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A picture of man getting the netra basti, treatment

A Ghee Bath: an “Ayurvedic” Therapy to Nourish the Eyes

Netra Basti_Julie Bernier_chit_chaat_chaiOne thing we’ve learned from Ayurveda is to embrace the oily life. Dating back over 5, 000 years, this holistic medical system loves healthy fat–sesame, coconut to ghee. Internally and externally, Ayurveda recognizes the medicinal value of oil. From aiding detoxification to calming the nervous system. “Ayurvedic” therapies utilize oil in a wide variety of therapy to support the mind and the body. When it comes to treating the eyes, oil can be used as well. In a therapy called, netra basti.

Living in the digital era, in which eyestrain is on the rise, we wanted to learn more about the benefits of netra basti. A therapy commonly recommended by Ayurveda Practitioners and Doctors in which the eyes are bathed in ghee to relieve strain and much more. So, we called upon Julie Bernier, owner of True Ayurveda in Malibu, California. A NAMA (National Ayurvedic Medical Association) certified, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Yoga Therapist, Julie chit-chatted with us about the what, when, why, how and what if’s of this ancient, time-tested, eye therapy. Read More

5 Books on Ayurveda We Recommend for “Newbies”

5_Ayurveda_Must_Reads_ChitChaatCha-

Have you been wanting to learn more about Ayurveda and looking for a book to get you started? A book that provides an informative overview while having a practical element. Focused on the aspect of Ayurveda in which an individual can participate in their own well-being?

With a vast holistic medical system like Ayurveda, finding an introductory book can be challenging. This 5,000-year-old time-tested science encompasses a wide range of knowledge. From prevention-based practices for the general public to disease management that is geared towards medical professionals. For someone new to Ayurveda, the search for a personally relevant book can feel overwhelming. Read More

In Conversation with Filmmaker, Jeremy Frindel, The Doctor From India


Version 2We recently chit-chatted with Jeremy Frindel, director of the 2012 documentary, One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das about his new film, The Doctor From India. A poetic documentary about the pioneering work of  Ayurveda Physician and Educator, Dr. Vasant Lad, BAM&S, MASc.

Frindel’s immersive portrait shares Dr. Lad’s journey in bringing Ayurveda, a holistic-based healthcare system, to the United States in the late 1970’s. Documenting Dr. Lad’s life from childhood to present day, the film includes interviews with Deepak Chopra and longtime friend, Ayurveda physician Dr. Robert E. Savboda. Frindel’s meditative documentary brings new light to Ayurveda and captures the accomplishments of a doctor and healer with a humanitarian spirit.

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In Conversation with Director, Jeremy Frindel on his second documentary, The Doctor From India 

Rumin Jehangir (RJ): Hi, Jeremy. I am so excited to be talking with you today. Thanks for taking the time. I thought we could just jump right into the questions.  I’d love to hear how this film came about. How were you introduced to Dr. Lad, were you a student of Ayuverda?

Jeremy Frindel(JF): I knew pretty much zero about Ayurveda going in. I was, through a series of circumstances, brought to a retreat, through the teachings that Dr. Lad was giving at the Ananda Ashram.  Which is in upstate New York. Not too far from where I live. I knew a little bit about Dr. Lad. What I knew going into that {the retreat} was that a friend of mine who had been incredibly sick, who was a very strong person and for years couldn’t figure out what was going on, in and out of hospitals and doctors. Nobody could figure out what was wrong with her. She saw Dr. Lad. He read her pulse, gave her a few herbs and told her to change some things in her diet and within two weeks what doctors couldn’t figure out for years, he cleared up.  And she’s been fine and the problem hasn’t arisen since. So that made a pretty strong impression on me.

Before that, years earlier, a friend of mine told me how she was going to India to study with this man named Vasant Lad,  and how he spent half of his year in India treating villagers for free and giving them free medicine. And that she was going to learn with him and help him in that. Which I thought was incredible. And she came back glowing from the experience.

So those are the only two things I knew about him,  which had me pretty intrigued but I was mostly unfamiliar. So I went to this retreat. I was kind of tired of going to listen to the same quote, unquote yoga teachers that I’d spent years hearing with on the circuit. I studied for a long time with Dharma Mittra and traveling with Krishna Das.

I felt kind of like I’d heard it all and was a little bit fatigued of the whole routine. And then I walked in the room with Dr. Lad and was just totally blown away. He just moved me instantly and for the week I was pretty much transfixed with him. I was lucky and was able to get a sort of private consultation with him where he read my chart, jyotish, my Vedic astrology chart. It was just a really powerful experience for me.

Normally when I’m anywhere I’m always looking for stories and films and you know, I’m at the grocery store and I get an idea for film, I kind of sweat these ideas and somehow it didn’t cross my mind at all to make a film about Dr. Lad until the very final, puja, closing ceremony of the week.  This man came and sat next to me named Sartaj and we started talking and we really hit it off.

