By Anuradha Iyer
It took Anuradha Iyer many years and an understanding of spirituality to return to medical practice as a healer and not merely as a doctor
Everyone at home always wanted me to be a doctor, so I never thought about any career other than medicine. I had to work really hard right from class X, to achieve this dream. My father would wake me up with a cup of filter coffee at four am every morning and I would hit my books. I still remember that sweet day when I cleared my PMT exam, and was selected for the MBBS course in the Government Medical College of my city. We celebrated as if it were the greatest achievement in the world.
Getting a seat in a medical college was just the beginning of a long and arduous journey, which took five-and-a-half long years to complete, and only heralded the beginning of more confusion and trouble. The studies were tough, to say the least, but the practice of medicine bore no resemblance to sitting in the classroom, taking notes or reproducing the difficult terms and disorders in the exams. The trouble was that the practice of medicine was the art and science of dealing with real human beings, who were much more than their bodies (we had been taught mostly how to deal with physical ailments).
Real human beings were mind, heart, and soul, and were suffering without having a clue as to the reason for their pain.
|The trouble was that the practice of medicine, was the art and science of dealing with real human beings|
That was all I saw in my internship, which was my first real encounter with the life of a doctor – pain, pain, and more pain, and to make it worse, sometimes, the finality of death, which a 22-year-old is hardly equipped to face.
Even as a medical student, I had to endure two ordeals. One was the dissection of the human body in anatomy. I don’t know how other students felt about it, but for me it was one of the most gut-wrenching experiences of my life. And we had to do it everyday, for almost one-and-a-half years. I have not forgotten the smell of formalin, which is the fluid used to stop the body’s decay. It was so strong, it would make our eyes water all day. Our hands would get dirty with the dissection, and we would be washing them repeatedly, like people with obsessive compulsive disorder. Eating after that was always difficult.
The other dreadful experience was the visit to the morgue and the writing of 20 postmortem examinations. If anatomy was gut-wrenching, I don’t have a word to describe this experience. This exercise had to be conducted by us at our convenience, in our free time, so fortunately nobody monitored us for it. I have to make a confession here; I never stepped inside that dreadful place called the morgue. Whatever I heard about the inhuman way that bodies were cut open and organs were handled was enough to keep me away from this completely, and I was lucky enough to have a friend who let me copy down all her 20 cases from her journal. Thank heavens for that!
Coming back to the internship experiences, sometimes there were triumphant days when modern medicine came to the aid of a villager and saved his life, like the time when I treated an 18-year-old kid who had been felled by a tree. Despite serious injuries, he fought for his life and came out unscathed after a week in the ICU. Sometimes there were scary encounters like four cases of 90 per cent burns which turned up one night, when some gas cylinders burst.
|I gave up on the idea of healing, because my heart broke with the harshness of reality.|
I was too busy putting catheters, and starting their IV lines to notice how gory the scene really was, but after I went back home the next day, I kept getting scary dreams of burnt faces, hands, and feet, and the terrible smell of charred skin did not leave me for days after that.
I still remember one chubby eight-month-old baby who had meningitis, and was on intravenous antibiotics. I left her one night and came back the next morning to find her dead and her parents weeping uncontrollably. Till then pediatrics had been very high on the list of subjects I wanted to pursue in my post-graduation; on that fateful day I gave up on the idea of healing the world with my compassion, because my heart broke with the harshness of reality.
To add to all this confusion and sadness was the disgusting commercial angle to the practice of medicine, with which I could never come to terms. When I saw doctors who were happy to get patients (I would hear them gleefully discussing that the sickness season was on and so it was a good time for them), I would feel terribly disillusioned. The practice of giving cuts to one another was another thing which I could never digest.
