In her extraordinary book The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book of Ayurvedic Healing, renowned teacher and healer Bri. Maya Tiwari take us on a journey through the feminine face of Ayurveda and its mind-body-spirit practices. Through sharing her own stories, and weaving them through her insightful teachings, she illuminates the ancient philosophy of the Vedas and how we can adapt them into our lives as modern women.
“On the path of practice, we adopt the belief that disease happens from within, and so must any cure. We decide that any lack of peace or dis-ease or illness becomes an occasion to go deeper into ourselves, to examine where we must make changes in order to heal our bodies, feelings or lives. We accept that our ailment is an assignment, and that to complete it satisfactorily, we must do research into it and into ourselves.”
Bri. Maya has deep personal experience of this journey. At 23 years of age when she was a successful fashion designer in New York City, she was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. For years prior she had been living an ambitious and driven lifestyle, working and partying hard with a packed schedule. She was also in a fight with her traditional East Indian upbringing and heritage, which was at odds with her fast paced western life.
As she writes in the book, her illness would force her to realise that all pain is a reminder that we have strayed from the natural rhythms of life. But before she accepted that truth, she fought the cancer for years with invasive treatments and surgeries that left her exhausted. She would eventually give up the struggle and leave her life in New York to head to the snowy wilderness of Vermont, where in her words, she went ‘to prepare to die.’ She writes:
“Over the course of three solitary winter months, I was presented with the opportunity to face the changes I had to make in my life. I rested and fasted and dreamed, and I gradually saw where I had deceived myself; where I had allowed myself to become out of balance.”
During her months away, Maya wept until she could cry no more, kept a journal about her personal and spiritual history, she fasted, she meditated. She had spiritual visitations from her father who lived far away, and also from the Divine Mother. She prayed to recover faith in herself and in the Divine. She shares that the cancer had knocked her down and stripped away her defences so she could get out of her own way, ‘it forced me to reclaim my connection to my ancestors, to the natural rhythms of the universe, and the infinitely loving, healing light of the Divine Mother.’
When she returned to New York, doctors were astonished that there was no trace of cancer left in her body. Determined to live her life in a serene and healthy manner, she changed her path, studying yoga, Eastern medicine and natural farming. And she became the teacher that women all over the world would look to for guidance to become healthier, find a greater sense of balance and mindfulness, and make gradual changes in the way we conduct our daily life.
That has been the gift of her book to me. It is a book that has changed me, that I have gifted more than any other book, and one that has deeply influenced my personal practices. May we all find the healing path we need, as we learn to come to our truest selves.