Spirituality in the Healing Process
Anil Coumar, a psychotherapist specializing in integrating psychological and spiritual growth, discussed spirituality and spiritual thinking and incorporating spirituality and spiritual practice into your life -- improving your mental well-being. We talked about the practice of meditation, learning to self soothe and engaging in soothing activity to get in touch with your essential self. These are just some of the tools people can use to improve their mental health.
Mr. Coumar also addressed some audience members' concerns about their not feeling worthy of God's attention; that they were not good enough to talk with God. The conversation covered how to feel better about yourself and how we can learn to accept ourselves and find mental peace.
David Roberts is the HealthyPlace.com moderator.
The people in blue are audience members.
To read transcripts of previous chat conferences, click here.
Online Conference Transcript
David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com.
Our topic tonight is "Spirituality in the Healing Process." Our guest is psychotherapist, Anil Coumar. Mr. Coumar graduated from medical school in India and later came to the United States, where he now works at the University of Washington mental health clinic and also has a private practice.
Good evening Mr. Coumar, and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. We appreciate you being our guest tonight.
Anil Coumar: Thank you for inviting me.
David: Can you please tell us a bit more about yourself?
Anil Coumar: I was born and raised in India, where I spent the first 25 years of my life. I completed medical school and my residency in psychiatry in India, then I came to England and started training to be a psychotherapist, while working as a physician. I trained in Transactional Analysis psychotherapy, and in 1992, I moved to the US and completed a master's degree in psychology. I have been working at the University of Washington since 1994.
I have a deep interest in the role of spiritual practice in mental well being. I believe that sometimes psychotherapy can be a little pessimistic; incorporating spirituality enhances the work of the psychotherapist.
David: So we are all on the same page, can you please give us your definition of "spirituality?"
Anil Coumar: Spirituality is the experience of interconnectedness of all things... It is more than a belief.
David: Can you clarify that for us?
Anil Coumar: Normally we feel disconnected from ourselves and everything around us, and I believe this happens because of what is happening in our minds, the internal chatter. Once this internal chatter shuts down, then we can reach a place of silence. When you reach the place of silence, you feel love, connection, and interconnectedness.
David: Many people who come to HealthyPlace.com are suffering from depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and other mental health problems. How can they use spirituality to help themselves feel better?
Anil Coumar: Spirituality is not something we can use to change the reality. Spirituality is understanding things as they are. Now, when it comes to depression, we have always been trained to do one of two things:
We have been trained to either suppress it or to express it. The trouble with these 2 approaches is that they have a way of prolonging the depression. For example, if I suppress my anger it might come out as a physical symptom, such as an ulcer, or I may engage in passive aggressive behavior. If I express my anger, I have to deal with the consequences. You might hurt somebody or hurt yourself, therefore prolonging the emotion. There is a 3rd approach, which is to stay with the emotion (depression) every time a problem arises.
We are always looking for solutions. That approach is sometimes useful, but if the problem keeps occurring, we need to look at the problem. The same way if we stay with an emotion, there is a great chance that we will come to a place of insight about our problem or situation.
Whenever I tell someone or ask someone to stay with the problem, they are often confused. How does one stay with the problem? This is where the practice of meditation comes in and is useful. In the kind of meditation I practice, one has to stay with the bodily or somatic sensations. The rationale behind it is that every time there is an emotion, it evokes a physiological change in the body which we can feel as a physical sensation. For example, when we are anxious, the heart beats faster, the hands trembles, or we feel butterflies in our stomach. Normally, when we get an unpleasant sensation, our impulse is to get rid of it. However, if we stay with the sensation we will learn about the nature of it.
David: Just to summarize for a moment, are you saying that too many times we run away from our problems or look for instant solutions when we really need to figure out what the problem is?
Anil Coumar: Correct, and when you use the term "figure out," it implies an intellectual approach. What I'm talking about goes beyond the intellect. It's an actual feeling remaining with the sensation.
