I am a Vedic monka brahmacharini. Since my initiation in
1992 by my teacher, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, I have dedicated my life to living in accordance with the natural rhythms of the universe; to teaching the wisdom and healing practices of the Vedas, the holy scriptures of India which date back to 1500 B.C.E.; and to helping others heal physically and emotionally. At my center, the Wise Earth School of
Ayurveda, in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, I
teach the knowledge and practice of sadhana and Ayurvedic healing.
Because of my experiences, I have a great deal of informationabout breathwork, meditation, sound, yoga,
and wholesome nutritionthat can help people, especially women, live healthy lives, cultivate healing communities,
and help themselves and others heal from physical and emotional ailments. My students include doctors, nurses, yoga instructors,
nutritionists, artists, social advocates, inner-city youth mentors, and interested laypeople.
Wise Earth sadhana teachings are intended for everyone
women, men, and children. Indeed, 35 percent of my students are men. However, this book has a strong focus on women, because they are the staff-holders of sacred life and nurturance. The aim of The Path of Practice is to evoke, inform,
strengthen, and safeguard the memory of women as guardians of sacred healing. It is also meant to help men become awakened to the Mother's primordial healing energy that has existed within them from ancient times. Indeed, all but a few of the spiritual teachers whose work has informed my practice are men.
In addition, I conduct the Mother Om Mission, a charitable organization whose purpose is to educate at-risk communities about sadhana lifeways and to familiarize men and women with the primordial healing power that every human being possesses. I also travel all over the world conducting workshops for those interested in learning the path of practice,
Sadhana is a Sanskrit word whose root, sadh, means to reclaim that which is divine in us, our power to heal, serve,
rejoice, and uplift the spirit. Sadhana practices encompass all our daily activities, from the simple to the sublimefrom cooking a meal to exploring your inner self through meditation.
The goal of sadhana is to enable you to recover your natural rhythms and realign your inner life and daily habits with the cycles of the universe. When you begin to live and move with the rhythms of nature, your mind becomes more lucid and more peaceful and your health improves. Your entire life becomes easier.
As you begin your journey along the path of practice, you must make the promise to yourself that you are willing to take a very clear look at yourself. Allow yourself to recognize the various disguises and false faces that you have assumed over the years. As you come to acknowledge and know each one, you will also come to see beyond them to your truest self. As you find out more about yourself and your strengths and weaknesses, you will also learn about your body, mind,
and spirit, and their innate power. You will awaken to your own self-healing abilities. Whatever conventional, Western medical treatments you use, you will always be able to use your own natural abilities as well.
On the path of practice, we adopt the belief that disease happens from within, and so must any cure. We decide that any lack of peace or disease or illness becomes an occasion to go deeper into ourselves, to examine where we must make changes in order to heal our bodies, feelings, or lives. We accept that our ailment is an assignment, and that to complete it satisfactorily, we must do research into it and into ourselves.
Each of us is unique; no one else can complete our assignment for us. We can't even depend on the inherent beneficence of the universe to save us. The universe will support us, and will help us by revealing its sacred rhythms. It will help us see where we have gotten off balance and will always allow us to realign with it. But we have to do the work of self-reflection and healing that fits our individual inner life and outer life. On our individual path on the human journey, each of us is meant to learn the truths of our physical,
mental, and spiritual lives that are particular to us and shared by others. These truths unite us to our families, our tribe, the entire human race, and the universe as a whole.
Early in life, I discovered for myself that serious illness can offer extraordinary opportunities for healing and self-knowledge.
When I was twenty-three years oldat the height of my personal and professional success as a fashion designer in New York CityI was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. Driven by my ambition, I had been keeping a fast-paced schedule of hard work and parties. I was also in flight from my traditional East Indian heritage and upbringing. My illness would eventually force me to realize that all pain is a reminder that we have strayed from the natural rhythms of life. Yet before I accepted this truth, I became exhausted from years of fighting the cancer with invasive treatments and surgeries. I gave up the struggle, left my life and friends in New York, and went deep into the snowy wilderness of
Vermont to prepare to die. Instead, over the course of three solitary winter months, I was presented with the opportunity to face the changes I had to make in my life. I rested and fasted and dreamed, and I gradually saw where I had deceived myself; where I had allowed myself to become out of balance.
