté à Tsuglagkhang après son long périple autour du monde à enseigner la sagesse Bouddhiste. Des milliers de gens étaient venus assister à son retour, et nous avons eu la chance de recevoir un sourire de sa part.

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May Tibet be free (or an autonomous province in China) soon again!

 Notre découverte de ce monde tibétain continu pour encore quelques jours le temps de retrouver Vincent après sa retraite.

Delphine

Dharamsala Retreat

We have arrived in Dharamsala in the extreme north of India in the mountains of the Himalayas. This is the place were the 14th Dalai Lama and tibetan government have decided to live their exile from 1959 after the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese in 1950.

We choose to stay in a very small village, Mc Leod Ganj, as this is a very special place where people come from all over the world to attend meditation retreats given by Tibetan Buddhist monks and lamas.

While the family will enjoy the mountains and some Yoga, I’m going for an 11 days meditation retreat in Tushita, a centre for the study and practice of Buddhism meditation from the Tibetan Mahayana tradition. A beautiful place to meditate and reflect on this one year journey!

I will be completely cut from the world, so don’t expect any news from me (Vincent), but Delphine will certainly do a good job maintaining this blog;-)

See you in 2 weeks!

P.S: images borrowed from the Tushita website

 

 

South India experience – the Video

We had a wonderful stay in Kerala, the most religious state in India, often cited as “God’s own country”. Our Yoga & Meditation retreat in Varkala, our visit of Kollam, followed by a 3 days cruise on a traditional “Kettu Vallam” house-boat across Kerala, from Kollam to Allepey and  Kochin! This is the video of our amazing South India experience, a bewitchment of the senses!

P.S: YouTube has decided to prevent me to use the beautiful “Indifference” song from Pearl Jam, so the video has no music from 9’25” to 13’… which will feel a bit weird (algorithmic retrieval of the music which is supposed to leave the other sounds intact, but that’s not quite the case…), but it’s still worth watching! Enjoy…

Ayurveda Retreat in Kerala

ENGLISH: I had a wonderful time at the “Kairali Ayurvedic Health resort” near Palakkad in Kerala.
The resort is surrounded by rice fields and nature. Trees and flowers all over the resort, the place is very peaceful and invites guests to relax and enjoy their stay. The team was also highly competent and friendly.

The basic principles of Ayurveda are natural ways of living a healthy life.
According to Ayurveda, every human being, is a unique combination of the five elements – earth, water, fire, air and space and the 3 vital forces (Doshas) of life – they are called Vata (ether and air), pita (fire) and Kapha (water and earth). Maintaining a balance of these forces assures one of a prolonged and healthy existence.

Ayurveda advocates a two way healing process : preventive and curative. Panchakarma is the preventive aspect of Ayurveda and works toward raising the immune system efficiency in the body.

Treatments, yoga, meditation and meals are all contributing to a better health. In Ayurveda, “health is ultimately happiness of both body and mind“… and after this 12 days stay at Kairali, I definitely left happy!


 

FRENCH: Apres un voyage de plus de 36 heures depuis l’Australie en passant par Hong Kong, me voici enfin arrivée au “Kairali ayurvedic Health resort” à proximité de Palakkad dans le Kerala. Me voilà partie pour 13 jours de cure Ayurvedique.

Le resort est perdu dans la campagne, au milieu de rizières et de champs verdoyants, surtout depuis le début de la mousson. Le centre est composé des petites et grandes chambres éparpillées dans un jardin luxuriant aux nombreux cocotiers, fleurs et arbres en tout genre : manguiers, Jack fruit, arbres aux vertus médicinales…

L’Ayurvéda

L’Ayurvéda est la médecine traditionnelle indienne vieille de 5000 ans. Ayu signifie “vie” et Veda “ science”. Pour essayer de simplifier, selon l’Ayurvéda, une bonne santé n’est possible que si l’équilibre entre les trois Doshas (constitutions), Agni (notre métabolisme), Atma ( l’âme), Indriya ( organes) et Manas (pensées) est respecté. Les thérapies sont évaluées en fonction des trois Doshas : Vata (contrôle le système nerveux) Pitha (système métabolique) et Kapha (lubrification des articulations du corps). En résumé: la santé ne peut exister que si à la fois le corps et l’esprit sont équilibrés et heureux!

