Mental Health Issues & Meditation- A Personal Experience.

(Please read till the end for a surprise)

Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide had the Indian community up and have arms against ‘the belittling’ of ‘mental health issues’ and why not! In a country like India where astrologers are favoured over clinical counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists; this is bound to happen. To top it up, many in India do not consider any kind of mental health issue a serious disease like diabetes and mistreats the patient in more than one way. This puts the patient and her/ his life into jeopardy pushing furthermore in a downward spiral. Unfortunately, but it is true. What’s worse people suggest meditation and/ or yoga (it is actually pronounced as Yog; ‘योग’; meaning unison).

Yes, I am exactly going to talk about this. Many Indians have put many statuses on their what’s app, stories on their Instagram, some photographers have gone live with psychologists to talk about mental health and the dos and donts of dealing with a person battling mental health issues, etc… But this one post by an ex colleague ‘triggered’ to write this piece. Of the many points, one point the person mentioned, ‘When I talk to people about my mental health issue, they ask me to meditate or do yoga. This is absolutely not possible for a person dealing with any kind of mental health issues of any degree.’ Readers and people who are going to forward this (I insist) might not read beyond this sentence, but I sincerely suggest reading till the end.

Let me tell you, I have been practising Reiki meditation for 17 years straight, and whatever the person said in the above two lines is absolutely true. Yes, when in a very difficult state of mind and body, one cannot practice meditation. I really do not understand what people think when they suggest meditation to a person fighting mental health issues. It is highly impossible. The moment you close your eyes to meditate, ‘all those demons that you are battling, come to the fore and start poking you. Just like the needles in your body, crawling under your skin; eating you up from the inside, bit-by-bit tearing you apart from the inside’. This is the exact feeling (may be more or less) the person battling mental health issues start experiencing, the moment s/ he even tries to meditate. Therefore, no concentration and thus irritation sets in and thus anxiety. Once anxiety sets in there is almost less to zero stopping to any thoughts. So how can one meditate? And how can one even suggest meditation? I can totally empathise with this question. Absolutely true.

Saying that and have been practising one form of meditation and some breathing exercises including ‘Praanayaam’; let me tell you, they are definitely one of the solutions to counter mental health issues- even the serious ones. But it should be guided- all the way along till the time there is no relapse. One step at a time, small steps at a time, till the person feels confident to confidently put forward the next step- on her/ his own or even with the help of a guide. This is what people while suggesting meditation and yoga totally forget. They suggest and move on. The person battling with mental health needs someone to be with, to talk, to open up without the fear of being judged or misunderstood till the time s/ he doesn’t fear any relapse. People suggesting yoga, I hope they are aware that even if it is seen to be about ‘asanas’ (different positions of the body) it is primarily about uniting the body with the mind and soul through various breathing techniques. And that is deep, very deep and it has to be guided till the very end; otherwise there can be serious consequences. How can one forget that? And this is also the reason why people who are battling mental health issues rage up or at the least scoff at when people suggest mediation or yoga. Very understandable. The suggesters should not be offended as it is an obvious thing that cannot be practiced at that point of time.

Let’s understand what meditation is. (Again, please read till the end to understand everything) ‘When you open your eyes, you see the world; when you close them, you see yourself’. This exactly happens when you start practising meditation. The moment one closes the eyes, the demons start harassing the already disturbed patient. And exactly here is the time that one needs a friend, a help or a guide to make the disturbed one understand what is exactly happening and why is it happening, most importantly HOW TO CONFRONT THE DEMONS that come along? Someone is needed to understand the demons so soothe them, to be kind and patient to listen to them, the shouts inside their minds, the anger and pain that one is carrying – ‘without judgement’ of any kind. This can be done only and only by the sincerest practitioners of meditation and yoga. It is not a joke just to suggest meditation and go away or walk off. It is a responsibility of the person who is suggesting towards the person who is battling mental health issues of any degree. Many a times even I do not understand, how can people just suggest and move on? No, it shouldn’t be like that. It was/ is never meant to be like that in the first place.

