Much gratitude to all the conditions which have led me to a nature cure camp in Pollachi in Tamil Nadu. The camp was hosted by aKarma Life for 6 days from April 7th to 12th 2019.
On my way, I stopped to meet a friend in Coimbatore for breakfast and then make way to Pollachi. As soon as my friend heard the word Nature Cure his eyes lit up, as his father has recently got cured of diabetes through this and is now encouraging others to try it out. As it turns out, his whole family ends up accompanying to Sadhana Forms, Pollachi.
As we learn the over-arching principle of Nature Cure is that mind, body and spirit are one and meeting Padma Grandma, who is 102 was a live demonstration of that. Her mind-body-spirit shines with youthfulness as she talks to us with much love, as if she has known us from a long time. She has been a long time follower of Nature Cure, reads from Ramana Maharshi and other spiritual texts daily and makes notes, does most of her chores by herself, and hasn’t consumed any non-food medicine for last 70 years.
When Ananth, a full-time volunteer at the farm joins us, we naturally organize ourselves into a circle, observe silence for couple minutes, and my friend’s Dad asks him ‘Since when have you been following nature cure?’. He thinks for a while and answers with a sincere ‘I don’t know’. We all were confused and wondering why he doesn’t want to tell us. I guess he does remember his first camp or first time he heard the word Nature Cure, but may be he was trying to acknowledge and pay respect to all the conditions and events, which may have led him to that. What at a surface level seems like starting now, may be fruits of seeds sown much earlier, difficult or impossible to trace with certainty.
And it is in that same spirit of humility and love, all volunteers offer this camp, in the form of a ‘gift’ which at once expands hearts and shatters egos.
It was a 6-day camp, of Level 1 Nature Cure with 25 people attending. Parallel to this was a Level 2 camp with 16 people attending. With monks in the making, yoga instructors, MBAs, aspiring CAs, social change makers, facilitators, it was quite a diverse group. The oldest participant was 80 and the youngest, a mere 7 years. Not to forget that teacher for the course, Sri Arun Sharma, himself is 79 years and was visibly more energetic, graceful and cheerful than most of us during the whole camp. He enchanted us all with his wisdom, childlike grace and his gentle and loving attitude.
Looking back, what stands out about the camp for me was the right balance of experiential learning through practice and theory. The no-frills design of the camp also ensures we are not becoming passive consumers, but contributing to our collective goals be it through cleaning our rooms ourselves, or helping in the kitchen to prepare meals, etc. After all, self-reliance and simplicity are key principles of natural living.
As we go through 6 days of practice and theory, the other thing that stands out to me is the simplicity and universality of the system. It can be understood by anyone, practiced by anyone and one can take charge of one’s own health without relying on armies of experts. Once you complete a camp, you are adequately equipped to be your own doctor. 😊
A typical day would start at 6am with 30 minutes of optional meditation, an hour of yoga practice; then moving into therapies (solar, hydro) followed by fruit breakfast. Then we will have a theory class, move to the kitchen to prepare our salads, eat it, then have 1-1 interactions with mentors from Level 2 camp. During this time we also use the aKarma wellness software to track our health for the day, create health baselines etc.
After that, we help in kitchen again for the evening cooked meal and/or do our running/walks, additional therapy sessions. We have early dinner, gather for satsang (which ranges from bhajans to bollywood, from singing to dancing to sharing life stories) then finally breaking out for rest. Next, I take the liberty to talk about some of the building blocks of the practice.
Every living being is endowed with a self-repairing, self-maintaining, and self-improving intelligence.
Nature cure unity principle
Mind, body and spirit are one. The 5 unities-
- All diseases are one
- Cause of all diseases are one
- Treatment for all diseases are one
- Food and medicine are one
- Health and disease are one
All diseases are one– what we typically know as diseases (diabetes, blood pressure, gastritis, arthritis, cancer, etc.) are different manifestations of same disease of accumulated toxicity of different levels in different parts of the body.
Cause of all diseases are one– undigested food and thoughts
Treatment for all diseases are one– start removing toxins properly and start taking good food. (if you refer to fundamental philosophy, doing this will allow body to self-repair, maintain and improve)
Food and medicine are one– this is a rather interesting one. It says you don’t need any medicine apart from good food. Good food is adequate to heal the body in whatever way is required. In fact, the other way round, any thing which one takes as medicine which one can not eat as food (say like a complete meal in itself), can not be medicine, because it is not even food in the first place. That would cover all allopathic medicine tablets, even ayurvedic medicines, and spices like say turmeric or fruit like lemon, because you can not have just that as a meal.
Health and disease are one– This is another one of my favourites. We had become conditioned today to focus on disease and consider it as something undesirable. Nature Cure says that disease as it manifests in the body, is just body’s attempt to get rid of accumulated toxins (say cold, cough, headache, etc.). If we keep suppressing it, then it further increases over time. So there is no concept of disease. It is just higher level of health or lesser level of health, and there is no limit to how much health one can have. In fact, if one is alive, it is proof that one is healthy. And by following simple principles of Nature Cure, each being can increase his health.
We typically perceive food as the solid food & possibly liquid juices etc. we consume. In Nature Cure, the definition of food is much broader. The 5 elements of nature are all foods for all living organisms. They are-
It also goes on to say that order of priority of foods for repairing, maintaining and healing is also in this order of 5 elements.
Space– Space is the first building block of the universe upon which every thing else came. The way to take space food is through fast (we were invited to look at fasting as feasting upon E – i.e. ether. When we fast, we make way for better flow in our body which is typically clogged with toxins.