Le déroulement de la cure

Après une visite avec un Médecin ayurvédique (6 ans et demi d’études) celui ci défini le type de traitements que l’on reçoit pour les jours qui suivent en fonction de l’objectif des patients (préventif, curatif, perte de poids, régénération….).

L’organisation de la journée est rythmée par un programme très précis : lever avant 6 heure du matin pour préparer le corps à l’activité de la journée, 6h30 – 7H30 cours de yoga, un traitement le matin, le déjeuner de 12h30 à 13H30 un traitement l’après midi, séance de méditation de 18h30 à 19h30 suivie du dîner. Heure du coucher 21h.

Yoga et méditation

Le yoga et la méditation sont des pratiques courantes et font partie intégrante de l’Ayurveda afin de garder ou retrouver l’équilibre physique, mental et spirituel.

Il m’a fallu un certain temps pour m’habituer à comprendre le maître yogi qui s’exprime dans un anglais à l’accent indien très prononcé…encore maintenant j’hésite souvent sur le lieu du corps où je suis sensée me concentrer! Mais la séance donne toujours de l’énergie et le professeur chante les mantras divinement bien! La séance est très équilibrée avec un moment de recueillement, de méditation, d’exercices de respiration (Pranayama), de salutation au soleil et de relaxation.

La méditation est un moment privilégié pour se détendre (oui la journée a été très fatigante!). C’est surtout un moment que l’on prend pour chanter des mantras souvent pour la paix dans le monde, ou pour chanter des sons qui font vibrer des parties différentes du corps en fonction du son chanté. Le résultat est assez étonnant, et si la parole n’est pas toujours comprise, le son lui, permet de situer très clairement la partie du corps qui vibre. La suite de la séance est comme une relaxation, il s’agit du Yoga Nidra.

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Les repas

Les repas sont végétariens et l’Ayurveda part du principe que nous avons besoin d’une alimentation variée, avec des légumes et fruits de saison, des céréales et des légumineuses, comme en Naturopathie!

Chaque jour est une découverte de chaque instant où tous les sens sont en alerte pour mon plus grand plaisir!

Le petit déjeuner est composé de fruits frais puis d’un plat indien comme un Upma (genre de semoule aux légumes) accompagné d’un coconut chutney (délicieuse sauce à base de noix de coco) d’un jus de fruit frais et d’une tisane qui accompagnera toutes mes journées (beaucoup moins délicieuse).

Le festival des découvertes des saveurs reprend avec le déjeuner et le dîner qui se composent souvent de la même façon. Un bouillon de légumes, ou une soupe, des crudités et un plat accompagné d’un chapati ou d’une dossa (galette fine) il en existe différentes, soit avec de la farine de blé (chapati), ou de la farine de riz et lentilles (Green Dhal dossa) ou encore la rogi dossa. Chaque jour je me régale de ces saveurs, de ces nouvelles associations ou des façons originales de préparer les légumes.

Les repas c’est aussi le moment des rencontres et des échanges. La grande majorité des personnes présentes sont indiennes, beaucoup viennent de Delhi ou Bangalore. Certains accompagnent leur parents ou viennent pour reprendre un peu d’énergie, perdre du poids, ou soigner un problème plus grave. J’ai été surprise de croiser si peu d’étrangers.

Le jardin Bio

La plupart des repas étaient élaborés avec les légumes et les fruits cultivés dans un jardin bio (donc sans pesticides), aux abords du resort.

Les traitements spécifiques

Puis vient le moment tant attendu des traitements. Ils sont nombreux et changent tous les 3 jours. Chaque soin a sa salle attitrée, car souvent le soin demande des accessoires particuliers.