So, you might ask me now, if meditation and or/ yoga and breathing exercises like ‘Pranaayam’ can help people battling mental health issues of any degree, then how? Especially, when they either would want or not want to confront their demons, they can’t concentrate, they fear relapse, anxiety, always feels that everything is falling apart whatever come may, it will fall apart at some time- now or later. How does one practice meditation or even Praanayaam in such times?

First things first. Understand meditation, yoga and Praanayaam are to be practiced, therefore it is called as ‘Sadhana’; i.e. sincere and consistent practice. Next, at the very beginning they do not need concentration; concentration during meditation comes to you at later stages. For that very simple breathing exercises can be useful; I would say even Praanayaam would come later. But all that with the help of a guide, at least good one at that, if not the best and I am aware it could be difficult to find.

I would like to tell people who randomly suggest meditation and/ or yoga that this suggestion isn’t even remotely possible to execute if you are not teaching them step wise action to come out of the battle of their minds; essentially ‘Chakravyuh’, i.e a labyrinth, a maze from which it is difficult to come out. Primarily, ask them if they are interested in knowing about meditation and yoga. You might want to give your own example of how it helped you. (Read below for my example) As most of the times people battling mental health issues will not practice consistently and therefore the results will not come out as expected. Take it slowly and ensure them even they can do it. They will say no; but as a friend; keep giving the confidence that they have lost that even they can do it. Sharing personal examples always help and bring out the confidence in the person.

Then explain them patiently how meditation/ yoga can help them, increase their confidence that they can come out of it- sooner or later; be patient with them while teaching. Not only teach them, ensure their pace, their understanding. Empathise with their questions, do not scoff at the questions they ask, they might be silly to you, but for them it is question of life and death. At every point show them that you are with them; listen, listen and listen carefully. If there is a need to push them out of their comfort zone, push them, but explain to them why you are doing it and explain calmly and patiently! Very patiently! If there’s a need for you to detach from them; let them know why you are being detached; never suddenly go awol! This could be a classic recipe for their relapse! At the later stages teach them how to use meditation, yoga and breathing exercises for their growth and understanding of their self and for the betterment of their mental health. Understand, if they are opening up to you, they are allowing you to be a part of their life, that includes their demons. Also, very importantly if you are asking any questions about the past of the person battling mental health be clear of your intentions and let her/ him know it is only to heal not to judge or use the past for any kind of undue advantage. (I make it very clear to all people who I ask questions or who open up to me) The guide has to be very sensitive in handling every step; so as in order not to disturb her/ his own mental health while fixing theirs’.

If you will ask about me how mediation, Pranaayam has helped me to the point that I am practising it for 17 years and for the last 10 years I am teaching Reiki meditation. Let me keep it short- (Read till the end, please)

I was a very energetic child. Back in the late 80s and early 90s there was no concept of calling one energetic they used to call ‘chanchal’ i.e. fickle minded which was/ is pretty derogatory and shaming in the neighbourhood and at school. No, my school, nor my parents did nothing to help me come out of the ‘fickleness’; in fact, they did everything to aggravate it. To the point that they used to shame me by saying you can’t even sit at one place for even 2 minutes. Today (by the grace of God) I can sit for meditation for 2-2.5 hours straight! It is possible. If a person like me can do it, anyone can do it.