David: Besides meditation, are there any other helpful tools that one can use to improve their mental health?
Anil Coumar: Understanding the nature of time is helpful. Time being past, present and future. Most of the time, we are worrying about the future or regretting the past. Both past and future are non-existent, meaning one cannot go into the past or future. This is important to understand, since most of our problems are caused by not being in the present. However, it is difficult, if not impossible, to force the mind to be in the present. What we can do is to understand the content of the mind. Other things apart from meditation that can help us to remain in the here and now are taking a walk, being in nature, listening to music, or whatever activities you like. Sometimes it's hard to remain in the moment when one is in acute pain. During those time, we can learn to self soothe. A person can think about a soothing activity for each sense organ. For example, if we take the eyes, we can look at the beautiful sunset or mountain or even watch TV mindfully. These things can be soothing. We need to be flexible to come up with an activity that is soothing to us because the same technique is not going to work each time.
David: Here's an audience comment I'd like you to respond to:
Montana: I feel that facing your fears, discussing them with a therapist, and understanding the feelings so you can let them go helps you get in touch with your essential self.
Anil Coumar: Montana, there is no fixed self. Each emotion that comes up is not going to be dealt with the same way.
sher36: What can we do to change the learned behavior of living in the past? I would like to do many things now, in the present, but therapy concentrates on dealing with the past. I would like to overcome this and live in the present. Any suggestions?
Anil Coumar: Sometimes talking about the past with a therapist can help us let go of the incessant rumination and thereby slowly clear the path, and it'd only be clearing the path, the mind can remain in the present.
David: Here's the link to the HealthyPlace.com Alternative Mental Health Community. You can click on this link and sign up for the mail list at the top of the page so you can keep up with events like this.
Here's the next question:
riverfish: Isn't worrying about the future sometimes healthy, like worrying about the material future, which makes us search for better a job that finally gives more then it takes?
Anil Coumar: I'm glad you asked that question; this is something people get confused about. Let's take the example of the student: If the student is sitting in front of his or her book and worrying about the outcome of his or her exam or what job he may find, he is not paying attention to the present. If he pays attention to the present, which is to learn the content of the book in front of him, he will take care of the future. Worrying about the future is not the same as planning for the future. Planning is good as long as we are flexible because the future is so unpredictable we need to be flexible. Plans never go the way we want them to go.
Nerak: I want so much to get my spirituality back. I think what is holding me back is that I don't think I have a right to talk with God ( as I have) and do Self Injury. Any suggestions about how to overcome this?
Anil Coumar: Could you tell me, Nerak, what you mean by getting your spirituality back, because you never lost it.
Nerak: Well, I feel I have lost it or lost touch with it.
David: Nerak, can you tell us what you mean by that? What has made you feel this way?
Nerak: I no longer talk with God as I used to.
Anil Coumar: I don't understand what you mean when you say you "talk to God."
David: Part of the problem, I think, Mr. Coumar, is that some people who engage in self injury or other destructive behaviors may feel that they aren't worthy of God's attention (or their higher power's attention).
Nerak: Thank you, that is it.
ErikCOBx: I feel the same way, Nerak.
Anil Coumar: I would really challenge that assumption, Nerak, and ask myself, " is it really true that I'm not worthy of God's attention?" How do you know that it's true? That is what you should ask yourself. See what happens and how it affects you when you believe that assumption is a fact. You begin to dislike yourself even more, so it is important to examine our assumptions.
David: Also, I think that many times when we feel unworthy of another's attention, whether it be a physical person or God or your higher power, it's not because they have said to us "you are unworthy". Rather, it's our own self-talk, the way we feel about ourselves, and we project it onto others as if they feel the same way about us.
Here are a few audience comments about this:
ErikCOBx: I feel as if I'm not good enough to talk to God, but he has been talking to me in my dreams. Though we lose our faith at times, God always remains faithful to us! :)
Nerak: I guess I don't, but that is how I feel.
Londa: Deep down inside, we know we are not worthy. It is something we can say we do not believe, but it is there, all the same.
