Dear family,

I pray you’re all doing well and looking after yourselves, with His Grace. It feels good to be back!

It’s been around 8 months since the surgery which I’d written about here, and I’m 42 and officially post-menopausal 🙂

The hot flushes every 20 minutes or so, day and night for the first three months were quite amusing! (I feel for those of you who are going through it). I carried a paper hand-fan and a small, wireless, rechargeable one with me everywhere; they were a Godsend. Thankfully, they’re not needed anymore. I decided not to take any HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and I’m incredibly grateful to Bhagwan that I’m doing well without it.

I felt the difference immediately after the surgery. I felt clearheaded as soon as I woke up. I had gone under whilst chanting my Guru Mantra, and apparently, I was smiling even before I had woken up from the anaesthesia (I saw a photograph of myself and I looked so blissful, I was surprised myself. Maybe my soul was hanging out with The Divine Mother while I was asleep! 😊)

The initial recovery from the surgery itself wasn’t exactly an easy experience as I’d somehow managed to develop a chest infection, a urinary tract infection and a stomach infection all at once. And it seems one of my aftercare nurses was having a bad couple of days as she forgot to give me my painkillers, other medicines and the nebuliser when she should have. I ended up having to stay in hospital for a couple of days longer and it took six weeks of antibiotics to finally be free of it all.

But, apart from a ten-minute wobble when I was running an elevated temperature with all the infections and had no proper pain relief, where I cried to Bhagwan about being fed up with being so unwell for so long, I have been on a high since. Some mornings I wake up and burst into song, sometimes bhajans and sometimes even opera 😊 Thank you, Luciano Pavarotti.

I had one final ‘PMDDlike’ episode two weeks post-surgery where I was hit with that all too familiar extreme fatigue and emotional deluge, thankfully only for a couple of days though (and through quite embarrassing, heaving-sobbing messages, I very dramatically declared to my loved ones how much I loved them. Cringe!🙈). Since then, it’s been bye-bye to PMS/PMT/PMDD forever!

So now, for the first time in my adult life, I’m able to exercise a little bit every single day of the month. Even if it’s just a 20-minute, brisk walk. Regular exercise was impossible in these recent years as I was so anaemic, my blood and energy were always depleted, and my PMDD cycles made me crash for a couple of weeks out of every month. Once perimenopause kicked in, everything became worse. 

Also, I’d never been overweight before in my life, but with my atrocious eating habits and sedentary lifestyle for around a year before the surgery, I’d managed to pile on around 20 kilos. I had entered the overweight mark on the BMI scale. And every month, the water retention made my eyes disappear into my face which then resembled a football with a puffy nose and puffy lips. And my swollen fingers and toes lay at the mercy of my round, red hands and round, red feet. I avoided salt wherever I could, but even when I was slim, I couldn’t escape this bloating every month. It had gotten worse and lingered around for longer in the last four years. I’d also suffered some muscle wastage because of inactivity. Most days I didn’t leave my room. And, on some days of the month, I could hardly get out of bed, not even to shower.  

The most heartbreaking for me, even more than this, was that for the past four years, I had been unable to sit in a meditation pose without pain and discomfort in my right hip. I’d have to change my position every few minutes, and even then, the pain didn’t ease.

I was supposed to be a yogi, on the path of meditation. I’d already put in thousands of sincere hours of practice and months at a time in strict solitude. People always used to comment on my posture and ask me how I managed to sit so straight.

But since 2018 everything had been grinding to a halt. No matter how much I stretched, no matter how many times I went to six different physiotherapists, nothing helped. I simply couldn’t sit without pain anymore. As so much time was spent lying down in bed my posture crumbled and I lost my straight, strong back. I never gave up hope though. With Swami ji in my corner, I had faith that one day I would be able to sit properly again.

Swami ji told me I needed to be seen by a specialist but with Covid rife in the hospitals and with lockdowns in place, all I could do was wait it out as gracefully as possible. 

Post-surgery, I learned that not only had I been suffering from the effects of PMDD and fibroids, my uterus, which had become abnormally enlarged, was pressing on my nerves and ligaments, causing the pain.

My uterus was blocking my rectum too which was causing a whole other set of digestive problems including deep, chronic anal fissures that refused to heal. I couldn’t walk, sit, or lie down comfortably. Going to the washroom felt like trying to pass broken glass and my poor bottom was on fire any time I ate even the slightest bit of spicy food 🌶️ 😱 (and I live in India where its love affair with chillies and spices is well known!).

My 40th and 41st birthdays came and went almost exactly the same way, with me lying down in my room alone, on a bunch of antibiotics, antacids, fibre supplements, probiotics, and anti-inflammatory creams, gels and tablets.