I failed in my engineering and I was the first failure in my entire family. Imagine the shame, embarrassment and the judgement that an Indian teen had to endure when he fails and drops out of engineering in 2001-2002. My parents under the influence of a general practitioner did a CT scan of my brain just to check if everything is ok. Serious depression and serious anxiety hit roof, just like the shit hits the fan… I didn’t know whom to talk to, as everyone in my family, my relatives and the society was busy judging me and poking for my failure in engineering, than giving solutions and supporting me to come out of it. I was alone, amidst everyone, I did not talk to anyone about my fears and demons as I was judged always and felt like everything was falling apart. I was finally taken to a psychologist after rounds of astrologers could do nothing to bring me out of depression. I never had the access to my mental health profile results (that included Rorschach analysis) till date. I do not know what happened, but I remember leaving it halfway. That was the time someone told about Reiki meditation. Believe me, at that point even I asked, ’Is that even going to help?’ Nevertheless, I did some sessions. I felt calmer with a few and thus slowly under a guidance started learning it, kept practising it till today. Still practising it. The catch is ‘with a guidance.’ Things like meditation and Pranayam and yoga are to be taught and guided at every step.

Knowing this very well and having a first-hand experience of and being a mental patient myself… then learning and consistently practising meditation and also teaching it, you can definitely take my word for it. If you find a person who can guide you through the entire process go for it! I am doing it for some people at this very point of time- taking them by their pace, if need be pushing their boundaries a little, not judging them, listening to them, their fears, their demons, making them confident that they can do it, they can come out of it. It is difficult for a person who is battling mental health issue to make them talk. Why? Because of the fear of getting judged! But letting the demons out is the only way. It is the responsibility of the friend/ guide/ helper to ensure that s/ he is not judging when the person is talking. It is difficult to accept your demons and therefore to come out of any mental health issue, very true; but I am letting you know, that yes, it is easy to take small steps to come out of a situation and you yes can do it.

I will end this rant by sharing a secret. Anxiety and anger issues run in my family; at least 3 generations! I am aware of those demons, I am healing them through meditation, Pranayaam and other breathing exercises, definitely with a guide. I know if I don’t overcome them now it can pass on to the 4th generation and I would like to stop the buck here, at me. The meditation, Pranayaam and other breathing exercises with the guide, definitely is helping me all the way since 2003. Just believe in yourself, you will come out of it. As I have. If you believe, even remotely that I can help you in any way, feel free to reach out to me.

words…

‘Why do you want to kiss me?’; she asked.

He gazed at her in awe; surprise. Speechless, as he was; did not know what to answer.

She continued without waiting for him to answer. Eye to Eye.

‘You want to kiss my lips; the neckline; my bosoms; those tiny little rings of colours; the summit of my bosom; my navel; my waistline; the thicks; the bumps; the vagina itself… every other part that defines me as me. Why?’ She said that in one breath.

He looked at her. Eye to Eye; waited; said-

‘Dear, what the choicest of words can’t give, is given by the lips and the tongue’.

He stopped after this answer. Gaze still fixed. An eerie silence took over.

She did not expect an answer; of all, not this. Reluctantly, she relented and gave in to the silence that his words had fabricated. Somewhere she knew, she wanted it.

He kissed; lips crashed; tongues melted. His lips found a way to the every inch of her self that she was talking about. She had shivers down her spine and all hair at their ends- yearning for more.

He stopped. She now came to experience the truth in his words.

— Eternal Happiness™

Warning- Intrusion will cause Death

Warning- Intrusion will cause Death.

John Allen Chau, an American Missionary Adventure Tourist was reported to be killed by ‘Sentinelese Tribe’, a protected tribe in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Read the following from the horse’s mouth-who has not only photo documented a tribe’s entire life cycle but also is currently working on publishing a photo book on them. Toto tribe

Of the four years that I stayed with the Toto tribe; in the beginning itself I told them my intentions of making a detailed photo book of their entire life cycle, traditions and customs; lest they should be lost. Only after they okayed it; I went ahead with the plan. The primary thing I noticed was how modernization was affecting the tribe in a big way. From mobile and smart phones paving the way in children’s hands to packets of Lays & Kurkure; everything seemed to disturb the ethos of the tribe.

