A few years ago, I found myself quite severely, and chronically ill. While the symptoms I was experiencing were by no means directly life-threatening, the pain and suffering they created were anything but bearable, and within a very short period of time, I went from living a very dynamic, busy, and–by traditional standards–succesful life, to being virtually bed-ridden and incapable of functioning in any kind of normal way.
This is the story of my journey from a state of seeming unending suffering, to deep and profound healing through my discovery of Ayurveda, and what I consider to be a miracle-meal: the traditonal Ayurvedic dish called Kitchari.
In the summer of 2013, I had been working extremely hard to try to 'make it' in the fashion industries of Montreal and New York. This might come as a surprise to many who know me now. For approximately 2 years prior to that, I had already been experiencing and living with daily symptoms of what doctors simply called IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Symptoms of daily, moderate to extreme abdominal pain, constipation, bloating and anxiety, were already far too familiar for me. The only time I experienced relief was when I fell into a deep sleep, and thankfully, sleep was still coming easily. By that summer, I had already been fully commited to a raw vegan diet, at the recommendation of a naturopath in Montreal, for the past 1.5 years. After reading several books on the subject, I dove head-first into this extreme diversion from my 21 years of following a healthier version of the Standard American Diet. In my green naivety, I didn't know that the intensity with which I was commited to this new way of eating, as well as the cold, rough, light and dry nature of a diet that revolved around uncooked vegetables and fruits, was leading to further depletion in my body and all of its systems. Add to that a packed schedule with no time left for rest and repair, an external environment ruled by concrete, bright lights, stress, booze and competition, and a pervasive sense of loneliness, and my body/mind had reached its final straw.
At some point, and I'm not sure when, my body just stopped working. In the words of Dr. Gabor Maté, it simply said 'no.' I was living in New York City as a single 23-year-old, jumping from one friend's apartment to the next, feverishly trying to impress my new bosses, for whom I was interning entirely for free. I was using enemas and suppositories almost every day, just so that I could go to the bathroom, and even that wasn't working. I would miss 1-3 days of work, every week, as the pain was just too overwhelming most of the time. Finally, my mother came to visit me for a week, and upon seeing my state of being, urged me to quit and come home to heal.
I went from living the so-called 'American dream,' to living its very antithesis; spending the next 3 years in the basement of my parents' house in rural Ontario, jobless, friendless, 30 lbs heavier, and most of the time, hopeless. Little did I know at that time, that these were the seeds of my return towards wholeness and truly lived-joy.
Over the weeks, months and years that followed, I spent the majority of my time, lying in bed with a phone and a laptop, trying to figure out what was happening to my body and my life. I can't fathom how many thousands of hours were spent researching every alopathic and holistic healing modaility that I could. I also spent quite a lot of time and a significant amount of my family's money visiting various kinds of specialists, doctors, naturopaths, therapists and healers and experimenting with all kinds of restictive diets and cleanses, supplements, herbs, pills, visualizations, guided meditations, affirmations, and more. But it didn't seem like anything was making a meaningful impact. Every day, I grew more exhausted, frustrated, terrified and angry.
During this time, however, I came upon a little health food store in Lakefield, Ontario, that had only been in business for a short while. At the front entrance to the store was a poster for an upcoming Yoga Teacher Training, led by a woman I had never heard of named Tiffany Nicholson-Smith, as well as her husband at the time. As far as I knew, yoga was simply a series of gymnastics-like postures that one practiced for improved health and fitness. For those very reasons, the diluted and westernized version of Yoga was something I had pacticed for many years previously by following YouTube videos. And since I knew that I would require some kind of committed activity that summer that would force me to leave the house occasionally, I wrote to Tiffnay that day and asked her if I could join the teacher training.
The YTT was, suffice it to say, not what I had expected, thank goodness. The depth and breadth of these classical Yogic teachings set off seismic shifts in my internal and external atmosphere, and dropped me into my own heart for, perhaps the very first time. But it was Tiffany's sharings on the traditional Indian system of healing, called Ayurveda, that really ignited my deepest inspiration.
One day, Tiffany sat me down for a one-on-one Ayurvedic consultation. I came to the session with little to no expectations for a hopeful outcome, but I was more than open to try anything that she suggested. Although Tiffany was a new practitioner, having only recently completed her Ayurvedic training, she offered me a few simple and practical suggestions for diet, lifestyle and herbs. Her main offering, was for me to follow a mono-diet of a highly-revered Ayurvedic dish called Kitchari. She wanted me to prepare and eat Kitchari alone for the next 10 days, as this meal was apparently very easy to digest, Sattvic (pure), detoxifying, calming and nourishing. So, with commitment and jaded optimism, I dove in.
10 days turned to 20 days, and the cleanse felt like a return to the underrated simplicity of routine, repetition, presence and the unexpected medicine of 'slow.' Productivity took a back-seat to, what felt like, the longest exhale I had yet taken in my life. And on the morning of the 15th day, I woke up and realized that about 80% of the affected area of my large intestine had suddenly healed. 80% of the pain was gone. 80% of the constriction, tightness, spasms and contractions had vanished. There was no explanation. There were no fireworks or balloons. There was just a calm, unannounced shift from areas that felt riddled with pain and dysfunction, to areas that felt...normal. And most wonderfully, since then, the healing that occured thanks to the Kitchari cleanse has remained.
I thus continued down my path of reorienting myself to the ways in which we were always meant to live, to breath and to be, according to the teachings of Ayurveda, and my healing and self-recognition has deepened and evolved over these years. I have gone on to collborate with Tiffany and bring her vision of this very business for which this post has been written, RASA Ayurveda, to life, and I have been sharing my own offering of the Kitchari cleanse to others in need of its medicine; through a pre-made meal-delivery program called the Kind Cleanse.
I have never written in such detail about this journey I experienced, as I am so happy to let this time of my life retreat to where it belongs and resides–in the past. But my hope is that this open sharing will be exactly what at least one person needs to read. I hope this inspires you to bring Kitchari and all of its subtle, yet profound teachings into your life, and that Ayurveda graces you with the blessings it has bestowed upon me. Surely, if you have come to this blog, the process has already begun.
"It is the greatest miracle that a human being,
born to face so many challenges,
can rise like a lotus flower above the water.
Growing in a muddy place yet remaining
immaculate throughout its life.
Even if the rain falls heavily and the waters rise,
the lotus will always be above the surface.
This is the nature of the spirit."