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Mental disorders could be treated in a holistic, practical manner with natural remedies, yoga and meditation, said experts at a conference in the Capital, reports REENA SINGH
At the two-day seventh Body, Mind & Life conference organised by MenTsee-Khang, the Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute, experts from Tibetan medicine and Astro science, Ayurveda, Psychiatry, Yoga, Homeopathy and Unani medicine shared their inputs about treating mental disorders using natural and traditional, tested methods. The conference was held in the spirit of what the Dalai Lama said while forming the Mind and Life Institute in 1987: to ‘alleviate suffering…by integrating science with contemplative practices and wisdom traditions. ’
What exactly is suffering and how does one explain it? Is it something caused by physical pain or by the mental agony and torture that one goes through when depressed, anxious, and fearful and when one lacks the self-esteem and confidence to transcend limiting self-beliefs? “Mental disturbance is the root cause of all the problems in this world, ” says the Dalai Lama. He adds, “Disturbances are caused by anger, arrogance and jealousy. The conditions responsible for mental disturbances arise from our own mind and are not attributable to external factors. Its treatment lies within oneself and needs to be approached from within.
Merely seeking external aids like medication and consultation with physicians will not help. ” And it is exactly this that the Mind and Life Institute studies — besides conducting lab research on the positive changes that the brain records after meditation. The world of meditation is vast and in the different meditation techniques known, certainly one can find something that resonates with one’s personality. There is silent contemplation, mantra-chanting and practice of repeating affirmations, single-pointed meditation, analytic meditation, loving-kindness-compassion meditation and more. You can even focus on forgiveness or on accepting yourself with all your limitations.
Flagging off the two-day conference was an opening session on meditation by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, who spoke of his own experiences in dealing with problems that he grew up with — anxiety and panic attacks. “Make friends with precisely those emotions that you want to resist, ”he said. He recalled that when he would start meditation, before long, panic would engulf him about something or the other. “Hello, Panic, ”he would tell the emotion and welcome it to invade his mind. “When you welcome just the thing you don’t want, it loses its hold over you, ”said the Rinpoche.
But you can’t do this unless you are aware of these emotions and this is where meditation helps — it helps to up awareness levels and to accept your emotions, he explained, as he took the audience on a guided meditation experience. Meditation, he explained, works both on the head and heart level. In the head you deal with the cognitive part of it, the awareness, and in the heart, you experience acceptance as you learn to deal with whatever is bothering you. Finally, you do meditation repeatedly till it becomes a sort of habit.
The World Health Organization describes good health as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. ”The WHO’s description of health was a part of almost every presentation at the conference that explored the treatment of mental health problems from the perspective of traditional healing systems. As the conference progressed, it became clear that many of the disciplines had remarkable similarities and that treatment could range from just developing feelings of loving compassion, to doing pranayama, yoga and meditation in an attempt to seek balance in the energies within a person — what ayurveda calls vata, pitta and kapha and what Tibetan medicine refers to as a rise in the three nyepas.
When balanced, life is healthy, and an imbalance — especially in the loong or energy component — means disease. Tenzin Choying, Tibetan medicine practitioner says that the relationship between loong and mind is often in simple terms exemplified with the relationship between a horse, which is the loong, and its rider, the mind. The Tibetan system of medicine works closely with Tibetan astro-science. “We are composites of five elements and when there is a disturbance in this composition, disease results, ” said Tenzin Loden, a teacher and practitioner of Tibetan astro-science.
“We all have a Buddha nature, but we also cling to delusions, and this needs to be treated, ” he added. With delusions, discursive thoughts take hold of our mind and could open us up to negativities. Drawing up your birth chart and prescribing spiritual recitations or amulets or suggesting remedies such as positive affirmative thoughts could help. Even Tibetan prayer flags have been found to alleviate the loong factor. According to WHO, almost five per cent of the world’s population suffers from depression. In today’s stressful world, this number is increasing. Issues of mental health are not new.
Says Sakshi Sharma, an ayurveda doctor and researcher at the Ayurveda Central Research Institute in the Capital: “Psychiatry may be a relatively new science, but 5, 000 years ago, it was a separate branch in ayurveda that indicated that man, sharira, atman and indriyas — mind, body, soul and senses — should be balanced. “These days, what all do we deposit onto our subconscious mind, ” she remarked. “But with dinacharya, daily meditation and yoga, and a saatvikdiet, we can discipline ourselves and get rid of them, ”she says. Practical tips come in handy to deal with any situation — such as avoiding excess of sorrow, ego, pride and controlling negative emotions. If you are getting into disturbing emotions, sometimes, it helps to change your environment, she added.
Unani medicine has similar theories. The tabiyat of the person also plays a role, as does his body and temperament. Yoga expert and medical practitioner Ramesh Bijlani, formerly with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, currently lives and works with the Aurobindo Ashram. He said that if you find time to practise yoga, you will be able to face life’s ups and downs with acceptance and equanimity. “Understand that happiness is seldom dependent on external factors, ”he said, while offering some invaluable advice — “first, never sweat the small stuff and bridge the gap between the way things are and the way you would like them to be.
Finally, find an opportunity for spiritual growth in all negative situations. Yoga asanas, relaxation techniques and meditation could help you to change your attitude to one of positivity. ” The conference taught participants that ultimately, one should be open to all forms of healing, for you are sure to find a way out if you have the will to be better. Making my way out of the conference, I recalled the words of psychotherapist Pulkit Sharma, who, while talking of the best ways to deal with mental health issues, said: “Don’t underplay the role of faith or any other faith-based healing modality — for healing can come from anywhere. ” ■
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