Images from India: Local women perform healthcare services

Watching the local village health workers (women selected by their communities to be trained by CRHP; who are poor, low caste, often illiterate, and have not received more than basic education) take care of the health services and health education needs of their villages is one of the most amazing things I’ve seen during my time in India. Here, Pushpa tests the glucose level in the urine of a villager with diabetes by adding Benedict’s solution, heating it to boil on coals from her stove, and comparing changes in color to a chart on the bottle.   This villager has been using Pushpa’s recommendations for …Keep Reading (and more photos!)

India, through the senses

As soon as the feet step off the plane, India calls the senses to alert. Heat immediately wraps around exposed skin, seeping through day-old travel clothes. A warm, musky odor confirms that the sterile plane environment has been left behind, as a child returning home inhales deeply and sighs with content, “Ah, it smells like Mumbai.” To the unfamiliar nose, it’s a smell that can’t be placed, for which the brain has as of yet no mental map. It is deep and inescapable, somehow both sweet – as if fruit has been left in the sun too long – and sour; not in a crisp, tart way, but with an edgeless humidity, as if after strenuous physical activity when all olfaction is filtered through the smell of body heat.

Stepping outside of the airport, the ears are inundated with families and drivers shouting names of loved ones and travelers, each competing to see if his voice can rise above the dull roar. There is a small space between the the newcomer and the sea of people, creating a stage on which the deer-in-headlights act can be perfected. …Keep Reading!

Reflections from India: Empowerment through healthcare 

I’ve been at the Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP) campus in Jamkhed, India for 6 days now, and my brain is bursting with new information. CRHP has been working with the rural poor since its inception in 1971, over 40 years ago. Its founders, Drs. Raj and Mabelle Arole, developed a model of community-based primary health care that is designed to improve health among the poorest of the poor by addressing the social and economic factors that limit access to health in impoverished and marginalized communities.

More than a broad model of healthcare, the Jamkhed Model is based on the specific voiced needs of the community, and is dependent upon the participation and engagement of the community members to bring health to their own village. Fundamentally, it is a grassroots model that empowers individuals to take health into their own hands, endowing them with the knowledge and training to be self-sustainable rather than relying on the government or well-meaning organizations for support. …Keep Reading!

The similarities between writing & traveling 

This week, I embarked on two big adventures. First, I launched this blog, making the leap both to commit to writing, and to share that writing. Second, I arrived in India, where I will be participating in an experiential course on health and development with the Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP) in a small area in Maharashtra called Jamkhed. Surprisingly, my mind started meshing these two very different events together (which, in retrospect, is not so surprising given the brain’s tendency to look for meaningful patterns). As I sit to write with a view of bustling Mumbai, I can’t help but wonder about the similarities between writing and traveling.

Beginning with nothing. Both writing and traveling to unfamiliar destinations begin with nothing. There can be maps, guidelines, outlines, and ideas that contribute, but the preparation is very different from the active process of doing, which begins with a blank page or the first time your eyes and brain absorb a place you’ve never seen.  Despite preparation, writing and traveling seem to take on lives of their own that culminate in something very different than what (if anything) was initially envisioned. …Keep Reading!

An evening with Pema Chödrön and k.d. lang

On June 20, 2015, I had the good fortune of attending an event at UCLA’s Royce Hall with Pema Chödrön and k.d. lang. The event, a benefit for Tools for Peace and the Pema Chodron Foundation, was designed as a Q & A with Chödrön and lang on life’s “big questions,” followed by a musical performance by lang. The moderator was Tami Simon, the founder and publisher of Sounds True.

Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist nun and prolific author, is widely regarded for the down-to-earth manner in which she presents complex Buddhist teachings. While founded in her own monastic traditions, her teachings are uniquely accessible and wrestle with questions about how to live well as a human being in a complicated and often painful world – questions whose relevance extends beyond the boundaries of specific spiritual orientations. As a result, Chödrön’s work has reached a vast and varied audience, both within the Western Buddhist community and without. While I am still only scratching the surface in my understanding of these teachings, what has always stood out to me is the wise, clear, and convincing tone through which she conveys two radical messages: You already have everything you’re searching for; and, the more neurosis, the more wisdom. (To read more on these ideas, check out this wonderful Brain Pickings post.) Fundamentally, hers is a message of compassion: learning to befriend the parts of ourselves we find most challenging, thereby uncovering the material that enables us to open to others’ difficult experiences with love and kindness.

k.d. lang, a Grammy-award-winning singer, initially seemed a surprising partner for this event. …Keep Reading!