“One should do nothing other than what is directly or indirectly of benefit to living beings.”

Shantideva
8th Century Indian Buddhist Saint

Dioxin Dragon of Bir

Dioxin Dragon

A school boy once told me, “Every Tibetan has seen a dragon at least once in their life.” For the Tibetans the proof of the existence of dragons is that we can hear their sound. Whenever there is thunder, like the type that is happening right now outside my window, the dragons are roaring. There is no disputing this.

However, all dragons are not the same. There are good dragons, and then again there are the bad kind. Puff the Magic Dragon was one of the best. Dragons like Puff bring mystery and power to life. They inhabit the deepest regions of our psyches, and rise up to protect us when we need them most.

The bad dragons are equally bad. They also live in the minds of humans, but they do not help us. They instead make us do the most horrible things to ourselves and others. These dragons must be encountered and tamed or else they will destroy us.

One such dragon lives in Bir. We know him as Dioxin Dragon. His many brothers and sister live everywhere in India. They are the most dangerous dragons on earth and they destroy everything around them. They breathe out fire and toxic, poisonous smoke. They pollute the air, choking people and killing innocent children. They have such power that one breath of their smoke can change your genes, and the genes of your family line, forever. Dioxin dragon is even more deadly than Nuclear Dragon, whom we all know is really scary.

Dioxin Dragon  eats only one thing, PLASTIC. He consumes endless amounts of plastic trash and the more he eats the bigger he becomes. After a big meal of plastic his breath is so bad that his poisonous pollution fills the sky. It falls upon the earth and lands upon the crops, making them poison also. He brings death and destruction wherever he goes and his appetite is endless!

Only the Eco Warrior can tame the Dioxin dragon. We at SHRI are Eco Warriors. We are not afraid of Dioxin Dragon.  We have ways to tame him and get him to work for us. We know that if we don’t feed him plastic, his smoky fire will go out  and then he will help us all do good things instead of bad ones.

This is why at Shri we don’t give him plastic to eat. We collect all the plastic and hide it from the Dioxin Dragon.  We know that the Dioxin dragon is only bad because he eats plastic!  When he stops his addiction to eating plastic then he changes into a good  Eco Dragon. He will then help us build good things with the plastic that he used to eat.

At SHRI we take all the soft plastic trash and pack it into plastic bottles. These stuffed plastic bottles then become Eco Bricks. One water bottle can hold 75 potato chip bags.  We can build things like walls, bus stands and benches with these bottles.  After we tame the Dioxin Dragon, and he becomes the Eco Dragon, life will be so much better here. We wont become sick from the poison in the air in and in our food. Life here will be good again.

We need help to collect the plastic before the Dioxin Dragon finds it. Are you an Eco Warrior? Can you come here and help us collect the plastic? If you can’t, then can you help by sending some money so we can pay some friends to collect it? Either way, you can help change the Dioxin Dragon into the Eco Dragon.

 

Our Volunteers Save Lives! by Spero

In 2011, a homeopath named Rebecca Williams joined us, as a volunteer, on one of our regular mobile treatment camp excursions into the Barot Valley. Born in New Zealand, Rebecca has spent most of her adult years living a spiritual life near Kullu, India. As a homeopath, and a fluent Hindi speaker, we were excited to have her along on our trip. She is also one our dearest ex-pat friends.

After arriving in the small, mountain village of Bara Gran, we soon met a local man who, in the past, had generously offered us a place to work as well as a delicious lunch of rajma (kidney beans), rice and vegetables. Although this man, Rajan Thakur, had always told us of his unbearable suffering, he had never actually taken the medicine we had prescribed for him. Rajan was a deeply disturbed man. He had extreme insomnia, and could not tolerate the night hours without heavy medication. By his own admission, he was heavily addicted to a handful of mysterious allopathic medications that a local pharmacist prescribed to him monthly. After years of daily consumption of god knows what, his physical health had visibly weakened.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning in Bara Gran and we greeted Rajan with enthusiasm. He, however, was anything but enthusiastic. He spoke in soft tones. He said he was very sick and near death. Then, he told the story of a sore on his skin, which both developed and opened suddenly. When Rebecca and I asked to see the skin, he said, “Not here. The neighbors can see”, and took us into his dark bedroom, where he took off his shirt. We gasped as he revealed a large, irregular ulcer, 12 inches by 8 inches, which was 2 inches deep and over his liver area. The story soon unfolded about how only a few weeks ago he had felt perfectly fine. Suddenly, one day, he felt a sharp pain, and the next day a hole opened in his abdomen. The hole kept enlarging and, within a few days, had grown to an enormous size. He was then taken to the local, free, government hospital where they diagnosed him with food poisoning, and discharged him, to die at home. He was given one week to live. That was 9 days ago.

At that moment, I did not recognize it as a case of necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh eating bacteria, as it is commonly known. Antibiotics are mostly ineffective against this disease, and the mortality rate is about 70%.

Rebecca and I took his case history and prescribed a homeopathic remedy, to be taken once a day, for the next 10 days. As it was late November, we would not be coming to this valley again until the spring. The winter snows make travel impossible in this region. So, I advised Rajan to come to my clinic in Bir as soon as he was able. As we left the Barot valley later that day, I wondered what Rajan’s fate would be. Honestly, I did not have much hope, although I felt certain that the remedy was very well selected, and if anything could help, homeopathy could.

On December 15th, I received a garbled call in our clinic. It was Rajan. He said that he was feeling better and asked me to please come visit him. I could not do that, so instead I sent him some more medicine on the local bus.

Needless to say, Rajan did not die of this disease. He recovered gradually and completely, and thus is part of the small percentage of people who survive necrotizing fasciitis. Did homeopathy save his life? While there is no way to absolutely prove this, it is highly unlikely that the disease suddenly stopped on its own. It is much more likely that, without our help on that day, Rajan Thakur would not be alive today, tending to his farm and cattle in the beautiful, Barot valley.

