Sights and sounds are slowed, birdsongs and chimes become the main sonic register, while smiles, and not words, accompany the primary human encounters.
I seek out the Kalari Kovilakom, a palace in which the austerity of an ashram is transformed into the comfortable simplicity of an abode destined for Ayurveda. Within the protective walls of the century-old palace, a holistic process of healing begins.
The first adjustment is the shift from a life of daily chaos and noise, errands and duties, to a silence and stillness that characterizes the ayurvedic experience.
Sights and sounds are slowed, birdsongs and chimes become the main sonic register, while smiles, and not words, accompany the primary human encounters. I walk along the paths outside the palace, feeling my sense of time adjusting.
Shirodhara, Karnapurnam, Urovasthi, Njavarakizhi, and the rest of the twelve therapies all become familiar to me as treatments with oil, heat, or a gentle touch, all release the tensions in my body to let my mind, itself, exhale. I learn that Thaila, the essential oils massaged into my skin by therapists, are made by hand in a lengthy and complicated process, starting from herbal extracts picked from a local garden is turned into a medicinal herbal paste, and then treated with sesame oil or another similar substance.
I open myself up to a transformational experience, leaving my world behind at the door, as a sign implores me to do.
I turn to balanced food, a catalyst for healing in Ayurveda. Fresh, organic samples of nourishment enter my system, purifying me with herbs and spices, ginger and garlic, tastes connected to the five elements: sweet, for earth and water; sour, for earth and fire; salty, for water and fire; pungent, for air and fire; bitter, for air and ether; and astringent, for air and earth.
I discover that mindfulness in my instincts leads to an experience of food that goes beyond merely satisfying hunger; my consumption becomes part of a greater process of medicinal healing and spiritual awakening. I eat consciously, restoring balance and harmony within myself.
As days go by, I feel I am a different person, when a chance meeting with Jose Dominic confirms my impression that travel can be a truly transformative experience. A visionary and the CEO of CGH Earth - a Kerala based group of green hotels, he explains to me that in his observation, the alert independent traveller loves the sunrise and is ready to give up the familiar; he wishes to experience something different and to take back home a changed mind.
From my stay in Kalari Kovilakom, I will take back a refreshed and rejuvenated body and a gift I was not counting on so much, a surprising and blissful serenity for an anxious person like me. And when I feel uneasy in the bustle of the city, I will quote the Dalai Lama who says that to bring peace in the world, an atmosphere of peace must first be created within ourselves, then gradually expanded to include our families, our communities, and ultimately the whole planet.