Answer to a question in the framework of SYHET (Sivananda Yoga Health Education Training) 

Swami Sitaramananda (translating the question from Vietnamese): Can you please give an example of how you deal with a client using Eastern psychology? For example, a client is in depression.

Rami Bleckt: First of all, you have to understand what kind of depression it is. It could be depression just for the last 2 days. It could be depression for the last 15 years. It could be depression from their childhood. It could be depression after losing a loved one.

So first of all, you have to see what kind of depression it is and how deep it is.

And to tell the truth, I use Vedic Astrology in my practice. Professor Frawly says that Vedic Astrology could help you see the subconscious mind, some karmic tasks, and also the mind of the person. Vedic Astrology helps me a lot in my practice.

After that, I advise the client to listen or read some books (my books or other relevant books) that can help to make some spiritual and mental progress.

Then I suggest working on 4 levels: spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical. Ayurveda taught us that there are 4 levels in our life. In Eastern Psychology, we try to approach it in a holistic way (unlike Western psychology or psychotherapy that often suggests changing just some thoughts or focuses on one aspect of the problem).

Let’s start with the physical level. From my experience, if a person doesn’t change anything with regards to their physical activity, then it’s almost impossible to get rid of depression. A depressed individual doesn’t usually like to move a lot, so, you have to inspire them to be out more often, to walk a lot, to do some exercises, to swim, to run, to bike, to contemplate beautiful views, and so on. The physical level, at least according to my approach, also includes the mental level, so, I’d also suggest doing a little meditation, or repeating some positive affirmations (e.g., “Every day my life is getting better and better in all regards”). But physical activity is crucial. Nowadays, we have a lot of depression in the world because people don’t have any physical activity, they don’t exercise at all. I had a conversation about it with one college professor, and we came to the realization that in the countryside you can hardly find a depressed person and one of the main reasons is that people who live there generally walk a lot and spend a lot of hours outdoors. Another reason is that they’re just busy, they have a lot of things to do and just don’t have time for thinking depressive thoughts. So, one should engage their mind and body in some activity because if you don’t have any activity, especially outdoor or physical activity, you will have problems. Speaking of physical activities, Vedic Psychology suggests, first of all, yoga, but also walking, swimming, and some martial arts (for men). So, the first thing I recommend to all my clients in depression — do some physical activity!

Then on this level, I could also suggest changing their place of living — namely, moving from big cities to smaller towns. Some years ago I came across some scientific research that said that if you lived in the center of a huge city, around high rises, giant apartment blocks, you’ll automatically get depression and some psychological problems, and you’ll become more aggressive. And indeed, you could see that people in big cities have more psychological problems; therefore, I recommend moving to a smaller town, living closer to nature, or, at least, visiting some beautiful retreat center like, e.g., the retreat of Swami Sitaramananda. I remember bringing some of my students to Her retreat, and after a few weeks, many of them came back completely recovered! So, to cope with depression, it’s very helpful to participate in different outdoor activities and attend different kinds of retreats.

Let’s move on to the social level. It includes many aspects. First of all, we should use our talents for serving all living entities. Ayurveda teaches that many problems in our mind begin from losing our path when we are not following our predestination, our unique way in life, and, as a result, our mind automatically becomes more agitated. That’s why it’s very important to find your path and follow it. I consulted one lady from Israel 25 years ago. I took a look at her astrological chart, asked her a few questions, and after that, I told her that she should never work as a bookkeeper. And she broke into tears. She told me that when she moved to Israel, their government offered to pay for some expensive courses to receive an accountant’s license. Using this opportunity, she got it and began working and making a lot of money, triple than what she could expect in another field. But despite all the seeming advantages, she couldn’t do it; her mind started going crazy, and she left this job after a short time. It wasn’t simply her vocation, and it made her miserable.

