High On Satsang

Posted on: Sunday, February 10, 2013

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Spiritual practices are empowering life skills that can help youth get rid of stress and addiction, writes SANJIV KAKAR

Spiritual practices like yoga, pranayama and meditation are extremely useful for people who are fighting any kind of stress-related disorder. They are widely accepted as scientific tools not just in India, but globally as well. What is probably not so well known is the efficacy of these practices in helping patients overcome alcohol and drug addiction. Some de-addiction centres do offer yoga, pranayama and meditation, but only as a supplementary therapy in an overall de-stressing programme.

The Close Connect
There is a close connection between spirituality and de-addiction, but it has remained largely unexplored. It is only recently that premier medical institutes like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, and the Post Graduate Institute, Chandigarh, have opened de-addiction wards where patients can learn and practise these “spiritual life-skills” along with the regular de-toxification regimen. Their experience shows positive results. Patients who adopt these practices are, on the whole, healthier, more cheerful and more motivated. The severity of withdrawal symptoms in such patients is also less.

Helping patients who come here for treatment is one aspect of substance abuse management. Anyone will tell you that when you have a lecture on drug addiction, there are few takers. There are several hospitals across the country with fully equipped de-addiction facilities, but the beds go empty. The reality is that the majority of patients who need to go in for a de-addiction programme resist treatment. As more scientific studies establish the co-relation between spirituality and de-addiction, more and more patients are likely to opt for it. They feel fearful and isolated and lack faith in the system.

Spiritual practices come in handy at every stage of the de-addiction programme: in early detection, in helping the individual through the treatment process and in reducing chances of relapse. Providing information and medicines is not enough; the aim is to raise the confidence of patients and their families. Satsang has this power. In satsang, people sit together and sing. It generates a sense of community which acts as a antidote to alienation, to the sense that “I am alone” and “there is no one to help me”. In this atmosphere of belongingness, patients don’t need to be coaxed into treatment; they come forward on their own. The message that needs to be put across is that addiction is an illness that can be treated. In a satsang, this is communicated with a sense of celebration and celebration is contagious.

What’s the relationship between spirituality and addiction? At first, the link seems tenuous. For what is spirituality but a turning of the mind inwards, away from illusion or maya to the truth within. And drug does just the opposite; it moves you away from truth into a downward spiral, into delusion.

The Ultimate Addiction

Though this may sound reasonable, it does not explain how spirituality offers itself as a substitute to addicts; how it convincingly tells them: “take me instead, I am as good.” There is a deeper truth and it is subtle. Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar offers a transcendental perspective. He says, “Spirituality is the ultimate addiction. Once you get this nasha, then all other nashas seem meaningless.”

Addicts are looking for a high and this is what spirituality gives. Once they take refuge in a spiritual high, then other addictions lose relevance. They realise that when one can be high on one’s own spirit, what is the need for any other spirit? What is the need to escape into an illusory world of induced hallucination?

Spiritual practices are empowering life-skills that can help youth get rid of stress and addiction. Spirituality’s potential to bring about social change is not new. Gandhiji used this tool successfully to awaken and inspire the nation.

Let’s pledge to create a tobacco-free, alcohol-free and drug-free India with the help of spirituality and satsangs.

The writer is associated with the Art of Living

Source: Speaking Tree

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