Open the path…here comes the peace

Open the path

For here the armies come

The armies of the SAVIOR

Me at its helm…the swan, the song and the songstress

But for today, I leave you with songs of others.

Wishing you calm yuletide bliss and tranquil joyous tides

The way I experience it from moonlit Goan Raia.

This wonderment for you from some difficult sources…full of youthful verve and verse. Love the energy. May it spread.

This by a friend by amateur Indians from Dubai…just to share that calm is all we seek, and all we are. So let us look at the soul, not the body.

Last post…

This is a last post of sorts…

May be it is the last post for November, or may be for this year- though likely by the end of this year, I will surely come back again to take a bird’s eye view of how the year went by, and what all transpired in an aggregate way.

I will be in Delhi for a fortnight now and it would not be possible to write a new blog post from there. Once you leave home for that long a time, then all the things that pile up in your absence, do not really permit much blogging at the end of a trip.

I have some important paperwork to finish this visit- the governmental sort of work of course- always painful in India. It is about transferring my car papers to the current location where I live- so no shortcuts, but going all the way to my erstwhile home state of Haryana…blah, blah, blah

But as I look at this last part of the year, some of the ideas that are bobbing up in my head for the last few months are as follows, and they make a befitting prelude to the final post I will write, later this year

I have been brooding over the pathetic state of affairs, viz. on the issue of philosophy of education. Until a group of people identify the goals of education, it is a whimsical manner in which education progresses. In poorer countries, education has never been central to anyone’s conceptualization of social upliftment. As a result all resources that ought to have been devoted for mass education were devoted to all other areas-in all countries which have been colonized anywhere, at the cost of long term investments in human capital, which cannot but be taken care of by anything but education.

Education has often been confused with skill building in newly independent countries ( I wonder how long they will continue to remain ‘newly independent’) and the philosophical orientation, or critical thinking that education ought to have imparted people with is condemned to oblivion. Rather a slavish subservience and non-questioning attitude is what the education systems have been trying to hammer into the heads of learners, burdening them with the feudal practices of a colonial past.

Apart from this the issues of secrecy of science that I also shared as part of the last blog post have been playing in my mind- i am thinking that I need to work on that more seriously. In such a scenario, the thought of art education and what role it ought to play can only be philosophical and not necessarily on the ground- it is extremely painful to see the sort of musical experiences children and adults engage in and what they could be doing, had options been created- for an aesthetic development of the mind via artistic pursuits.

World Cultural Psychiatry Research Review

That also brings me to the journal issue, in which my last article was published. I have been slow to go over the articles, naturally enough. Most articles are written by researchers and psychiatrists of course. It is quite a strange platform for me- as a person with a past of bipolar disorder to be writing about her own recovery! That brings to mind the fact that when I had got the comments from the peer- reviewers, these were their words- which will always echo in my ears, reminding me of the significance of writing this article, irrespective of how many read it. Mine is the only article in the journal, which actually maps full scale recovery of a person. In no other article has recovery been documented. This is where I stand apart from the world, which I stand as part of- with a new light, which remains quite hidden or obscure at present.

This is what the first reviewer said-

I think this paper is just great, there is only one issue, the use of the word psychotic delirium, delirium is an organic state and so is misleading, I would say psychotic confusion or perplexity. It also needs a close proof read , minor typos and grammatical errors and bear in mind this is for international English speaking audience, so keep it plain as possible.

The second reviewer said this-

The connection between art, creativity and major mental illness is a subject extremely interesting to Cultural Psychiatry, and the report from an artist diagnosed with mental disorder does represent a substantial contribution.

The choice of an anthropological instrument seems valid and challenging, but the ethnography must be framed within a scientifically well established and validated methodology, which in turn must be described in the text.

Furthermore, instead of quoting verbatim sentences from many authors in the ethnographical section, it would be more appropriate review them in the Discussion, possibly along with an analysis of more controversial points raised in the paper, i.e. why and in which cases music becomes therapeutical.

Study limitations must be explained, in terms of generalization, as well as the risks of relying exclusively on individual elements /resources, such as creativity or inner world, especially when we address a pathological condition where help seeking is extremely discontinuous throughout lifespan and life-threatening events can be frequent. Maybe in this research the ethnography has been collected properly and scientifically, but there is no trace of this throughout the manuscript. It is therefore most suggested to make a major revision in order to bring this contribution at a scientific level more adequate to the journal to which it has been submitted.

So this is the sort of comments which actually contribute towards making an article a long term contribution in a field. It is a pity that few would read it! Anyways, i did the most I could and I know not many people will doubt that- with no training in research or anything else…I have come a long way indeed.

So while I still stand on the first level of this cartoon… I am generally thrilled to dig mid the debris of civilization’s hogwash and try finding solutions to problems, in a meaningful manner, rather than for a degree (though who knows how close that could be too!)

 

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Towards new knowledge

These days I am quite concerned about writing and writing better. I am not writing- to say the least…just musing about it, reading other people’s writing and thinking of ways to make my own better, crisp and more accessible. Of course one of the reasons that has caused this shift in approach to understanding human communication is rooted in my newly deepening interest in linguistics- the science of language. For the last few years, not recent.

The next bit of research that I intend working on is the interpretation of psychosis in terms of psychiatry, and law on the one hand and how from mid psychotic breakdowns also recoveries are happening, yet marginalized. It is a critical gap, if one can see it, yet all researchers believe that whatever is their current obsession will indeed contribute to knowledge in some meaningful way. So I am no exception to that rule of a researcher- an obsessive dreamer who wants to contribute a minuscule fragment of knowledge to the overall pool of human knowledge.

