Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ayurveda and the Foundation of Goodness

Hello everyone and happy 2012!  I figured I would catch you up with our Sri Lankan adventures in a bit of an unconventional way (at least unconventional way in terms of this blog).  I don't have any awesome pictures or gripping travel adventures to share, but I do have some rather amazing experiences to write about so I hope you find them as interesting as I have.

As I type this now, Shari has Pirith playing in the background while I'm drinking my morning cup of coffee.  Pirith is a collection of Buddhist prayers and since Shari is Buddhist, it's something she starts her day with every morning.  As a non-Buddhist, Pirith sounds like a bunch of monks chanting in a language I can't understand, but I must say it is a very soothing way to begin the day.

After living here for close to six months now, I find this country to be a highly spiritual place.  Although religious lines are split between Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Christians with Buddhism being the primary religion followed by Islam and Hinduism and finally Christianity, there appears to be some level of religious harmony here.  Now, I may be feeling this way because I have not lived here long enough to see religious divisions and experience religious strife between these different groups, but one thing is certain, spirituality is very important to the people here regardless of their religious affiliation at it is nice to see so many people nurturing this very important, but too many times neglected, part of our lives.

With all of this talk about spirituality, I figure it's a good lead in to the explanation of my first experience with eastern medicine since faith is required for both I suppose.  Living in the US, we've all heard of herbal treatments and ancient Chinese remedies, but I had never heard of Ayurveda until coming to Sri Lanka.  Without getting too deep and as best as I can describe, Ayurveda is an ancient system of traditional medicines with its origins in India (see: for more info).  Regardless of its origins, my first run in with it happened because of some knee pain I had been experiencing for a few months now. 

For those of you who know me well know that I've been the lucky recipient of five glorious knee surgeries (three on the left and two on the right) in my early 20's and have experienced knee pain ever since.  About two months ago, I was jumping rope in our home gym and started to feel some fairly significant pain shortly after the session.  The pain was bad enough that I didn't think I would be able to go on the Adam's Peak climb (hence the reason I had so much trouble on the return trip).

After observing my suffering for a few weeks, my business partner Saliya asked if I would like for him to arrange an Ayurvedic doctor house call.  Figuring I had nothing to lose, I complied and Saliya scheduled a man who goes by the name Guru, to come over to take a look at my problem.  Guru arrived a short while later in plain street clothes and no medical bag.  After taking his shoes off before entering the house, we walked to my kitchen table to begin the examination.  As I sat down I saw that Guru produced two bottles of what looked to be some sort of oil.  I have no idea where these bottles came from because he was not carrying them when I met him at the door.  After asking a few questions and applying the two different types of oil on BOTH of my knees, he asked for some cotton and a cotton bandage.  He said is was very important the bandage be cotton so that my leg could breath properly.  I only had an ace bandage, but Guru said this would actually cause more pain so he took a trip to a nearby pharmacy to get the proper bandage.  After pouring some oil onto the cotton, he placed the bandage over my knee and told me he would be back in a few days to check on me.  He said I needed to keep the bandage on for this period of time to allow his remedy to ferment properly.  He also told me not to get the bandage wet.  I asked him what the charge was for the treatment and he replied that he does not ask for money for any treatment involving pain.  I gave him 1,000 rupees which is about $8.85 for his troubles.

Guru returned in a few day as promised to see how I was doing.  He entered the house in much the same way and we sat at my table as we did a few days before.  Again, Guru produced two new bottles of oil from somewhere and began the process of applying the oils to both knees again.  This time he explained a bit about his remedies.  Evidently, these natural treatments have been passed down in his family for over 2,500 years!  He stated that this treatment was 100% guaranteed to take away my pain.  I listened skeptically, but was impressed by his conviction and confidence in his abilities.  He told me to take off the bandage the next day-my pain would be gone.

Even though it was hard to believe in Guru's healing methods, I am happy to report that my knee has been pain free for three days now!  I can't explain it and don't even want to try to understand it at this point; all I know is that it feels good not to be in pain.

With my first experience with Ayurveda a success, Shari and I were looking for some more inspiration to finish out our week.  Luckily for us, Kushil Gunasekera was giving a speech at the American Center in Colombo.  We first learned about Kushil and his Foundation for Goodness on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" episode featuring Sri Lanka.  I could go into detail about all of the amazing and wonderful things Kushil has been doing for the people of Sri Lanka, but instead, I would like to encourage you to check out his website for yourself at:  Kushil does all of his work through private funding, so if you are so inclined, feel free to help them out with a donation.  Shari and I have been invited to take a look at his center south of Colombo next week so stay tuned for a report on what I am sure will be a wonderfully inspiring visit.

Until next time.......   

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