One should inculcate non-violent ways of fasting in our life. Gradually build up your capacity to fast. We can start with fixing 1 day of the week, and not take any food upto 4pm, break the fast with some fruits then take a cooked meal at 6pm. After practicing this for few weeks, we can gradually increase it to 24 hours fasting and then even more in case there is a chronic condition. Fasting is important and more important is how you break the fast.
We were told many examples of fasting being a precious tool to give time to the body to heal itself of many critical diseases, typically considered incurable in many systems of medicine.
Air– We can inculcate this through pranayama practice every day. We would together practice 3 sets of alternate nostril breathing. 3 sets of 5 units each (Inhale through left, hold gently, exhale right, hold gently, inhale right, hold gently, exhale left, hold gently completes 1 unit of breath). Holding after exhalation (comfortable and not over stretching) is highly beneficial for removing toxins. 1st set we start with left, second start through right, and final set by observing the natural breath.
Sun – take sun through sun bathing, sun gazing. Expose your whole body in the sun for 20mins daily. 10mins front and 10mins back or till you are comfortable. Place a cool water soaked towel on your head while doing sun bath. We want to take light of the sun and not heat, so don’t over heat the body. Mornings will be most congenial. This is considered to be a very important therapy in Nature Cure. We also practiced sun gazing which is gently looking directly into the morning sun for 4-5 mins daily.
Water– We practice simple therapies like spinal bath to heal the body. All nerves meet in the spinal cord, so soaking the back in water, cools these nerves, releases the pressure, improves energy flow in the whole body. This technique is considered highly beneficial.
We also spoke that hot water or any hot treatment is good for relieving acute pain, but it leaves the tissues elongated and loose. So we should not do it much, or if we do it, we should follow it with cool water treatment.
Earth – We consume earth element through foods which grow on earth. We were explained that a purely plant-based diet is holistic to meet all needs of the body and keep us healthy. Food should have 3 things- water, fibre and ‘life’. If we cook food, the ‘life’ factor in it reduces. It is recommended that your 3 meals be taken as follows..
- 200ml green juice, may be taken early morning before sun-bath.
- One meal of a single fruit: Quantity one can take basis hunger, but its better to take one type and not mix different fruits. Those which have thin, edible peels are better eaten with peels. Thick peels can be left out. Use your judgment. For fruits which are more acidic like mango, balance it by eating little bit of the peel also, or take some coconut; Fruits are easiest to digest, the sugar is pre-digested
- One meal of vegetable salad: Mix 4-5 ingredients – two parts of watery vegetable like cucumber, lettuce, zuchinni, etc.; one part of crunchy like carrot, capsicum, etc., dressing: tomato, coconut/ any other sprouts and corriander leaves. Do not mix salt, any other spice.
- One meal cooked: Use lot of vegetables in this also, 3 times that of grains by weight before cooking. Keep it low on spices, mix salt after mild cooking (mostly steaming) Avoid white sugar, white flour (maida), white rice and white salt.
- Observe yourself that main meal should be fruits and salad. So don’t cheat yourself by consuming less of that and lot of the cooked meal.
We follow a very interesting hunger test. It is not uncommon for people to say, “oh I can’t have raw salad as main meal because I don’t like it, I can’t eat it as only thing”. In Nature Cure, we understand that ‘hunger’ as we commonly feel it is not real hunger. It is often an illusion of hunger created by mind due to our conditioning. So the test here is if you eat vegetable salad as a meal and enjoy it, then it is real hunger, else it is unreal, you can ignore it. Nature Cure means eating only when you have a ‘keen hunger’ i.e. when you are hungry enough to enjoy a vegetable salad or any real food. Useful practice is to not to pre-empt hunger or start running for food as soon as you feel hungry, but let the hunger mature a bit, and then eat.
Nature Cure also gives a simple check on what you should consider as food. Anything which you can eat as a meal in itself, is food, and you can safely and advantageously stay away from anything which you can’t eat as a complete meal. Take carrot for example, you can eat that as a full meal (if you have keen hunger), so it’s a food. Take lemon for example, probably not, so you can skip it altogether in your diet. Take turmeric for example, it is considered very healthy in many systems, that also you can skip as you can’t eat turmeric as whole meal. Tumeric is a preservative (remembering putting it in all pickles?), and our whole practice is in fact opposite of preservation, we want all waste to get out and not be preserved.
Essentials for good health-
- Ample exercise (yoga is great, 15 mins running was recommended)
- Adequate rest
- Positive food and fasting
- Positive thoughts
- Passion in work (this was highly emphasized, he said that even if you work in employment, you should start some small project on the side of your own, the joy from doing what one loves is v good for physical, mental and spiritual health)
In conclusion, another point I want to highlight is the Spirit of Gift with which these camps are offered. The organizers believe that knowledge or truth can not be priced. It is something priceless and hence, only at the end of the camp, we were invited to contribute any amount of our choice, as we feel moved to. Not with the intention to re-imburse the cost incurred for us, but with the intention that I have benefited through contributions of those before me, and may I be an instrument to benefit those after me. This to me, seems like love and trust and service in action.
I find it heartening that even after a week, our group of participants in this camp have been making efforts to integrate Nature Cure into their lives – diet wise and otherwise. The online support group is flowing with questions, ideas and experiential shares.
You can find some tested and tasted recipes here and previous blogs here. Any one who wishes to try this out, can do it by themselves directly at their homes. You may get in touch with any volunteer and discuss any questions you may have, or attend a camp.
Gratitude to all and thanks for reading!