Of course this is not my research question but one of the significant issues that I intend delving into. I am keen to understand how linguistically psychiatric nomenclature of psychosis is interpreted in law and why people are institutionalized- what is the philosophical position taken by law and enforcement agencies in deciding who needs to be institutionalized. This is all a matter of how the science of psychiatry is interpreted in legal terms- in other words does law have a mechanism, linguistically to decide what psychiatry is saying or is something getting lost in a transfer of information from one medium to another.

Last night I was reading an article called Transparency in Public Science. The author raises some critical questions and also in some manner reflects some of my own concerns about the politics of knowledge sharing. I think for the current research this lady, Sheila Jasanoff will remain an important person to follow, for my own referencing, even though her writing is largely in the American context. But being of Indian origin, I may run into other issues, and who knows at a later point even discuss them with her.

Since linguistics is all about interpretation, the various stages of interpretation of a person’s account of their suffering, which involves- expression openly and its interpretation in a specialized knowledge of psychiatry led interventions and thereafter other social welfare outcomes are all matters of interpretation. So my interest in linguistics is not just here to stay, but grow and grow deeper and deeper.

I have to deeply acknowledge the role played by Ramakant-ji in this awareness. He is one person who has always consistently been happy in my success, maintained a very generous and supportive stance and actually taken pride in my little accomplishments. When I got to know him in January 2011, he was already retired from the university, as the founding head of the department of Linguistics in Delhi University, but despite that he continues to steer people, in very gentle ways towards the significance of language. I feel unfortunate that I could not meet him earlier in my younger years or possibly I would have thought of studying with him, but better late than never.

He has sent me some introductory articles on linguistics and now today told me some three books to read up. So I hope to do that before I can sit with him in the near future to discuss the role of language in the context of mental health. Of course one big strand of language has come into my consciousness already due to social constructionism and its emphasis on language, so the remaining gaps whatever they are will be taken care of by this inquiry- hopefully.

So coming back to where I started and my never ending concern with writing better. I encountered this talk by Steven Pinker, that I think could be saved here, for future reference, because some of the ideas he mentions are indeed valuable. It is another matter that I also agree in parts about the issue of Strunk and White’s book that i found so tedious and archaic myself when I read it, that I could not finish it. Nobody who is into writing can stop their efforts at trying to get better at it- so I am no exception to it. But reading more of those, whose writing you really admire, is somethign we can never afford to ignore. And if I have to think blindly who are those people, I know I would count Bertrand Russell, Kenneth Gergen, Richard Dawkins first of all. Then of course when one starts thinking deeper many more names emerge. But I think the next in that league is going to be Sheila Jasanoff. Oh yes, I do really like the writing of Carolyn Ellis- of course I am only ending up mentioning researchers here I think. But this is not the entire list, I must admit. To write better and more succinctly, I really need to imbibe a lot more precision and clarity- which I hope, is happening all the time.

World mental health day and Hyderabadi biryani

The world mental health day is an uncanny day this time for me, as for the first time I will be outside my home. At the time of writing this, I am very much on my own computer and have an article to share as part of this writing, which has just come down today for the final approval. But I have butterflies in the stomach- due to other reasons.

The road of life

The road of life- yet again

So while the world will observe the world mental health day I will be sitting in Hyderabad, at Nalsar, cooking my concoction of Hyderabadi Biryani- just kidding. I will be discussing ideas with the school of management people at the university, about my entrepreneurial venture, among other things. Some very interesting new developments have happened, in the past few days which are helping me focus on the idea of music education more than anything else. Why worry about mental health,when music itself contributes to mental health in significant ways? If I keep my focus in the domain of music, it is a much better thing than getting it distributed between music and hardcore mental health, via counseling and all that cycle. It also comes into direct conflict with many who work in mental health from clinical orientations, that are derived largely from academic frameworks and not the radical lived perspectives of those who live and recover from mental illnesses.

Okay, the article that I am sharing as part of this writing is called Musical Progressions and you can directly click on its title, which is highlighted. It will take you to an external link on the academia site, from where it can be downloaded. This article is soon to be published in the World Cultural Psychiatry Research Review, which is bringing out a special edition on the Arts, Media and Mental health. Perhaps I am the sole entry from India to contribute to this issue of the journal, of the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry. It gives me quivers in my stomach to think that I have come so far- imagine me…my years of doomed dejection and hopelessness, months and months of unending fog in the mind and a ball of anxiety in my heart. I cannot even begin to call it an anxiety disorder, for that seems so small in comparison. Huge mountains of uncertainty loomed so large…has it all come to pass? And how utterly lonely! Especially those years when I finally chose to live alone. To think of that today- that leap into the uncertain future, cutting all bonds from family in a physical way, proved the key to unlock the future, no matter if it were not even visible then for years ahead.

I find it so difficult to believe that I have indeed left it behind, and today I have the courage to revisit those fearsome, blind alleys, where I languished in insurmountable creeks, where life simply could not survive. Perhaps the only reason to write such articles is the memory of those ruins so deeply etched in the mind, that I dare not forget the suffering of another. And nay, that suffering is not due to mental illness alone, of a so-called biochemical nature alone.

