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.

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