And somehow in the conversation with him, it just sort of came through.  Like oh, you need to make a film about Dr. Lad. After hearing Dr. Lad telling stories about his life and just the depth of wisdom, I was incredibly intrigued by him. It felt like I wanted to know more about him. I felt like there was something really meaningful to share by exploring his life and trying to bring it through in a film. Sartaj knew about the film I had made about Krishna Das. Sartaj also knew Dr. Lad. So within a couple of months, Sartaj had called Dr. Lad, asked him about us making the film. I sent him the film I made about Krishna Das. Dr. Lad agreed. He felt like it would be a nice way to share his life’s work.  A couple months later I had a camera and I was traveling in India with Dr. Lad and had begun filming.

RJ: Wow! That’s amazing. I feel like that’s such a blessing because as you know, Dr. Lad is a private person. Haven taken two intensives with him and talking to some of his regular students at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, even the people who work with him day in and day out, don’t seem to know much about his private life. And so that was one of…I think that’s one of the gifts of the film.  As a student {of his}, you already know that he lives the life he’s talking about. You see that in every sense of his movement and his being. But then to go in and see his personal space it just gives you this whole other level of insight….You were in his bedroom in India. I mean I was like oh, my god! How did that happen? How did you build up that trust with him? First of all, how long did it take you to make this? When did you first go to India?

Doctor_From_India

JF: I should have that year down in my mind but I don’t. I think it was 2013 or 2014. It was a while ago. He’s private and it was interesting for me. One, it was definitely a process of building trust. You know, I think this is kind of the same thing with Krishna Das. For the first six months or so that I filmed, I don’t think barely any of it ended up in the film. It’s almost just like a process of me getting to know him, the subject, and just building a rapport. Me, learning more about the world and where I want to focus my attention and just really building a relationship and a trust.  So that there’s a certain invisibility that can start to grow with the camera.

I sort of fade into the general atmosphere of what’s going on and you start to forget to some extent that there’s a camera recording you. To whatever extent I can create that environment that’s definitely something I’m trying to cultivate. And with Dr. Lad it was like a bit of a process of just building that…definitely trust is a part of it but just like a general comfort level.

I think part of why maybe he opened up to me in a different way than he does with his students often is because I wasn’t a student. I was coming in from a bit of a different angle. I think there’s a different expectation in the teacher-student relationship. So I think I was maybe coming in like a bit a of a side door that just created a different opening there.

I found it really interesting getting to know his students over the years of being around students who had studied with him for years but knew so little about his personal life from the sort of love story with his wife, Usha, to some sort of like key details of how he became who he is. Things to me that were like sort of foundation parts of his story that very few people knew. Which I found fascinating that people who’d kind of given up their lives to study with him who knew the experience of him but knew so little of his story. So for me, it’s really exciting to be able to share that because his story really is profound. I think very moving and so few people know it which I kind of sensed that a little bit.

I spent many years traveling around meeting all kinds of different yoga teachers and sort of spiritual teachers and while Dr. Lad is very, you know, successful and well known.  In the world of Ayurveda, he’s a legend. He’s not all that well known in the larger sphere, like sort of pantheon of spiritual teachers, and to me, he’s so profound and that the breadth of his wisdom is incredible. He feels a bit like a hidden gem, which is part of what I think is so exciting for me to be able to share him in this way. People who I think will love him know very little about him. I knew much more about Robert Svoboda going into making this film than I did about Dr. Lad. So to me, it was a beautiful process of discovering Dr. Lad and all of the sort of fascinating pieces that brought him where he is and the way he really quietly ushered Ayuverda into the rest of the world outside of India.

RJ: That brings me to two points. One is I don’t want to give away too much of the story because I think one of the things that I enjoyed so much, is exactly what you said…I didn’t know about his personal life so as that unraveled in the film it was amazing to experience it. So I don’t want to talk too much about it. But I do want to say…. one thing…. Dr. Lad’s a little bit of a rebel, you know? I didn’t realize that. You would never think someone who is so focused on the traditional aspect of Ayurveda… knowing a little bit about his life [through this film}… I was like he’s got a little bit of rebel in him.  It brought this whole new light to me about him and it makes sense. It makes so much sense to see that side of his spirit.

JF: I think that’s something that people don’t know about him and that you’re right, absolutely right. It’s not readily apparent. You know, he doesn’t wear it so obviously, but I mean even just like bringing Ayuverda to the US and coming here when nobody knew anything about it to teach,  that’s a pretty bad ass rebel move. Let alone the other things you’re talking about of this story with Usha and some other aspects, which I agree are fun to unfold in the film. Yeah, he’s definitely a rebel and an unexpected one because he doesn’t wear it obviously at all.

RJ: He doesn’t wear it at all.

One of the things I found very interesting about the film., is the subplot with Deepak Chopra. I want to talk a little bit more about that. Was that something that you discovered in the process of making the film? Did it come in the editing process? How did that {part of the }story come about?