That suffering is spattered all across human civilization now, clothed in myriad shades, and textures, due to which people cannot recognize that we are all part of the same suffering- the eternal human suffering, whose genesis lies in one man’s greed and insatiable lust to control, dominate and lead another. This instinct for power is so deeply rooted in the human psyche that all of civilization’s suffering can actually be reduced to this one game- the power play between people, nations, communities, genders, races, groups, nationalities and you name it. It is all a power play.

Few will gain the clarity to see the picture like outsiders. But if they did, they would be able to bring all divergent ideas to one convergent hub- the greed of man and a lust for power. In the end, I am reminded that I did a master’s in political science and from that position, if I remember what the English philosopher Hobbes said, he foretold the nasty, brutish and shorte nature of man and how in nature everyone is in conflict with everyone, in a war of power!!! How tragic, and yet isn’t it true?!

Tomorrow I will be off to Hyderabad again, though this is only for two days and am back on Sunday afternoon. Before I wind off this post, I must share why this article is the most important article from my perspective and what it brings to a lay reader, who may possibly be suffering herself or have a loved one who suffers. In this article I have brought many sides of evidences, (for peer reviewed journals do not work without evidence) to say how I used

Music

Serious creativity, and

Writing -including poetry, research. (For the first time, there is an actual poem in a writing by me)

And searched- which constitutes research in a serious way to find a way out of mental illness. In music also I worked in not one, but three genres or musical form. For the first time via this writing, I talked about ghazal as well- though in a shorter version, in another article I did share that as part of another post. Ghazal was a great venting mechanism for my personal suffering, which would not find a way out through bhakti poetry. It was only after the ghazal, that I moved into the more serious khayal, as my chosen mechanism for self expression.

Today I have left all forms behind and primarily all my musical expression lies within the domain of khayal and now I am also thinking of how to take that khayal further- via teaching diverse sorts of people via educational, therapeutic and other ventures. Everything begins with an idea- a thought or what is called in Urdu, khayal. For me this whole world is a khayal, and any artist’s imagination for a new world, a new face of civilization is essentially a khayal first. Only from the khayal, you construct an image, and from there comes a plan.

Currently my khayal is about my new enterprise and of course about further research, which will no longer be about me mapping my own story. Phew! that was tough.

(In another few days, I will be posting my poetry that I have sent to the conference of the WACP in Mexico. But since I posted the above photo and called it the Road of Life, which is also a poem’s title, I will share it right here. It also carries the date)

Me watching the sunset in Udaipur

Me watching the sunset 

A March on the Road of Life, and the Path Unknown

22nd September 1999

A march on the road of life, and the path unknown

The road rugged, the road rough’n a rude road-

Mostly a companionless road, I traverse

Hard pressed-

Unexpected corners’n blouders make it feel impossible

To take another step

In anger welling…wishing the heart would stop

Or p’raps a friend, companion, wayfarer around the next turn;

Kicking pebbles, circumventing potholes

Occasionally falling, but never really so-

The road leads the way, and the path unknown’n

I press on regardless.

A knowledge sharing month, from a new location

IMG_20150913_173539107 This is the first view of Hyderabad that greeted me for miles, as I sat in the car from the airport towards my ‘home’ for the few days that I am scheduled to be in this place, a famous university of law in India, called NALSAR. I am here at present, to teach a short course in narratives, as an elective, to students who show an interest in the subject, based on a little introduction that I had sent earlier. Some 32 enrolled in, whilst I had said said I would like an upper limit of 20. How can one connect with so many people, if they come in big numbers? I have always preferred interacting in smaller groups. Mercifully some dropped out on their own, but I suspect that even right now I have about 25.

The interesting bit is, that a better part of September has gone by in interacting with students in different departments in two different universities, one being the Delhi University and the other here, in Hyderabad, the law one. In Delhi university I went and gave a talk in the department of Psychology to students in their masters’ classes and taught workshops of music to trainee teachers. Both these experiences I mapped via blog posts, whose links I have provided here. I gave another talk, on the day that I was leaving from Delhi in a college in the entire teacher training department there, called Gargi College. Students from four years were there- must be approx.100-120 of them. It has in a strange coincidence, been a month full of students – Psychology, teacher training and Law. I could not have thought I would be working on such diverse tangents.

In addition, another young girl, a final year student from an eminent college of Delhi University came for counseling, right during my time spent in DU, and then there were others who came for counseling at home. I am really beginning to miss the quiet moments of my really quiet neighbourhood, home in Goa. And yet if ever I missed the crowds of the world, I am not suffering from that currently and am very happy to contemplate the prospects of going back to my little pack of four. Ah! this surfeit of human interaction, really makes me yearn to be back home, in my little corner, with my four legged little ones all around, the musical melodies and the birdsongs once again. I hope to share the myriad experiences, replete with photographs in due course, once home and having access to the computer the way I like to.

A heart without suffering

A heart without suffering,

Neither softens, nor pays heed

Me watching the sunset in Udaipur

Me, the sunset, Udaipur

To another- life or to another’s pain

Suffering, in many ways, can be a gain

If it makes one shine, like a stone carved or a metal polished

Without which we all remain merely cold, affected and inured

To all that we could have appreciated, not bored

By too much of joy, abundance and health…

(that was an impromptu thought)

The reason for this blog post is to share another piece of my writing, in which I write about the role played by Urdu poetry and ghazal in my healing, and eventual recovery from bipolar. I am excerpting a short piece and connecting to the main location where the article is hosted in Cafe Dissensus. To read the main article please click the link in green that says, ‘my writing’.

