by Hyoun Bae on 08/19/18
Dr. Dilip Sarkar, retired vascular surgeon and President of the Board of Directors of IAYT, has an interesting story.
In 2001, a busy surgeon, he suffered from a heart attack. Other than a history of IBS and insomnia, he did not fit the bill.
All of his medical numbers were within range. He apparently showed no signs, nor noted any relevant risk factors or family history.
Four years after his open-heart surgery he was able to stave off medications, concerned about their complex side effects.
He turned to yoga and Ayurvedicmedicine, transforming his life through their practices and daily regimens. And, he was able to reverse his heart disease, and practically overcome IBS.
For Sarkar, his journey - which including needing to leave behind his successful surgical career and adopting a role in the health and wellness industry - was precisely that, parsing what he deems as true health in relation to medical models focused upon disease.
Dr. Sarkar's conclusion is that biomedical or conventional "Western" medicine is aimed at the absence of disease - particularly effective at acute strategies of care, emergency intervention, surgeries and treatment through prescription medicine. As far as preventative care strategies based in a life of wellness, yoga and Ayurvedic medicine offered just that.
Chronic diseases could be best be approached through a lifestyle of wellness, rooted in dinacharya or daily life regimens augmented towards one's personal health, their constitution, and in relation to the seasons.
From his own experience, he was conditioned to look at disease or its absence as the marker of health. Positive states of health and vitality were not measured and agency was not placed upon the patient, or the individual in a healthcare system.
Sarkar travels nationally and internationally promoting what he deems as a comprehensive understanding of yoga and its therapeutic tools, not only the physical asanas, but breathwork, meditation and the ethical underpinnings which contextualize its aims.
Perhaps the overarching import of his offering is to take back agency and locate resources of health within. Our overdependence upon medications and medical assumptions may reflect an impoverished state of health and health knowledge. Endogenous causes of disease are much of our own responsibility, some rooted in stress and endocrine regulation.
Like many, he locates these "adjuvant" modalities within the umbrella of "Western Medicine." You can benefit from your annual checkups and routine care, while making the most of dietary therapies and lifestyle regimens.
Sarkar (2017). Ayurveda, Yoga Therapy and Western Medicine.
by Hyoun Bae on 08/19/18
Psychoanalysis and Buddhism
Summer Reading ‘To Heal a Wounded Heart’
“I began to understand that what I could not open to in myself, I would shut out in others. This is just the way it seemed to work. The open heart so prized in Buddhism, a heart that is ready to take in the suffering of others, did not seem to open wide enough if it had not first been opened to one’s own suffering.” - Pilar Jennings.
With some dense or challenging material, Pilar Jennings “To Heal a Wounded Heart” offers a touching and readable account about healing nat the crossroads.
Dr. Jennings, an analyst whose lectures I have attended, brings us into the vibrant silence of a young girl of the age of six, who has stopped speaking.
Silence can be a protective barrier, a hand up to demarcate the boundaries of unreliable social world and a private internal world.
This stark response to a chaotic world, with unpredictable comings and goings, marked by repeated loss and neglect, reflects relational wisdom and demonstrates a form of agency.
Attachment theory highlights these basic relational patterns and tendencies.
One is reminded just how much is
communicated nonverbally, especially when it comes to children, along with the rightful indignation when basic needs are not met.
In those early developmental years, we are processing so much information, subtly attuning to emotional ways and social rules.
Our growth is rapid, but it can also be forced, haphazard or arrested. We learn trust, intimacy and resilience and our ability to communicate around those enduring needs and skills, which then inform our adult schemas.
These patterns — both our own, and transmitted intergenerationally — become muted and mutated, in the unique social contexts of our upbringing.
Jennings invites us, also, into the human world of her friend and Buddhist teacher, Lama Pema Wangdak. Lama Pema is brought into this intimate setting, mirthful and with at least a few lessons about happiness in the face of extreme loss and suffering.
He appears to have an uncommon ability to reflect a basic sense of worthiness, a value that is often challenged in circumstances of neglect. The sense of humor, recorded, is what made parts of this work a page-turner.
While not being good enough or not being worthy of love are often the delimiting self-talk we may be accustomed to, such diatribe can be rooted in early neglect and loss.
We are often likely to experience a rift - like that of the grand canyon. On one side, a ground of self-worth that is the basis of human experience, demarcated by a chasm of self-doubt carved by glaciers of relational wounding.
Analytic insight and contemplations on Buddhist wisdom are woven into this work, sensitively. It avoids idealization, projections and issues of bypassing and reveals the connection that three lives – that of analyst, Buddhist monk and young patient have suffered through and been transformed by – isolation, loss and perhaps, neglect.
This playing field has been leveled. No one is really more special here. Everyone has gone through something, and but are at different stages.
What is really salient are those scars, wounding the transformative value of aspects of our experience that have begun to resolve and shape our wisdom in the present.
The monk also appears to express resentment, perhaps not bitterness. He has lost country and family, siblings and home, the innocence of youth. Where is the recognition that we all need as young children? How is this sublimated in his religious upbringing, offers a profound reflection.
They – therapist, monk and patient - are not all resolved, but are they happy? Still dealing with anxieties and human frailties, but held with a wisdom - which becomes the question of , is happiness a choice? What does it take to be really happy?
A common theme throughout is one of connection, family and incongruent paths that seem to fall together naturally. Who is your sangha? What social contexts holds together the pain and healing. These are not deliberately asked, but gently placed. Skillfully placed, like mindful attention and the blooming of insight.
Dr. Jennings introduces a relational perspective on meditation.
An approach that has evolved from the work of Ainsworth and Bowlby, and perhaps out of the strictures of familiar psychoanalytic molds, through a foray into Jung, and I believe intersubjective, neuroscience and attachment theory. Jennings offers a personal glimpse into the dharma, a Buddhism recontextualized amidst the beauty and banality of New York.
She speaks personably about her own upbringing, the wounding by her parent’s divorce, years of analysis and therapy, as well as some degree of respite found in her contemplative calling and academic inquiry. The work also showcases play therapy in the early years of a budding therapist. This is her first client, I believe, and we find some of her early intuitions to also reflect some of the naturalness we come around to, years and even decades later perhaps.
Some of our sufferings are primarily relational. Patterns of relationship, around attunement, security and connection contribute to our often unacknowledged ways of being in the world and with others.
Neuroscience and mindbody medicine look more keenly at how our early histories impact physiology and emotion regulation.
We come to embody our wounding as a path toward change.
No spoiler alert, but this story does not have perfect ending. The wise Buddhist monk is not the only teacher. Perhaps it is the relational context - with all the quirkiness of the human condition, humor, differences and things which just don’t make sense, that will relay that intrinsic healing wisdom – point it out.
I believe we can learn a lot by glimpsing how others let go or transform their suffering, all the while acknowledging that one’s own way and wisdom is necessarily unique. To witness the commonality of trauma, suffering, loss or even resentment – our ‘coping wisdoms’ - all aspects of the human journey. To have it held and to be seen…
Good books like this are not really about psychoanalytic theory – or about the author, the monk, or the young girl we want to know more about – probably an adult, now. They are about isolation, and whether there is someone in our lives we can reach out to. They invite the reader into a level playing ground, so that conversation and sharing around what is essential, or painful, can begin.
The epidemic of silent suffering around mental health needs to be addressed. What I liked particularly about this work is the wicked sense of humor that carries one through muddy waters, above the stylish and sharp narration.
Jokes go along way in mending – loss. They can fill the space -- the vibrant empty field of the heart -- with a sense of profound possibility.