Student Stories & Submissions
Featured Story: Lakshmi Tracy Cunningham
“It is an amazing journey,” says Lakshmi. “With Ayurveda I have made more progress in two years, than I had ever experienced in the five years of western medicine."
Robin Middleton, a middle-aged bright woman from the corporate world, came across Acharya Shunya’s podcast at a stage of life when she had gained excessive weight and was reeling under work-life stress. Instant relief from a few lifestyle practices that she learnt from Acharya Shunya’s graduate-practitioner, motivated her to sign up for a course with Acharya Shunya. ‘I want to get to understand the engine that drives this wellness,” she said She looked like a bright flame that had become diminished by life challenges. Yet Acharya Shunya was confident that her teachings would activate the health response in Robin. And they did.
Robin shares, “For over 10 years, I fumbled through life with chronic insomnia, feeling drained ALL the time, an inability to lose weight, and suffering from vertigo. I had conceded to the fact that this is how things will be. I was miserable, depressed, and fearing for my future.
I had been to myriad of western as well as alternative practitioners but no one could tell me or offer any helpful hints as to why I was suffering so much. Sure, I got the standard “you need to lose weight,” “You’re too stressed,” “here read this book, read that book”…but no one could tell me WHY my body was signaling that I wasn’t healthy and WHAT I can do to determine the triggers and reasoning’s behind the insomnia, weight gain, and vertigo. No one was telling me why my mind had become my own enemy.
Then a family member suggested I try Ayurveda. Ayurwhatta? I’d never heard of it, but I made an appointment in which I met with one graduate student from Acharya Shunya’s wisdom school Vedika Global, fully prepared for disappointment. What I found was such a pleasant surprise and relived that I finally got the answers I was looking for to get on the road to recovery. Learning about the impact of my past habits and emotions, and how they have hindered my health was huge. Naturally, I signed up for deeper studies with the source of this knowledge; Acharya Shunya herself!
After a mere month of taking Acharya Shunya’s course, I was sleeping better, eating better, cut way down on my anti-depressants, and wanted to know more. Fast forward to two a few months later, I had completely stopped taking my anti-depressants at all”.
Robins improved health, personal conviction and consequent self-empowerment put her on a completely different life trajectory, wherein she found the courage to end a toxic job where she was not valued enough. She is now living the life she always wanted to lead and in all of this, she never forgets to value herself and love herself every day by feeding herself special recipes or meditating on ‘Self’, as taught by Acharya Shunya. She claims that studying with Acharya Shunya, not only have her back her health but changed her life, because it changed her consciousness from fearing disease to welcoming wellbeing.
Acharya Shunya documents Beverly's journey from ill health to health in her book Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True 2017):
"When I met Beverly Herrera nine years ago, she saw her as an inherently powerful woman who was demoralized by an ongoing health issue. Beverly was a successful Realtor, life coach, and women’s leader in the San Francisco community, but crippling stomach pains ware holding her back. This stomach condition had resisted all treatment modalities—conventional and alternative—for thirty years and was worsening year by year. The pain, which Beverly said felt like “a hole in my stomach,” was holding her back from living with real joy.
I won’t give a detailed description of the remedies Beverly tried. They involved multiple cycles of antibiotics (which gave temporary relief), a medication to address bile accumulation (which had intense nausea as a side effect), and a diet of mostly raw, organic fruits and vegetables with yogurt (which caused more problems than it resolved)..
Then, nine years ago Beverly adopted an Ayurvedic diet, and what happened then is nothing short of a miracle. That’s the way she describes it. Within one month of beginning to eat foods that were attuned to the season and that provided balance for her aggravated doshas, Beverly felt noticeably better. She says, half her pain was gone. Within three months of following this Ayurvedic approach to eating, Beverly felt she was almost completely cured—she puts it at ninety percent. Today, of course, and for many years now, she has no stomach pains.
Some of the foods Beverly let go of to follow an Ayurvedic eating plan had been, as she puts it, “staples” in her diet—yogurt and cheese, for instance, which are difficult to digest. She simply had to make new eating habits, to find new staples, to adopt a new rhythm for her meals, and to be careful about food combinations
Inspired and excited by the age-old food wisdom that allowed her to recover from a three decades long food problem in just three months, Beverly and her two grown daughters enrolled in a course at Vedika Global. Beverly continued on through five years of dedicated study to graduate as a doctor of Ayurvedic medicine, Beverly now makes a difference in the lives of many people who suffer from their own digestive problems. She has become an inspiration to others in the way she looks (much younger than her years!), in the way she eats (what she wants—without breaking Ayurveda’s food rules, of course), and in the way she works (professionally, she is stronger than ever). What is even more inspiring than all of this, however, is the compassion that regaining her health brought about in her soul.
Learning recently that the nineteen-year-old daughter of one of her neighbors was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and concurrent thyroid problems, Beverly phoned girl’s mother and said, “Your daughter has to change her diet right away, and I will cook for her.”
Beverly did cook for this ailing young woman, not for a few days or weeks but for four full months. (Some of the recipes she used are this chapter’s resource guide.) In time, others in their community joined a meal train, cooking organic and fresh food and delivering it to the ailing young woman.