Most of the tribes have an oral tradition. From stories to language, things are passed down orally. While it is very important to safeguard tribal tradition and culture by documenting them; there is a way to do it. In the case of Toto tribe, an Australian by the name Toby Anderson and his family of wife Mary-Grace and their 3 kids have been staying in Totopara since 2013 to script the language, ‘Toto’ with the help of the locals. Of course, he has got an astounding support from the local Totos; the kind I never got- even being an Indian! The question here is why does an Australian have to be on the tribal land to document and script the language? Are Indian linguistics department of the State of West Bengal and the Centre in New Delhi inept to do it? This situation still haunts me.

There are four schools in Totopara; two government schools. Third one, a missionary school and a hostel- some say it is defunct and the fourth is Chittaranjan Toto Education Centre, an English medium school. It is founded and run by Lissa Davis, from London. This school admits all children from Totopara and teaches them till standard four. The teachers here are local Totos and the funds to run the school come from various sources including crowdfunding. Many volunteers from various countries have dropped in Totopara to help local teachers in this school. The motive here seems to be positive, and the Toto tribe members have extended full support to them. But did the foreigners take due permission from the local police or the district authorities to enter and work in the tribal land? Would the foreigners allow any Indian in their tribal or protected land, just as they do it here?

Next was conversion to Christianity. Totopara has only one PHC but 3 churches in that 8 sq. km. village periphery. I have been told by some members of Toto tribe (who do not wish to be named) that many resisted to the conversion in the beginning and were shooed away the missionaries from Totopara. The missionaries, lured some Totos’ to north east India, got them converted and sent them back. In the conversion process many have changed their names; adopting Christian names and ways of living. In this process, the originality of the tribe and its culture is getting receded way too fast than expected. Many tribe members have told me that it is being increasingly difficult to strike a balance between modernity and their culture.

First things first- ‘Do not disturb any tribe, they have their own ways of living and coping mechanisms. Importantly they have their own customs and traditions; which they would not like to be parted with.’ If any tradition does not fit in mainstream religions; it is not our job to pull them into mainstream. Period.

Second- Understand that tribes are already endangered with dwindling numbers. They aren’t immune to all diseases and pathogens that the general population is immune to. Essentially you are posing a risk to their health and happiness by blindly venturing out in their land.

The ‘Sentinelese’ are hostile to the outside world and have been reported to act hostile against the so-called modern population. I am sure the fishermen who took Chau there knew it and warned him against. Still, to satisfy his adrenaline, he ventured out by luring them with money. Not the fishermen’s mistake that Chau was attacked and later seen dead. Because of this incidence (which Chau himself had asked for it) there has been a case of murder registered at the police station. The question arises against whom are you going to file a case? The buck stops at the face of now dead Chau and Chau only. Of course, there were major security lapses wherein he was not spotted on his way to the Sentinelese island, poses grave concerns. *C Uday Bhaskar, rightly pointed out the similarities between the ghastly incidence of 26/11 and breach of Andaman island’s security protocol. He points out that Chau had visited the islands four times since 2015 and must have slipped through various filters, including the one that regulates the entry of foreign nationals to Restricted Area Permit zones. The same way David Headley had made multiple visits to Mumbai had evaded scrutiny.

While it is more than important to document the tribes and their life cycle; how are you going to do it? Via coercion or via dialogue? If they aren’t in for a dialogue like in the case of Sentinelese, send a team of experts to do it. If still not- Leave them alone! They are telling you non-verbally to stay away from them. That is what the Sentinelese have been doing for decades now.

To Chau’s family, ‘Don’t get magnanimous by saying we have forgiven the killers.’ Your beloved son, brother, uncle, best friend had made a deliberate mistake and has paid for it. Lesson to Indian government- Foreigners to stay off limits in any tribal land. Indians, try and detest taking money/ gifts from anyone for costly actions like these.

Rest In Peace; Mr. Chau, hope you have learnt your lesson for the next life. I hope other Missionaries and adventure tourists have also learnt a lesson now.

*Indian Express, Editorial, 28-11-18

-Photographer, Abhijit. Eternal Happiness™

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