JF: That was something that I learned right away when I first was doing my research as we were first approaching Dr. Lad and starting the conversation. I was digging around, reading and learning everything I could about him.  Seeing what the stories were on the internet and that was one I had come across. The sort of intersection with Deepak Chopra and Dr. Lad and Maharishi in the early ’80s. Where it was this, you know, very fascinating opportunity that Dr. Lad passed on. Deepak then picked up. You just have to kind of wonder how differently things could have been for both of those men.  If Dr. Lad had made a different decision and how poetic and perfect it is the choices that each of them made.

RJ: Yeah, I agree. I heard about Dr. Lad much later {in my journey}. I started my journey with Ayuverda, my formal journey with Ayuverda in 2009.  I went to school here in the Bay Area down in Fremont at the Kerala Academy, which is now in Milpitas. One of my teachers there was part of the Maharishi group, Dr. Suhas and he was one of my main teachers. So I was more familiar with that world. I had, of course, heard about Deepak Chopra much earlier, and then through my studies, I started hearing about Dr. Lad, because of his books. And then I finally had an opportunity to go to Albuquerque and study with him, but before that, I had watched his videos for hours and hours.

There’s such a large library of his work.  And it was incredible because, to me, he reminded me of my grandfather and my grandmother, in a way. In our family we would sit down a lot of the times and have these spiritual conversations or what people might have considered woo-woo, I want to get to that part of the film a little bit too. And I would just sit there as a young child, on my grandmother’s lap or have my head on her lap and listen.  When I first started hearing Dr. Lad that’s what Dr. Lad reminded me of and I was like wow, this is what I‘ve been missing from the side of Ayuverda, that I was formally learning. …I’m just so happy you made this film because I think this is the side of Ayuverda that people need to see more and understand that it’s not just about taking baths and it’s not just about self-care.

It’s this profound medical system that’s larger. It’s an environmental science…its so many things and Dr. Lad kind of keeping to the traditional aspect of it as Deepak Chopra says,  and Deepak having a different approach. You know, they’re coming from two different angles but they’re both successful in their own right. I’m just so grateful for Dr. Lad and it’s just beautiful to see.  Especially as Ayuverda grows here, as yoga grows, as meditation grows in the United States to have these two parallel stories and these two different approaches and what that says. And I’m glad that you went there with the film.

JF: In terms of the more esoteric elements?

RJ: Well, in terms of some of the stuff with the Maharishi.

JF: Oh, yeah.

RJ: And it was also interesting to see Dr. Lad’s response to it compared to, and I can’t believe his name is escaping me but…

JF: Len Blank

RJ: Yeah. I just love how you put that story together and how you showed the different personalities and the different perspectives.  It shows Dr. Lad’s spirit even more, in that part of the story. I don’t want to say too much but…

JF: Yeah, I understand. It was definitely a delicate theme to edit, but I think it comes through respectfully and you see just the different elements. I find it a very fascinating moment. It’s hard not to talk about it…sort of talk about it… without talking about it.

RJ: Yeah, exactly. We’ll move on.

JF: Okay.

Trailer: The Doctor From India

 

RJ: I also wanted to talk about, you know, some of the “woo-woo” stuff. People might use that word woo-woo, but the spiritual aspect. Talk to me about that and why you decided to keep it in the film and how do you think audiences are going to perceive that?

JF: I had a variety of thoughts on how to approach the like more esoteric, the woo-woo, so to speak, kind of element. One approach would be to kind of keep them out so that it doesn’t alienate a certain audience. But one of the things that was really fascinating to me, from my own experience right away with Dr. Lad, the first time I met Dr. Lad, he told me that I should get a white sapphire stone in a gold setting to wear on my right index finger. I didn’t know anything about crystals. I never wear jewelry. I don’t think I’d ever had my astrology chart read in any real significant way before. It was all stuff I pretty much had zero interest in. As soon as the opportunity came for him to read my chart, I was instantly intrigued.

After seeing him speak and just getting the feel of him, I didn’t feel like this was somebody who’s into hogwash. And as soon as he told me to wear this ring I felt like the ghost of it on my finger, like it was missing. It was like a very tangible sensation. Within a very short amount of time he had expanded my possibility of like all right, maybe there’s something to this stuff that I’d always kind of dismissed. And then being around his students, I saw that same kind of thing with so many people, that his deep belief expands the idea of what’s possible for people around him. So when he decides that there’s something really powerful about wearing these gemstones and you see his hands like beautifully blinged out in all of these rings, I think for people it’s like all right.

Some people probably dismiss it and may not be open, but for me, I found it very intriguing and part of how I see my job as a filmmaker and what I’m trying to do is to give the experience of this person.  As clearly and potently as I can. There’s always going to be an element of interpretation where it’s coming through my particular lens. I’m making all of these choices of where to point the camera and what to include and what to cut out, but it’s all coming through this intention of really presenting the experience of him as potently and as clearly as I can. So a big part of that to him is his idea of how the world works is that there are pieces that don’t fit into necessarily the typical mechanical Western scientific belief.