I cannot say whether it was this food, prepared by Beverly and her neighbors with full conviction in the science of Ayurveda dietetics and offered as an act of selfless service, or whether there have been great strides in cancer combating technology. The upshot is that this young woman no longer has Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She is in complete remission and in excellent spirits.
Beverly was inspired to this act of neighborliness by both her compassion and her deep belief in Ayurveda. She explained to me, “I had information about food choices that other people didn't have and I wanted to be able to provide that information to them.”
Duncan came to Acharya Shunya's Ayurveda classes at her wisdom school Vedika Global for a basic course on Ayurvedic principles. In total. he came back twice , to take the same course. Acharya Shunya asked him why, and he grinned. “I come back for the food,” he said.
He was joking. Though he obviously loved the food, Duncan was taking in much more from Acharya Shunya's classes than just “good food.” This sixty-eight-year-old man was a true seeker, actively exploring modalities for his own healing. Five years before he had been leading a full and creative life giving no thought at all to the health of his body. Duncan had a degree in psychology and an almost three-decade career in data processing. In his spare time he volunteered at his child’s schools and took classes at dozens of colleges, finally earning a master’s degree in creation spirituality. He was in the process of constructing his “dream home” on a hilltop, surrounded by twenty-five acres of green beauty, when he fell from the roof and his life changed dramatically.
Surgery helped him walk without a cane, and a bouquet of complementary modalities—Trigger Point Therapy, Myofascial Tissue Release, acupuncture, chiropractic, and a great deal of therapeutic massage—almost eliminated the remaining aches and pains.
Then, in the following year Duncan discovered Ayurveda and, one by one, his remaining physical problems were resolved. Initially, just eating Ayurvedic cooking four nights a week—two at Acharya Shunya school (classes were held onsite back then, than online) and two with another student who made him khichadi (a recipe taught in this course)—led to his losing ten pounds of extra weight in the first few months “without even trying!” And it isn’t that he wasn’t eating on those “healthy” nights; he found the food delicious and satisfying.
Also by the end of his first two-month course, a post-nasal condition was all but gone, a troublesome itchy cyst disappeared, and a lifelong issue with constipation was resolved. Also, after learning the Ayurvedic approach to hydration—a few sips of water when thirsty; no forcing down ten cups of water a day—he no needed to urinate every two hours through the night. And with the Ayurvedic guidance on easing into sleep, he now fell asleep much more readily. While he had been getting as few as four restless hours of sleep each night, he was now sleeping soundly for six or seven, and when he was awake, Duncan was “on the go.” He said, “When I discovered Ayurveda, I told myself, ‘I feel like a million dollars!’ After eight months as a student, I now feel like a billion dollars!”
In the longer term, the help Duncan received from Ayurveda, as taught by Acharya Shunya, was truly priceless. At age sixty, he had been forced to take pharmaceuticals to deal with moderately rising blood pressure and the negative effect these drugs have on the bladder. Now, because he paid attention to when he woke up and went to bed (dinacharya), gave himself a daily oil massage (abhyanga), and followed a simple Ayurvedic diet, Duncan was able to successfully eliminate all pharmaceuticals from his daily regime. Recently, his lab tests were the best they had been in five years. He wrote in a blog, “One of my goals now is to live healthy, happy, and pain-free for thirty more years, on top of my own mountain in my little RV, surrounded by trees, peace and quiet, and incredible views of nature. Thank you, Ayurveda, and Thank You Acharya Shunya, for making me believe this is possible!"
Peter, an operations and IT consultant in Silicon Valley was pleasantly surprised when his uncertainty began fading away with each learning he incorporated from Acharya Shunya’s course, in his super busy life. He was pleased at the easy implementation, especially when individual practices and concepts were explained at length with attention to details. Next, he was glad he was not expected to take “leaps of faith” or become “a vegetarian”, and that these teachings are “universal” and based upon an ancient understanding of the science of chronological rhythms and other laws of nature.
Peter reported a gradual transformation via increased spiritual awareness. Despite increasing age, his energy, that had previously been waning, kept increasing, month by month. He also felt less mentally foggy and readier to take on new projects at work. An itchy rash on his leg, that returned in the hot seasons, disappeared completely, and never came back. He was surprised at his own growing enthusiasm (which Acharya Shunya told him was a sign of health). Growing mental health, social consciousness, and improved physical health were made possible through a life re-inspired by Acharya Shunya’s teachings.
Peter shares, “I have achieved a greater sense of peace and calm, and a confidence that life can get better and better, though I am getting older and older, largely based on a greater understanding of who I am as ‘Spirit’, and the nature of the world we live in. I feel like I have acquired more knowledge from taking this course, than I had thought I would get when I had in initially signed up. Acharya Shunya’s teachings were multi-dimensional in their positive impact on all areas of my life!”
Now in his seventies, Peter still travels frequently for his consulting work, and his colleagues admire his ability to maintain health, compassion and a calm, cheerful attitude as he moves back and forth across time zones and cultures. Peter does this by taking the principles and practices of Ayurveda he learnt from Acharya Shunya’s course with him everywhere he goes, and sharing them with his family. Clearly, Peter has become a passionate ambassador, a role model, and spokesperson of Ayurveda, in his own special way.