Every song has personal, social, and universal symbols attached to it. This can be detected not only a musician but also by a listener, if he/she identifies closely with the music. One of the features of my engagement with music is that I have not delved into existing repertoires of music to the extent I have on my own compositions. Possibly, the resonance which poetry produced within me was an echo of my suffering, and in expressing that suffering via a musical medium I got rid of the suffering. I have often thought about the connection between bipolar disorder and its tendency towards artistic creativity, and whether that gave me the scope for working with three forms,  bhajan, ghazal, and khayal, as well as connecting to poetry in at least four languages- English (which I have never used in music), Hindi/Braj, Punjabi (my mother tongue), and Urdu.

With animals as witness…

Nikki and Ginger

With my foursome, as witness, many a song, a musical lyre, a poem, a khayal and another piece of music (I work in three genres of music) I have composed and practiced again and again, to perform in front of audiences, in concerts. It is another matter that the sort of tenacity an artist, who wants to be a concert performer should have, is missing in my personality because I am always fussing over issues of research, about producing social good and meaning via my art and my writing, not just applause in response to my singing and voice.

Durbar Hall concert foto

This is a concert photo of mine from Kathmandu, Nepal. Funnily I sang the poetry of a poet from Pakistan, while due to diplomatic differences, no Pakistanis were invited to this concert!

However this post is about one of my songs, whose original music is composed by me. I feel sad that one of the poets I was most fond of, upon intersecting with his family in Pakistan, my experiences were very contrary to my expectation. And possibly that dashed my desire to sing in this genre completely. I gave up ghazal singing, till something really more compelling comes along.

Concert foto of audience_durbar hall

Audience in the same concert whose picture of me with Tanpura, musical instrument I have shared in this post

I did all this excavation of the past, because I was doing some writing of a piece about art and disability. Hope to share that piece in the weeks ahead with the readers of this blog, but for now, here is the song that I am listening to, in my voice, in my original music, and the background score by someone called Arun Sharma.

The truth of the matter is that perhaps nobody enjoys my music as much as my dogs do. Okay, this is partial truth, I should say, nobody gets to hear so much of my music as much as my dogs do. Of course it is another matter, perhaps nobody would be able to tolerate another’s music as much as an animal can- patiently hearing everything and still loving their master, no matter how good and bad they sing. It should be no wonder I say that more than music, it is my dogs who have been my therapy, tweaking my life ever so often and give it a balance, making me responsible towards life, towards myself and towards others in general.

Of publishers, authors and their books

These past few weeks, starting from late March have been interesting in parallel ways. I got to read two books, by two artists, one from India and one Australia, in the domain of mental illness. The common thing between the two books is more than this- for both the books were given by their respective editors/publishers to me. One gave me a hard copy in person and the second a pdf version over the email. I am expected to write a review of the second, which I intend to in a few weeks.

I have known the author of the first book, an Indian woman called Reshma Valliappan, and the second book author, himself approached me and asked me if I would be willing to do a review of his book. The author is an artist called Alfredo Zotti, based out of Australia, though of Italian origin. The first author lives with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and is known to me for several years now, and the second lives with Bipolar II, and someone I am getting to know via his writing.

When I was reading Reshma’s book my own writing about the role of childhood suffering stood completely validated, for here was the author writing in detail about her family and the role of her parents in a very vivid and descriptive manner. It was extremely painful to read her book and only if someone really wants to read about her personal story, or to know her past, one may want to read the book. I am not offering a review of it here, for I found it difficult to even reach the end of the book, for reasons of ethics and how we need to treat people who are living still.

Reading her book, which is autobiographical, brought to mind all the dialogues I have had in the past with one of my senior (academic) friends, Prof. Ajit Dalal. One of the chief reasons why writing about one’s own self is very difficult is that there are others around that one ends up writing about and they are also living in the same world as we are- so what happens to them when we tell our stories with them appearing as characters in them? Can we reveal a past of abuse within family and not point out a finger at the abuser or tell the world about how a younger/older sibling treated us, abandoned us or hit us, without damaging our current relationship with them? That is where autoethnography, autobiography and memoirs become difficult zones to explore.

Anyways, reading Zotti’s book is an entirely different experience, dotted as it is by his art, interwoven with his musical explorations, which of course one cannot hear but imagine nevertheless, and the work he does with supporting others around the world. I find his book a very beautiful example of how someone can deal with their personal suffering, emerge courageous from it, more compassionate and deeply wise. It is a great contrast to the other book- which is so full of anger and pain that one feels sorry for everyone who is written about in the book, including the author herself. When I write a full review of his book I will share a link to that, but for now I am just appreciating the kindness with which Zotti has written about himself, how he has chosen to portray his father with whom he had a ‘hate/hate relationship’ and how he chooses to forgive him towards the end of the older man’s life. I really think it is a book that must be read by those who want to deal with their own or their loved one’s illnesses in any real way.

Zotti comes out as a real artist in the enterprise, and it is a pleasure to read his book- even though the differences that I have are many and I will articulate them in due course: some publicly, some to him alone and some to myself only.

An authentic musical encounter- via Raga Madhuwanti

Last week I was in Pune and invited to sing a bit of my music, which I chose to in a verbal way interweaving the musical with the story behind the music. I was sharing about how music transformed an illness experience to a dialogue in different emotions.

I shared about my journey with Kabir, the same that I wrote about in my writing of Making Song, Making Sanity. As part of this writing I have expressed my transition from borrowing Kabir’s language to reach a stage when I can find my own. After I sang, I came out of the room and a young man who was among the audience and I had encountered earlier as well, came out to speak with me, to share his emotions about the singing, which was not really extensive singing, but just a short span of singing, interspersed with talk.

