Om Namah Shivay

Om Namah Sivay is a mantra for peace.  You can hear a version of it (sang by Amma – The Hugging Saint) by clicking on this link:

I go to the afternoon class, and it’s a good Yoga day.  Yoga is fascinating because the poses that can be easy one day can prove the most challenging the next.  What is an easy, simple practice on Monday might be a near impossibility to complete on Tuesday.  It just depends on where the body is, how it’s feeling.  Today is a good day.  I feel strong and vibrant, and it shines through in my practice.  My ear is no longer hurting; Tricia is here with me, and I had a good night’s sleep.  The practice comes easy. I am able to get deeper into my hamstrings than ever before.  Standing with my feet together at the top of my mat, I fold myself in two like a pocketknife – my ribs resting soundly on my thighs, my nose resting on my legs – well below my knees.  We sit on the ground and spread our legs wide, reaching forward with a straight spine.  The right side of my face rests on the ground.  I have spent years longing for this moment, for being able to go this deep in this pose; today is the day that it happens for me.    And, I just continue to breathe.  It’s just another day, and another Yoga class.  And, what I have built up with such importance, such longing, just simply. . . . . happened.

In the headstand, I find a peace and comfort, a point of real relaxation in an unnatural pose.  Previously, in headstands, my shoulders would ache or my back would get really sore from the tensing and tightening due to the strength I was using to remain in the posture.  But, I went to the coaching class, and the instructor said, “You are too tense.  There is a place when you are straight, in a line, where your body relaxes.  There is no tension.  No strain.  Find that place.” Today, I find that place.  And, upside down in my headstand, I smile.  It feels good. 

But, there isn’t enough variety for me with Sivananda.  I feel like a few postures are improving, but that I am losing strength by not doing the wide variety of postures that I am used to doing in my American power classes. Sivananda is the same every day, twice a day.  I want some warrior poses, some crescent lunges, some flow, and something to stretch out my psoas that is knotted up from all the sitting in a “comfortable cross-legged position.” After ten hours of that sitting, it doesn’t matter how you cross your legs, it’s just not comfortable.  I want to dig into my hips and release my shoulders.   And, my body is doing something else weird.  I can’t feel my last two fingers on my right hand.  In shoulderstand and fish, my hand goes numb.

Today, my hand goes numb during practice, but it doesn’t go “unnumb.”  After 24 hours of it being numb and tingly, I start to worry.   After 48 hours, I seek out the doctor.  It is about 7pm, and his office hours are 6-8, so I jet on down to the Health Clinic to catch him.  I see Marion coming down the path toward me.  “Roomie,” I say.  “Hey,” she says.  “Where are you headed?”  “Going to see the good doctor,” I reply.  “I still can’t feel my hand.”  Oh, he’s right there she says pointing right ahead of us.  Dr. Vishnu,” she calls out.  Dr. Vishnu turns around.  “Yes?”  he says.  “Dana was coming to see you,” Marion tells him.  “What is it?” he asks.  I hold out my right arm to him.  “I can’t feel these two fingers on my right hand,” I say pointing to my pinky and ring fingers.  “How long?”  he asks.  “48 hours now,” I say.  “Come by the office tomorrow around 10, and I will give you some oil.  Marion can give you a hand massage tonight,” he says over his shoulder as he is walking away.

“Wow.  Must be going somewhere important,” I say to Marion. “No,” she says, “I just told him about the Health Hut.  He’s going to get a snack.”  I laugh.  Only in India.   And, while I laugh, I am worried about my hand.

I walk up to the Health Hut with Marion and Tricia.  I order a large chai.  When they call my name: “Om, Dana your large chai,”  I walk over and pick it up. “Om Namah Sivay,” I say.  Om Namah Sivay is ubiquitous with Thank You in the Ashram world.  It is the chant for peace.  It means peace.  We spot Thomas at one of the tables.   Tricia and I head over to sit with him.  Thomas is my light buddy.

 Several days ago, instead of traditional Satsang, we went on an early morning meditative walk.  It was still dark outside.  I didn’t have a flashlight.  So, I walked in someone else’s light so I could get my footing in the darkness.  I was walking in Thomas’s light;  I walked right behind him, stealthily stealing the glow from his flashlight.  At one point he let me in front of him.  “Darn it,” I thought.  “No w I won’t be able to see.”  But, he shined his flashlight forward, for me.  “Thank you,” I said.  “You’re welcome,” he responded.  He knew I was using his light, and he was happy to share it because he had such a big pool.  We all sat at the lake and watched the sun rise.  Walking back, I didn’t need a flashlight, but I walked beside Thomas anyway.  We started talking.

 He’s from Philly and has been traveling for almost three years.  He was a successful corporate business man.  He needed a change.  So, he did it. He quit and packed up and began traveling.  He talked about the things that he’s seen, the people that he’s met and the drastic changes that he’s encouraged and embraced within himself.  He has a peaceful, magnetic energy that is intoxicating because it’s welcoming and understanding and because when he talks, sometimes I feel like I am listening to myself – those same ways of seeing the world, that desperation for change. Thomas and I connect effortlessly and begin to have daily talks about our lives, where we are, where we’ve been.  We talk about love, about romance, about family, numerology, Prince Charming and horses, heartbreak, fear of commitment, and meditation.  He is heading to Germany in a few days to begin a life with his girlfriend – a beautiful woman that he met while traveling.  And, although he’s nervous about being in a vulnerable situation with her, he is studying German every day. 

Tricia and I sit across from him.  He is looking at his ITouch.  He shares some pictures with us.  He shows us an old picture of himself.  It doesn’t even look like the same man.  He is as different now physically as he is spiritually. He scrolls past a picture of cows lying on the beach – a common site in India.  “New definition of heifers on the beach,” he says.  I almost choke on my chai laughing.

