Don’t look into those eyes

Guruji, Chicago 2014

Guruji, Chicago 2014 ; Waiting to give the photographer the due credit!

If you want to
play safe;
If you want to
maintain
the status-quo;
If you are
afraid of
adventures;

don’t look into those eyes

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Recommended Resources to deal with Panic Attacks, Anxiety and Depression.

Related Posts:

Part 1: The beginnings

Part 2: The Despair

Part 3: The magic of Sudarshan Kriya

Part 4: The loving eyes of god.

Part 5: The Wheel comes a full circle

This is the last in the series of posts, before I move to another topic.

Over a period of 13 years (’91-04) that I fought Panic Attacks, Anxiety, and Depression, I searched high and low for treatment and alternative remedies.  I tried everything that one can possibly find on the internet and  to deal with the situations as they unfolded, I would find some temporary relief and things would revert back to how they were earlier. However, as I mentioned earlier in my posts, real healing for me happened through the regular practice of Sudarshan Kriya and Meditation.

I thought I will share a few resources  – programs, books, music and doctors – that helped me immensely.

Undoubtedly I start with the Art of Living programs:

  • The Part 1 Program
  • The Advance Meditation Program and
  • Sahaj Samadhi Program

and the Satsangs as my only recommendation to get rid of Depression, Anxiety and Panic Attacks.

The Art of Living courses are held all over the world in over 150 countries, please check www.artofliving.org to find your nearest center. Please note, that the programs do not discourage you to stop your medication or treatment, however it is essential that you do disclose your medical history to the teacher before you start the program.

In Bangalore, The International Center on Kanakapura Road conducts a residential program every Friday, Sat and Sunday.

Meena and I teach the Art of Living Part 1 program in HRBR layout in Bangalore and would be very glad to have you on our programs. Should you want to reach out to me to discuss and talk, feel free to drop me a note.

Doctors in Bangalore/Hyderabad

Recommended below are some outstanding doctors who at some time or the other helped me in my journey.

Allopathic

Dr. Ramachandran Arcot – my family physician and a friend. Has a clinic next to Surana Medicals at Cox Town Circle, Bangalore. I remain indebted to him for having pulled me out of treatment from one of the worst psychiatrist in Bangalore and introducing me to Dr. Shyamala Vatsa.

Dr. Shyamala Vatsa: Consults at Hosmat Hospital, Bangalore. I have already written about her, one of the finest therapist  in town. A person with solid integrity, empathy and intelligence. She is one fine author as well.

Homeopaths:
Dr Annapurna Waghray – my cousin in Hyderabad, has her own clinic in Domalguda and practices at Sagar Homeo Center at Abids.  What do I write about her, she’s one of the finest homeopaths in town and I have lost the count of number of times I have troubled her with things small and big all times of day and night.

Dr. Sanath Kumar- homeopath, has a clinic at Nehru Road, Kammanahalli, Bangalore. Uses Bach Flower Remedy with great effect.

Sohum Medical Foundation: Has a center in HBR layout, Bangalore that dispenses free homeopathy medicines.

Ayurveda:

Nadi Pariksha at Art of Living Ashram, Bangalore. One of the regular things I do is to get a Nadi Pariksha done once every few months. An ancient way where the physician checks your pulse and tells what is wrong with the system. Very effective.

Dr. Jyothi Nair – one of the finest Ayurveda doctors in Bangalore. Very accurate with her diagnosis and very economical with her prescription. The only grouse I have is with the location of her clinic (Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, intersection of Queens Road and Cunningham Road, difficult to find a parking place) and timings (consults for about an hour or so around noon)

Dr. Seetharam Prasad – Chief Physician at Ayurveda Kutiram at HBR Layout. Recommend him for his high degree of empathy and listening skills plus the ayurvedic oil treatments are the best one can find in town.

