The Therapeutic Experience
By Richard Haynes
It is interesting that currently there is no regulation of Ayurveda. I personally believe that this is a good thing. Ayurveda is about self healing. With our current political and social climate, I cannot imagine an agency or group of people that could understand Ayurveda let alone regulate it. It is my hope that each of you will learn enough that you will trust only your own inner voice when it comes to picking someone to help your on your own person journey/healing.
Ayurveda literally means the knowledge of life. If one is happy, healthy and full of love for self and others, then there is no need for Ayurveda in this person’s life. If one is suffering in any way, there is a need for some knowledge, the knowledge of life or Ayurveda.
Ayurveda then is the specific knowledge or experience that will bring the individual out of the darkness of suffering into the bright sunshine of a joy filled life. Thus Ayurveda is not limited to a culture. In its true essence, Ayurveda is not Indian or even Eastern. Ayurveda is the science of your life and the science of my life. It must lead to your healing or it is not the complete knowledge of life or Ayurveda. It must give the individual, regardless of culture the formula to bring about healing–restore balance and dignity to life.
So what is this mysterious experience we call healing? What are the characteristics and qualities of healing? From my own vivid experience, real healing is an elusive, fragile, unpredictable commodity. Healing is as mysterious as life itself. In the Ayurvedic Tradition, many times the greatest healers were also the greatest teachers, teachers of life. We may not all be sick, but we all have the need to know, to understand our life and inevitable death. I think everyone has a desire to understand life and to live life with dignity. Although somewhat more elusive, I believe we also have a desire to understand death and to die with dignity. It is this ability to live and die with dignity that we all desire. Healing is the fulfillment of this most basic desire. Healing makes our life complete and whole. So when we talk about the healing experience, we mean also the learning experience, when we say doctor or therapist, we also mean teacher.
Healing can be very different from being cured of a disease. I still have crohnï¿½s disease yet my friends have told me I am the one of the most stable, happy, and joyful people they know. I no longer suffer form my disease because I have accepted and embraced my limitations. Everyone has limitations, mine are just different. It is possible to live within our limitations and be happy and joyful. This joy makes life complete and worth living.
The action of restoring one to this balance is called Therapy or Healing. The Ayurvedic texts say that there are four qualities that influence the therapeutic or healing experience. Understanding these four qualities and how they influence the healing experience is essential for one to understand Ayurveda.
The first of these four influences is the physician, healer or teacher. In particular it is the consciousness of this person that has the greatest influence on the healing experience. Consciousness is a rather intangible term. It is made more tangible if we think of consciousness as the combination of attention and intention. What is the underlying intention of the healer and how much of her attention is brought to the meeting with the patient?
This point I rarely see considered in Western Medicine where all importance is placed on having gone to the proper school and received the proper certificates and understanding the latest treatments and having knowledge of he latest drugs. On the level of personal experience, in my dealings with the Medical Community, both traditional and non-traditional, I have many times questioned the sincerity of my attending physician with respect to their true intention and the quality of their attention. Countless others have lamented to me the same experience. A new trend in Medical Care, the HMO, many times you do not have a choice of who to see and you may not even be able to see the same doctor on two consecutive visits. In Ayurveda, it is the personal relationship you develop with your doctor that is the basis of healing. Ayurveda would tell us that if there is any question about the sincerity of the intention or the quality of the attention of ones attending physician, this must be discussed and a resolution made before continuing in the relationship.
Gratitude is the end result of seeing a doctor or teacher that truly helps us to heal. Without this feeling of gratitude, healing is not complete. It is much easier to feel this gratitude toward our Doctor if the Doctor is seen by all as a caring warm and friendly person.
The experience of true healing is so profound and mysterious that one is left in complete awe of the process, the healer, and life itself. In moments of healing, I have felt an incredible gratitude. Their was a mysterious sweet and wonderful connection with my Doctor and a knowing the he or she was feeling the same sweet connection. At these moments, there is no doubt as to the wonder and beauty of life, one feels complete and whole regardless of the condition of the body. This is the experience of healing.
I know many of the people I have treated have felt this or something similar. It is these times that can give the false impression that I am a healer. I suspect that this is why so often Doctors have such big egos. This however is a deadly trap. This idea can only serve to take one out of the humility and friendliness that enabled the healing to occur in the first place. In order to maintain the purity of consciousness, (attention & intention) there is no place for the individual ego. The individual ego will overshadow this essential quality.
The second aspect has to do with the patient and the “patience” of the “patient” (both words have the same root). Put another way we could say the willingness of the patient to surrender to his/her present moment experience through the session and continuing as the balance is restored–to be patient. It is important to note that this does not mean surrender to the Doctor, but to surrender to and fully acknowledge ones own thoughts and feelings. It is necessary that you understand, that you are responsible for your own healing, the physician is responsible for only her attention and intention. The patient must express his/her doubts or fears directly to the physician. This is absolutely necessary to gain the maximum therapeutic benefit.
The other day I was having lunch with an MD friend of mine and relating to him this teaching from Ayurveda. He knew exactly what I meant. He lamented to me that he has patients who tell him only what they think he wants hear. Conversely, another friend of mine went to see an Ayurvedic Physician for the third time. When he asked her how she was doing, she told him that she had not taken any of the herbs he had prescribed for her last time or the time before. She still had all the herbs sitting in her cupboard. He was absolutely delighted, not that she had not taken her herbs, but that she told him the truth. He very graciously thanked her for being so honest and asked her how he could help her. He then made a few changes in her program. He went into great detail to make sure she knew what she was taking and what the benefits for her would be.
My friend had only good things to say about this experience. This is a good sign, for without a warm and positive memory of the experience real healing usually does not follow.
The first two aspects are intertwined. The Physician must be constantly vigilant to maintain purity of intention and quality of attention. For maximum influence the Physician must be fully in the present moment. To be the living example of the vibrancy and health that is possible for all. At the same time he or she must be truly humble and concerned. This then makes it easier for the patient to be forthright in communicating his/her condition and experience.
My MD friend might want to ask himself if he is doing everything he can to create the space where his patients feel safe to express their true and inner most thoughts and feelings. Another factor here is education. Somehow the patient must understand their responsibility. If they do not, the responsibility ultimately falls on the Doctor.
The third quality is the assistant. We could say that in present times this would refer to all experiences surrounding ones contact with the physician. This pertains to the following topics. How did you hear about the healer? Were you treated with dignity and respect when you made the appointment? Were the surroundings comfortable and pleasant for you? Were you treated with respect when presented with the bill? Were the charges reasonable to you? Were there any surprises, unexpected or questionable items on your bill? What will you tell your friends and family, and will they understand and support your decision to continue along this particular line of therapy? The answer to all of these questions has an impact on the overall healing experience.
Healing is not an isolated experience. For healing to be lasting, everything in your life will change in some way. There are no quick fixes or magic bullets in true healing. Ayurveda does not make these promises.
The last aspect to consider is the therapeutic technique, or drug. It is important that the treatment be correct and appropriate for the disease. The technique or drug, however, is only one aspect of the healing experience. We should note that love can flow through the scapula of a surgeon as well as the hand of a masseuse. There is nothing that does not have healing qualities when used at the appropriate time with the appropriate attention and appropriate intention. Thus Surgery, Radiation, and Chemo-therapy could all be used to bring about healing.
It is important to note that even in the best of situations, a cure is not always possible. Even in these cases, healing can happen. It may take the form of reduced suffering and acceptance of the conditions. Healing is an art. Healing is a learning experience for both the patient and the Doctor. The subject is the mystery of life and its inevitable end. The more of each of these qualities that are present in the therapeutic experience, the higher the probability of healing, but healing is not guaranteed. Also many times the patient is healed with no treatment or with inappropriate treatment. Again, healing is an art. It is the responsibility of both the healer and the patient to recognize this and to do the maximum possible to bring about healing and acceptance even without a cure.
I have had the privilege of working with a few people who were dying. When I am able to get out of the judgment that death is a failure and just do what I can and share what I know, many times I find that the patient is in some way thankful for their condition. When they focus on this, suffering ends and healing begins. At these times a cure may be out of the question. Healing however is always possible.