Our Budding New Organic Farm by Spero

The monsoon rains, in this part of the world, are long and intense. Rarely, if ever, do we see the full sun during this three month period of “summer”, where the average seasonal rainfall is about three meters. Last July, I did a 10 day, solitary meditation retreat. Such periods of quiet reflection are perhaps the best solution to the seemingly endless cycles of torrential rain followed by fog and mist.

Surprisingly, on the last day of my meditation retreat, I was blessed with an hour of brilliant sunshine. I took this opportunity to wander though some of the terraced farmlands. Nestled against the steep rise of the Himalayan foothills, each small field displayed yet another shade of dazzling green. Quite suddenly, I had a vision of my neighborhood fields as a completely pure and natural place. I imagined that the pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers, currently used here, were forever gone, and that the land was restored to a natural harmony where people, animals and plants all co-existed in a mutually beneficial way.

From my work as a homeopath treating thousands of local people, I have been acutely aware of the health problems associated with herbicide and pesticide poisoning. From skin rashes, to chronic digestive disturbances, to permanent kidney, liver, and neurological damage and cancer, the local farmers and their families suffer tremendously. It is sad that most of the local farmers have no idea that these chemicals are poisoning their families. However, what is even more disturbing is that they believe these chemicals are necessary to produce enough food for their families. Thus, my aim is to expose the fallacy of this thinking, and to demonstrate effective methods for production of healthy, and more abundant, crops.

My vision was to create a demonstration model, organic farm right in the middle of our village. By showing, over an extended period of time, that organic agriculture is cheaper, healthier, less time consuming and, over the years, more productive than chemical agriculture, will we do our best to win the hearts and minds of the people. Only then will the visible and invisible health benefits of tasty and nutritious food naturally follow.

Today, our organic farm is well underway. We have leased 1.2 adjoining acres from four different landowners for a period of 7 years. Last November we planted chemical free winter wheat and, over the last five months, have prepared many hundreds of pounds of vermi (worm) compost, to be used in the upcoming May vegetable plantings.

Mata Sharan, a young man from our village, is our only hard working and dedicated full time employee. In early January, the experts from Palampur University came and demonstrated the proper method for making vermi compost, as well as various types of compost teas, which can be used as spray fertilizers and natural insecticides. These teas, one of which is made from cow urine, manure, and sugar cane, are full of soil enhancing bacteria and microbes.

I have been following my usual habit of throwing myself headlong into a new project, and learning all that I can about organic farming. Somewhere along the way, I have become like Saul, on the road to Damascus, a holy convert to the principles of Permaculture.
Last week we planted our first banana tree circle, followed by 20 other fruit and nut trees. We have also planted bamboo on the perimeter of the land. Spiny blackberry bushes will act as a natural fence, as well as provide fruit. I am designing a complex system of swayles and irrigation ditches to capture the precious water of the monsoon rains, allowing the land to remain fertile through the dry seasons that inevitably follow.

Our ambitious next step will be building a combination greenhouse, cow barn, and chicken coop for a part of the land that was used for many years as a waste dump. Perhaps we will even make Feta cheese. That would have made my Greek grandmother smile. The locals are all very curious and waiting to see what the result of all this strange activity will be. Our long term vision is to create a workers farm cooperative, in which the farm is financially self-sustainable. Our hope is to empower our employees to go home and recreate what they have learned through working for us.

Our First Organic Farm Day by Robin

IMG_7474 On January 4th 2014, we organized our first organic farm day. Three scientists from the Palampur University’s Organic Agriculture Department, and three of their staff, came to demonstrate various composting techniques on our land. At our request, Palampur University has agreed to “adopt” our project. Thus, they will visit regularly to provide free trainings to our staff, and anyone else interested in attending.

IMG_7479We hope that as awareness of this project increases, more and more local residents will take advantage of these trainings. Between the University staff, our farm staff, our house staff, curious neighbors and interested friends, over 20 people took part in the days activities. Participants went home inspired to implement these easy procedures in their local gardens & farm plots.

IMG_7462It all began about a month ago when Spero and Mata Sharon (local resident/farm staff), began constructing a three chambered, mud brick, Vermi Compost pit. The posts are made of locally harvested bamboo. In the next few days, a corrugated metal roof will go up top, to protect the mud brick construction, and the compost, from heavy monsoon rains.

IMG_7445Yesterday, a more simple and economical Vermi Compost was built. They began by choosing a shaded, flat area of land, about 10′ x 5′. The area was marked off with stones. Then, 3-5″ of fresh green material was placed inside. The leaves are of the Eupatorium plant, which is poisonous to eat. It is high in nitrogen, a natural insect repellent and readily available in our area.

IMG_7478It is better if your first layer is a slowly decomposing green matter, like sugar cane or bamboo. Unfortunately, we did not know that in advance. They watered the green matter thoroughly, then added 3-5″ of manure  on top. 1kg of worms, and their eggs, were sprinkled on top of the manure, and thoroughly watered. Then, another 3-5″ of manure were spread on top of that.  More water was added before beginning the next layer of green material. They said that you could continue to layer up in this way, but it should not exceed 2.5′ in height. In the end, they covered the entire pile, sides and top with a 5″ layer of fresh, green material, like frosting on a cake.

IMG_7468At a later date, a shed will have to built over this compost to protect it from heavy monsoon rains. Temperature and moisture will have to be monitored and controlled. After 30-40 days the compost pile will have to be turned, and then piled back up. After 3-4 months, depending upon the weather, the compost will be complete.

