The NAMA Experience…

Still trying to decipher this lesson: I arrive at San Francisco Airport and ask the taxi driver to take me to the Airport Marriott. With great confidence he deposits me at the wrong hotel. Turns out San Fransisco has more than one Airport Marriott. I am wondering if I should have somehow known this, especially as my stomach (seat of instinct, right?) had “known” I was at the wrong hotel…but who listens to “seats of instincts” anyway?

I am in San Mateo for the NAMA Conference 2010. NAMA is the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. Arriving late at night (later now…), checking in finds me in a “handicap room”…so no bathtub and the water runs all over the floor when you shower…Ayurveda is from India…how appropriate, I feel like I am back in an Indian bathroom…

The next morning is NAMA’s Standards Committee’s Town Hall Forum. I am on the Committee representing CAAM, the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine. It is part of the Mandate of this Committee to create sensible categories of Ayurvedic Practitioners so as to curb and bring legitimacy to a sort of Wild West mentality that allows any one to practice  what is actually a very powerful and serious medical science, at least 5000 years old. 

The Standards Committee

And its deceiving simplicity carries a powerful punch in the wrong hands.

Fortunately a handful of reputable schools have sprouted across the country and now the Committee, on a mandate from NAMA, is seeking to further develop categories of recognized practitioners. To practice Ayurveda as a wellness art, a healing modality or a medical science. This is a novel approach that recognizes Ayurveda as a multi-layered Goddess of Health and Life who appears equally capable in the hands of the family physician (usually a role carried out by a grandmother), a forest dweller/tribal shaman or a college trained doctor. Today we might call them Wellness Practitioners, Clinical Specialists and Integrated Doctors of Medicine. It is after all a Science that meets you life to life…

Town Hall Forum

The Meeting goes amazingly well as practitioners and teachers from different schools bring in fresh waves of ideas, inspirations, cautions and recommendations to enliven work we have been doing studiously for over a year. A fresh breeze…

Thursday morning sees the trickle of attendees grow into a sizable flood and the Welcome Dinner that evening is a full Ballroom swarming like ancient druid convocations as old friends meet in bearhugs and new friendships are formed with people we have only known so far by name and reputation!

On the Podium sit Ayurveda legends, Dr.Lad, Dr.Svoboda and Dr. Frawley, along with Yogini Shambhavi. Although each one speaks a poetic, reverential or mystical  language appropriate to their reputations, the underlying love and commitment to this Goddess, Ayurveda, is undeniable as they pass the baton back and forth in the Opening Addresses.

Friday morning the Conference begins in full swing. I take yoga with Lynn Weinberger, whom I have only known by reputation so far and another friendship is formed. Although I had planned to attend Claudia Welch’s intriguing presentation on “Grey Matter Of The Heart/Heart Of Grey Matter” I have been swayed by Dr. Svoboda’s juiciness and pranic wisdom the night before and end up in a packed room listening to him as he entrances us all again and again with his brilliance, his quirky wittiness and his original thinking.

Hanuman Chaleesa!

Lunch time is spent wandering the Vendors Hall, overspending at Nataraj Books and yet feeling I am leaving empty handed. And lo & behold! coming across the Hanuman Chaleesa as a red wall hanging en-scribed in gold thread! Guru Ravi Kaur and her sister have no difficulty getting me to open my pocketbook once again and graciously agree to “frame” it with my rudrakshas! 
Jai Hanuman! Meeting old friends such as Banyan Botanicals and making new ones such as R U Ved and Ancient Organics helps the two hours seem too short.

After lunch I sit in on Dr. Ram Manohar’s timely and prescient talk in “Designing Clinical Trials To Validate Individualized Therapeutic Interventions In Ayurveda.” Dr. Ram Manohar is the Director of Research at the legendary Arya Vaidya Pharmacy and his talk is as thorough, precise and thought provoking as the title.

At 4:30PM I find my way to Alakananda Ma’s “Shakti as Healer: Awakening The Threefold Mother” How appropriate because you feel you are in the Presence of one who embodies the Goddess in all Her manifestations. As Ma puts it: The Threefold Mother has the ability to make us to see wholeness in our healing by revealing our deepest fears and having the ability to slay them. True Medicine.

Dinner again is stimulating company and mingling with friends. Then Dr. Parla Jayagopala, Dr. Mark Vinick and I offer pulse reading on behalf of CAAM. Our compatriot Narender Pati s quite successful in seeing our mission through: getting people to sign up for CAAM membership.

Reading Mr. Kepner's pulse...