I think that’s important and it felt important to share that and portray that as unobtrusively as possible. So I try not to draw too much attention to it, while also not shying away from it. Like you see him at one moment in the film helping somebody pick out a stone and it just kind of happens in the flow of this other stuff that’s happening, which is how it feels around him.

In the clinic that he has in India where he goes every night, first of all, the schedule that man keeps is unbelievable. He just wore me out trying to chase him around. He starts at seven in the morning and finishes at ten at night and doesn’t really stop.  He kind of runs that way throughout most of the year. But anyway, he does this clinic from I think it’s six to nine p.m. every night and you never know who’s going to roll in and people are coming in with different things and families.

The gem guy comes through and starts giving people rings. It’s kind of a fun, wild atmosphere, that happens.  The moment the woman is asking Dr. Lad about which stone, it’s just kind of in the flow of a typical night there. So it felt like a nice way to just kind of introduce it without dwelling on it or talking about it or trying to explain it because as soon as I would even think about trying to explain a lot of these things, it’s beyond the scope of the film by far. So it’s just you kind of see it moving through his reality. I was trying to weave that stuff in.

RJ: And then did you end up getting a white sapphire? Do you mind me asking?

JF: I do. I’ve been wearing it for several years now. I tried to get it in New York and went to probably 15 different jewelry shops, Indian jewelry shops in Jackson Heights and two of them had any idea of what I was talking about. One told me they could get me one for thirty dollars and another one told me they could get me one for two thousand dollars. So I realized I had no idea of what I was doing and thirty dollars didn’t seem right and two thousand dollars didn’t seem right. So when I got to India, was filming with Dr. Lad for the first time I told him you suggested I get this when I first met you,  and I couldn’t figure out how to do it in New York. So he {Dr.Lad} sets me up, has the guy come.

He {Dr.Lad} picks out the stone for me and days later I was walking through the city with him and he said did you ever pick up your ring? And they {jewelers} had told me to come back on Sunday night at six p.m. to pick up the ring, and we’d {Dr.Lad} spent the day together and been all over the place.  I hadn’t told him anything about when they told me to pick it up or anything. I had no idea where we were. He said “did you ever pick up your ring?“. Then I looked at the clock and it was like 6:02 on a Sunday night. It was like the moment I was supposed to pick it up. Actually, they told me it’d be ready right now {Jeremy say to Dr. Lad}. He said, “oh, beautiful!” We were right in front of the jewelry shop at that moment. It was one of those kinds of like magical moments that tend to happen with him {Dr.Lad}.

RJ: ….Yeah… I had heard about the amount of work he does when he goes to India, but to see it on film… it’s a lot of hours and the service he provides. I mean he truly lives his life this way and you can see it in all aspects. It’s not about money for him. It’s not about fame. It’s just about healing. It really comes through in the film and it’s so lovely to see that and I’m so excited for people to see this aspect of him, you know.

JF: Yeah. It’s incredible to me just how humbly he goes about doing the work that he’s doing. The first scene of the film you see him coming into his clinic at night. You drive by other… and maybe I should have included this in the film, in some way just to show the contrast for people who don’t understand,  but you go by a typical Ayuverda place in India and often there’s like a big neon photo of the doctor out front and the whole thing. Dr. Lad’s… it’s this old funky sign, up these narrow stairs. You see him setting up the whole thing and running it by himself, so humble. And everything he’s doing in the evening clinic is by donation. In the morning clinic where people come, he’s treating them all for free and giving them all free medicine, these are villagers who don’t have much access to medical care and this is what he calls his vacation.

He spent the past year in India sort of on vacation where he works, you know, from…he leaves his house I think at seven or eight in the morning and gets home about ten at night.  Working the whole day, teaching, treating people, and he’s continually trying to expand the offerings of what’s available there and he’ll spend more time teaching in India. It’s amazing. There were several times he kind of had to, like, put me to bed, take a nap because I was just worn out. He was still going, a man twice my age, very humbling for me.

RJ: It’s like we use the word work but for him, it’s seva. It’s just service. It’s like that’s what you do.

JF: Yeah.

RJ: And when he picked up the phone I was so surprised. I love that you put that in the film. It’s so different than the experience that you get here when you go to Albuquerque. I mean it’s not just feasible to do…it’s two different worlds, to do what he does in India, to do it here. But I love that he picked up the phone. I just was like oh, my, Dr. Lad. There was another moment in the film where you are in his house and you’re walking in the dark and he’s opening the lights to every room.  There was this cute moment, just like a really sweet moment, where he looks at you and it’s almost like he’s looking out for you too. I just thought that was so sweet. It’s like here you are making a film about him and he still has your back and is like telling you to come. It was almost like he was saying come. It’s okay to come. I don’t know, what he was saying,  but I just thought it was so sweet.

JF: Oh, yeah, he was so sweet with us the whole time in the process of making it. It was incredible. Yeah, and I loved that moment too. Then one of my favorite things was having tea with him at his home and driving around for hours in the car.