Le patient reçoit 2 traitements par jour. Pour chaque soin les masseuses utilisent de l’huile, il y en a plus de 600 différentes en Ayurveda! Au centre ils en utilisent 70, les plantes sont bouillies avec l’huile afin d’en donner leurs bienfaits. Le choix de l’huile est individuel car elle est choisit en fonction de la personne, de sa corpulence, de sa peau…

Après s’être préparé en mettant en place un slip taille unique très sexy genre culotte de sumo en plus étroite, puis enveloppé d’un paréo, nous sommes accompagnés dans notre salle de traitement.

Pour chaque soin la personne s’allonge sur un Droni, lit en bois spécialement conçu pour les soins ayurvédiques. Le premier que j’ai reçu a été le “Abyangam” : grand moment! Une première pour moi car c’est un massage à quatre mains, la sensation est terriblement agréable et très efficace pour le lâcher prise! Massage de la tête puis des épaules en position assise puis allongé sur le dos, le corps est massé avec une grande quantité d’huile. On en ressort complètement détendu, un vrai moment de bonheur!

On enchaîne ensuite avec un bain de vapeur! La personne s’assoie dans une caisse en bois, où seule la tête dépasse, la vapeur d’eau chauffe le corps et continue à optimiser les bénéfices du massage en éliminant les toxines du corps.

Après il y a le rituel du nettoyage, dans une salle d’eau avec un seau d’eau et un petit récipient, on enlève l’huile en se frottant le corps avec une poudre d’herbes mélangée avec de l’eau. Le mélange est couleur vert feuille et permet d’enlever les cellules mortes, le tout étant complètement naturel et très agréable.

Les traitements sont nombreux et variés, mais tous nécessitent deux personnes.

Le “Dhanyamala Dhara” (un des traitements) , commence par un massage des épaules, puis allongé sur le Droni et après avoir enduit le corps d’huile en le massant, les deux thérapeutes versent un liquide composé d’eau chaude et d’herbes médicinales à l’aide d’un Kindi-Kernal (genre de théière). Là encore ce sont de nouvelles sensations, incroyable d’avoir ce liquide chaud versé simultanément sur les deux côtés de son corps lentement en répétant le trajet trois fois. La détente est profonde et la température du corps monte rapidement grâce à la chaleur de l’huile.

Certains soins utilisent des accessoires comme le “Sirodhara” qui consiste à verser de l’huile chaude sur le front dans un mouvement lent et régulier. Ils utilisent pour cela le Dharamshala Pot. Le “Navarakizhi” et le “Naranga Kizhi” utilisent des bundles (petits sacs de plantes médicinales), chauffés à la vapeur et passés sur le corps.

Il y en a une telle quantité que je ne peux pas tous les citer ! Mais chaque traitement apporte quelque chose de spécifique et c’est l’ensemble des soins reçus, l’alimentation ainsi que le yoga et la médiation qui permettent ensemble de retrouver un équilibre.

Médecine Ayurvédique et la Naturopathie

La médecine Ayurvédique et la Naturopathie se ressemblent sur de nombreux points, c’est intéressant de voir que même à l’autre bout de la planète des personnes appréhendent la santé d’une façon individuelle et globale, intégrant l’équilibre entre le corps, le mental et la spiritualité.

Ce séjour a aussi été l’occasion de découvrir la culture du Kerala avec ses danse fascinantes!

Merci Vincent de m’avoir fait ce beau cadeau! J’ai savouré chaque seconde!!

Connecting Body & Mind

We are just out of a fantastic Yoga & Meditation retreat at Agnihotra Yoga Retreat in Varkala in the Kerala state south of India.

Eight days out of time in a place filled with energy and compassion, learning authentic & holistic Yoga, that is to connect the body and mind through Asanas (physical exercises) and Mindfulness Meditations, 6 hours a day.