Saturday morning, to a little breeze but a packed garden, I teach the Tadasana Sequence from Srivatsa Ramaswami’s Vinyasa Krama Yoga. Somehow I am able to get the sequence, the surya namaskars and a vishesha closing sequence followed by pranayama into 48 minutes of practice! Jai Shri Anantaya Nagarajaya Patanjalim!


Right after, I rush off to Dr. Shrestha’s presentation on Postpartum Care. I love the sentiment behind her concept: God made Mother because he could not be everywhere at any time. Mother takes care of everyone but forgets to take care of herself. Logically we may find many flaws in this argument, including that God is God because it is Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Ominscient but on an emotional level, this truism tunes the strings of my heart-instrument.

In the afternoon the always stimulating and extremely knowledgeable Dr. Suhas presents on the Nakshatras. The phases (or wives) of the Moon. I confess that jyotish has always been a challenge for me and I am yet to feel comfortable in reading a chart but the nakshatras have always fascinated me and Suhas Ji does a wonderful job of bringing them to life. I find echoed a sentiment I believe strongly in his words: Herbs are Celestial Beings here on Earth to help and support us. As the closest Celestial Being, the Moon imparts her energy to the herbs for our nourishment and healing and the nakshatras influence those energies.

Now intrigued even more by jyotish, I attend Dennis Flaherty’s evening lecture on The Nodes Of The Moon, referring to the Invisible planets Rahu and Ketu. The head and the tail of the Demon. Mr. Flaherty turns out to be a brilliant speaker and I feel I am getting even closer to understanding this technologically complex and vast astrological science. At the very least I get an understanding of the power of the two shadow planets and their effect on consciousness’ descent into darkness and ascent into light!

Later that evening, I finally hook up with another dear friend, teacher and guru, David Crow. David is the founder of Floracopeia and the inspiration behind the The Healing Garden (Venice High School’s highly acclaimed herbal project) He is on a mission to build a Global Garden Community and his vision is shared by many as they plant community gardens that could be the source of our future sustenance and survival in the face of out of control machinations by GMO based mutative food conglomerates.

David Crow & Jai Dev

Dinner that night concludes with a flute performance, a tribute to Kumar Batra by his niece and inspirational words by Dr. Svoboda who, once again, I hear profess that he is going to stop teaching at the end of this year and enter his “forest dweller” life cycle. Dr. Lad immediately beseeches him not to do so yet as we have great need for his guidance in the coming cycle of transformation. I find it a wonderful Omen when I get home to find that Dr. Svoboda is going to teach one more workshop at the Ayurvedic Institute at the end of this year….on nimittajanana: Omens, natch…. 🙂 I plan to sign up way in advance and encourage you to do so also…even if Dr. Lad’s words somehow change his decision, Dr. Svoboda is always a catalyst for our own growth and transformation.

Sunday, the last day, I wake up too tired to take the yoga session and feel it deeply as I was looking forward to experiencing another well know teacher, Matra Majundar. I am sure I will get another chance one day soon and look forward to it.

Then on to the only Practicum I am signed up for: The Dance Of Shiva: Using The Senses as the Gateway for True Healing. Thomas Mueller requests my participation for the demonstration of abhyanga and so I get to revel in one of my favorite pastimes: getting an Ayurvedic oil massage! Jai Shri Lakshmi Ma! Later, we al practice on each other but with no oils. It is a wonderful workshop and I learn a new mudra and a new vinyasa: Shiva’s dance as it came to Mr. Mueller and I must say, I thoroughly enjoy it!

Dance of Shiva Workshop

After lunch is bittersweet in saying adios! to all…and a final Panel: The NAMA Board. And what a wonderful synergy there is here! From Devi Mueller who inherited the mantle of President and played director, poster preparer, trouble shooter and general Goddess Ayurveda herself! There are others I know so well and some I have just met and feel already like old friends. Dr. Marc Halpern strikes a chord when he talks about the work we are doing coming from a place, a sense, a commitment to dharma and what an influence he has been on the teaching of Ayurveda here in the US!

Being done with airplanes, taxis and hotels, I get a ride back to LA with another dear friend and colleague, Dr. SBG…we make it back to LA very comfortably and full with the energy of so many positive vibrational Beings gathered in one place to, once again, seek a pathway for healing the maladies of all living beings, everywhere. Isn’t this what the rshis of old did in that Himalayan cave in the mists of a distant past….now it is alive again for me and I realize that in that Airport Marriott some of the greatest rshis of our times had gathered once again to synthesize a new future for Ayurveda here in the West because Ayurveda goes where ever she is needed and oh, is she needed here now! Jai Ayurveda!

Om Shanti!

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