The tradition of Yoga and all other related spiritual traditions adhere to the fact that the physical body is built using the subtle body configurations as the mould.
Here I repeat something I have said many times before. If you place a piece of paper on a magnet, sprinkle some iron filings, the iron filings move around and adjust themselves according to the lines of the force field.
So it is that the physical body is built around the magnetic field of the subtle body. The changes in the magnetic field will change the configuration of the iron filings, but not necessarily that a change in the configuration of the iron filings will change the pattern of the magnetic force. However, in our interlinked layers of the personality systems, the spirit, mind, prana, breath and body are so closely connected that they are often inseparable. Changes in one may generate changes in all the others, or may not.
Not derived from this thought, but now generally accepted, theory in modern medical science is that the pattern of the entire body structure is engrained and imprinted in the totality of our brain-mind, even the part of the brain that is primarily responsible for holding this pattern has been recognised. This theory has been forwarded as part of the explanation for what is known as ghost limbs. A foot or a leg has been amputated, but the patient continues to feel pain in the area where it had been before.
My own view of the pain in the ghost limb is that even though the physical part has been cut out, that is the iron filings have been disturbed, the force field is present and the brain-mind experiences the force field even without the nerve extensions, because the feeling is not in the nerve extensions; it is in the pattern imprinted on the brain-mind.
This short note is by way of a suggestion to those in the healing professions. Just as a person undergoing any kind of trauma goes through shock, which is now recognised as a combination of many physiological effects, so also one undergoes a shock during surgery, even though one is fully anaesthetised. This shock is both physiological and psychological.
Here we need to interject the yoga understanding of the phenomena like sleep and coma, as well as unconsciousness introduced through anaesthesia. There is a discussion on this by Shankaracharya in his commentary on one of the Vedanta sutras , mugdhe'rdha-sampattih, but I will not go into the sutra at this time.
No one is ever fully asleep. No one is ever in total coma, nor absolutely unconscious under the effect of anaesthesia. Only that layer of the mind which comes awake is the one that sleeps or becomes comatose or is anaesthetised, not the total mind. The other areas of the mind, such as the observing mind, the seat of the holistic mind, continues to function. As proof of this happening through sleep, I have formerly referred to the following types of evidence:
1. If one were fully asleep how would one respond to his name being called? Who is it who hears it?
2. During sleep our toes become cold. We wake up having covered ourselves, but had not gone to sleep this way. Who was keeping track of whether the toes were cold or warm?
3. As children we rolled off the bed, as adults we don't. We may roll all over the bed and roll from one edge to the other but as we reach that edge, who tells us now not to roll on that way, but to start rolling in the opposite direction?
In the case of comatose persons it is known, for example, that someone placing a loving hand on the person's forehead brings down the blood pressure.
So also in the case of someone anaesthetised. It is like entering a tunnel. Whatever you carry into the tunnel will emerge from the tunnel when you come out. For example, those who go under the anaesthesia remembering their mantra, come out of anaesthesia remembering their mantra. Sometimes the surgeon, to make sure that the person is going under fully, asks the patient to count one, two, three, etc. Slowly the voice fades and the person stops counting and has gone under. As they are coming out of anaesthesia they continue the count where they left off. So something was going on underneath.
All of this needs much more careful and properly designed research. Perhaps under a title like "levels of consciousness during anaesthesia". The observing mind is observing, is experiencing; only the neuro-cerebral connections have been suspended.
There is another principle, especially in Ayurveda, that when there is one imbalance (vaishamya) anywhere in the body, some imbalance occurs in all the body systems. This would also be partial ayurvedic explanation for the physiological phenomena associated with shock which can be fatal. It is possible that many people who die during surgery are not dying from the surgery going wrong, but just this subconscious shock both to the body and the mind. Short of dying outright, the factor of varying intensities of shock remain. The shock has to be defined simply as vaishamya, imbalance.
Whenever any part or system in the body is in an unbalanced state, that local imbalance is not an isolated event. All other systems of the body--as everything is interconnected--become unbalanced in varying degrees. An incomplete list of imbalances and their substrata can be provided here :
1. Consciousness, mind, brain, prana, breath, body may suffer mutual loss of connectivity, coordination and balance between any two, more, or all of these.
2. Different parts of the brain may lose mutual coordination and balance.
3. Varying hormonal systems, brain fluid, spinal fluid, hypothalamus, pituitary, pineal, thyroid, parathyroid and all other hormonal systems may become unbalanced and uncoordinated.
4. Thorasic and cardiac and respiratory systems may become unbalanced and uncoordinated.
5. Digestive systems, including functions of the liver, pancreas and such may experience partial, complete, temporary or permanent failure; a milder form is weakness of appetite and digestion and elimination.
6. The production of various components of the blood may suffer, or the components may not remain balanced.
7. The absorption of nutrients, especially micronutrients, may be disrupted.
8. The elimination of body dross may not be effected properly; dead cells, gases that are normally eliminated in respiration, lymphic drainage, intestinal and urinary elimination, shedding of the uterine lining, -- and all such are included in this category of imbalance.
9. Those around may notice a patient's change of temperament caused by discomfort, hormonal imbalance etc. and may not realize it to be temporary and symptomatic and may thus overreact , eliciting further aggravation of the patient's temperament.
10. There may be unnatural loss or gain of weight.
11. Distortions of internal organs and external limbs--muscles and joints.
12. Imbalances of the immune systems.
13. Pains, including stomach and abdominal pains and headaches of various kinds, that are not of purely physical origin, may be experienced; these are not imaginary, but products of imbalance in the neuro-cerebral systems.
14. Sleep disorders may ensue.
15. Dream patterns may be disturbing.
16. In the Ayurvedic system, the imbalances of (a) sattva, rajas and tamas, in all their functions (b) vata, pitta, kapha, (c) partial loss of ethical sense, which further produces mental imbalances.
17. All of these situations, each alone or in combination with one or more of its associates, may produce psychological symptoms. For example, hormonal imbalance may cause depression, anger, self-destructive behaviour, like lack of self-control or bad self-image.
18. Each and all of these may slow down the healing process in many different ways.
This is just a partial list and all sorts of permutations among these various categories are possible, all part of the shock syndrome which
(a) may give rise to further complications and
(b) even produce new diseases in the body,
(c) not to speak of death, which ordinarily gets attributed to some specific functional disorder and not to the disarray and erratic misfunction of the entire personality systems which constitutes shock.
1. A wise patient should be able to recognize the symptoms of shock, and use autogenic training, imparted as part of the yoga practice, to reduce the force and effect of shock.
2. The loving ones around should help bring about a
-soothing feeling by voice, touch and caring,
-providing home-made balanced nutrition, with loving persuasion in case of a lack of appetite,
-expert massages of different kinds,
done by oneself,
by relatives in the patient's vicinity, or elsewhere,
through a priest or a person of sattvic nature,
including homa and other worship offerings
(There are special prayers and specific worship offerings for different imbalances),
-soft music and beautiful poetry,
-ample opportunity for rest through
meditaition and japa (whether sitting up or lying down)
-inspirational pictures in the vicinity (not disturbing TV programmes)
-a relaxed body posture and faces of those around, and
joyful mien--not bringing problems and conflicts into the patient's vicinity.
3. The doctor should not dismiss post-surgical shock as minor and temporary, but something to be taken seriously.
I have no doubt that surgery leaves certain lingering and complex psychological patterns. I have a fairly good idea of what these patterns are, but that will require a much larger paper. In any case, a lot of systematic research needs to be done on this proposition. I will give one example here.
There is a particular sacred text, Durga-sapta-shati, that many of us on the Path recite everyday. It consists of 700 verses. Initially the recitation of 700 verses from memory required 45 minutes for me; slowly as the meditation habit became deeper it was brought down to 25 minutes and on occasion to seventeen and a half minutes. Here it ceases to be recitation and becomes only a remembrance in the deeper, subtler, higher frequency mind.
After I had my heart by-pass operation, I immediately found that my mind had slowed down. The level at which I do this remembrance was now operating on a slower frequency. In all of 12 years since the operation I have tried very hard to reach again the level of seventeen and a half minutes for that mental recitation, and have never managed to come down below 23 minutes. I have no doubt that the surgery itself interfered with certain prana patterns, which has left a lasting effect on the frequency of the force field called the mind.
Many people report certain phenomena following surgery. One patient reported dizzy spells following brain surgery, and asked my opinion as to whether the surgery might not have fully succeeded. This prompted the writing of this brief article as an answer to her question.
My suggestion is that during brain surgery different parts of the brain had to take up the functions of the other parts, which were being operated upon or which were impaired, and it has taken them some time to re-establish a coordinated pattern and I would attribute the dizziness to this lack of coordination among the different parts of the neuro-cerebral system. As the psychological and physiological shock wears off, the coordination will be re-established, and some of the uncomfortable phenomena will cease.
What I am saying here is that the nature of shock during surgery both to the physiological and psychological systems has not been fully understood, and an interdisciplinary team of researchers need to prepare a careful research design to investigate this phenomenon. Many of the post-surgical complaints which are dismissed as "this is all in your mind" will no longer be dismissed, but certain definite positive action will be taken to re-establish the coordination and balance (samya) which was disturbed through the fact of surgery.
It is for this purpose that the various yoga exercises become very necessary for a person to re-establish such samya in the psycho-physiological personality. The practices are well known : balanced nutrition, practice of silence, meditation and breathing exercises such as alternate nostril breathing, as well as shavasana practices. However, for a different kinds of shock following different kinds of surgery would require emphasising different practices and only an expert in yoga, relaxation, meditation and yoga-nidra would be able to determine how this would be obtained.
Here a word about system of yoga healing at a subtler level.
The healing of a particular organ is not accomplished by concentrating on that organ.
The triggers are elsewhere. For example the overeating disorders--their trigger is in the throat centre of consciousness.
Constipation may be cured by entering the cave of the heart, not by concentrating on the intestines and the colon.
Similarly there are special ways for using mantras for different kinds of healing. There are practices such as whole body mantra permeation (vyapaka) subdivided into many different methods. Only someone trained in the subtler systems of yoga therapy would know enough to apply these methods.
In creating a research design it will then be necessary that while one of the control group is not using the yoga system, there are other control groups that are using different methods of the yoga system, especially the subtler one.
In the meantime, all those who feel post-surgical phenomena that are not explained by their doctors should seek active advice and guidance from a teacher of subtler breathing and subtler meditation practices of the type I have just referred to but have not described. It will require a detailed medical text book to prescribe various combinations of yoga and meditation practices appropriate for various combinations of the components of shock. This opens up a whole new vista of research in holistic medicine.
Swami Veda Bharati is the leading disciple of the legendary Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Medical researchers interested in the topic are welcome to contact Swami Veda at his personal e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2004 West Art, Prometheus 91, 2004