 

IMG_7599Next we learned how to make a Vermi Wash. It is nutrient, microbe and hormone rich. You can use it on your soil and seeds, to prevent fungal disease. In the same way that eating fermented foods and pro-biotics improves your digestion, the foundation of human health, this wash creates a rich and diverse soil environment, which disease can not flourish in.  The procedure involves three clay pots, two of which are suspended one on top of the other. The top pot is full of water. A plastic hose is inserted and sealed into a small hole made in the bottom of the pot. A glucose drip, acquired from the local pharmacy, is placed on the hose to make the water drip, rather than run, out.

IMG_7553The second pot contains the compost. It also has a plastic hose inserted and sealed into a small hole made in the bottom of the pot. As the worms turn the manure, soil and dry grass into compost, the water drips down through, leaving a rich tea in the bottom pot. This tea is then diluted 5x in water and used as an preventative anti-fungal spray.

 

IMG_7590We also learned how to make another fermented brew called Madka Kard (Hindi translation please?). This process involves filling a clay pot 3/4 full with a mixture of fresh manure, lactating cow urine, brown sugar and water. The brown sugar must be thoroughly dissolved into the water before adding the urine and manure. You then dig a hole in the ground, and bury the pot, covered with a clay lid, for 7-10 days. Burying it underground maintains a stable temperature for the fermentation process. The end product is diluted 5x with water and can be sprayed upon seeds, fields before sowing and upon emerging seedlings.

 

IMG_7552Mata Sharon is a young man from our village, and our farm’s first full time employee. Impressed by the days events, he told us the following story. His family owns about 1 acre of land. Ten years ago, they stopped using traditional farming methods and began using urea, which is a chemical fertilizer often promoted by government officials. Around this time, his family also began using a selective herbicide, in between plantings, and would feed the remaining grass to their cow. Before these two, seemingly small changes, they were harvesting over 2 tons (4000 pounds) of wheat and corn from their fields each year. Now, after 10 years of soil depletion from chemical agriculture, they only get about 500lbs of harvest each year. His family is poor, and the loss of food and income has dramatically reduced their quality of life. The fact that Mata Sharon is employed on our farm, and is beginning to see the wisdom in what we are doing, is our farm’s first success!

Would you like to be our farm project manager? Or, do you know anyone who may be interested? Please help us spread the word about this position. We are looking for someone to join us, in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, for one year. We need an organized and dedicated individual to help oversee our 2 acre organic farm. Applicants must be willing and able to work with local Indian farmers. Excellent communication skills and cultural sensitivity are a must. A strong passion for organic farming is required.  This is a volunteer position, however we will provide quality housing and food.

Read more about this project! Contact us at info@shrifreeclinic.com

A Battered Woman’s New Life by Robin

Priya, a beautiful and bright 24 year old Indian woman, came to SHRI Free Clinic complaining of tinnitus. By her second visit, we determined that she had a much more urgent problem. During the case taking, she shared her story.

Priya’s father had been very violent. Surprisingly, Priya’s mother had divorced her father when Priya was in her early teens. This is very rare in our area. Divorced women are ostracized and marginalized here. Any belongings, which the wife brought into the marriage, are usually kept by the husband and his family. This includes property. Any belongings, which were acquired throughout the marriage, remain with the husband and his family. Yet, the children usually become the responsibility of the mother. There is a form of alimony here, called maintenance, but most women don’t even know it exists let alone have the financial resources to fight for it. When maintenance is given, it is only 5% of the husband’s wages. So, the only choice for these women is to return, usually unwanted, to their parent’s home. Often, they are not accepted back.

A survey sited in an article by Lawyer’s Club India found that 80% of the divorced women surveyed lived in poverty, living with an income of $80USD a month. In our village, most divorced women live on $20 – $60USD a month. 83% of the women surveyed said they left because of cruelty or domestic violence in the home. Our patient’s stories show that this abuse usually comes from their mother in law, or their husband, or both. My point is that a rural Indian woman’s life has to be terrible, in order for divorce to look like a better option. So, we can be sure that the circumstances in Priya’s home were quite dire.

Despite the obvious hardships, Priya did well in school and learned to speak English. She placed second in her class multiple years in a row. When she was 16 years old, her mother died. She was taken out of school and sent to live with an aunt, who quickly married her off to a man just as abusive as her father. Priya loves people, but when you ask her a question, she often looks pained and confused, and takes a long time to respond. Eventually, I understood this to be the result of the various traumas she has endured. After Priya shared her story, Spero asked, “Why do you stay with your husband?” She said that if she had somewhere to go, she would leave her husband in an instant, but, with her mother dead, she has no one to turn to for help.

Later that afternoon, I called an Indian women’s organization, with a center about 2 hours away, to ask for help on Priya’s behalf. Priya did not even know the organization existed. The women at this organization informed me that there are no shelters for battered women in our area, and very few in the nation as a whole. The organization works to empower Indian women, but is not set up to provide shelter. I happen to know the woman who runs the center fairly well, and after multiple phone conversations and a personal visit, she agreed to help.

Priya’s husband regularly monitored her phone, keeping track of who she called and when. So, using her visits to the clinic as a cover, and my phone, we maintained contact between Priya and the women’s organization. Spero and I would have found her a place to live, and raised the money for her living expenses, giving her time to heal and learn a trade, but we knew that she had to move far away from her husband. Also, I wanted her to be close to this women’s organization. I knew that she would flourish in that environment. I knew that the educational opportunities, and the dynamic women teaching and volunteering at their center, would inspire her.

Eventually, the organization found Priya a safe place to stay, within walking distance of their center. To our surprise, they said that she could stay there for free. Spero and I paid for the taxi to take Priya, and her 5 year old son, to their new home. After a few days, the women’s organization helped get her son enrolled in the local school and began teaching her computer skills and office management. She also began studying with a Nepali woman who practices acupuncture and massage. We are all waiting to see what Priya takes the greatest interest in, within the choices available to her. Meanwhile, because of her good English, Priya can provide cooking and cleaning assistance to one of the many foreign residents living nearby, who can afford to pay her a slightly higher wage than this work would normally garner.