He said, ‘thanks to you, I have had an encounter with the Raga Madhuwanti, unlike any other before today. I did not know that Madhuwanti could be expressed in this way as well. (aapne Madhuvanti ke darshan karwa diye)‘ He said with eyes brimming.

Sometimes the music of a person touches another in a deep way, though this can happen very regularly with great music, that is inspires and touches many people all the time. To make eyes brim with emotion is truly a sign of music that opens up the heart in the listener, for it comes from an authentic place even from the singer. I remember listening to M.S. Subbulakshmi’s rendition of Surdas bhajans and weeping inconsolably- that was moving for me.

I think the emotional power of music is the basis of its capability to transform human experience and make people connect with the underlying humanity within each of us, as though we are all the same- which in fact is truly the case. Perhaps all the savages who are waging wars inside them and then spilling them over to the world around them should be exposed to music and art. But then why would be arms manufacturers want that? They want the sale of arms, not music!

Seeing the Full Elephant- Spirit, Science, Religion and Psychosis  

In this post I bring together for the first time the interconnected between the above themes, in the manner I have understood in the last nearly 22-23 years of my own inquiry. This is not a scientific paper, for that requires a different sort of discipline, however it contains many references of books etc which are publicly available for anyone to read and inquire into- to see the disciplines I allude to in this piece and bring resources from.

For me this is almost the first time that I am posting the same article on two of my blogs, because this is important enough and for the first time I myself have written about spirituality and psychosis in the same paper, as well as connected it to religion in a minor way- it calls for more immersion, which if time permits me I shall do, later in life someday. Please feel free to leave your insights and reflections if any.

Seeing the Full Elephant- Spirit, Science, Religion and Psychosis

I am writing this piece in a general way so that even if you do not understand any of the disciplines that I am borrowing ideas from, you would be able to understand what I am talking about. This is my offering to you on these different, seemingly divergent issues- which flummox people on many sides of life (parents, doctors, social scientists, patients, religious followers, lay public, and scores of others), for they are not able to see beyond their disciplinary/experiential boundaries. To comprehend better, what I am about to share, kindly suspend any judgment about who I am or how qualified to write this. Just enjoy the writing, for whatever it is trying to share. (Since I will take several hours in writing it, with a view to shed more light on unconnected areas, I urge you to spend at least a few minutes, reading with some patience). I am annotating this writing with scores of resources, for you to refer- for I am not just writing from self experience, but self experience fortified by ideas and wisdom gleaned from the work of scores of people across the globe. This is not to suggest that I am the wise one here, but in bringing these ideas to you, I hope we will all grow from the possibilities that they open out for dialogues.

Birth Onward

I am going to start with the birth of a child. Recall that the process of birth itself is a dangerous, potentially perilous and fearsome journey, because a living entity from a primitive, borne in water form (just like the start of life on the planet earth, in water) comes into an aerial medium, through a birth canal- it can die in that process, the mother can die, the reasons for threat are many. The birth is a big triumph for so many and for the birthing mother is considered a second life. It is a big trauma- though not for all. So the state of trauma can come early- let us remember that. We know of many women who during the birth process have near death experiences, show signs of PTSD, as well. The same signs will come later in life when suddenly exposed to other traumas- rape, victimization of any sort, violence of a man made nature, natural calamity that threatens life, war, drowning, and etc etc.

Any child soon after being born is a creature of pure instinct- there is no reason,  judgment, or boundary. When there is an instinct for hunger it may cry, when it wants to ease its bowel or bladder, it does not wait for the appropriate location- it just follows its instinct and wants to ease that pressure. So that is the state when the ego, is in a primitive, undifferentiated stage- it does not recognize anyone, anything and so forth. In this state, since it has emerged from an amniotic environment, it can only connect with its mother, in a parasitic (helpless) dependence. Recall here the idea of id-ego-superego, given by Freud.

The next stage is the development of the ego stage- it starts differentiating between it’s self and another, family and outsiders and so forth. If you recall psychology is the discipline that wants to start seeing from an early stage how the mind learns, trains and starts getting ready for a role in society, someday in the future. Most development of the ego remains just that- attachment, connection, identification with self. So if you recall, people who are called egoistic are those who think that they matter the most or what they have to say matters the most, their own knowledge, or sense of self is very heightened. So anyhow the field of psychology is all about studying the path of this development and where it goes off its set path. What is the set path of anyone? If you recall the work of Freud, for him the stages of development of every human are so significant that he reduces everyone to their libidinal instincts only and psychoanalysis comes to center around the early years of a person’s life- and trying to identify the present, using the yardsticks of the past. There is something right about this and something wrong.

Just like they say a mighty oak hides inside a little acorn- the potential of each human lies inside it’s body- but nobody can see where it hides- it has to go through its own maturation, its unique experiences and become a special person, different from everyone, different from the ones who created it. This potential is different for everyone- just like any species. From the birth if someone follows a path of becoming who they are destined to, which is given as potential, this path is called the path of individuation (Jungian terminology). But often it is not easy to follow the path, in a linear manner. Everyone faces hardships of one or another kind, the path is not exactly laid down like a blueprint- it changes in response to external stimuli all the time. On the path many hurdles lie for everyone, and sometimes the hurdles can be extremely painful too, like loss of a mother, accident and loss of a limb, sudden disabling condition, war, calamity, physical violence, abusive family or anything else- the possibilities are innumerable. That changes the path of individuation and a person like a plant has to undergo many a season, many a mishap if it has to survive till an older situation. When these mishaps and traumas do not get addressed at the time when they occur people do not get over their impact, or they may be unable to express them, for they do not understand what happened. For instance take the case of a child who faces an abusive/incestuous adult at home. All these sufferings, these lack of expressions come to lie hidden in a person thereafter, and keep getting added to other suffering, which life necessarily brings.

