Yoga & Psychotherapy: For Mental & Physical Health, Wealth and Spiritual well-being
Every so often i come across people who i look upon with a sense of awe on the potential they carry — it is sometimes their personality, their ability to think deeply, their talent and skills or simply their dedication towards what they find inspiring.
And yet i find that their life is not working in line with the potential they seem to carry. They are simply under-performing against the potential they are capable of. They are often troubled by the endless and unwanted chattering in their mind — the endless stream of thoughts and worries which one fights back (because one does not want them or ask for them). This leads to lack of clarity in thinking, indecisiveness and an inability to slice and solve problems. If this mental state stretches over long periods of time, it often leads to a mild depression, like i did about 20–22 years years ago.
On multiple occasions my colleagues, tormented by unfounded fears and anxiety, have approached me for help — sharing their state of mind. I am so glad that they did and that i was able to provide the safe space for them to talk to me freely about these fears, unknown anxieties, inability to think clearly, and even the physiological conditions showing up following the mental state.
I’m no psychotherapist but having been through a long mild depression myself for 4–7 years starting somewhere in 1997, and being through the suffering of being tormented by my own mind for several years thereafter, i know something about tools to get back into shape. After all, famed psychotherapist Scott M. Peck writes in his book ‘Road Less Travelled’ that ‘psychotherapy is complete for his patients when they are psychotherapists themselves’ [citation pending].
I’d like to share in this post some of my learnings and my journey out of this mess.
Life is difficult!
This is the opening sentence of the iconic book “Road Less Travelled” by Scott M. Peck. I read this book 15–18 years ago. I cannot express how relieved i felt when i read that life was meant to be difficult and it was not only i who was suffering.
Before this book, i always assumed other people’s lives were much better than mine. They always seemed happy and jovial around me, carefree, not worrying, not tormented by their thoughts. Most of these people had a lot of clarity in what they wanted from life.
On the other hand, i was tormented by thoughts i did not want; i had been to a psychiatrist for sessions in psychotherapy a couple of years earlier (and chose the psychiatrist myself on the condition that she would not give me medicines!); i was battling completely irrational and unwarranted fears and anxieties which were showing up as constant rumblings in my stomach and a heavy/sinking feeling in my heart; symptoms of everyone else’s diseases were true for me too; my ability to decide whether or not to commit to relationships was messed up — something which made things even more difficult for me given the huge sense of guilt i carried; and on and on.
After reading that sentence (“Life Is Difficult!”) and the first page which basically laid out a promise that if we accept this reality of life (that it is difficult), we then would have started the journey to healing (and grace).
Whatever be the reason for ones life being held back, the first step is to seek help. This requires one to confront the fear of being judged ‘weak’ as compared to the seemingly normal people out there. This is the first a big step towards taking responsibility of ones own condition, a true assessment of ‘where i am and a better state of mental and physical i’d like to see for myself’. All work towards improvement happens from here onwards.
However, very often we do not have people around us who one can reach out to with matters so personal. Fortunately, for me, i was taught as a kid by my grandfather that ‘if you have a problem (eg: a disease) you should stand at your rooftop and shout it out’ only then someone might hear and come for help; keeping the problem close to your chest will not help you get help’. ‘Standing on ones rooftop’ was only anecdotal. But basically he was saying — ‘ask for help when you have a problem’.
Acceptance of depression or of problems in life is way for us to acknowledge that ‘i have hit the bottom and i want to start walking on the way upwards’. There is an entire chapter in the book dedicated to the “Healthiness of Depression”.
“Since mentally healthy human beings must grow, and since giving up or loss of the old self is an integral part of the process of mental and spiritual growth, depression is a normal and basically healthy phenomenon”
~ Scott M. Peck
But seek help from whom?
Unfortunately, all round us we have people who mostly stand in judgement, and start giving advise — saying things like ‘you should be strong’ and so on. In my view, these people live shallow lives. They’ve not cared to dwell deep into life at all, living usually at the surface, in the comfort of not having to think. Most carry an instruction manual of ‘how things should be’ for almost every sphere of life handed down from their parents or from their religious belief systems.
These are not the people you want to turn to for help!
Psychotherapy and Yoga are the two solutions among several self-help programmes such as Landmark Education that i used to heal myself, and walk on the path of growth.
I cannot possibly pour everything i have learnt on this topic of growth, which is deeply interlinked with spirituality — something very close to my heart — but i do want to touch upon a couple of topics to offer some insight into growth, learning, health, material well-being (including money) and eventually spiritual evolution.
Having been through psychotherapy myself, including a year long series of sessions with my psychotherapist as recent as 2014–15, i must admit how much mental and emotional growth i have found. People close to me at work have come and told me ‘you’ve changed’ — perhaps sensing a fresh burst of self-esteem i found during these recent year long series of sessions with my psychotherapist. On the one hand my relationship with my beliefs about life, my purpose of life, God, education, raising a child, have gone through a strong sense of reaffirmation; and on the other hand my challenge of constantly undermining myself has gone through a transformation.
I strongly believe psychotherapy is a fantastic way for putting ourselves open to challenge, and therefore to growth. However, as Scott M. Peck cautions that we must choose our psychotherapist carefully for reasons that there are too many who have taken spirituality out of the equation from our human lives. I would recommend that you read the book “Road Less Travelled” before embarking on your journey of psychotherapy.