RJ: How many hours of footage did you end up having?

JF: Oh, god, I couldn’t even begin to calculate – a lot.

RJ: Was there something…what didn’t you include? Is there something you can share with us that maybe you didn’t include?

JF: Well, there was so much. There are so many stories of his life and it was kind of just, for me, a process of finding the essence of how to bring through the experience of what it’s like to be with him. He talks about the speaker coming through. There are these moments when he kind of gets overtaken by like this inspiration or however you want to understand it. To me, what I was trying to do with the film was bring that feeling of being with Dr. Lad in those magical moments and to capture that somehow. There’s a very delicate flow to build that throughout the film. So there are so many stories.  I would have loved to have shared,  but to tell a story takes a long time, you know, most stories.

So it was kind of really picking and choosing the moments that would help build that sort of space. There were many other stories of Vimalananda. You mentioned the son with the fever. Those are my personal favorite stories, just kind of magical ones. And I’d read Robert Svoboda’s books about Vimalananda long before I had any contact with Dr. Lad. So that was one of the things I was particularly excited about, learning more about Vimalananda, so hearing Dr. Lad tell some of those stories. I also spent a time with Robert Svoboda and Dr. Lad where they were both telling Vimalananda stories together which was amazing that I would have loved to have included more of in the film, but it’s like a really delicate flow trying to build and the movie already ended up being…I was kind of imaging it in about the 80-minute range and it ended up being in the 90-minute range.  Which felt nice but I didn’t want to push it any farther than that.

RJ: And that’s one of the things I also loved about the film was the pace of the film. You know…there was a poetic kind of energy about it.  Very similar to how Dr. Lad is and his journey coming here. I really felt that in the pace of the film. It kind of mirrored Dr. Lad’s life to me. It’s almost like that energy is in the energy of your story and the pace of the story.

JF: Beautiful. That was something I was working really hard to craft and there were some up and down moments where I wasn’t sure that it was really coming through. The music, I think, really helped the pace a lot. There was a woman who did the score, Rachel Grimes, incredibly talented, somebody I’ve been a huge fan of for a very long time. So I was excited that she agreed to do the score. She wasn’t familiar with Dr. Lad when I approached her but after a while, she watched some footage. I think she did some research on her own. She really connected with him and I feel like she really helped build the pace and the music, I think, it is just gorgeous. It really helps weave you through.  Kind of brings you through and kind of bring the subtle emotions through, just a real spirit to it.

Between the music and the cinematography, the guy who shot a lot of the film with me, Jimmy Ferguson, I also think just did a beautiful job…from the start I really wanted to have this kind of a feeling of just floating through his world with him, very intimate. When he’s with patients, the camera just kind of like floating gently about. And it was all, to kind of build that atmosphere, and that feeling of being with him, and real intimacy. I think between Dr. Lad’s just kind of presence and the openness with the look and the music, you just kind of get swept into his world what he’s working towards.

RJ: Yeah, I agree. And it’ll be interesting to hear from people who don’t know Dr. Lad and to hear their perspective and how they feel after the film. Has Dr. Lad seen the film?

JF: He has, yeah. I sent a cut to him. He’s seen a few edits along the way. I showed him the first cut a while ago but when I got to the point where I was pretty sure I was done, before I went into getting the sound mix and the color correction, I sent a cut for him and Wynn to watch. Wynn runs the Ayurvedic Institute with Dr. Lad. He’s been working with him a long time. So I sent an edit for the two of them to watch and they were planning on calling, we had an appointment for them to call me at a certain point when they were done watching it. So I was pretty nervously waiting by the phone hoping he would feel good about what I’d done. I got a phone call. It was Dr. Lad and Wynn and his kids and a whole house full of people. They were all really excited. Dr. Lad said “exquisite. It’s elegant. It is divine”. Those were the three words he used. That was a nice moment for me.

RJ: Wow! I bet. That’s amazing. From the time you started not knowing anything about Dr. Lad really,  to when you finished the film, I know we’ve talked a lot about things that you discovered about Dr. Lad, but was there anything that kind of took you by surprise?

JF: I mean, one thing was the humility and just kind of endless fountain of what I was getting from him continually surprised me. He’s just absolutely a hundred percent committed to what he’s doing. And.. whatever most people would call personal life is completely woven in with the work he does.  In a way that I hadn’t experienced really with anyone else.

They told a story of him. At one point people insisted that he go on a vacation and they bought him a trip to Hawaii. He was there for a couple days and was like I’m ready to come home and go back to work now. He wants to be with people and teach and treat and heal and help. That’s the air he breathes and what he does. So that was pretty striking to me to just see and feel that in somebody so profoundly.

RJ: Very selfless kind of energy and it seems like that’s where he feels the most fulfilled. If he’s going on vacation, it’s like he’s choosing to come back and do what he loves to do. It seems like,  that it’s not work for him. That in itself his life is a vacation, you know. It’s like he just feels…probably…I don’t know. I’m assuming just from the story that you shared.  That’s amazing. I hope that I can one day feel that in my life.