According to Jung, a person’s potential is not a sexual template but a spiritual one- and he tells us that the whole of human history lies coded in every person- called the collective unconscious, with which we have no regular communication, except through dreams and symbols. Those symbols are not such convenient ones like the logo of Coke/Pepsi. They lie hidden mid folds of stories that are handed down in every culture- through its mythology, fables and fairy tales. He also shares that the reason why mythology acquires any significance via gods and goddesses is not because they were real beings, but they were chosen to carry forward the messages that a culture wanted to transmit, about itself for generations ahead, through simple stories. They are patterns of behavior, which are chosen to be identified as desirable or noteworthy and made an example of.  So the power of a story in mythology does not lie in the story itself, but in its interpretation.[1] Joseph Campbell did some remarkable work in the area of mythology by studying the mythology of scores of peoples across the world and then he wrote many a book, for me personally a great book- The Hero with a Thousand Faces (life changing book as I see it). The essence of the book was that he brought together any number of stories from around the world to harbor on the fact that the HERO is not one person (only)- he can have a million forms and faces and voices. But ultimately every ‘hero’ (that potentially lies in every human as his/her unique potential) has to go through a big circle of suffering, losing his way, whiling his time, getting a reminder of who he is and then making the labourious journey of finding a way back into the world, with the learning gathered, and if possible, offer that to others. This pattern in every story of a mythic dimension is what Campbell calls the monomyth. It runs through any mythic story,(or any human’s story) from anywhere in the world.

If, at this juncture, you may be reminded of the story of Siddhartha, who is born a prince- goes on a difficult path because his allure for life has been jolted. He sees the possibility of death, suffering, old age and whatever else it was, to realize that everyone will go that way. If you have read the road he takes, he followed no footprints- his is a search, often a perilous one, for he can even die in the process. But he does not- he survives, become the Buddha, and returns back to civilization- to offer that method to others.

The Underworld

That is the method which all those, who makes a descent into what Jung calls the ‘underworld’ (not the one of gangsters/mafia, but one’s own unconscious mind) have to take by default. Those who have long years of depressions, who have nightmares of gigantic proportions, who see great suffering for one reason or another-  descend into a land which inspires fear, where nobody would want to go out of choice. Descent into this underworld may be a one way road for most, because they do not know how to integrate the experiences of that world with the day-to-day reality of living. Their entry into the underworld may be a result of a suicide attempt, a rape, a war, a family violence, a poor exam performance, a divorce or anything else. They become lost, fearful, worried, confused, anxious and bothered. Seemingly simple things like accidents, family violence, bullying at school, dominating adults in the family , untimely  loss of a parent, or anything else that makes a child insecure can much later in life manifest in a sudden descent of the spirit.

I am now going to bring this descent of the spirit, into a contrast with its ascent, due to sudden equally unexpected situations, in a format possibly unfamiliar to many- the serpent power in the subtle body.

The Game of Consciousness- from self to the transpersonal realm

Let me make this transition via the theme of the collective unconscious lying dormant inside every person. In the yoga tradition there is a similar thing- called the kundalini– lying dormant inside everyone. The important thing is that traditions of antiquity have methods to evoke experiences of kundalini (and kundalini -like experiences, including among the natives, the medicine men/shamans and among those who are not averse to a little intoxication via natural opiates. Also recall in this context the issue of drug induced psychosis) and they are meant to be done under the watchful guidance of those who know. But are such knowing guides really so accessible? I have seen many ‘spiritual masters’ who talk about Shaktipat, or about kundalini yoga and whatnot quite laughable, rest assured. Anyways this is not to lampoon anyone. The idea that I am coming to is that there is something called- kundalini, [2]the serpent power, said to lie dormant in every person, at the base of their spine in a form of a coiled serpent (I am not going to give an explanation but hints about many things- read more if you want to). I am not going to get into the debate about whether there is something like kundalini or not, because it does not matter to me. I really do not care about kundalini, as much as I do not care about the electricity coming into my home. If it is an asset to me, I like to honor its presence, when it goes off, then I have something to worry about.

In some cases, this kundalini ‘wakes up spontaneously’- and it runs through the spine in an upward direction. (Even if you do not believe this, just keep reading.) It is a very powerful energy and can unsettle everything in a person- for there is no explanation what happened, how it happened, where the trigger came from and what it means, how one has to behave now, who to talk to. If, of a powerful enough dimension- it may lead to psychosis- then you see all those ‘symptoms’ called grandiosity, running helter-skelter, flight of imagination, racing thoughts, inability to focus and …(please read DSM if you like). But this term ‘psychosis’ is the terminology of psychiatry- based on the outwardly visible ‘symptoms’.

What happens in reality is this- (okay this is self experience speaking now)- a powerful electrical current becomes present in the body, and it keeps the body in a faint vibration, like a hum; just a little more powerful than the one that you may experience upon being intoxicated. Now what happens with alcohol is that after awhile the intoxication comes down and the person is ‘restored’ to normalcy, whatever it had to be. But in case of kundalini/psychotic upheaval the sensation does not get over- it just stays. It makes a person ‘extroverted’, happy, as though intoxicated, carefree and of course expansive- one wants to share this strange sort of ‘happiness’ with others, but does not know how to say it, in what words and whether they cannot see it as well.

Remember this is the so-called divine potential unleashed in a person who is not ready for it; just like a wire that suddenly has a huge voltage passing through it, but was not expecting it. I must refer you to the writing of Swami Rama here, in particular when he refers to the similarity between the manic and the mystic (Book: Yoga and Psychotherapy, Himalayan Institute)

Religious traditions train their neophytes in various ways and by severe disciplines for any such process to happen- by training their mind, senses, body and thought processes. But awakening the kundalini is not considered necessary by any stretch of imagination, among the truly spiritual. The training of the mind for action without reward is considered more important. (If interested please read Kundalini- by Gopi Krishna). On the other hand, you may be aware that there are several unscrupulous people who want to use the divine potential in ‘ugly’ ways- the tantriks etc.

The issue of kundalini that I understood finally is that kundalini is the cosmic consciousness lying inside everyone – a coiled serpent, at the base of the spine. So psychosis is nothing but the spontaneous awakening of the divine potential and a person coming to understand that though s/he is a body , there is also a bigger picture- s/he is also a fragment of the divine. That makes initially (or permanently) people go berserk- because they can see their cosmic potential and believe that –I am god/Jesus/the Saviour etc etc (aham brahmasmi).  We in India know that Aham Brahmasmi comes from the Upasnishads, into our traditions. In other words the Upanishads are testimony that though man is a mirror of a cosmic maker, yet there is a path of knowledge and virtue that needs to be followed in order to truly awaken the cosmic potential. Now the Upanishads are the highest knowledge of the Indian civilization that is agnostic or perhaps predates religion. There is no religion in the vedic age- but nature worship. So the human is one with his natural element and through that expresses every aspect of life. Moving away from nature, if you can connect the thought, moves people from their natural and easy selves to their unnatural/cosmetic/dis-eased selves!

The greater issue is that even if the cosmic potential awakens spontaneously, it cannot be utilized unless the person learns to harness it. It is like saying that you have a huge voltage passing through yet you cannot handle the charge- so the body breaks down, the mind breaks down and it causes ‘madness’ . In this case psychiatry enters and says it can handle something that it does not even recognize as such- where are the tools in psychiatry to understand the ‘subtle body’ in which this so-called ‘divine’ potential resides, there is a whole array of nadis, the three dominant ones being ida, pingala and sushamana? I am not accepting anything or rejecting anything. I am simply putting the facts in front, as I have understood in over two decades of my own studies and research.(in fact in Gopi Krishna’s book, there is an explanation about why the wives of Krishna are said to be 16,000 or whatever their number is. That coincides with the number of nadis a person has). I must add that the entire spiritual traditions of India provide subtle and gross references to these things, in different ways. I of course found my anchor in Kabir there, because he was the one master who wrote very clearly about it, without really revealing anything, to those who could not understand. (The more difficult task after the spontaneous awakening is to ‘earth’ the kundalini, otherwise it will make you mad permanently- nobody can handle it. There is a great book in this context- After the ecstasy, the laundry. Please read it in case you have had an experience of this nature. It talks about integrating the knowledge, which is more arduous than one can imagine. It takes years and years, or decades. Even then, there is no guarantee one would learn. In my own case it took me years and repeat incidents of ‘psychosis’ till the time a time came when I would not go into any psychotic breakdowns any more, but simply watch the ‘game’ like a game, and not be ruffled by it, not get hyper in any sense and just accept the polarity of the universe playing within, like the sun and the moon- and carry on my day to day, extremely tough and deliberately solitary life.

Those of you who are aware of the idea that the spiritual traditions recognize that this universe is nothing but consciousness, the human and divine just two aspects of it, will comprehend that there is nothing high or low about it. It simply IS- no judgement. A great amount of work in this realm has been contributed by Stanislav Grof and Cristina Grof- the former being a psychiatrist. What he has done is so remarkable that every psychiatrist needs to at least read it, if not dare to follow. He risked himself by becoming a subject for LSD research and experienced the play of consciousness physically and he writes about that in many books, including The Cosmic Game. Of course the book that I was first introduced to was the Stormy Search for the Self.

Grof could see the continuity in LSD research, the shamanic traditions of the world, psychosis and much else. His wife’s near death experience (NDE) during child birth, brought in the concept of PTSD, and became the reason for her to be involved in the same journey that led in due course to the Holotropic Breathwork technique they created and share internationally.  I also found identical ideas, during years of my own inquiry, in the Sudarshan Kriya, though I found it lacking in depth (which no doubt now it must be gaining due to being investigated in medical departments). There are more such things in every religious practice anywhere, where the focus lies on breath. As we all well know, hatha yoga of course begins there- pranayama is one of the first four tenets; prana- meaning life force energy that is manifest through the breath.

Bringing you back to Psychiatry

If you can see from my writing, the two people who contributed immensely to newer understandings, are Jung and Grof- both psychiatrists by training. Of course both created huge traditions, with thousands following in their ways and me learning from all. The Jungian method lead to the tradition of analytical psychology and Grof- transpersonal psychology.

I am now taking you to a different pole- where you get to see the birth of psychiatry itself! This is a very tricky place, because this is the realm of Charcot and France now- (please read Foucault’s –Madness and Civilization, if interested). Foucault shows how madness is ascribed to people who cannot express their suffering properly by a man, who is a powerful physician, who has a great social standing and prestige, and who has the guile to transform the inability of people to express their suffering coherently. So where they lack language, he puts in his own- he becomes their ‘representative’- his language is his representation of their suffering and in fact nothing but a ‘social representation’[3].

