By Megha Consul
Neonatologist Megha Consul shares how meditation alone helped her weather the rigours of medical school
I still remember the day I got a phone call from a friend telling me I had made it through the pre-medical test. I remember thanking God and my angels and whoever was listening for my stroke of luck. Even my rank (777) seemed to imply there was the hand of the Divine in my selection.
Medical school was the best kind of blessing – the one that has deep suffering attached. I was terribly afflicted by homesickness. I missed my parents and my home, and all the comforts and pampering by my indulgent family. I was thrown widely out of my comfort zone. Living alone was itself a new and extremely unpleasant experience .
Bhopal, which was the location of my medical school, is a beautiful town. It is steeped in patriarchy, the small mindedness of a small town, with all the beauty and grace of having five lakes built in. From having a lovely chatty existence I was given uninterrupted solitude and a lake that seemed to have a soul of her own. I remember looking out over the lake every morning and evening, trying to figure in the beautiful vistas what part I wanted to play in what appeared to be a big confusing drama.
And I was out of my depth. From dissecting the lifeless body of another human being (her name was Rampyari and she contributed to much mirth and a huge dollop of black humor only a medico could appreciate), to being face to face with tragedy the likes of which I had never experienced in my sheltered existence, medical school wreaked havoc on my sensitivity. Like many health workers (and also many war survivors), I adopted a tough-as-nails exterior – though inside, I was bewildered. There was absolutely no way I could reconcile all the horrors and disease I witnessed – I had no container for it, no template or context. My childish enthusiasm began getting replaced by a deep sense of negativity, with a very strong survival focus. All my ideals – of contributing to healing went out the back door as I struggled to cope. Not that there was any succor to be found in my elders or seniors. We were ragged within an inch of our lives (this was before ragging became taboo), and I remember being literally browbeaten to conform – there again went my creativity and natural flair. I was deeply wounded and did the only thing I knew how – I shut down. I became deeply anxious, and sought validation from everyone.
The sad thing is that I see how those early experiences affected my peers –many are to this day without conscious knowledge of their hurts. That’s why you have the professor that treats all his patients like crap, or the head of department that is out to make a fast buck. The way the system works, medical college schools us for everything except compassion – neither for ourselves nor anybody else.
The inner journey
And then my luck (or grace) kicked in. I started to meditate – sketchily at first, but interested in looking into my own mind. I wish I could say it was easy or indeed effective immediately – it wasn’t. In fact to begin with I had very poor focus and when I did I would feel all my negative emotions coming to the surface. This was not the panacea I was looking for – there seemed no escape from negativity!
Serendipity started showing up. A friend just “thought” she should take a form for me, and I enrolled for a home study programme in meditation. Coming from a background of absolutely no spiritual beliefs (my parents discovered spirituality much later), I took to reading incessantly to figure out what was going on. And these insights I kept building upon. I started writing a journal and took to avoiding toxic people and interactions.
Gradually over a year and despite the fact that I had eaten meat since childhood, suddenly I started sensing a strong aversion for it. I resisted this change (meat dishes in Bhopal are amazing!). Every time I consumed meat I could actually feel my vibrations getting lowered – I felt tired and low. I had to stop not because I wanted to but because my body gave me no option!
As my understanding deepened I started looking within for strength, to look within myself for answers. I also discovered my intuition – I now started passing everything under the scanner of what does my gut feeling say.
I was fortunate again (my rank was seven this time –the Divine had had to intervene yet again!) to get into post graduation. Even my choice to take pediatrics over my favorite subject at the time (medicine) was guided by the understanding that I would need to be doing something in which my heart was as involved as my head. Post grad was even harder. I was lonelier – everyone but me had gotten married and I was often left to my own devices. I now see how my entire life would have been so different had I not had that time of enforced solitude. And despite seeing some horrors (sick children dying in droves with lack of basic facilities in a tertiary level centre), I had come to depend upon prayer and my practice to take me through.
Life seemed to be a perpetual test that could only be understood by recognizing that suffering and joy are two facets of the same coin.
I was introduced to a Divine Mentor – a Sardarji who to date has been the only person whose aura was palpably golden. What he told me I have never forgotten – “It takes a lot of good karma to reach where you are. I had to give up my way of life to be of service – here you just have to have pure intent and you will be able to do so much good!” I have never forgotten those words. They are still the touchstone that prevents me from either being swept away by my ego, or succumbing to the rat race for money or possessions.
As I stand here now, 10 years after passing out of medical school, I can see how my time there was a trial by fire. I was put through circumstances and blessings that were uniquely designed to bring out my gifts. I am still very much a work in progress. The hand of God is forever molding me into His image. The only difference is that I am now much more a conscious subject – I do not wince when he takes away parts of me that are redundant, and do not get overwhelmed as much by the vagaries of my life.
As a neonatologist I live at the edge of life and death, and I have so much more to learn! As I look around at a world afflicted with wars, abuse and shame, I still wonder at the purpose of all the suffering I see. And it is only with meditation that I have learnt how healing another is only possible when I start with myself.
Medical school might have been the start but now I know that the school of life is one we are all part of. My practice has enabled me to see that in pain so much more than in joy, we embody compassion and empathy. In a real sense we are all in need of healing, and if we choose to be, we are each Healers.
About the author
Dr. Megha Consul is a pediatrician specializing in newborn care . She is also deeply interested in holistic healing especially with regards to raising children.
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