I also wept until it seemed as if I had no more tears to shed. I kept a journal, writing page after page about my personal and spiritual history. Having learned meditation as a child, I remembered how to do it again. In meditation,
prayers, and dream states, I relived the anguish of my ancestors who had been uprooted from their native soil of India and transplanted in a foreign land, Guyana. I had spiritual visitations from my father, who lived far away, but convinced me that I must reclaim my life and fulfill my purpose.
I also had visions of the Divine Mother, the infinitely beneficent feminine energy whom we can all call upon for help,
guidance, and healing. I prayed to recover faith in myself and in the Divine.
When the snow began to melt outside my cabin, I reawakened to the sounds and beauty of nature. I heard deer foraging in the underbrush of the forest around my cabin. A
bright-red cardinal was singing. The music of spring drew me out of my seclusion into the sun. It seemed to me at that moment, and in many moments since, that the cancer had knocked me down and stripped me of all my defenses so that
I could get out of my own way. It forced me to reclaim my connection to my ancestors, to the natural rhythms of the universe, and to the infinitely loving, healing light of the Divine
When I emerged from my retreat and returned to the city,
my doctors were astonished. They told me that they could find no signs of the cancer in my blood or lymph nodes. Determined to live a life of good health and serenity, I studied yoga, Eastern medicine, and natural farming. In the fall of
1986, I met my guru, His Holiness Swami Dayananda
Saraswati, a South Indian monk and scholar. Under Swami
Dayananda's guidance, I made an intensive study of Sanskrit and Vedanta, that portion of the Vedas dealing with self-knowledge.
My purpose for writing this book, however, is not to convince you to become a Vedic monk or spiritual teacher like myself. Nor do I recommend that you renounce your present lifestyle or discontinue any medical treatments that you may be undergoing. What I want to share with you is my realization of some deep truths of the healing process that came to me through my own illness and subsequent life course.
The Path of Practice is meant to be a guide for all people, especially women. It is a short course in healing and in living. Whether you are in good health but want to find a greater sense of balance and mindfulness, or whether you have been diagnosed with an illnessbe it chronic or acutethis primer shows you how to make gradual changes in the way you conduct your daily life so that you will see profound changes both immediately and over time. You will be happier, healthier,
calmer, and more resilient because of these practices. Indeed,
you will notice that the effects of these practices spread far beyond your individual life. Because women have always been the guardians of life's wholesome practices, when we strengthen our health and spiritual power, we also strengthen the health and wisdom of the men, children, and communities around us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bri. Maya grew up and was educated in British Guiana (now
Guyana). Born of Eastern Indian parents, whose great-grand-parents had emigrated to the Indies as indentured laborers, at fifteen she moved to New York City to become a successful fashion designer. At twenty-three, forced by ovarian cancer to redirect her life, Bri. Maya left a highly successful career and returned to her ancestral India to study the ancient Indian spiritual tradition of Vedanta and Ayurvedic medicine. She is now an internationally renowned teacher and practitioner of
Ayurveda and is the founder of the Wise Earth School, an
Ayurvedic, nature-based facility for healing in Asheville,
North Carolina, where she lives. Bri. Maya is also the founder of the Mother Om Mission (M.O.M.), headquartered in
Guyana, South America, with a base in Queens, New York, a charitable organization the goal of which is to provide Ayur-vedic health care to at-risk communities throughout the world.
Bri. Maya gives numerous lectures at major conferences,
where she has taught thousands of attendees, and as a spiri-tual teacher conducts satsangasthe traditional Vedic forum for the spiritual master to share wisdom and spirituality
throughout the world to give solace to the grieving and af-flicted.
Also a traditional guru and spiritual mother to hundreds,
Bri. Maya is called Maya Ma (Mother Maya) by her devotees.
She has been featured on the cover of Yoga Journal, has made radio and television appearances, and writes a regular column for Hinduism Today, an international Hindu newspaper that has over a million readers. Bri. Maya returns to India annually for a three-month silent meditation retreat. She is the author of Ayurveda: Secrets of Healing (Lotus Light) and Ayurveda: A Life of Balance (Healing Arts Press).