Montana: I felt I had lost it, but it was just buried underneath my past, in my sacred territory. Once I worked through some of those issues, I began to get connected with my spirituality which helped me resolve much more, and I began to have love of self and live in the serene present.
Londa: I feel the same way, unworthy of Creator's attention. Like, I believe other people can talk and pray and get a response, but I am too ...unworthy.
David: So, maybe as we begin to heal and feel better about ourselves, we begin to feel more worthy and more connected.
Anil Coumar: Precisely.
Montana: That has been my experience.
Alohio: Define 'spirit' to us. Spirit as 'soul'?
Anil Coumar: First of all, it is something that is difficult to express through words. It's a deep felt oneness and the recognition that everything is connected. We are always looking outside for solutions. It's like we have a big flashlight which we are shining all around us... What happens when we shine the flashlight unto ourselves?
What I mean by that is to look at the source of the problem, which is the I. Most of our problems exist because we are ignorant to the true nature of ourselves, so it's important to ask, "What Am I?" When we first ask that question, we will begin by describing things about ourselves: our name, our relationships, our behavior; but behind that there is the entity that cannot be described.
In asking this question, "What Am I?," we come across a brick wall, and it's important to observe that state of silence.
David: Here are a few more audience comments about what's being said tonight:
Alohio: We all start off as children who need to learn. Therefore, wisdom comes from outside of us.
sher36: I believe that spirit is something inside of us, and unless you nurture this spirit, you can never heal. If you are true to yourself, you nurture your spirit and, in return, are happy with yourself. You feel better about yourself and will find yourself worthy of anything, including a high power.
ErikCOBx: I think in order to feel God's acceptance of us, we need to learn to accept ourselves. To me, we are not human beings experiencing a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings experiencing a human experience.
Montana: Connection of mind, body, and spirit/wholeness/oneness.
species55: And one must integrate the past with the present if one is to move smoothly enough towards the future to integrate that future with the now 'present past.'
ErikCOBx: Hi, my name is Erik. I've been worrying about my health and feel my constant worrying is making me feel symptoms. Can your mind really make you believe you have symptoms?
Anil Coumar: Absolutely, Erik. There have been experiments conducted where a hypnotherapist put a coin on a subject's arm and told the subject under hypnosis that t he coin is red hot, in reality it was not hot but the subject's body reacted as if the coin was very hot. So because the subject believed that the coin was hot, his body produced a reaction as if there was a burn.
gigi: My therapist also has a prayer group. Do you think it is a good idea to see a therapist in more than one role?
Anil Coumar: It's hard to comment. Ideally, a therapist should have only 1 role. However, in small towns and communities, this may not be possible. It is important to find out if there is any pressure from the therapist to join the prayer group, gigi.
eveinaustralia: What happens if you can't remember the past and you have many troubled souls inside you, fighting so much for the present that you can hardly bear to open your eyes in the morning? What, then, of spirit?
Anil Coumar: The spirit can be felt only when the mind is somewhat clear of the pain that you are describing. I encourage you to go and talk to a professional so that you can have some mental peace to welcome the spirit.
David: If you haven't been on the main HealthyPlace.com site yet, I invite you to take a look. There are over 9000 pages of content.
Thank you, Mr. Coumar, for being our guest tonight and for sharing this information with us. And to those in the audience, thank you for coming and participating. I hope you found it helpful. We have a very large and active community here at HealthyPlace.com. I invite you to stay and chat in any of the other rooms on the site. Also, if you found our site beneficial, I hope you'll pass our URL around to your friends, mail list buddies, and others: http://www.healthyplace.com
Anil Coumar: It's been my pleasure and I thank you for this opportunity.
David: Good night everyone.
Disclaimer: We are not recommending or endorsing any of the suggestions of our guest. In fact, we strongly encourage you to talk over any therapies, remedies or suggestions with your doctor BEFORE you implement them or make any changes in your treatment.
Last Updated: 31 March 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD