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Mar 27

Spirituality and Mental Illness

Image1by Kelly Brogan, MD

The following article was originally published on KellyBroganMD.com

In a story called The Magician’s House by Jan Dean, Genet makes a deal that seems impossible to refuse. She agrees to work for the magician, lighting the fireplaces for a year and a day in exchange for her heart’s desire. Over her tenure, the house grows and grows with the fireplaces multiplying into the hundreds, until the house is all there is on the earth. When it comes time for her wish to be granted, she asks simply for the gift of forgetting home and the good green world that was, as there is now no home to return to.

Does this story have relevance to our American lives today? I think so. We are awaiting the granting of our heart’s desire, slowly realizing the bankruptcy of the promise.

To have been led down the perilous path of greed, shortcuts, and glittering promises is to risk a rupture with the natural emergence of a sacred design. It’s a posture that says – I will architect my experience because I know best what I need. There comes a time when we must reckon with the costs of our desire to “cheat the system,” where perhaps we beg to forget what it is that was lost in the process. So that we can arrive at a place where “missing is any sense that anything is missing.”

• • •

I thought of this tale as I rode with my fellow kundalini yogis on a camel cart down the dusty streets of Neemrana village in Rajasthan, India. The scene was psychedelic in nature. There were splashes of every color tracking across my view, cows lounging in the road, peacocks yelping, packs of dogs, lumbering donkeys, people in repose on the ledge of three walled rooms, children playing together, women washing clothes in a bucket, and every imaginable transportation methodology from bike to moped to rickshaw to car, all moving in a structured amoeba-like chaos.

Not unlike a kundalini exercise where the mind is calm amidst a very active body and breath pattern, the busyness was external to and in the greater context of a kind of calm and contentment that was powerfully transmitted. As I looked around, I felt awash with the resonance of a pervasive peace, ease, lightness, and simplicity. Taking it all in brought a swell of an unnamable emotion in my heart. Tears came to my eyes.

This would be one of many experiences I would have in my ten days in India that would bring me into direct contact with a soul-level knowing that we are living in the West with something very important missing from our life experience. It was as if, perhaps, we had been granted that wish of forgetting the wonder we had once known but lost contact with after we collectively embraced the promises of modern medicine, technology, and credit-based economies.

india2-768x1024An Atheist’s Journey

When I was 13, I chose not to be confirmed a Catholic to the dismay of my practicing father. An expression of my budding faith in the religion of science, my intellect had little tolerance for the seemingly childish fairy tale stories of denominational religion. I thought of religious orientation, frankly, as a weakness. When we die, we rot in the earth and that’s the end of the story. Life is hard and bad things happen, so get educated and prepared. Danger lurks, but especially around the lazy and naive. This was the mindset that ushered me into my professional life as a physician.

Of course, my trajectory was not to be tracked along the iron rails of a medical career, and the unexpected twists that would emerge could only be referred to as an awakening. First, my intellect had to be humbled by an experience that challenged everything I had known, then my ego had to be broken by earth-shattering loss. I then had to experience the wonder and glory of a life lived in the flow. I have developed a deep awareness around the baited traps that the patriarchy sets to ensnare the hypertrophied minds of today’s Western women. I know what it is that we are up against, and I know that it feels like a reclamation of ourwildness. A reunion with our bodies and sensuality. An establishment of a sisterhood. I have learned that when we let go, when we surrender, everything we need and want comes to us effortlessly.

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