mardi 7 octobre 2014
PHILOSOPHICAL COUNSELING AMONG AMERICAN INDIANS
PHILOSOPHICAL COUNSELLING AMONG AMERICAN INDIANS
On my way over to the Indians, from Miami to Dallas, I was on American Airlines, and the flight attendants up front were very friendly. When I told them that I was going to see the Indians and described certain aspects of Indian way of thinking, the older of the two attendants, who were both Black said, what a pity, most of us, Americans, know nothing about American Indians!
Majority of the people, in whatever capacity they arrive to serve the Indians, from the Government or from Social or Medical Organizations, also know very little about the Indians. Indians are aware of that and over the years have come to expect very little from the outsiders, to their problems of social confrontation or emotional problems.
Today’s encounter at this remote clinic reinforced that in my mind. And serves as a metaphor for the humanitarian work done all around the world: Knowledge about Medicine alone is not sufficient to alleviate the suffering of an Indian.
Two Indians, Mrs B in her fifties and her daughter I, in her twenties had asked to see me, through the Pubic Health Nurse who keeps an eye on Mrs B who one year ago was diagnosed with Cancer of the Breast and treated with double mastectomy and chemotherapy.
I welcomed them both to the comfortable consulting rooms in the Clinic. They had obviously come to talk; I knew that when they settled on to the sofa.
Did you get a photograph from me, from Miami when the Cancer survivors and their families lit hundreds of candles around a lake? She had not, so I went on to describe the efforts of many volunteers including my sister, herself a multiple cancer survivor and her husband, organize an evening of remembrance around the lake in front of the Baptist hospital to raise money for cancer research. One buys a candle with an already imprinted paper cover with the name of the person you wish to celebrate or remember. I wanted to celebrate my Indian patients who had all survived the rigours of chemotherapy.
She was grateful and we talked about my sister and how I insist her being treated a little more kindly, even during times when she becomes overbearing or highly critical. My rationale is this: How does it feel to have these poisonous fluids going into your body through your veins once every three weeks for about six months, and you suffer interminable nausea, sickness and lethargy and lack of energy for months to come. If you have not experienced that, please be kind to my sister who had to go through it more than once and with medications so powerful that it can make any human sick.
That is when the young lady chirped in. I am finding very difficult to deal with my mother ever since she had her cancer, she has become more forgetful and also less tolerant and not interested in my opinion.
As my friend, Dr W was to tell me later: A very good question with a difficult answer.
This is where the lived in experience of having someone close to you suffering from this disease and you have spent time with them, to see the day to day changes. A doctor may prescribe the medication but it is not there to see the horrible reactions and the daily care that a cancer patient needs, including taking turns at night to wake the patient up to remind them to urinate so that the metabolites in the bladder will not cause cystitis and also reminding them to drink as much as possible.
It was my sister who said to me; truly the chemotherapy has fried my brain. She was referring to something very similar to what the daughter was talking about.
I decided to ease the anxiety and increase the knowledge of the situation of this young lady. It is easy enough to say, your mother has suffered and there is even a medical explanation to her behaviour. But she is interested in knowing, what is that I have to do? So the relationship is not damaged.
Relationship is something very sacred to the Indians. How do I bring the conversation in a medical consultation to a sacred plane and talk about spirituality? At the same time, find a way to help this young lady and her mother to calm down the misunderstanding or what is other wise may lead to a rupture in their good relationship?
The three different philosophical strains that I am familiar with are
American Indian Philosophy
Yogic Philosophy of Patanjali
The Buddhist Philosophy
Even though I am Jewish, well aware of our history and ways of thinking, I have not studied the Talmud or the mystical books of Luria and others. So I cannot resort to the Jewish Philosophy to help my patient, whereas the tribal nature of Jewish thinking does come in handy when you are dealing with American Indians.
I explained to the young lady that she has to learn to curb her ego. Her mother had suffered, including a double mastectomy, and has gotten back her health. The young lady is placing too much importance on herself in their confrontations, and if she would learn to decrease her Ego, the vicious cycle would be broken and a peace and tranquillity established between the two. This is not a competition between personalities; you are not competing who is a better person and who is right. You have to understand that for Indians, the relationship is sacred and Indians view the world much differently from others, even those who inhabit the same community.
Yes, she seemed to be thinking of the time when she lived in Chicago. Yes I was afraid to say I was an Indian, since the people had weird ideas about us and expected us to behave in a pattern to fit into their caricature of us!
Here I could introduce spirituality. Do you look at the trees and the clouds the same way as the White people do? What do you feel when you see an Eagle? And our brothers, the four legged ones. Indians believe in the totality of things, not hierarchy or incompleteness of the world.
What are the defects in our ways of thinking that prevents us to achieve this completeness? (Here I briefly did think of the Jewish concept of Shekinah and reflection of the broken pieces uniting to becoming whole, as said in the Kabbalah but I did not mention it)
I named the five Kleishas that is enumerated in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
Fear of Change
I went through each of these as it applies to the situation of her and her mother, the younger woman was taking notes!
How do I practice these? She laughed as she asked the question.
I talked to her about Mindfulness, being aware of the present and enjoy the moment. It is relevant to the cancer survivors as well, to enjoy the moment. My sister very often has tears when she shares a beautiful moment, such as the time when I was her tourist guide in Quiberon in Brittany in France
She would say: I never thought I would live to see this and especially to share it with my husband.
How to decrease the structural defects, the mechanisms are very well known to the Indians, if they are familiar with the Indian way of thinking
Be giving of yourself
These are some of the ways of decreasing these fires raging in your head and if you could practise these very human qualities, it would be good all around. It is you, the younger lady who has to make the changes and try to calm down and then you would see and enjoy the beauty of the changes that occur and it would affect your mother as well and she too will change, but don't force her to change, let the good qualities in you, make her change herself!
More than one hour had passed. I am an Endocrinologist to this tribe and neither of them had any medical problems that needed my Endocrine expertise, but you see, I am their friend who happens to be a doctor as well. They did not come for medications or referrals to other professionals, they came to talk and I have the time!
As they walked out of the room, they wanted to know when I would come back again, so that they can come and talk. I promised to send by emails some of the blogs I have written about Kleisha Reduction and Yogic Philosophy and also American Indian ways of thinking.
I had a nice sensation within myself as they left; I felt the strength of a human connection. and I felt grateful
Then, I thanked the people who enabled me to talk like this
My sister in Miami and her husband, my colleague Dr W in Miami for his moral support, MCY in KL who introduced me to Yoga Sutra.
Also souls in Bruselas, Teheran and Bogor.