Priya calls regularly to give me updates. She has registered herself in school, and hopes to finish class 12 by the summer of 2014. Her son is very bright. Thus, the women’s organization is applying for scholarships to private schools, so that he can receive a better education. Priya’s husband learned the location of his son’s new school, most likely through the principal of the previous school. Priya’s husband was regularly visiting the boy’s school at the end of the day. He would try to take the boy (who did not want to go with his father), start fights with Priya, and try to learn where they are living now. During one of his visits, he took Priya’s phone away from her. The last time I called her, he answered. Priya is afraid, but beginning the court proceedings for her divorce, while also filing a restraining order against her husband, all with the continued support of the Indian women’s organization.

It is well documented that a battered woman is most at risk when she attempts to leave, for she is directly threatening her abuser’s authority and control. I pray that Priya, and her son, make it through this difficult time. There is hope on the other side. This is one story, of one woman, who came to us for help.

Why I Study with Farokh Master by Spero

Often, old homeopathic friends ask me why I am now studying with Farokh Master. They know that I have studied extensively and taught the Sensation Method for almost 10 years. In this article, I will attempt to answer this question.

In 2008, I moved to India, and in 2010 opened my free clinic in the Tibetan refugee colony of Bir. I moved here, in large part, so that I could challenge myself homeopathically. I knew that I would encounter many diseases and illnesses that I would never see in the west, and that my workload would increase substantially. I did not know, at the time, how I would cope with the new situation, but only that I needed to make this type of move.

As a sensation method practitioner, I knew hand gestures, classifications of animals and plants, as well as all the mineral remediesʼ position and meaning in the periodic table. I knew very well how to take a case in the sensation method, and mostly how to tell the difference between sensation and delusion. Having studied intensively with Rajan Sankaran, Jayesh Shaw, the Joshis, and others, I felt very confident mentoring others in their case taking process, and in their remedy selections. I had personally supervised over 75 students in the subtleties of sensation method case taking.

Suddenly, in one long day, all this work no longer mattered. The first day my clinic was opened, I saw eight new cases. Working In rural India, I was presented with much serious pathology, with only about 20 minutes to find each remedy. This is indeed what I had asked for, but I was very ill equipped to handle the demands. Faced with three different languages, different cultures, and simple hardworking patients who were reluctant to tell me anything, I knew I needed to change my practice and change immediately.

On that first day, I opened my repertory and my pathology books. I was embarrassed to find out how much I had forgotten or never knew in the first place. 3,000 cases and three years later I have not stopped studying and repertorizing each and every case.

I study with Farokh Master now because I consider him the best homeopath alive when it comes to understanding physical pathology and managing cases of difficult pathologies. His personal experience of the Materia Medica is derived from many years of using remedies, and is not a regurgitation of others work. Working tirelessly from dawn until night, 7 days a week, his entire life, has been dedicated to his patients and to homeopathy. This vast experience gives him a special place in the world of modern homeopathic teachers. His words speak the truth and his actions back them up. Dr. Master gets results in a large majority of his cases. He does this simply and elegantly, mostly with the same 65 remedies.

Since I have studied with Farokh Master, and worked diligently to deepen my understanding of classical homeopathy, the results in my practice have increased dramatically. I have confidence now that I can handle most patients who walk into my clinic. I am regularly forced to treat emergencies and acute cases that I would never see in the west.

Do I still use the sensation method? The honest answer is that I use it as a backdrop, as one leg of a three legged stool, when I use it at all. I have much more confidence now in the provings, in tissue and organ affinities, and in classical homeopathy altogether. When I do have an English speaking patient, and they seem open to a deeper case taking technique, then I do use sensation method case taking. This process is still a part of me, and I doubt I will ever change that. The sensation method reveals a depth of information that can not be found in classical homeopathic case taking. The problem is that understanding the information gathered by the sensation method, is most often confusing and misleading. Without a firm grounding in classical homeopathy the sensation method can be a dangerous tool. It is the cause of self deception and many wrong turns for beginning and advanced homeopaths alike.

To his credit, Dr. Sankaran has now embraced a more balanced approach which he terms “synergy”, or “using all the tools”. In my opinion this is a good position, however I do have some problems with this concept. The idea of using all the tools assumes that one in fact knows the tools to begin with. I can attest that in my own experience, learning the sensation method takes many years of dedicated study and practice. It is extremely difficult to master, and requires that the homeopath have a deep meditative case taking technique. Without this deep technique it is impossible to understand the 7 levels of the sensation method, and even more impossible to distinguish between between delusion and sensation. I have seen each and every one of my former students struggle with this problem, continually prescribing unknown and unusual remedies that have nothing to do with the basic sensation of the case. I have also seen so called experienced teachers repeatedly make this mistake.

Spending many years attempting to master the sensation method is time that is not spent studying classical homeopathy. For the beginning homeopath, or the intermediate level homeopath, this is a questionable endeavor. I would suggest that only after having a good mastery of classical homeopathy it might then be time for some individuals to study the sensation method. There is indeed brilliance here, it is simply that for the benefit of homeopathy altogether, it should be placed in a more balanced context.

In my opinion, Farokh Master offers the best education for beginning and advanced homeopaths alike. He is a kind and generous individual who has always supported me in my learning process. He teaches the basic straight facts of homeopathic life. While not always euphoric, studying the classics will take anyone a long way toward
better serving one’s patients. Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing anyway?