We ask him how he got into Yoga.  “I was going on a vacation with my then girlfriend to the Bahamas.  I was busy climbing the corporate ladder.  I was reading everything and anything about business.  All I would allow myself to read were business books.  At the last minute, I decided not to read any business books on vacation, so I picked up a book that looked interesting to me.  It was about Yoga.  I read it lying in the hammock.  I knew I wanted to try Yoga after reading about it.  Now, here I am.”

Thomas’s life completely transformed, changed, never to be the same because of a split second decision on which book to read. And, that’s really what life is, isn’t it?  These minuscule, seemingly unimportant, decisions that ultimately shape our lives, shape us into who we are. 

Me and Thomas

I finish my chai and am leaving the Health Hut.  I see Charles sitting, studying.  He’s in the Advanced Teacher Training Course, so he’s busy studying his thousands of pages of notes and Sanskrit.   Charles is the attractive guy from the Dining Hall, the one that showed me the sunset when I was focused on the bread bowl.  We’ve spoken a few times.  He shared with me some of the places that he’s visited and showed me some stunning pictures of the temples that he’s seen in India. He loves Siva and shares with me photos of the largest Siva statue in India.  It’s absolutely stunning.  He gave me some recommended Yoga schools and ashrams to check out as well.  He is Brazilian and was once a renowned Brazilian soccer star until an injury forced him to stop playing.  He did massage for eight years and now owns and runs a Yoga studio on one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil.

“Hey Charles,” I say as I walk over. “Hello,” he says.  “Would you mind at some point, if you have time, looking at my right hand and arm?” I ask him. “What’s wrong?”  he asks.  “I can’t feel my pinky or ring finger,” I say. “No problem,” he says.  “Maybe tonight after Satsang.”  “Ok.  Thanks.  See you later,” I say.

Tricia, Thomas and I sit together during Satsang and try our best to make it interesting by dancing around to the beat.  Tricia hits the wall during Satsang.  She’s still not completely adjusted to the time difference, and I’m pretty sure that she falls asleep sitting up a few times.  Thomas and I make quiet jokes and try to stifle our laughter.  Tricia heads for bed as soon as Satsang is over.  I promised Peter and Thomas that we would hang out after Satsang since Thomas is leaving the next afternoon.  I see Peter and Thomas sitting on the benches in the courtyard, and I start to walk over.  Charles comes up to me, “Do you have a few minutes now?”  “Of course,” I say.  I mean, it’s him doing me the favor by looking at my hand.

I tell Peter and Thomas that I will be just a few minutes because Charles is going to look at my hand.  I follow Charles into the open hall below Satsang Hall.  He rolls out his Yoga mat and has me sit on it. He looks at my hand.  He looks at my right arm.  He squeezes my shoulders.  “Tight,” he says.  “Yeah,” I say.  “It always is.  I think that the problem with my hand might be nerves.  I am not sure if I have damaged it doing some of the Yoga postures or if might have happened when I fell in the shower a few days ago.” “Well,” he says.  “Let me work on it.  You have time?”  “Yes,” I say surprised.  I didn’t expect him to massage it; I just wanted him to look at it and see if he might be able tell if there was something muscular going on that I should get worked on.  “Ok. Lie down on your stomach.”  I lie on my stomach and his deft hands begin to work on the tension.  He says “Very tight,” about five times.  And, it is.  He works on my upper back and shoulders for about ten minutes.  He turns me over and continues to work on my shoulders and upper arms.  I am melting.  It feels so good.  Not just the massage part, but human touch.  It’s been so long.  And, touching is so taboo in India, that I have found I don’t even hug people any more.  He cracks my neck; the sound echos.  He massages my head.  “Ok,” he says. 

I sit up slowly.  My eyes are glazed.  I forgot how good it feels to be touched.  He looks at my face and laughs a little.  I guess it shows.  “We couldn’t do much because the time is so short.  Tomorrow at 1- are you free?” he asks.  “Yes,” I say.  “Ok.  We’ll do more then.”  “ I really appreciate it,” I say.  And, I do.  I’m not quite sure why I deserve this kindness.  “Is there something that I can do for you or can I give you some money or something?” I ask.  “No. No.” he says and laughs a little.  “No worries.”

I float up the stairs and Thomas and Peter are still sitting on the bench.  I sit down beside them and we just hang out, joking, laughing, living until our eyes grow heavy and we know that in order to get up at 5:30 the next morning, we must go to bed now.  Thomas gives me some CDs that he purchased from the Boutique, a couple of recorded Sivananda classes and some of the chants.  I am going to download them on my computer before he goes tomorrow.  I give him my IPod to listen to for tonight. 

Me, Thomas, and Peter hanging out after Satsang

Thomas and Peter being themselves

I lay awake in bed.  I feel sad, and I am not sure why.  I don’t know how much longer Tricia and I will be staying at the Ashram.  I’m not bent on staying, and I’m not really ready to go.  But, my heart feels heavy, and I can’t pinpoint a reason.  I will be sad to see Thomas go, for sure.  He’s been such a comfort, such an important part of my every day here.  And, Peter is leaving the day after tomorrow.  Even in the steady, sheltered walls of the Ashram, change continues, life moves forward and with the ebb and flow, people come and people go.


~ by Dana Childs: Intuitive on March 20, 2010.

2 Responses to “Om Namah Shivay”

  1. Excellent article. I’m facing many of these issues as well..

  2. i was looking up some ways to write oh namah shivay in sanskrit and somehow i came upon your pic, which led me to your blog…..very inspiring….i love going on yoga retreats. in my opinion there the only kinda of vaction to go on…namasta, Tara from Maui

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