I must share at this point, that often Life Coaching is a big help for unlocking our potential. Psychotherapy and Life Coaching are not interchangeable, but having been through both, i believe there are overlapping processes which help a healthy individual towards growth.
Yoga and Meditation
The philosophy of Yoga speaks about five layers of existence of the human body. It is the non-physical body where it says all disease originates and then eventually spreads to the physical body.
Yoga — both asanas (body bending postures) and meditation — works at both the physical and non-physical bodies. With the discipline and practice of Yoga, mental-emotional layers of behaviour patterns start dropping; our attitudes begin to change; our belief systems are profoundly altered; physiological changes in the health of the physical body including positive changes in the brain, probably begin to alter life conditions around us. People, work, opportunities — all begin to change, leading us towards a life of growth.
These days we value scientific evidence over our shared civilizational experience or even sometimes are personal experience — we prefer first being to be told about the great taste of honey than actually engaging in the act of tasting honey. I understand. So here is scientific evidence:
Inviting Grace and Serendipity in our lives
Opening up of Grace (कृपा)
Dr. Brian Weiss in his bestselling book “Many Lives, Many Masters” talks about how his patient Catherine who after simply revisiting, in a state of hypnotic regression, several of her past lives starts undergoing a change without effort. It’s as if mental-emotional layers of behaviour patterns start dropping, relationships magically and mysteriously around her start changing — people disappear and appear in her life helping her in her journey towards a better life, new work/job prospects show up which she had never imagined possible for her.
I am drawing the connection between what Dr. Brian Weiss describes here and what Scott M. Peck calls the miracle of Grace. I quote from Wikipedia:
The fourth and final part concerns “grace”, the powerful force originating outside human consciousness that nurtures spiritual growth in human beings. In order to focus on the topic, he describes the miracles of health, the unconscious, and serendipity — phenomena which Peck says:
— nurture human life and spiritual growth,
— are incompletely understood by scientific thinking,
— are commonplace among humanity,
— originate outside the conscious human will.
He concludes that “the miracles described indicate that our growth as human beings is being assisted by a force other than our conscious will” (Peck, 1978/1992, p281)
Serendipity is described as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”. In other words, serendipity is a phenomenon that leads, by chance, to events or happenings which make our life pleasant.
I’ve spoken about serendipity while describing Srijan’s journey from a fledgling company to a fairly successful one several times in Agile conferences and internal presentations.
Serendipity is not dumb luck. It is created, if you will, by conscious effort towards some goal usually larger than you; by not making relationships (including potential business ones) ‘transactional’ and on the flip-side by being ‘generous’ in ones day-to-day personal as well as business transactions. In other words, by simply sharing and giving freely, without worrying about “what’s in it for me” we open up the space for serendipitious events to happen in our lives.
‘Universe’ is a photocopying machine
To help you understand better, let me make another connect. The bestseller book “Conversations with God” speaks about the Universe as a photocopying machine. It simply replicates your deepest held beliefs about yourself. So, if you are constantly “wanting more money” or simply “wanting”, it gives you more “wanting” — or constantly a scarcity of whatever you want or desire more of. Quite opposite of the intention with wanting.
However, the book says, if you want to choose more wealth, for example, for yourselves, then start behaving as if you have enough. In having enough there will by default be a certain generosity which shows up in your interactions with people and life around you. It shows up at work, as well as in relationships. The more generosity and enoughness you demonstrate as ‘who you are’ (or your natural self), the Universe starts to replicate that experience more and more for you. This manifests as more money, more opportunities to make more money, and so on — and in ways which you never imagined possible.
This is the same case with health. In my Yoga classes, after completing the asanas each morning, we repeat to ourselves this self-affirmation (or call it ‘prayer’).
मैं तन से, मन से, और भावनात्मक स्तर से अपने आप को पूर्ण स्वस्थ अनुभव कर रहा हूँ।
मैं चैतन्य स्वरुप हूँ, ज्ञान स्वरुप हूँ, आनंद स्वरुप हूँ, शक्ति स्वरुप हूँ;
मेरे भीतर अनंत ज्ञान का, अनंत आनंद का, अनंत शक्ति का, सागर लहरा रहा है,
जिसका साक्षात्कार करना ही मेरे जीवन का परम लक्ष्य है।
In English this roughly goes like this:
Physically, mentally and emotionally, i find myself being completely healthy.
I am a being full of consciousness, knowledge, joy and boundless energy;
Within me resides an ocean of knowledge, joy, energy
the realization of which, is the primary purpose of my life.
The purpose of self-affirmations is to lead the mind to believe something. The point of doing such is, that as you start believing something to be true, that true-ness starts showing up in your life.
This is counter-intuitive. Our normal paradigm of thinking is about things happening in our lives first, after which we start believing in the alternate reality. The new paradigm calls on us to reverse this — believe first and see the manifestation happen in your lives.
I believe all this change for our good, emanating from outside of ourselves and our effort, is nothing by Grace and Serendipity.
And Yoga, meditation, psychotherapy (or/and even perhaps past-life regression therapy) are tools to invite Grace and Serendipity into our lives, leading us to healthier and more fulfilling lives full of joy and pleasantness, in ways we never were capable of imagining.