A Homeopathic Adventure in the Mountains with Spero and Robin by Barbara Stumbles

IMG_1737Debbie and I were not in the peak of health. Despite a determined training programme in New Zealand of preparation including walking through our bush (forest) with heavy packs on our backs, I had only just recovered from a persistent intestinal upset and Debbie had to fit in our trek around rabies vaccinations after being bitten by an unfriendly dog. Undaunted, we prepared for departure by sorting out the homeopathic remedies for travel in backpacks and shopping for food. Due to our influence a large quantity of nuts, seeds and chocolate were made into trail mix and added to the load, meaning that we were unlikely to starve. We set off from Spero and Robin’s house ready for our adventure. Our party consisted of two porters (one carrying food and tents, one medicines), our interpreter Roshan, Debbie and I, Spero and Robin.

We arrived at Billing in time to see paragliders preparing to launch themselves off the mountain top at Billing. This was a good omen because the paragliders had been previously grounded due to unpleasant weather. The unseasonal fog and rain was claimed by the locals to be due to the malefic influence of the Goddess of the mountain who was unhappy because the paragliders were being disrespectful by dangling their feet over her temple during their descent.

Our first leg of the journey stopped at the Misty Mountain bistro, where we had our much anticipated smoky cup of chai and were able to take the case of the chai shop proprietor, who had some minor health issues.

IMG_1611IMG_1613

 

 

 

We arrived at the home of the man who had been shearing sheep the previous week, and had said that he suffered from headaches. We asked for him but were told he had left the mountain. Fortunately for us this was precisely as a thunderstorm launched its attack on us. Torrential rain and thunder and lightning would have been somewhat unpleasant walking the trail, but there we were standing outside a substantial house with a large, sheltered porch. Permission to shelter was granted, and consequently we were able to serenely eat our lunch of peanut butter sandwiches while the storm raged around us.

IMG_1740

When the rain had abated we carried on and found our camp site – a piece of flat land above a sheer drop down to the river. Inveterate sleepwalkers should take ropes to tie themselves to their tent! Here we watched as Roshan went through a yoga routine to restore his back to its perfect alignment. He put down a tarpaulin and promptly achieved a perfect head stand. That not being a yoga move I have gained mastery of, I was not tempted to join him, despite his kind invitation to do so. We set up camp, with three tents; one for the food and medicines, one for Debbie and I and one for Spero and Robin. We had the food tent close to ours so that we could keep an ear out for untoward activity in it during the night. When I asked what the standard procedure was should we suspect that a bear was raiding our food, I was told that the protocol was to allow the bear to continue!

IMG_1745

We sterilized our water with Steripens, and made a meal over an open fire, which cooked slowly due to the altitude. Our own efforts to ignite the dripping wet firewood were ably assisted by another patient, who turned up for help with his illness. Roshan was absent (unfortunately this was setting the trend for many of our consultations) so a detailed case taking was postponed until he was present, but the would-be patient quickly breathed life into our smouldering heap and a nice fire resulted. Then off to bed, but not to sleep much due to scary sounds of wild animals outside lasting much of the night. Somewhat bearlike, but sounding somewhat human as well, the sounds were unnerving, but were explained in the morning when we found Spero in a sorry state. He had been violently unwell in the night, and had been the source of the noises. When his rebellious stomach finally allowed him to rest, no rest was available due to his further misfortune – he had forgotten a sleeping mat and had the choice of either bare, cold ground, or to lie over Robin’s backpack as his couch.

IMG_1753IMG_1743

Consequently he was in no state to set off to the potato farm, which was the anticipated destination for the morning’s consultations. The workers at the potato farm have to start work at 9am sharp, they stop for an hour for lunch, then work through to 5pm. They have to hurry back home at 5 to prepare meals, etc, so our only opportunities to treat their problems were either before work or at lunchtime. Consequently Robin, Debbie and I set off leaving Spero to try and rest. After setting up our medicines in the porch of the overseer’s house a steady stream of customers arrived. Unfortunately there was no sign of Roshan. Later we learned that he too had suffered an uncomfortable night, although not as bad as Spero’s. He had slept in a guesthouse and his roommate had been sleep talking loudly until 5am. Roshan said that he could not perform adequately without a good sleep. Consequently he slept from 5am until just before 9 and turned up just in time to help with the last client. Prior to his arrival we had to struggle along as best we could. Fortunately we had Robin with us who had enough language ability to enable us to take very simple cases. Our patients were all totally impatient – apart from the fact that we had insufficient language to ask complex questions, they weren’t in a frame of mind to answer much anyway. Confidentiality was non-existent as the waiting line leaned in expectantly to hear questions and answers better – or to make comment. We saw two skin cases and one cough which we treated very empirically with sulphur and phosphorus. Our last case, who had the benefit of Roshan’s presence, had a severe injury some months before and was in serious pain. We were able to obtain modalities and confidently gave him rhus tox.

When the patients vanished to start work, we set off up the mountain to find a cooked lunch in the guesthouse Roshan had been staying at. We needed to be there early because they wouldn’t start cooking until there were customers visible. A verbal booking was inadequate. Also they were reputed to be painfully slow. Spero was able to borrow a sleeping mat from there, which proved to be a mixed blessing, as he spent his second night being quietly devoured by small occupants of the mat (and then he shared these very kindly with Robin, who was bitten subsequently). The identity of the hitchhikers in the mat was never discovered, but they had been waiting for a meal for a long time, judging by their numerous bites.

After a meal of dhal and rice we returned to the potato farm for the lunch break, and saw a stream of patients, with the benefit of Roshan’s presence and Spero as well. After dispensing various remedies we headed back to our camp site for more food and water preparation and another early night (due to the early nightfall).

The sleep was much better for all but it seemed very cold in the morning due to the sparkling white topping of snow visible on a nearby mountain. More eager customers arrived at our campsite but Roshan was absent and case taking therefore minimal. One shepherd gave Debbie and I a very minimal case via Robin’s interpreting, but on Spero’s return to the campsite he was taken aside immediately for a private discussion. Using a mixture of spoken language and gestures, it transpired that our shepherd was suffering from an STD due to visiting prostitutes, and the information he had given us (three women) had nothing to do with his real reason to seek help.