Just a couple more things. One is how can audiences see this film? I know you have a screening coming up in Philadelphia.

JF: I think it’s April 4 {2018}. I don’t have a date in front of me but I believe that’s what it is, at the Ritz Theater. Yeah, there’s a bunch of screenings that are starting to come through. The film got picked up for distribution by Zeitgeist Films who I worked with on my last film, One Track Heart, which is really exciting. They’re wonderful. They do great work. They’re very well respected in the film industry and it gives the film a real beautiful platform to move throughout the US. So they’re starting to book screenings all over the country. We’re going to my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, in April, on April 12, I think, for a screening which is exciting for me. I think we might have a screening in Nashville possibly at that time.

It’s playing in Jacksonville, Florida, at a film festival at the end of March. We’ve got a little tour of the Southwest lined up in May where we fly to Sedona showing the film for two nights and then going to Albuquerque on…let me look at my calendar here…Albuquerque on May 11 where Dr. Lad and I will talk after the film.

RJ: Oh, my god.I’m going to come for that.

JF: Yeah, come on. Then on Saturday, the next night, May 12, in Santa Fe Dr. Lad and I will go to Santa Fe and show the film there. I’m really excited for that. It’s a beautiful tour of the Southwest, going to Sedona, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, sharing the film with the whole community out in New Mexico. And there are a bunch more screenings lining up. We’re working on getting dates set for New York, LA, the Bay area. There’s probably a bunch of other places I’m forgetting right now but as soon as the details are set, we’re trying to get up on Facebook as much as we can and Zeitgeist has a website, zeitgeistfilms.com. They have a page for the “Doctor From India” where they’re putting all the screenings up.

And we’re working on more countries. We got distribution in Germany. I think that we’re going to have a screening or two in Cologne when Dr. Lad is in Germany teaching this July. So he’ll be there for that. We’re doing everything we can to bring it out and it feels important to try to get as much of a theatrical experience for people as possible. For me, nothing compares to seeing a film in community with other people on a big screen with a good sound system. It’s such an immersive experience. It’s not possible watching it on your laptop. So whatever extent we’re able to make that possible, I plan to get as much of that as we can because it’s such a different experience to share with a group and see it in the ideal environment where you can really get swept up into the subtleties.

As much as we can get it in theaters, we’re working to do that. Anybody who wants to organize a screening in their town, Nancy and Emily from Zeitgeist have been great working with people. You know, Larry, the screening in Philadelphia was organized by Larry so it was him reaching out to them and helping put it together is how that came about. So if people are interested in trying to arrange something in their town, it’s possible.

RJ: I’m definitely up for that. I’m waiting to hear back from them and I’d love to support any way that I can here in Oakland or the Bay area and help with that.

JF: Fantastic.

RJ: So I just want to say thank you so much for making this film and documenting Dr. Lad’s journey and showing his beautiful soul. I think this film is just such a gift for us, today, but I think it’s also going to be a gift for generations to come. I want to wish you continued success in your future endeavors.

JF: Thank you so much and thank you for taking the time in reaching out to chat and help us share the film and getting the word out. It’s a big part of helping us to bring the film to people, what you’re doing. So it’s greatly appreciated. Thank you.

RJ: Thank you.

For information on screenings, visit zeitgeistfilms.com or the film’s Facebook page.

 


 

Ep.4 The Doctor From India, Director, Jeremy Frindel

Episode 4. In Conversation with Filmmaker Jeremy Frindel On The Doctor From India

We chit-chat with Jeremy Frindel, director of the 2012 documentary, One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das, about his new film, The Doctor From India. A poetic documentary that brings new light to Ayurveda and captures the accomplishments of a doctor and healer with a humanitarian spirit, Ayurveda Physician, and Educator, Dr. Vasant Lad, BAM&S, MASc.

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For information on screenings, visit zeitgeistfilms.com or the film’s Facebook page.


Read the interview and watch the trailer

 

7 Tips to Prevent Spring Allergies & Boost Digestion

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Daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth are popping up in backyards, street beds and random corners of neighborhoods. With their sparks of color, these flowering bulbs are a reminder that spring is upon us—and so is pollen! From the lens of Ayurveda, the body’s response to the seasonal shift can be indicative of the diet and lifestyle choices made in the prior season. What we did or did not do, ate or did not eat, or drank or did not drink in the winter can play a role in how the immune system will respond in the spring.

Ayurveda & Spring 

Ayurveda refers to spring as kapha season. Kapha translates to “stick together”. Giving us insight into the qualities of this dosha—cold, sticky, heavy, slow and wet. After a dry winter season, kapha qualities bring balance to the environment. An increase in rainfall adds moisture to the air and soil. While more sun hours transforms snow into water and warms-up the earth. Inspiring hibernating bulbs to bloom.

