Lord of Ayurveda,Dhanvantari (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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.
One fundamental 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 the patient.
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 improvement.
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.
Clearly, some 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.
With 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.
Knowing a 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.