IMG_1774Roshan arrived in time for breakfast – porridge with a liberal sprinkling of our chocolate laced trail mix. Fortunately he was there for the arrival of our two last shepherd patients. The shepherds are a hardy bunch, living up in the mountains with their flocks and seeing off leopards with nothing but precision stone throwing. The first shepherd had rheumatism and received rhus tox. The second suffered from stomach troubles and from anxiety about his daughter’s health (of course he saw her infrequently because he was up the mountain, so this added to his concern) and also about robbers and leopards taking his sheep. When it was his turn to watch the flock he was unable to sleep at all due to these worries. We gave him arsenicum album.

IMG_1787We then packed up our campsite and departed along the same route that we had taken on our earlier group trek. We lost Roshan early on as he was waiting for the guest house man and we continued on our way, losing our porters with the remedies fairly quickly (they travelled faster). Consequently when we met a man who had been crushed when his horse fell on him, Debbie volunteered to race after the porters to bring them (and the remedies) back. Meanwhile in the absence of Roshan, another great interpreter stepped into his shoes. This man had just had his morning bath in the river (remember there was snow on the mountain that day – it was fairly chilly!). Standing comfortably on the path clad in a damp towel and jandals only, he was a good example of how tough these mountain folk are – there were no goose bumps and he seemed very much at ease as he efficiently interpreted for us. Arnica and rhus tox were given and we continued on our way. As we approached the bridge over the river Roshan reappeared – he was carrying a large pack and yet was bounding like an antelope over that treacherous path of rocks and pot holes. Yoga is obviously good for the balance and coordination!

IMG_1823_face0At the next village everybody was working and nobody could stop for consultations. We refreshed our water supplies and continued to the chai shop at the end of the trail. Here we were besieged by patients, including a garrulous but good natured drunk who had pursued us down from the mountain. Roshan reported that this man was rolling drunk at 10am, but had decided that if others got consultations, he wanted one also. It was unclear exactly what he needed the consultation for, but after receiving his life story we gave him lachesis for alcoholism and finally were able to dislodge him in order to attend to others.

We saw a 70 year old man who had his cute little granddaughter with him, carrying her on his back. He had very large warts and on being questioned about dreams of falling (those leading questions again) he became very animated and said ‘every night!’ Treatment was fairly obvious – thuja of course.

IMG_1816While we were busy with a lovely calc gentleman, Spero was taking the blood pressure and pulse of an 87 year old amputee. This was a shepherd who had lost his leg 2 years previously (at the age of 85, note) while chasing a snow leopard away from his flock with the obligatory rock throwing. Our hero slipped on the ice and broke his leg badly. He came to see us because he thought he might have high blood pressure. Spero reported that his blood pressure and his pulse were perfect and he was in perfect health (aside from his missing leg).

When our supply of patients ran dry, we continued on our way and caught our waiting taxi back to Bir. That last day on the mountain was my birthday and was certainly a memorable one! Debbie and I had a truly unforgettable experience and are very grateful to Spero and Robin for making this possible and for making it so much fun.

Hiking in the Himalayas for Homeopathy by Rajesh Vallabh & Brigid Walsh-Byrne

Spero,-Brigid,-Cheryl,-RajeshDay 1
After the blood-pumping seminar with Dr. Farouk Master; Cheryl, Brigitte, Spero and I spent three days in the foothills of the Himalayas. Spero Latchi, a homeopath who lives in India, runs a homeopathic clinic in the city of Bir. Spero’s objective was to touch base with some of his remote patients living in small isolated villages. Below is a photo of the 4 of us on the trek and the home in the background, is where we found our 1st patient. A local paragliding guide. He had broken his leg in a previous fall and 3 months after surgery he was still in a lot of pain.

Trekking through the Himalayas was amazing. It was really beautiful. The first day was hard going though. We stopped at 2.30pm to set up camp. Gathering firewood was quite a task. Thank you Canada Parks for selling the firewood…Brigitte was the fire master. She made a great fire and kept it going throughout the night. The cold had crept in and by 6pm we were all huddled up close around the fire waiting for dinner. Water was a vital commodity so we would fetch water from the river and Cheryl filtered the water for the day. At night the temperature dropped close to -10C. I kept finding myself waking in my tent to put on more cloths to keep warm.

Early-Morning-CampDay 2
Off to an early morning start. When we arrived at the village, many of the villagers had left to spend the winter in one of the towns that were not so harshly treated by the weather, so the clinics were small. At the first clinic we had three patients, hardy souls that were going to spend winter in their villages. These were all follow up patients, whom have been treated by Spero over the past 3 years. The 1st, Chumari Devi was suffering from a cough. She had a cataract, deformed teeth and was amel by the rain. We gave her Causticum 30c. Brigitte was in charge of our pharmacy. Cheryl kept all the notes to the interview. I translated from Hindi to English and Spero asked the questions. We had 2 more patients a Mr. Ratanchand who had a distended abdomen from excessive consumption of alcohol. Nux Vomica 200c 5X was dispensed. Alcoholism is a past time in the mountains. These were all patients that Spero treats every time he comes on his village treks.
Spero would like to be able to reach these villages regularly so that he could build a real relationship with these people and they could begin to experience the real magic that is homoeopathy. To do that he needs more manpower and always welcomes visiting homoeopaths to his clinic, especially if they are willing to put on their hiking boots and come with him into the hills!

It is a well worthwhile endeavor, as allopathic medicine has reached this far into the hills, and not always under the supervision of medical doctors either! Many of the complaints we saw related to the wear and tear of living and working hard in the hills. Carrying loads on their heads, climbing hills and severe weather are all part of living here. There is no electricity; so all heat is by firewood, and the warmth of livestock, which spend winter in the rooms below the living rooms. The conveniences we take for granted are not here – no sliced bread for breakfast – no instant meals, heat, lighting or warm water… Everything requires effort. Thus arthritic conditions, and respiratory conditions were among the most common we saw.

