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Take a good look at medicine in its popular form, technically identified as allopathic medicine. One will be able to identify several branches that have been developed to deal with different phases of the individual. Psychiatry, psychology, surgery and systemic medicine, by this I mean medicine administered directly either orally or intravenously.
What I would like to do here is play a little word game and re- spell the words psychiatry and psychology without using the ‘p’s, so that they become 'sychiatry', 'sychology'. Then we already have surgery and systemic medicine. We will then take these as one group called western medicine all beginning with the letter ‘s’. Why? well I have my own reasons. Well, here is the reason...when you want a crying child to quiet down; you don't say, "be peaceful". Rather, you say, "ssshhh". That is where I got the word or thought.
We will take SSSS as an acronym to mean something like saving our selves from sicknesses sorrows . The acronym was better when I first used it and I forgot what I used the first time, so you are free make up your own.
Anyhow, none of the established systems singularly or collectively has all the answers for our chronic ailments. We may take medication for immediately relief of acute problems, and that is fine. Continued use of these treatments for acute problems, however, without removing the cause causes the build up, or intensification, which become a chronic problems. The chronic state of the problem is what we are trying to avoid in the first place.
There are other branches of western medicine in the form of Manual Medicine such as Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Physical therapy, Massage and growing list of Manual Therapies under the umbrella of Alternative Medicine. Here again, none of these singularly or collective has the all the answers to the chronic state of our conditions, though they may provide temporary relief.
Yet another world of medicine, called Eastern and/or Oriental Medicine, are ancient systems used for healing. Such systems as Ayurvedic Medicine or Acupuncture, which works on meridian lines, nadis and marma points through direct manipulation, and may includes oral medicines such as herbal remedies and regulating diet and nutrition.
Yet again none of these singly or collectively has all the answers to illnesses.
Take all of the various forms of medicines ancient and western, alternative and manual put them all together and still such a hybrid will not have all the answers.
When looked at from all these angles and concluding that there is no real answer there is a feeling of depression that sets in. It even sounds hopeless. However, we have not looked at one thing so far and that is, that there is one common denominator in all of these various systems of medicine and that common denominator is the individuals themselves, we ourselves.
The answer to all the problems and any problem lies within the individual.
There are many applications from the simple to the sophisticated which may or may not work for us. As long as they work for us we are happy and then eventually drop the use of them. Very often I hear some people complain of the recurrence of the problem or symptom, some may go back to the treatment that worked before, but more often I hear the complain, "well... I tried that and it worked only for a short while, and then it stopped."
Well of course when the remedy was no longer administered how could it work?
Many people want to get well and it seems that they hope that protesting should be the cure for all the problems. One must know what their tools are before studying the applications. There is no point in learning and studying the many varied applications if one does not know the tools and the capability of the tool.
This tool we have is the human system. Not just the physical body which many think is all that we are, but all the component parts that make up the human system-the human being.
According to the yoga system the physical body is referred to as manas loosely translated into English- 'the sensory-motor system' included here is all of the senses and sensory organs, the gross physical body and the internal organs that operate this machine. Included here are two very important processes, the nervous system and the endocrine system.
This one system manas forms the cornerstone of modern medicine, which takes a strenuous effort of many years to learn and master. The approach for studying this system begins with learning all the body parts, body systems and feedback loops as orchestrated by the brain. Continued studies into what each part does, what can go wrong with them, and how to make corrections and management in the event that corrections are not possible.
Damage to these systems is brought about by ignorance of proper conduct. One woman who prides herself on her intelligence said to me once, "My philosophy is to continue doing what I am doing and if and when that time comes I will deal with it". What she was referring to is 'when that time come', meaning 'sickness', only then she will deal it. Three years later I saw her in the worst state of non-health, a state that could have been avoided if only she had heeded some good advice. At the time she was too busy throwing her health away in the pursuit of wealth, and now she is spending all her wealth in the pursuit of health. This however is not an uncommon story.
Well! Only Health begets Health
Another human process is the collecting and storing sensory impressions. These impressions we keep for orchestrating our activities in life. These impressions we use to form habit patterns and once the habit patterns are formed we then continue our activities like automatons, without thinking, without having to think. This kind of behavior is not conscious living, rather, it is vegetative living. The best result we can expect from this attitude, is that we are setting up ourselves for stress.
A third process is conscious living or intuitive living. This is the process that enables us to discern or discriminate not just simply what is right from what is wrong, but what is beneficial from what is not beneficial at a given moment. This is the process that is used to live in the here and now. For example, something which might be beneficial at this given moment may be injurious at another moment three hours from now. Ice cream in the middle of the day when the sun is hot is a great idea perhaps, but certainly not a good idea in the middle of the night. Eating ice cream in the middle of the night is surely a formula for stiff joints in the morning. Another example, eating food when the body is not ready for food is injurious to the stomach, the hiatus and respiratory diaphragm muscle and leads to shortness of breath.
It is important to train ourselves to listen to the voice of our conscience, that we do not do something that will cause harm.
The fourth process is the sense of identity and having an independent existence. There is a silent declaration that I want to continue my existence and do not want to cease to be. This existence we protect at any cost. It is this existence that yoga refers to as the ahankara, roughly translated as ego.
These are the four processes that form the human person and are our tools for a healthy life. It is then imperative that we understand the operations of the four functions and how to orchestrate them before we can go studying the many varied applications. Conscious living cannot be possible without understanding these.
To illustrate some dysfunctions
There are people who as a child or in their early stages of life who have been physically abused. Trauma to the body is sustained and the individual cannot, or does not know how to deal with it. Possible outcomes, they become very intellectual and live only in their intellectual spaces... 'they live in their minds’ is the term used. They deny the existence of the body and seek to function in the world or change the world they live in through the intellect, from the level of the intellect.
The intention is really to make up a whole new world in which they have the allusion of safety. They collect many intellectual weapons such as higher and higher education and attain particular degrees while becoming intellectual giants in some area of concern. They rule, setup, control their living spaces with the power of the intellect.
These people continue to deny the body, the sensory motor system, until a time comes in their lives and they begin to suffer a range of physical miseries and maladies. At that point their only intention is to get “well again” to continue with their endeavors. Frequently, I hear them make the statement “I just want to get well and get back my life”, or “I just want to get well and go back to the way things were”, or “I just want to be able to do the things that I use to do before I got sick. Interestingly it is that very same lifestyle that got them to the present condition anyway and the very same that they want to get back to.
There are some people who have been verbally abused and react more physically. If a person has been told repeatedly that they are stupid, they can’t do anything right, they will amount to nothing. They may start believing it and when they do, intellectual pursuits are off and these people resort to physical experiences. To have some kind of physical sensation they may become sports athletes, or just spend most of their time with gym workout routines and alternate between the gym and the bar or some become drug addicts to drown out emotions and have a total physical awareness.
One woman who studied with me was training for some triathlon competition; her body was very toned to the admiration of everyone else who was in the class. Later she told me that by working out so hard as she does, it gives her a release for the anger that she feels inside. Some young people told me that they go to these night clubs where the music is play extremely loud and they find comfort there since they cannot hear the noise in their own heads. Here some kind of physical experience is sought to validate their existence.
Another group of people live only in the memory and past experiences. Returning and again to past experiences and re-living them. Such statements such as when I was young… In my day…I use to …
There is no forward progress in their lives but live in memory lane. Especially since there is a feeling that the future holds nothing for them and the body may not be able to function as well as an earlier time in their lives.
Some people who are stuck in this group has a web of energy in directions that seems to have no connections and they may use this unstable energy to create and be very dazzling to others and this works all well until at some point the energy starts to unravel and they become old very fast. I have often heard them use the phrase “live hard, die free”.
There is yet another group that are totally consumed with themselves to the occlusion of all else. They are self-centered, selfish and they prey on other in their constant effort to compare themselves with others. Once I asked someone “How are you doing?”, she replied “great!” I then asked “How do you know?”, she replied “by comparison”.
Some scenarios – some people can only feel tall because they are in the company of short. I am taller than you, Some can only feel slim in the presence of fat people, some collect a wide range of trivial information only in order to become the “life of the party” to entertain other with how much they know. That way they can draw a reaction to or attention to themselves.
If we are stuck in any one of these there is bound to be miseries and maladies. Many times one who is stuck in one of these four categories admiring and envying someone else who is shining in another category never mind that the other person is stuck and experiencing some kind of misery in that category, the envy exists just the same. The phrase used is that "the grass is greener on the other side". One who is suffering on this side thinks that the folks on the other side are enjoying a better life. While the folks on the other side think that you on this side “have it made in the shade”.
All four systems have to be operating in concert, in harmony with each other.
Learning how to become aware of all these four functions and to have them function in harmony is the subject of yoga and meditation. Most importantly learning to be mindful of all four processes and then have them functioning as one unit, not as four.
Through yama, niyama, aasana and pranayama, mind can be controlled. This process is generally called Yoga. "yogas chitta vrutti nirodhaha".