The highs of teaching
With this background of thoughts swirling in my mind, I gave my pre-PG exam and as luck would have it, I got enough marks to secure a seat in physiology which was a non-clinical branch, involving teaching first-year medical students. I did not qualify to get a seat in a clinical branch. Now, after reading about the Law of Attraction. I can understand how it came about. And believe me, I was ecstatic, and danced my way through my post graduation in physiology. Teaching was a piece of cake for me, because language and public speaking were my strong points right from school, and I loved this beautiful subject called physiology, which deals with the normal functioning of the human body. I would be in raptures learning the detailed and intricate ways in which the mighty Lord has designed this unbelievably fantastic human body. Talking about it to innocent first-year kids was always a delightful and rewarding experience. The students loved me and I loved them, and we had the most entertaining classes possible in the strict surroundings of a medical college.
For 13 years I taught physiology and eventually became a professor in physiology. Life, in the meantime, had led me to become a seeker in a very serious way. I did not notice when I put my medical books aside, and started reading the Bhagvad Gita, Osho, the Buddha’s teachings, and anything spiritual that I could find around me.
And one fine day, I found myself in another city, because of my husband’s change of work, without my comfortable job as professor in physiology. Somehow, the turn of events was such that my interest in medicine returned, and I started looking at it in the new light of my spiritual journey. Things looked better now, and I got motivated to begin my work as a healer with renewed strength and commitment. The only difference was that now I knew more about karma, about the human journey, and its real purpose of finding the truth, Brahman, or whatever you may call Him. So suffering and pain were only reasons to connect the frail human life with the strong, complete, and all-powerful almighty God. It was His maya to engage us in these ups and downs, and His ultimate plan to unite us to him in everlasting peace and completion. So who was I to question the divine plan, and find fault with it?
Sri Krishna said to Arjuna in the 66th shloka of the 18th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita:
“ Sarva dharman parityajya maamekam saranam vraja.
Aham tva sarva papebhyah mokshayisyami ma suchah.”
“Renounce all Dharmas and take refuge in me alone.
I shall liberate you from all sins; grieve not.”
I think the shloka summarizes the message of the entire Bhagavad Gita beautifully. That karma is called dharma, which proves helpful to the jivatman in his Godward progress. On the attainment of Godhood, that helpful dharma itself has to be renounced, its purpose being fully served. Surrendering himself to the Lord is the culmination of all the endeavours of the jivatman.
I found this shloka relevant to me in all aspects of my life. Surrendering my will to the will of the Lord was the final part of the journey I had to undergo in my life, both personal and professional. When I did that, everything fell in place, and my life became meaningful to my family, and to all those people I was helping as a healer. My journey from being a wary medical student, to a happy teacher of medicine, finally found fulfillment as a healer, who could leave the actual healing to God, and just be a part of His divine plan. The results were there for anyone to see and they surprised me the most. I was able to help almost all my patients recover from their ailments and lead better, more effective lives.
To make my approach more holistic, I started reading and learning about other healing modalities like ayurveda, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, reiki, acupressure, yoga, and meditation and to integrate the knowledge of allopathy with them. Allopathy has its own advantages and benefits because the patient gets instant relief from distressing symptoms, but these ancient systems of healing go to the root of suffering and heal the person as a whole. They need more time and patience, but the long-term benefits are certainly worth focusing on. The ideal way is to give the patients all the options, and leave them to choose.
As for my own practice, I had to be a bridge between scientific-minded people, who believed exclusively in allopathy, and the more conservative people who did not even want to try modern medicine. I could help those who believed only in allopathic medicine to understand and appreciate the older healing modalities so they could benefit by them. And for the more conservative, I could help them take advantage of the fast relief of symptoms one gets from allopathic medicine, to reduce their suffering. Wellness is a concept which started interesting me a great deal. Health is not only the absence of disease but the ability to live completely, to utilize one’s potential, and talents to the best of one’s ability, and to lead a satisfying and meaningful life in all aspects, physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. I found that wellness and physiology are closely inter-related. God makes us physiologically and psychologically perfect, and it is our duty to deal with all of life’s ups and downs, and come back to being the beautiful way He created us.
So here I am now, practicing medicine as a family physician, who holds people’s hands in their distress and does little else than reassure them, and make them feel connected to Him. And I am thoroughly enjoying my experience, and glad that I started my work as a healer only when I understood the real meaning of my work. And I now understand what my father always used to quote when we were kids, “All in good time.”
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