I'm a month into my Psychiatry rotation and I've had the great pleasure of meeting many wonderful kids. One, in particular, I’ll always remember. One day, he said to me:
“I’ll give you a guitar lesson if you teach me how to meditate again today.”
That’s probably not a line out of a typical psychotherapy session. Perhaps it was typical for us since I am a complete novice when it comes to psychotherapy. It really does take time to know what to say to someone without knowing the person. This particular kiddo was tough because he had layers upon layers of anxiety and trauma. So many layers that he could not function in society and tried to end his life many times. This boy had been on medication for nearly two weeks and the meds definitely helped stabilize his mood: he no longer wished to end his life. After a few sessions with him, I wasn’t sure what I could do to be of further help. We had talked at length, established rapport, but it felt like a dead end.
“Let’s try something different. Let’s meditate together,” I offered. We observed our breath and then I guided him through a 10-minute meditation, something he had never done before. As the next patient came in right after we finished, I didn’t get a chance to speak with him about his experience, but I sensed he appreciated it.
The next day he told me he wanted to play a song for me on his guitar, something he had been practicing since our last session together. He proceeded to play a brilliant Spanish classic and my jaw dropped. He was alive. This was his spirit playing. We then meditated again, upon his request, and this time we had a few minutes to reflect. He said that he had never experienced so much peace and so little anxiety.
Later that day, for the first time, he played his guitar for all the kids on the entire hospital ward and smiled so much that I thought he might injure his face. It was as if he suddenly became this uncontainable ball of light. His radiance, in turn, opened up other children on the unit that day. Some started to sing for no reason, some started to draw, some kids who had held grudges started to talk to one another. A different form of psychotherapy was at work.
He inspired me to learn guitar, I inspired him to learn meditation. Neither of us saw this coming.
In his new book “Life at 100%”, Guruji says that, “true success is smiling even when everything falls apart.” It's easy to smile when things are going our way. But, where does our inner peace and happiness go when life becomes more challenging? And, how often do we help people to smile in our own life? In those moments of smiling, my little hero forgot about his thoughts; he forgot about his broken life. He was free, at least for a little while, of his anxiety and trauma – emotions that had once shackled him to his room and kept him fearful of people. Now he was smiling and had ignited a smile on the faces of all the kids around him.
This child gave me so many gifts that day - so many experiences. Looking for ways to brighten someone's day and actually following through is sacred. This is The Art of Living. It's helping to bring people to their capacity. What is it that we can offer people around us and what is it that we can learn from them? As Guruji says so sweetly, it's really asking yourself these two questions every moment of your life… how much love have you spread?…what knowledge have you gained?