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Homa (Fire) Meditation
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Yoga Master Syam Ji

We were fortunate to be tought by a wonderful person, our Yoga Master, Syam Ji (Rakesh Kumar is his civil name), fully dedicated to the teaching of is art and lifestyle, a Yoga practice that is rooted in ancient Veda’s wisdom with Hata Yoga Asanas coupled with Homa Meditations, a practice that is using fire to purify the atmosphere… and the soul!

The Yoga Asanas teaching was very progressive, from the classic poses to more advanced one, working on strength, flexibility, and of course equilibrium. The Yoga Meditation part was also very well guided with breathing techniques, body scanning, and the fire and mantra chantings as wonderful ways to fix attention and totally be present to the moment.

Food was also adapted to the retreat with a specific Ayurvedic regime to cleanse the body.

Syam Ji is truly incarnating the values he his teaching, and his chanting of the compassion mantras were pure positive vibrations. He also was very generous with his time to engage in passionate conversations about Indian culture, the Vedas, the commonalities across religions and laic spirituality nowadays.

Kids attended several sessions, and I was proud to see them progress pretty quickly, and be able to focus attention for almost 3 hours, which is not easy for kids aged 12 and 10 yo! Together with the Mindfulness meditation classes I humbly gave them, I hope they will remember the experience & the benefits as a gift for their adult life .

Varkala was also an interesting place to do such a retreat, as Kerala is one of the most religious but also tolerant state of India where all confessions live together in peace. In most cities, you will find Muslim mosque facing a Christian church and a Hindu temple.

At the quiet Secret Garden (the place where we stayed and practices Yoga) we could hear the Muslim chants mixing with the Hindu celebrations, all day long. The place was really filled with energy and peace, in the middle of nature.

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The Yoga Shala in the middle of nature

For those who seek to go beyond the western view of Yoga (that is a “Gym” practice), I highly recommend Agnihotra Yoga Retreat: it can be a life transforming experience!

Information about the Retreats can be found on the website: http://agnihotrayoga.com/

Please find below a short video showing the kids and I attending one of the first sessions (both funny and beautiful at the same time).

This retreat was a great start for our indian journey. We are now heading for a trip across Kerala backwaters on a traditional boat (Kettu Valam).

Namaste (which is a salute saying “the divine in me recognizes the divine in you”)

 

We are in India!

What a journey: 48h to reach the Kerala state in India, and our final destination: Varkala.
3 hours flight from Brisbane to Cairns. 7 hours from Cairns to Hong-Kong. 8 hours to go to Bangalore. Another 2 hours flight to Cochin the next day. And finally 5 hours of crazy taxi-driving to Varkala… We were cooked on the arrival!

As soon as we landed in India, the trip become intense, which is expected in this country that can not compare to any other country in the world. It’s a different planet, especially when it comes to traveling on the roads… We left Delphine at the Cochin airport (she went for her own Ayurvedic retreat while abandoning me with the kids;-) and took that crazy taxi-driver who must have tried to break the Cochin-Varkala speed record.

It seems local drivers must believe in some sort of road divinities who guide their destinies and survival if you consider the general insane driving habits. Several times, I thought we would crash. By night, under heavy monsoon rain, it’s kind of a miracle that on a 2 lanes road, a cow, a cyclist, a moped with a whole family on it, an overcrowded rickshaw, a truck, a bus and finally our taxi, all manage to perfectly align in the last second to allow all vehicles coming in different directions to cross with just a few centimeters of space between them!
When such a miracle happens several times in one journey, you definitely tend to believe in road divinities;-)

we finally made it to Varkala, one of the nicest beach city, but also home of holy saints and of authentic Yoga practices.

It was the place to take a full week Yoga retreat, which we just started with intense 2 x 3 hours a day, with the kids attending some of the more simple meditation and yoga sessions. I feel really blessed to share this experience with my children!

Kids also rejoiced (well, not really) to start school again, but this time it’s a bit different with Mindfulness Meditation classes and some Yoga for sport. The hardest thing for them so far is to adapt to the Yogi regime, especially the rice soup at night;-)

This is the beginning of our Indian journey that we wanted to be the spiritual part of our family experience, and it is starting just like that.

Namaste