As the season shifts from winter to spring, the body, mind, and emotions begin responding to the new season.  If there is an over accumulation of kapha qualities in the body—cold, sticky, heavy, slow or wet, during the winter season, it can lead to kapha imbalances in the spring. Such as water retention, congestion, dry sinuses, weak digestion, heaviness and/ or a feeling of lethargy—imbalances that create stagnation in the body and mind.

Digestion & Winter & Good Fat

Spring imbalances in the body can often stem from improper digestion and dietary choices during the winter season. If a dish was not prepared appropriately or balancing for an individual’s constitution it can be challenging for the body to digest. Leading to ama or toxins, which can create stagnation in the body.  In the winter, one key ingredient is omega-rich fats. Adding healthy oils to the diet can aid in counterbalancing winter’s dry qualities. Incorporating good fat into each meal also helps balance drying or mucous promoting foods. Such as dairy, grains or raw greens, which can further promote dryness, cold, and stagnation in the body, if not prepared for the season.

Consuming sufficient healthy omega-rich oils in the winter is also helpful in protecting the intestinal walls, sinuses, and lungs. Providing a lubricating shield from spring’s pollen. In doing so, it can help prevent digestive issues, excess mucous production, colds, congestion—allergic responses during the seasonal shift from winter to spring. Combined with movement, a seasonal winter diet based on one’s constitution fosters in-season balance while preparing the body for the next season, spring.

Living Seasonally 

One of the key principles of Ayurveda is aligning our diets, activities, and routines to the season. Harnessing the circadian rhythm and letting Mother Nature guide our seasonal choices. Living with the season’s clock helps to optimize our energy for a better quality of life. While prepping our body with antidotes, like seasonal foods and activities, to stay healthy in the current season and the season to come. Here are some tips on how to foster stronger immunity in the spring and prep the body for the summer.

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Sesame Honey Ladoos (Balls)

honey-sesame-balls-chit-chaat-chaiRemember the sesame brittle candies wrapped in clear twisted plastic..often found at the check-out counter? These sesame honey balls from Divya Alter’s cookbook, What to Eat for How You Feel remind me of them. But without the sticky fingers and teeth.

Since the beginning of winter, I’ve been wanting to make sesame “candies” from scratch. They’re the perfect, nourishing winter treat. Rich in immunity-boosting nutrients, healthy fat, anti-oxidants, and minerals. With a warming energy to balance with the cold season. Sometimes, it’s hard to wrap my mind around how a yummy “candy” can also be nutritious.

Traditionally, sesame “candies” are made in the cold season. Often in the form of a laddu (ball) or as brittle (I love the diamond-shaped versions). Instead of honey or refined sugarcane, South Asian recipes most often call for jaggery, an unrefined sweetener that comes from sugarcane. It’s often given to kids melted on a chapati with ghee for their iron and mineral content.  A snack after my own heart. Jaggery is also used in nuts and seeds based spiced treats made specifically for women, post childbirth. To foster strengthen, nourish and re-build immunity or ojas—kapha qualities.

The process to make sesame brittle with jaggery requires some fast working hands and temperature regulation. What’s nice about Divya’s recipe is that neither is required. Aside from the texture, and gooey factor, these sesame honey balls taste very similar to the sesame candies/brittle, I love so much. Without comprising the nutrients. Yes and Yes.

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Instead of jaggery, Divya’s recipe calls for raw honey.  Like jaggery, honey is also warming and considered to be a cold season food. Along with it’s immune boosting nutrients, honey’s drying qualities can help prevent mucus and colds. A recommended sweetener for kapha dosha, Ayurveda also considers honey to be medicinal. Combined with ginger, turmeric, and other heating spices, it can further support kapha imbalances, like congestion. By counterbalancing the cold, wet, moist and sticky qualities of phlegm and mucus.

Finding new ways to get raw, unheated honey into my diet throughout the winter season is always rewarding. Although, I am not beneath eating a couple spoonfuls straight from the jar. It’s nice to have a variety of seasonal options. These sesame honey balls were this seasons find. A treat, snack or dessert, they do the body-mind good. Generating internal warmth, boosting immunity to prep for the seasonal shift, giving skin that summer glow, and helping to ground restless vata dosha. Not to mention the dose of healthy fat, antioxidants, minerals and immune-boosting nutrients.

Basically, a sweet, nourishing, balanced, and delicious food-based, sattva vitamin—made, especially for the winter season. When eaten in moderation…(reminder to self). Now on to make my next batch.

Happy eating. Happy digesting.


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Nourish the Body & Mind, Sesame Love

Chit-Chaat-Chai-Sesame-SeedsYou say sesame seeds, and I say my nana (maternal grandfather) and his blazer pocket.  The three are forever synonymous in my mind.  They go together like sesame seeds melded together with honey— remember the little rectangular “candies” wrapped in rice paper and twisted in clear plastic. They were always stashed in my Nana’s navy blazer. Each one slightly tacky and perfectly gooey from traveling on his day-long adventures.

Even into my adult years, out came the little one bite wonders from his navy blazer. The treat never grew old. Just gooier and gooier between my teeth. When I formally started studying Ayurveda, sesame seeds took on a whole new light. What was once associated with “Nana candy”, was now seen as nourishing and detoxifying food for the body and mind. In class, if we weren’t talking about how to cook with them we were talking about using their oil in treatments for the skin, mouth, throat, nose, and ears.

I quickly learned how revered these tiny seeds were in Ayurveda. Touted for their not only for their minerals but also their guna.  An energetic vibration or what today’s physics would consider as the phenomena of matter, according to Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom by Acharya ShunyaA food’s guna is one the integral nutrients an Ayurveda counselor, practitioner or doctor considers when making dietary recommendations. Similar to how a dietitian would assess the calorie and fat count of food.

Out of the three gunas: sattva, rajas, and tamas, sesame seeds are inherently sattva. Sattva represents balance, a stabilizing force that evokes contentment, bliss, lightness and does not overstimulate the body or mind. In the context of dietary choices, sattva foods are said to foster mental clarity, love, compassion, patience, and bring internal peace. They are considered to be rich in prana—life force, easily digestible, sharpen the intellect and have a calming, purifying effect on the mind.

“PURITY OF MIND DEPENDS ON THE PURITY OF FOOD.” – SWAMI SIVANANDA

Yoga philosophy and Ayurveda speak to the effect the diet, (what we take in through our sense of taste), has on the attitude, thoughts, emotions, and intellect. As Swami Sivananda says, “purity of the mind depends on the purity of food”. Based on the mind-body connection, sattva foods like sesame seeds are revered. In quantities appropriate for the season or individual dosha (imbalance/constitution). Diets primarily consisting of sattva foods are the preferred choice for yogis, rishis, and strict followers of Ayurveda. Who tend to refrain from foods that are overstimulating to the mind and body—tamasic and rajasic foods like meat, onions, and garlic, for example. Read More

5 Steps To Create New Year’s Resolutions That Last The Year

New-Years-Resolution-Chit-Chaat-ChaiI love the end of the year because it provides a benchmark for the progress we’ve made during the past 12 months and reignites our motivation to set new goals for the upcoming year. One of the things that have always frustrated me once I’ve created new intentions has been the lack of discussion around how resolutions are going once January passes. Nobody talks about how they are doing with their intended goals in April or what changes they needed to make, if any, in the middle of the summer. This idea of self-improvement and the spirit of personal growth that comes with the beginning of a new year stays stuck there, at the start of the year.

My best guess as to why this occurs has to do with people either setting unrealistic expectations of themselves or not properly mapping out how they will reach their goal(s), both which lead to messy approaches and disappointing outcomes.

After accomplishing my one New Year’s Resolution that I had set out for myself in 2015-to meditate every day, I can say that it’s a lot of hard work, which requires persistence, patience, faith, and motivation. But I have been able to maintain that one goal for 2.5 years now, so it’s absolutely possible!

Below are 5 steps I believe will help anyone stick to their New Year’s Resolutions. Read More

Shredded Carrot & Lentil Salad

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I think what I appreciate most about Indian/Pakistani salads is their similarity to a slaw.  They can be eaten as is,  a side, added to a wrap or the final topping on a bowl. Complimenting a meal or a bite, similar to a chutney or condiment. While retaining a hearty, crunchy freshness like a slaw.

Since they last a few days in the fridge without wilting or losing the crunch factor, they can easily be made ahead. A handy convenience when time is of the essence. Salad-slaws can be a quick way to add a missing taste, quality or vegetable to a meal when applying Ayurveda food guidelines to eating.  Need a sweet, sour, astringent or bitter taste? Or something a little dry (aka crunchy) or light? Depending on the type of slaw, several missing bases can be covered at once.

If I haven’t already said enough about why slaw-salads are awesome, here is one more thing. Slaw type salads aide and support digestion. A light fermentation process takes place from the salt and lemon or lime “dressing”.  Adding a tangy, and not sharp vinegar flavor, which can be too harsh and acidic for some. Just enough sour to moisten the mouth and increase the flow of saliva. Enhancing the secretion of digestive enzymes, and stimulating metabolism. In doing so, the sour taste also helps to expel excess vata that can sometimes create stagnation in the body. While energizing the mind and aiding concentration.

This recipe comes via Chitra Agarwal’s new cookbook, Vibrant India (read more about her book here).roften served on special occasions.  Happy Cooking! Happy Eating! Happy Digesting!


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Green Bean & Coconut Stir-Fry

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Quick and easy with a flavorful aromatic punch pretty much sums up this string bean coconut stir-fry recipe from Chitra Agrawal’s new cookbook Vibrant India (read more here).  Any dish with shredded coconut always makes my eyes shine.  The chewy goodness sweetly balances the spicy flavor profile of this Karnatakan dish.  Adding a layer of complexity to a fairly simple dish.  The use of coconut is one of the things I appreciate most about cuisine from the Southern part of India. When I came across this recipe in Vibrant India, I knew it was one of the first ones I wanted to try. Read More