Observing and interacting with patients on a regular basis provides grounding
and human context for the timeless theory and Sanskrit vocabulary, which might otherwise tend
towards academic abstraction. I have gleaned many useful facts and practical principles so far, but here I will focus on the broader issues that are
making an impression on me.
point I've observed (and experienced) in these sessions is that the presenting
health concern is often a secondary or even tertiary issue. Many people are
simply craving to be truly seen and heard.
It seems that a person's innate capacity
for self-healing is activated by the attentive presence of the practitioner,
through the exchange of deep listening and empathetic response. This process
allows the more subtle causes of dis-ease to emerge and become self-evident to
In being that clear mirror, the practitioner creates an
opportunity for the patient to notice patterns and connections that were previously
invisible to them. On its own, such awareness can stimulate positive shifts
within a person.
The other major
issue I had not previously considered is that of compliance.
In an imaginary,
ideal world, healing is a clean process where expert diagnosis leads to a prescription for
herbs and adjustments to diet and lifestyle. Then, we simply wait for the patient to return with reports of steady
This obviously skips
over the most crucial step -- that is, the patient actually
doing what is asked.
Ayurveda requires a certain level of dedication and
willingness to do whatever it takes in order to be effective. By this
measurement, not everyone is qualified for Ayurvedic treatment.
individuals are more comfortable with their disease than with the procedures
for treating it, and would therefore prefer to remain ill rather than venture
outside their comfort zone.
This is mostly an unconscious choice. Deeply ingrained patterns of behavior are
powerful forces. Just because a person is seeking healing on the surface
doesn't necessarily mean they are able to comply with the changes prescribed.
this in mind, it has been valuable to observe Ma as she gently "coaxes"
compliance from patients. Some people need more stern instructions, while
others do well with some flexibility. Some folks are eager to do everything all
at once, while others can only introduce one thing at a time.
person's mental and physical constitution is helpful, but coaxing is more art
than science, and involves a good deal of intuitive feeling into the situation to know what is realistic, and what is
asking too much.
Smoking Intuition (Photo credit: Callt_o)
Finally, I will
note how humbling it is to sit in clinic. It is a regular reminder that
everyone is fighting unseen battles and should therefore be treated with the
gentlest of care.
It is a very powerful experience to have someone bare their
deepest traumas, share their oldest secrets and express their greatest hopes
and fears with the hope that you can help them. It is a responsibility not to
be taken lightly, and serves as inspiration for me to learn as much as possible as fast as possible so as
to actually be able to help.
There is also a dampening effect as I realize that
we can't possibly help everyone to the extent that we would like, that each
person must take responsibility for their own healing, and all we can do is
offer the best guidance we can and pray the rest will unfold in the most
benevolent manner possible.
This is heartbreaking, but then again, a heart must break
in order to be open, and as we've seen, an open heart is truly the most potent
medicine available to us.