The end of day 2 saw us pitching tent near the river close to the next village we will visit the next morning. Brigitte our fire master had a roaring fire going. Thank Goodness!! Spero a gourmet chef made simple meals taste like deluxe gourmet meals. After dinner Brigitte sang many songs in true Irish style. To top every night off was the fact of sleeping under a canopy of stars.

The Clinic of Bare Necessities…

Bara-Gao-ClinicDay 3
Once we arrived in a village, we would sit in a central location and wait. Our arrival would be announced to the residents that remained for the winter. After some time someone would come forward with a complaint and then the clinic began. Usually the locals provided us with mats to sit on. On the 3rd day we ran multiple clinics. The 1st clinic pictured below, we saw 3 patients. Consultations are conducted in the open amongst everyone. The culture of privacy that we are used to in the west is unknown here.

More patients were waiting to see us in the line up but they left as they have fields and animals to tend too. Leaving the 1st clinic we headed out to the next village, which was an hours walk away. On route we stopped at a bus stop with a roadside tea stall to have a cup of tea. The bus had just arrived and we were flooded with patients. The roadside stall attendant, the bus driver, a baby with typhoid and a few others. Having so many patients in such a short period of time is very difficult to take a complete case. We would assess the case, enquire as best as we needed from the patients and dispense a remedy based on our agreement. Those that could come to the city were encouraged to come to the clinic for complete case taking. We then left the bus stop and went looking for lunch.

Festival to One of the Gods of the Mountain

Devi-FunctionLooking for lunch! We were invited to eat with the villagers who were celebrating a local flesh eating deity! It was a real treat. We got to the village and saw 3 patients before having lunch. During lunch we met the chef who was also one of our patients. We felt really privileged to be included in their local celebrations. Custom has it that visitors eat before the locals, or the family, if you are invited to dinner somewhere, and so we were fed first.

Cheryl,-Brigid,-Spero-&-RajeshWe had, what was up to that point for me, the best food I’d had in India. A lamb dish, rice and five different pulse dishes – really tasty and fresh. We ate from disposable plates using our hands… The whole experience was delightful. When we were finished eating and (some of us) drinking the local brew, our porters indicated it was time for us to take our leave so the party for the locals could begin!

Kicking our heels back on the road, we headed out to what we thought would be the end of our day. Whilst crossing a river and hunting for small souvenir rocks, we were stopped by distressed father. At his home we met his son, Ajay Kumar, who was 20 years old. He was as pale as a ghost, diagnosed with liver disease and given 6 months to live. We spent 2.5hrs taking his case. When we finished there were other patients waiting for treatment that we had to turn away as it was now 9pm and we had to head back to Bir. The next morning we discussed Ajay’s case and decided on a remedy for him. We arranged for his father to come and collect the remedy from Spero’s clinic.

The entire experience for me was surreal. To be in the Himalayan mountains trekking was superb. To be there trekking and doing homeopathy was unfathomable. It will always remain one of the best moments in my life!

Hiking in the Himalayas by Brigid Walsh-Byrne

15After the seminar with Dr. Master, Cheryl, Rajesh, Spero and I spent three days in the foothills of the Himalayas. It was really beautiful. The landscape consistently reminded me of Shangri-La. Why? Well, every available inch of cultivatable land was being used, and there was a sense that although life here would be tough, especially in winter, everything you would need to live was here. There was also a sense of something special about the land energies there that went beyond the merely physical ability to sustain the population – a certain quality of magic!

When we arrived there, many of the villagers had left to spend the winter in one of the towns that were not so harshly treated by the weather, so the clinics were small. At the first clinic, we had three clients, hardy souls, that were going to spend the winter in their village. These were new cases and all had chronic conditions, which makes it difficult to effect real changes in their health. It will be spring before another hike is possible.

CIMG5303Spero would like to be able to reach these villages regularly so that he could build a real relationship with these people so that they could begin to experience the real magic that is homoeopathy. To do that he needs more manpower and always welcomes visiting homoeopaths to his clinic, especially if they are willing to put on their hiking boots and come with him into the hills! It is a well worthwhile endeavor, as allopathic medicine has reached this far into the hills, and not always under the supervision of medical doctors either!

Many of the complaints we saw related to the wear and tear of living and working hard in the hills. Carrying loads on their heads, climbing hills and severe weather are all part of living here. There is no electricity, so all heat is by firewood, and the warmth of livestock which spend winter in the rooms below the living rooms. The conveniences we take for granted are not here – no sliced pan for breakfast – no instant meals, heat, lighting or warm water… Everything requires effort. So arthritic conditions, and respiratory conditions were among the most common we saw.

IMG_0543The clinics

Arriving in a village, we would sit in a central location and wait. After some time someone would come forward with a complaint and then the clinic began. Usually the locals provided us with mats to sit on, and then in a very public way case taking would begin. The culture of privacy that we are used to in the west is unknown here… We had two porters with us, and one of them acted as translator, along with Rajesh who had been at Dr Master’s seminar with us. It was a lot of fun! As I write I don’t have notes for cases we took, so cannot give more details of our prescriptions.

Fire Master – Brigid

We had two large camp fires in the evenings. I was granted title of Fire Master… (for those of you in Hidden Valley, I couldn’t leave it all go with James!) I enjoyed keeping them going, and also managing them so that we could cook on them. Sitting around talking, laughing and singing created a greater warmth in our group…

CIMG5314Waiting for food to cook became a feature of the hike, as boiling point in the mountains is quite a bit lower than 100 degrees. So we had appetites for our meals when they arrived! I experienced tsampa too. This is a toasted barley flour which the Tibetans, nomads of similar landscapes rely on to survive while in the mountain. Take some tsampa, add ghee (clarified butter) to your taste, sugar, and nuts or fruit and mix in enough hot water to make a sloppy paste and eat. I liked it, especially in the mountains. Strangely though, when Spero offered it to me for breakfast back in civilization my appetite for it had disappeared!

CIMG5411Festival to the one of the gods of the mountain

On the last day of the trip we were looking for lunch – having given up on cooking it ourselves! We were invited to eat with the villagers who were celebrating a local flesh eating deity! It was a real treat. Custom has it that visitors eat before the locals, or the family, if you are invited to dinner somewhere, and so we were fed first. We had, what was up to that point for me, the best food I’d had in India. Some meat dish, rice and five different pulse dishes – really tasty and fresh. We ate from disposable plates using our hands… The whole experience was delightful. When we were finished eating and (some of us) drinking the local brew, our porters indicated it was time for us to take our leave so the party for the locals could begin!

 

Prayer Flags Flying in the Tea Garden by Jenni Tree

Prayer-FlagsI set off for Bir, in the foothills of the Himalayas, late March 2012 and arrived, despite the vagaries of Kingfisher Airlines (which is apparently run on beer…), on time to be met by Spero and Robin, the former sporting a local-style high-collared jacket, and Robin’s lovely face lost under the brim of a hat to die for. I’ve worked with, studied, taught, used, absorbed and loved homeopathy for about 30 years and was about to offer what I could to Spero’s Research Institute in the Tibetan Colony in Bir. The village is full of temples and the accompanying gongs, deep voices and chanting that can go on until midnight, and get you up at a sprightly 4a.m. There are dogs that also join the cacophony, and leave their calling card on the doorsteps. The streets are uneven, smelly, and vibrant. The shiny eyes of curious children and monklets follow your every move, and the adults call “Tashi Delek” as I walked by each morning. My first and long-lasting impression is one of joy – how can one not feel joyful when there are thousands of prayer flags fluttering, draping every tree and building? A prayer on every breeze. Wonderful.

Ani-La-&-Jenni-in-ClinicThe clinic is small, clean and organized – a waiting area; a consultation room; remedy room and emergency treatment room. A translator is employed – she speaks Tibetan, Hindi, English and probably Nepali and Bhutanese among other languages. However there seems to be only one word for pain -chun chun- so one’s powers of observation come in very handy when watching the case taking: did they wince when saying chun-chun, or rub the spot using hard pressure? Can I evince that it might be neural rather than muscular pain? We worked a regular day of morning and afternoon clinics, seeing as many patients as arrived and working through a great range of diseases. I felt tempted to write a paper on the state of ‘displaced peoples’ as so many of the Tibetans had suffered terribly both living in and leaving Tibet. Their stories were often heartbreaking, and indeed while I was there, two young monks self-immolated in protest against the Chinese occupation. We treated many monks; they generally have great humor and are kept under strict control by various notices around the town, one of which read: No body of Gyurmeling monastery monks has allowed hangout town after 6pm. if any of monks has seen after 6pm please, inform to seniour monk or monestary office. (sic)

SADNESSAt weekends we trekked or drove out to distant villages and set up traveling clinics, where we might treat 40 patients in a day, with Robin laying out an immaculate pharmacy while Spero and I struggled with case taking, where the whole village had a say in each case. I was struck by the ineffable sadness in the eyes of a graceful young woman. The village elders had said that ‘She drinks,’ (presumably alcohol, and very much frowned upon.) When I ignored them and asked her to tell me about her family, hoping to find the reason for her sadness, she revealed that her husband and a child had died and she had two other children to support but suffered debilitating migraines, worse in the sun. Many prescriptions were simple like this one for Natrum mur, but none the less effective for their simplicity. Many cases were very short: we treated worms, appalling burns, warts, rheumatism, headaches, back pain, menopausal hot flushes, vertigo, swollen suppurating glands; emaciation; swollen, stiff and painful joints; kidney pathology; heart pathology; alcohol abuse; liver pathology – it looked as if there were a high level of fetal alcohol syndrome in the young children; asthma; necrotizing fasciitis; fevers. An endless list of the disease that comes in a community whose lives are extremely harsh physically and emotionally and whose diet is compromised by the overuse of chemicals on the land. The people themselves were, of course, beautiful, proud and spiritual with the usual sprinkling of Jealousy and gossip that is endemic in close-knit claustrophobic villages.

IMG_0561From a homeopathic point of view, I loved working with Spero who has an open and enquiring mind and tries always to work to the deepest and broadest totality relevant and available in the case. Between us we have a lot of experience, and neither of us is afraid of disagreement or learning from the other. We used all methods of case taking and analysis from First Aid to Kent, to Scholten, Sankaran and Sherr. It helps to have studied widely rather than to adhere to one method. The volunteering experience fed me totally: I saw a lot of patients, which I love to do; I spent many hours in the temples; Bir is surrounded by snow-capped mountains that greet you with an inclination of their peaks every morning; in the nearby Buddhist teaching centre I was overjoyed to attend two days of teachings from Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo; I met Janet Thomas who was teaching a memoir-writing workshop and impressed me deeply; I ate at the great 4Tables Restaurant and met Frank and his bright little son Alok. So the food, spirit, landscape, temples, Buddhism, and homeopathy all enriched me. The solid backdrop to this is the welcome and unwavering friendship of Robin and Spero. They made possible for me one of the greatest experiences of my life – which I hope to repeat in the next few years. Thank you both. With all best wishes for the continuing success of the Shantideva Homeopathic Research Institute.

Jenni Tree, MA, BEd, DHom, FRSA.
Churchill Fellow 1983.
Editor, Similia, Australian Homeopathic Association.
Sub editor, Homeopathic Links