Have you ever noticed how socially marginalized people look up to those who they perceive as having a better social standing/class? They feel helpless and meek in front of them. They dare not oppose what the ‘rich’ say. In such a case if a poor wo/man would go in front of a rich person, and the rich person says, ‘you are an idiot’, the poor wo/man will accept it with resignation that the ‘rich’ man really knows better. (Please put this in the same location as poor and rich countries as well). So a rich man, who has close connect with the nobility goes around telling in his evening parties and soirees all about the patients he saw. (I really recommend you read how he is amused at discovering that ‘hysterial’ women are mostly those who are younger women married to older men. But he does not tell this to anyone- he just knows he has ‘figured out’ the roots of hysteria!!). You may know, like me, that many younger bahus in families, because they are periodically the subject of family oppression, show these signs. I also know this to be true for young girls who are not being allowed to marry the boys of their own choice.  If you marry them with the boys they want to, all ‘symptoms’ will instantly disappear!

So here we are now- back into real world – where the suffering of someone, coming from a huge history behind it, gets to be given a label of ‘mental illness’. By-the-bye, just in case you do not know, Charcot was also one of the early influences of Freud, who in turn influenced Jung. In other words, they were all looking at human behavior and trying to comprehend the reasons for the so-called ‘abnormal’ behaviours. That is why through psychoanalysis and talk-based interventions their hope was that people would be able to go back into their unconscious mind, where their traumas and suffering lay hidden, and possibly in the presence of a person trained to help, be able to get past those traumas.

Anyways, by the time the DSM came into its third version, this behavior-oriented psychiatry was abandoned in favour of the biomedical view, because now the pharma industry wanted to have a fair share of people’s suffering. So psychiatry became a tool for the pharma industry to ‘sell’ cures that simply were not there- in what manner can psychiatry deal with the suffering of a child whose mother committed suicide at age eight, other than stamp her with a schizophrenia diagnosis at age 17, 19 or 22? I strongly recommend two books[4] at this juncture. Ethan Watters[5] talks about the DSM and how it is ‘sold’ to the world by America and another book called Mad Science- Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis and Drugs. Both are researched and written in the US.

What happens to people in ‘poor’ countries

The fact of lives in poor countries is that their poverty is not just  chance or destiny ordained by the heavens above. They are the unfortunate bearer of the progress of the rich countries- to the extent that now they are so poor in so many ways that even ‘knowledge’ does not reach them. So if the research that I have quoted above were to happen in India (first of all it cannot happen in India, because the sort of data that has been quoted here, would never be available), it would be kept so ‘hidden’ from the public eye that nobody would know.

There is a ‘culture of silence’ at work in poorer countries- anyone who opposes/questions anything (coming from the dominant West) is marginalized or made to look like an idiot or a threat to society. It is very easy to silence someone by making them ‘invisible’ or ‘inaudible’. Most people would not have access to the sort of books it takes to arrive at any real, paradigm shifting knowledge.

The knowledge that is effectively handed out in our universities and institutions, (especially in departments of psychology etc) is all second hand knowledge that is disseminated from the West, repackaged in Indian syllabi and taught to students as though it is the last word. Students memorize theories and ideas and spit them out in exams and become ‘qualified’ to heal others (naturally I am talking in terms of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists etc). If there is any other form of ideas they are derived from quantitative studies that do not examine the differences, diversities and individual realities of people’s subjective experiences.

Where does that leave anyone?

You may have heard of the story of the blind men looking at the elephant. In case you have forgotten here is a great link to remind its metaphor- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant. The symbolism of this story is so significant that it is used in various parts of the world with minor variations.

What my theme from the beginning of this ‘essay’ has been to share with all of you, those ideas which come from such diverse directions that unless you are aware of them, anyone will take a great amount of time to land there unexpectedly. I have spent nearly 23 years of my life to attain this connectivity, coupled with much writing, dabbling in music, encounters with holy men, wise wo/men, sadhus, monks, academics, ‘ill’ people and whatnot to come to this mental and linguistic ‘clearing’ that I can offer you some of these ideas, in this manner. The rest is for you to see, what interests you, makes sense or not, may be it is all nonsense for some.

In the end it is my hope that given the manner in which I have brought all these divergent ideas into a convergent sort of a frame- where the journey of the aggrieved person is not a mental illness but a quest for wholeness, I hope many would be able to help others who they encounter where they do. And I on my part am getting ready for the next phase of my life- in sharing/teaching the path that I have discovered, so that many more heroes will come, in their various faces, voices and contours and each heroes journey will contribute to the overall good of the world.

Thank you for reading till this point. I offer you another linked piece of my writing that I never really wrote fully, but the theme was identical. Kindly click this link for it –

Footnotes-

[1] I invite you to read the myth of the churning of the ocean, from the Hindu mythology, as per my interpretation and its relevance to the modern times.

[2] http://www.thekundaliniyoga.org/app_images/Kundalini_Chakras_diagram.jpg

[3] Social representation is an idea in social psychology, according to which every one who represents himself or another is making a social representation. The representation of someone’s suffering by another, by changing the language of their suffering, into one’s own (medical or specialized) language is nothing but another such act.

[4] In case anyone of you cares to come by to my home, you can see/read them for yourself.

[5] Here is a blog post that shares a few resources as well-