Books
The books are transcriptions of talks and knowledge sessions given by Guruji. While I have read each and every book, a few that I recommend are:

1. God Loves Fun
2. Celebrating Love
3. Bang on the Door
4. Wisdom for the New Millennium
5. Punarnava
6. Narada Bhakti Sutras and
7. Ashtavakhra Gita

All available from store.artofliving.org

I have read several books on dealing with Anxiety, Depression etc, the only one that I recommend is:

Yoga for Depression by Amy Weintraub: Don’t get misled by the title, this is a superb book on Yoga. Has one complete chapter on Art of Living and how the practices help in treating depression and anxiety. An absolute must read for those looking for alternative treatment through Yoga and associated therapies.

Dr. Sven Sommer’s Little Book of Homeopathy. If you are in a mood for some self medication.

Music and Meditation CD’s

Chanting and Music have a significant impact on the nervous system and is known to uplift the spirit, unite minds, energize and stabilize the body by settling the emotional imbalances. The Satsang’s have had a significant impact on me and I will do a separate post on them in the future. For now, beautiful devotional songs, chants, meditation CD’s are available at store.artofliving.org

The wheel comes a full circle – Part 5

Related Posts:

Part 1: The beginnings

Part 2: The Despair

Part 3: The magic of Sudarshan Kriya

Part 4: The loving eyes of god.

On a routine visit to the ashram, in 2007, Guruji stopped near me and told me to “become a teacher” and those three words have taken my life onto a totally different path. A year down the line, I was blessed to teach the Art of Living courses.

The first student who had enrolled in my course was a lady who was suffering from severe panic attacks and had quit her job. Three months after attending the program she sent me a message that she is doing absolutely fine and her panic attack and depressions have since then stopped and she has gone back to work. When Dr. Vatsa recommended a patient of hers to attend the program, I knew that the wheel has come full circle!

I had told Guruji, a couple of years back that let my life be His message! Today I am fortunate and blessed to be living that life. A large part of the credit goes to Meena for pushing me to practice the Kriya regularly in the early days, and being readily available to take care of the family and kids, allowing me the space to do several advance courses and long TTCs and most importantly for demonstrating that faith, surrender and devotion has to be total in this long and arduous journey.

The most rewarding thing is that when one is able to share the spiritual journey and the path with one’s loved ones. While every one’s spiritual journey may be very individualistic, it nevertheless helps to have a supportive companion and for me, the best part is to be able to share this journey with Meena who is also an Art of Living teacher.

Today we both are fortunate, delighted and grateful to share the joy of Sudarshan Kriya, Meditation, Satsang and the Grace of a Master.

The magic of Sudarshan Kriya – Part 3

Related Posts:

Part 1: The beginnings

Part 2: The Despair

It was sometime in July of 2000, that my brother had come visiting us in Chennai from Hyderabad. One of the programs on the TV had Rhea Pillai talking about the Art of Living program and my brother casually mentioned that he had heard a lot about this program and maybe we should check it out.

Call it luck, fate or coincidence or whatever, early next day morning after I came back home after dropping my brother at the Chennai airport, I picked up the newspaper from the porch to see a pamphlet along with it and guess what  – it was an announcement for an Art of Living course in the neighbourhood!!

Now I had been on yoga programs earlier and wasn’t enthused enough to try out, what I thought would be, another yoga based program. Meena registered for it, but on the day of the program, she couldn’t go since Tanvi fell ill on the same day. I eventually ended up in the program, because we had already  paid up. And that was good since not only had I the most beautiful experience in the program that I find it difficult to put down on paper, but also I found the key to the problems that were haunting me for such a long time – The Sudarshan Kriya!!

As the Kriya began, a surge of anxiety rose in me and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to persist with the process, but then as I continued, battling my apprehensions, I experienced a sense of peace and well-being after a very very long time….it was as if the fears, the anxieties that I had experienced belonged to a different world altogether.  I was in a different time and space altogether…..the next thing I remember is waking up after a sound sleep of maybe 30 to 45 minutes….feeling fresh and very light. It was as if I was living in darkness for several years and then someone just switched the lights on in my life!

Now, before you jump to the conclusion, that it was experience of one Kriya and I was completely fine, you are mistaken….yes, the experience of the Sudarshan Kriya was undeniably awesome, there was something intangible and mystical in the whole process. Yes, I experienced a deep sense of relief, but I was still a few steps away from where I had ought to be and the journey was just about to begin.

The instructor of the program was a fairly young lady, Kavita and there was a sense of stillness and serenity about her. The questions didn’t ruffle her and I observed that there was something different about her eyes. They were deep, intense and reflected a sense of caring! I remember coming home every day after the program and telling Meena that there is something different about this instructor. And obviously I used to talk about the experience of the Kriya, she ended up taking the course a week later.

I observed that the days I did the Kriya, I used to be fine, the palpitations and the panic attacks were less pronounced on those days.

But getting up early, doing the Kriya on a daily basis, meant changing a lot of patterns in life. It was probably much easier to deal with anxiety and panic attacks by popping in a tablet than go down the route of following a discipline in life. And when it was one of the days when the panic attack hit home hard, I would turn back for relief to Sudarshan Kriya. Now, despite the evidence that I was seeing in my own life, of the impact of Sudarshan Kriya on my health, I used to be pretty irregular with the practice and would postpone it as much as I could and would do it just before I had an upcoming travel or when I had a panic attack.

Within a month, of doing the program, I got transferred back to Bangalore and several times we had heard Kavita telling us, if you go to Bangalore, you should visit the ashram.

So after, maybe a few months of relocating back from Chennai, one of the weekends we decided rather than going to the same old joints of Koshy’s or Casa-Picola, let’s take a look at the Art of Living Ashram.

Next: The Loving Eyes of God.

The Despair – Part 2

..Contd from the previous post

In spite of all that was happening to me on the very personal level, I graduated  from college in mid ‘92, got a great job and got engaged. Life was good, but by then the panic attacks had left a scar and deep down inside I was not my true self – there was fear, there was a sense of hesitancy. This gnawing perpetual worry at the back of my mind that the panic attacks would recur. Soon my worry would turn into a self fulfilling prophecy.

The panic attacks came back, this time much more stronger than what I  had experienced before and then started a 13 year long journey of excruciating torture. The panic attacks would come unannounced and I would start associating them with places or events and it become so bad, I would continue to be in a perpetual state of anxiousness.

I couldn’t stand being in crowded places, I couldn’t be at ease in closed places and neither could I stand being alone – that meant I started avoiding cinema’s, theaters, restaurants, shopping, going to any crowded place, traveling and so on. One day I had a such severe attack while driving to work, that I had to park the scooter in the side of the road and take an auto to work…and that was the last time I drove a scooter to work. Taking an auto back and forth to the office was out of question due to the limited income I had those days and taking a bus was out of question due to claustrophobia issues. I loved traveling and driving around and not being able to do what I loved left me in a state of despair.

In the midst of the gloom there used to be several good days at a stretch, where I would lead a perfectly normal life. In the summer of ‘93, I got married to Meena – a remarkable  person who has been tremendously encouraging and supportive of me all through the miserable period of my life. If it had not been for her constant support and love, I don’t think I would have been able to pull out of this despair.

The panic attacks led me into a state of acute fear and depression and I started on a merry go round trip of visiting doctors, not finding relief from one doctor, moving onto another, someone would recommend a specialist and I would go and see them….eventually moving onto alternative mode of treatments, and when nothing seemed to be working, I used to pray so very hard and so very often. There were days when I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep properly and/or would wake up in a sweat and would eventually drift to sleep clutching the Sai Charitra close to my heart.

At last count I had seen 25 doctors including cardiologists, neurosurgeons, three psychiatrists and two counsellors, homeopaths, pranic healers and even religious healers. Not to mention the endless cycle of clinical tests including ECG’s they would subject me to rule out any physical causes. The funny thing was no one doctor would trust the clinical reports that I had carried from my previous doctors visits and would invariably subject me to visit their favourite diagnostic labs.

I have lost the count of number of times I went through these procedures. The worst was when one of the cardiologist put me onto a 24 hour Holter monitor to record the heart’s rhythms to rule out a condition known as Mitral Valve Prolapse.

Courtsey of Dr. Ramachandran – whom I will be ever thankful for, for recommending me to one of the finest doctors in town –  I ended up with Dr. Shyamala Vatsa – a brilliant doctor, psychiatrist, counsellor and author in Bangalore who was able to help me cope with the anxiety and panic attacks to a very large extent.

While all this was happening, life was going on at its own pace, I changed jobs, moved cities and travelled several times outside the country. However, travel by flight was a big nightmare. The feelings of claustrophobia, coupled with a general sense of anxiety had made it a routine that every time I would take a flight, I had to pop in a tranquilizer. What was a dream for many to hop on a flight and travel to the fancy cities of the west became a living nightmare for me.

I changed job and changed city and we moved to Chennai from Bangalore in Jan of 2000 and then a coincidence or synchronicity took me to a life changing event.

Next: The magic of….

A new series….

The beginnings… Part 1

To begin with, this is a very intimate and personal experience and I have been extremely apprehensive of putting this down on a blog for obvious reasons.  I have been deliberating over this for quite a few months and have decided to put it up out here for the simple reason that I will be doing an immense disservice to hundreds of thousands of people who suffer from some form or the other of anxiety, panic attack and depression, if I don’t share my experience.

I distinctly remember the day during the winter of 1991, I was in the second year of my post graduation, when my professor asked a question on a subject which I had been conversant with the past 3 years, I put up my hand to answer and when I wanted to respond, my mind went blank, my head started spinning and the heart started pounding furiously, and in no time I was soaking in my own sweat. I remember getting out of the class and taking a cycle-rickshaw back to the hostel, probably my first and only ride in a cycle rickshaw in the three years that I spent at the college campus in BIT Mesra. That was the first of the several panic and anxiety attacks I was going to have in my life.

The Wikipedia says that “Experiencing a panic attack has been said to be one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person’s life.” and I tell you that the sentence does not capture the enormity of what it means to experience a panic attack.

Consequently when it reoccurred a second and a  third time, I tended to believe that it could be either due to general weakness or I may have inherited a heart condition from my family genes.

One of my helpful classmates, Sunil,  took me to the General hospital in Ranchi only to be prescribed a few vitamins and a tonic by the doctor. Being a thin, lanky, 6 feet tall,50 kg chap didn’t help either. The constant advice from everyone used to be, eat well and put on some weight the general idea and consensus was “ you are so thin and weak, put on some weight you will be fine”. To make matters worse a combination of  amoebic dysentery plus irritable bowel syndrome hit home and I was in a terrible shape, I had no clue as to what was happening.

Even worse was the fact that my college was 1300 kms away from my home – a 2 nights,  one day long journey from Hyderabad where the rest of the family was, and this was way before the cell phone and internet days (early 90’s). Even if one had to make a phone call, one had to walk all the way to the main campus building which was a kilometer away from the hostel or travel 20 odd kms to one of the STD booths in Ranchi city. Home sickness and a strange illness, made matters seem worse than they  were in this small town.

The frequency of the attacks increased – I reached home during the holidays a nervous wreck. When the panic attacks occurred, the instant reaction I used to have was to run away from the place. And  while I find them funny now, trust me, I would never ever wish that even my worst enemy (not that I have any) to be in this situation. How does one run away from a moving train? How does one get out a cinema theater in the middle of movie? or What does one do when one has a panic attack, right while driving a scooter in the middle of the road? or while sitting in a meeting at work?

A visit to the friendly neighbourhood doctor, resulted in me being prescribed – not the right word – he gave some 60 odd white tablets, with no names and asked me to take half of them every time I felt like I was having an attack! Till date, I don’t know whether it was a tranquilizer or a anti-hypertensive drug or even a placebo. One thing was sure, it didn’t work.

On the way back to Ranchi from Hyderabad, after the vacation, I boarded the train at Nampally and got down at Secunderabad due to another panic attack in the train. A classmate of mine who was to board the same train at Warangal was left wondering as to why I didn’t make it.

Finally after a couple of days my brother accompanied me all the way from Hyderabad to Ranchi to make sure I completed the journey, but not before suspecting that I was on drugs and that panic attacks are probably some kind of withdrawal symptoms!

I was somehow able to cope and manage the rest of the days at college. But I didn’t knew what lay in store for me next.