I just got out of 2 weeks hotel isolation. I feel so blessed, so excited to be alive, so wide awake at what is on offer and how much beauty there is in the natural world. There are crickets just quiet but ever present, scratching their legs. The air is fresh, the curtain is softly blowing in the breeze through the open window and the perfume of flowers wafts through the air. My skin and breath feel alive.
Two weeks within four walls of an isolation hotel is a test of your coping skills and offers a moment to consider what it is like for all those who are confined in this world. The air is circulated and recycled. It truly is a type of detox, fasting from nature, fasting from living communication with other humans. No grass to touch or walk on. The building has steel girders for protection from earthquakes. The room is bland, painted walls and some flimsy glass mirror dividers to separate the shower and toilet from the bedroom.
Staff members knock several times a day. You never see them. You put on your mask, open the door and collect a bag containing your lunch or dinner. Everything looks recyclable but it all goes in a big plastic bag probably for burning at the end of your stay.
Every day I thank the hotel chef in my heart – a life-saver bringing treasures to my stomach every day. I choose vegan and it is the highlight of the day. The joy of my life is in the spice, the subtle hint of smoked paprika or sage; the flavour awakens my senses, uplifts my spirits and makes my stomach happy. I can’t eat slowly. I stuff down the food, somehow it is hard to simply sit and enjoy when you just have these walls around you and no reason to celebrate.
Flavour in Ayurveda means “enthusiasm”. I brought some Himalayan Rock Salt into isolation with me. When I’m feeling frustrated in this confinement I take a pinch on my tongue with a little water. It uplifts my spirits. I dab Lavender Essential Oil on my mask. It smells of real lavender and it helps me to breathe with a mask on.
There are no sounds. The windows are double-glazed, I’m on the third floor. I see planes landing and taking off and I see people with luggage getting into hire cars and disappearing. They look excited but I can hear nothing. The sound that comes from the television and the phone bores into my brain and annoys me. I sing and chant in the shower where the acoustics help my mood and free up my voice. I can feel the reverberations all around. The water refreshes, like massage, and touch feels healing in this strange, senseless place. I remember to be loving and kind to myself.
Twenty of us meet in a bubble in the courtyard and walk a narrow circuit clockwise keeping our distance and wearing our masks. We trudge, we jog, we walk briskly, we stare at our phones, we talk with pods in our ears or we sit in the sun under the watchful gaze of army security or police.
I want to pick a flower or even touch a leaf, but my fingers don’t fit through the crisscrossed wire fencing. There is shade cloth taped all over it so that we can’t see out and they can’t see in.
But humans are not solitary creatures, we have a deep longing to cooperate, communicate and participate and so the walkers in the compound start to get to know each other, keeping our distance all the while. We make friends we laugh we joke we find out about each other and we look forward to these times so much. We are not single entities. We are becoming desperate to participate in a world teeming with life. This isolation looks like an attempt to destroy our spirits but the Ayurvedic Daily Routine offers secrets that give me renewed enthusiasm.
In the modern world, our normal lives can get a bit like my self-isolating hotel experience. We are confined. We are stressed, we mostly live away from nature and we do our best to survive. But disease comes in the form of physical emotional and mental imbalances.
So how do we establish this ayurvedic daily routine to stay bright and happy, alive and healthy?
It is very simple – by nourishing our sense organs. There are only five of them but they are vital and deserving of respect.
Look: Rest your eyes with rosewater-soaked pads, massage with loving fingers around the boney orbits and the eyebrows. Exercise your eyes in every direction. Back and forward. Far and near; go cross-eyed and make diagonals and circles.
Listen: Block your ears and listen for a minute to the sounds inside your body, some exciting sounds come from inside your body. Then unblock, then block and listen again. Place your whole palm cupped over your ears, then suddenly let go. Massage your ears with a little oil, around the ear-lobe, push, pull, block, unblock.
Smell: With some unscented massage oil on your finger, rub onto the insides of your nostrils. The nasal lining benefits from this. Block one nostril and sniff through the other. Then block the opposite nostril and repeat the sniffing. Massage the outer edges of your nose and your cheeks.
Taste: Take a teaspoonful of sesame or coconut oil in your mouth, swirl it around for 5-10 minutes. Then spit it out. Don’t swallow it. You’ll be surprised at how it draws impurities from the mucous membranes to freshen and clean them.
When you eat, chew slowly if you can, pick the tastiest morsels, appreciate the little spices and herbal flavours, for they are a gift to your taste buds and your digestion will come alive and give you the enthusiasm you might have been lacking. Carry cardamom pods and whole cloves with you. If Covid-19 Virus is on your mind when you pass someone coughing or sniffing, chew one of these spices. That Virus will not find your mouth appealing when it smells of cloves or cardamon.
Touch: The fifth sense – use your hands to gently pound and tap your limbs, your neck and shoulders, your face, your scalp, your trunk, down the front, up the back. Gently grasp your muscles and massage your body tissues through your skin.
Everything you need is already available so you can honour your senses and restore yourself to harmony no matter where you are.
And finally – use your entire face to smile and spread your smile inward to all your organs and outwardly to the world around you.
I’ve emerged from hotel isolation having learned something – you can appreciate life with very little, and treat yourself well even in a confined space with minimal interaction with others or the outside world.
Tauhara Retreat Centre:
60 Acacia Heights Drive,
Aio Wira Seminar and Retreat Centre:
8 Aio Wira Rd