Thankfully, Prabhu Swami ji and Sadhvi Vrinda ji stepped into managing the kitchen and began to offer a completely mild option at lunch and dinner which was very helpful and very much appreciated! 

You could say the lockdown wasn’t exactly a piece of cake for me, as I’m sure it wasn’t for most of you either. The ordeal did keep me grounded though. I was well aware that although at that time, we at the ashram, were living in a fearless, Covid-free bubble with all our needs catered for by Sri Hari Bhagwan, the rest of the world was crying out.

There were times I cried as I ate my meals, feeling both guilty and grateful for the easily available sustenance, devastated for the millions of workers in India whom I’d read about in the news, leaving the cities on foot for their rural homes, starving, and some dying on the way. Millions of people were suffering in every corner of the Earth. From my peaceful and abundant ashram home, I wished I could do something to connect with others and be of use to anyone out there in the world.

And it was you wonderful people that gave me a chance to do just that!

I spent most of my bedridden time reading posts and writing comments to show my appreciation, to connect with you, to show you how much I loved reading them. I laughed and cried with you, and I learned so much from you.

And, because of you, I was inspired to start writing my own story. I had never thought of writing before, and not only did I enjoy it, but it turned out to be an incredibly healing experience for me. And, as you let me know, my writings, especially my life story series Confessions of a Merry Monk were helpful for many of you too. (It’s been a while but I’ll begin writing Season 3 soon so you have a little time to catch up or refresh your memory.)

Being vulnerable and truthful in our shared experiences and witnessing healing taking place for both readers and writers alike was divine. It was your posts and your kind, loving and supportive comments, with His Grace, on my posts and on each others’ that gave me a lifeline over those couple of years. (“We love love!” ❤️😁) 

I haven’t read as many posts or written anything for a while as I wanted to take a break and focus on getting myself to a decent level of efficiency after the surgery, physically and mentally. As I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve also been travelling and reconnecting with fellow devotees and purvashram family (family before I was initiated into robes), and doing seva (service) and satsangs (spiritual gatherings, talks and meditation sessions).

The last few months while I was in East Africa, I went on beautiful afternoon strolls through forests and walked along gorgeous, sandy beaches at sunrise. I’d always loved being outdoors, and obviously after being cooped up for so long, I appreciate it more than ever.

Now that I’m in the UK for the summer, 3 to 4 times a week, I walk a couple of miles uphill through the woods and meadows full of bluebells and birdsong, past an idyllic lake to a wonderful support centre for patients with spinal injuries and disabilities. The public are allowed to take out a membership there to use their swimming pool and it means I’m supporting a good cause and I’m finally back in the water re-learning to swim, which feels amazing!

I’m eating healthier than ever now, too (no more crazy, hormonal cravings); lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and delicious salads.

And guess what! After eating right and working on my strength and flexibility for months, I’ve lost most of the weight and can sit cross-legged again! Woohoo! 😀 Not for long stretches but enough to do my Nityapuja and short sessions of Sadhana on the Sadhana app or comfortably do a Black Lotus meditation. (I’ll write about my experience and transformation with both apps and how I managed to maintain my meditative state throughout the last couple of years when I continue the meditation journey series.)

Admittedly and unsurprisingly, in the beginning, getting fit was SO hard. Because my muscles were weak and because a deep cold from the general anaesthetic had set in in my body. Everything hurt, I had no balance and no strength. 

There were nights I couldn’t sleep after I’d started some gentle walking and yoga. It wasn’t the usual ‘after gym ache’. The pain was constant for months. I’d wake in the night and have to take a painkiller and try to massage my legs with a thick rolling pin, rolling my legs like chapattis. Raising my arms to get dressed was near impossible, my shoulders wouldn’t cooperate. When I stood up from a sitting or lying position, every foot bone and leg bone to my hips felt like it was rusted and locked. It would take a few minutes of movement for the pain to subside and I could walk normally. I also managed to dislocate my right wrist and had to stop yoga. Physically I was at my rock bottom. But Swami ji’s teachings constantly played in my mind. That I can achieve anything, I just have to keep at it, little by little, keep going and not give up.

It felt like I was starting from scratch, from absolute zero — with my meditative posture, with walking properly, and with my health in general. But I kept telling myself it’s not over, it’s okay, we all must start from somewhere, and sometimes we have to re-start in life… a few times! We veer off course sometimes and that’s fine. I just won’t give up doing what I responsibly can to keep myself healthy and keep working towards spiritual self-purification.

I’d like to share here two of the most inspiring videos I’ve ever seen. They gave me much motivation on the days that I questioned whether I’d ever achieve my goals (or walk without pain again). I discovered one of them in my Black Lotus Daily Wisdom and the yoga one I’d seen years ago on YouTube and never forgotten. They make me roar at myself, “If they can do it, so can I!”

YouTube video

YouTube video

If they can do it, so can YOU!

I want to say a big thank you to Dr. Geeta Baro ji at the ashram and gynaecologist Dr. Sonali Vashishtha in Haridwar for looking after me and diagnosing me correctly where other doctors failed to do so. 

My gratitude to those behind The Karma Program and to every one of you who was kind enough to press Support This Author and contribute. My earnings from writing here and the support I received from your generosity paid for my surgery and hospital stay. Your acts of kindness contributed to giving me a new lease of life without putting an extra financial burden on my purvashram family in Kenya and the UK who have been so kind to support me until I become established enough in my writing to support myself. They pay for my flights and graciously allow me to stay at their homes when I’m travelling. To ease their financial burden, I promise to start writing here more often now that I’m better!

To my talented, fashion designer friend Beenu Singh and her family whose home I took over for months (once for four months in solitude, and this time for a couple of months around the surgery too.) Beenu’s been with me since the day Swami ji first initiated me in July 2015 and has never said no to me for anything or let me down even once. She goes out of her way, above and beyond, to make sure I’m comfortable and my every need taken care of. Thank you, Beenu ben!

To Chantal Om Espitalier-Noel, who has been a dear friend throughout and supported me in more ways than she even realises. She’s one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever met. Chantal is a go-getter and a life changer (her own and the many women she connects with through her foundation and Women’s Centre in Mauritius — FAM-UNIE). Chantal got me through many PMDD dips and gave me much confidence in my new career as a writer. Thank you, Chantal!

To Divya Om Manoharan (who is in solitude this summer deepening her practice). She not only looked after me at the ashram during the lockdown and brought me my meals when I couldn’t get myself to the dining room to eat, she also gave up weeks of her time to be with me, away from our blissful ashram, before, during and after my hospital stay. Your help and kindness will never be forgotten, Divya ji. No matter what my body was going through in hospital you kept me smiling. We meditated, did japa, laughed out loud watching comedy movies (thanks to the brilliant tip from Prahalad Rajkumar ji he’d written in one of his posts), and we played little pranks on the staff like this, giving everyone a good giggle.

In keeping with Swami ji’s teachings, we made sure that everyone we interacted with left smiling and we tipped as many of the workers as we could, including the gate security who often get left out. Thanks to Vidu Swami ji’s accounts in The Rainmaker – Miracles and Healing Stories of Om Swami, I know to tip gate security now too. Thank you, Swami ji!

And to my family and ashram family; the members here, the Swamis, Sadhvis, Sushrees, Brahmacharis, and ashram residents (especially Karuna Mai and Rajeev ji), I’m so humbled by all your love, kindness, post-surgery visits, flowers and messages of support. I cried many times because I felt so loved and overwhelmed. I’d been in hospital before but never been treated like this. Every day, I thought Wow! You are all my family, and my family is so AWESOME!

Swami ji, it’s You who has given me ALL of this. Ever, Ever, Ever Grateful for Thy Grace which I am far from worthy of and for how amazingly You put up with me. My most thankful obeisance at Your feet 🙏🏽🌺🙇🏽‍♀️

A final note: You might ask, if I believe in God so much, why didn’t God or my guru, Om Swami ji wave a magic wand and make it all go away?

I believe that we are a product of not only our conditioning and karmas but of our choices too.

Swami ji and God are busy working on my soul. The least I can do is take care of my physical and emotional health. 

I know I didn’t respect my body when I was younger, I didn’t live in harmony with nature. I didn’t bother about living a saatvik lifestyle. I didn’t bother with yoga and Ayurveda. I didn’t meditate, do any prayanama or any sadhana then. I didn’t know how to handle stress or calm my mind and I put all sorts of things into my body. All this was inevitably going to catch up with me, my mind, body, hormones, the lot. And it did. I take full responsibility for that.

It’s why it’s so important we teach our children about Sanatan Dharma from a young age so they don’t flail around like fish out of water like we do.

My faith in God and my guru gives me the wisdom to know that I will always face challenges in my life, but with this faith and their Grace, I get through them with a sense of ease, knowing I’m not alone, and I always come out stronger.

(Since walking the path, I’ve also called on them in the midst of pain and yearning and they’ve answered and appeared in unimaginable ways. More on this in my future writings.)

Thank you for reading such a long post. Please keep smiling and keep taking care of yourselves and each other!

With His Grace (because nothing happens without it),

Sushree Diya