Also, please don’t forget that predestination in Eastern psychology is not just your career but also your family life, fulfilling yourself in different social roles (wife/husband, daughter/son, friend, etc.). Therefore, at the social level, I recommend improving relationships with everyone who surrounds us — our spouses and other relatives, our friends and colleagues. Since if we don’t have good relations, it’s not possible for us to be happy. There’s some great psychological study conducted at Harvard University that lasted for 75 years. They took children from different social levels — from poor to middle and upper class — and every 2 years they checked with them and asked them a few questions to see how happy and satisfied they were with life. And after 75 years, the main conclusion of that research was the following: relationships matter the most; if you don’t have good relationships with your relatives and friends, you cannot be happy. That’s why it’s crucial to work on improving our relations with all living entities every day. Here I must say that in order to be successful in it, it’s important to be a spiritual person because spirituality enables us to automatically love and respect everyone (in the spiritual sense, as a soul, and not just because someone is wealthy, has a high social status, etc.). I always recommend my clients to work on their relations — first of all, to forgive everybody because one of the ways to depression is not to forgive someone or even some situation. In general, that’s it with regard to the social level. I have a lot of workshops devoted to this topic if one wants to go deeper.

As for the intellectual level, there are 2 ways to approach it — Western and Eastern. In the framework of the Western or the modern approach, they are used to identifying psychological problems and putting some labels on them or naming a certain disease and finding some kind of treatment. However, from an Eastern point of view, the intellectual level means our Buddhi — our will power, having strong self-discipline, following our goals. One of the reasons we have depression is that we don’t have right values and right goals. Generally, a person who doesn’t have any goals easily falls into depression. That’s why even in Western psychology, they highlight the importance of having goals in life.

I suggest a person in tamasic (Sanskrit “tamas” — mode of ignorance, apathy, darkness) depression try setting any kind of goals — maybe not the most elevated ones at first, but the material ones — to be wealthy, to grow their career, in other words, to do at least something. If you don’t have any goals, it’s a major problem for your psychological wellbeing. So, on the first basic level, we could help a depressed person set some goals in rajas (Sanskrit “rajas” — mode of passion, action, energy). Please note that from the tamasic condition of mind, we cannot go straight to sattva (Sanskrit “sattva” — mode of goodness, light, harmony), we have to go through rajas. We have to inspire a person to work, to be successful, to be more active and rajastic — that’s a good way to progress. There’s one relevant example that comes to my mind. One of my students in Canada told me that she’d started applying some principles of Eastern psychology in her communication and relations with her younger brother in order to help him out. I asked her — what was the problem? She told me that her brother was a tamasic person, he’d play video games all night long, sleep during the day, and work a couple of hours per day just to get enough for food and rent. He’d eat tamasic food like meat and drink beer. At first, she tried giving him some instructions, teaching him some higher spiritual principles but he wasn’t interested and told her to go away. However, that lifestyle was leading him to more and more depression. One day after my lecture she approached him and showed some magazines — modern magazines featuring beautiful cars, yachts, and women. My student was quite accomplished in her own career, had a good position in a big corporation and made a lot of money. And so she asked her brother — “could you give me a piece of advice on what car I should buy? Maybe I should buy a yacht instead? I’ve worked so hard, so, now I can plan on my future investments and expenses.” He suddenly lit up and realized that he also wanted to have such kind of life, to be surrounded by beautiful cars and gorgeous women just like in that magazine. And she told him — you have to work hard in order to get it! Look at yourself, you’ve gained some extra weight — you have to be more active, and exercise, or you won’t attract anyone. After that, he started gradually changing — reading something, studying different personal growth techniques, going to the gym. Eventually he became quite a successful rajastic person and got rid of depression. At that point, his sister began giving him more sattvic food, and sattvic books about personal growth. It’s just a simple example for general understanding.

On the intellectual level, I teach people to have right goals in our life because we depend on our goals, especially our main goal of life. The main goal of our life should be on a spiritual level. Sometimes during my consultations I explain briefly how important the spiritual level is. And by the spiritual level, I mean not just joining some religion/church/sect — which is not bad per se, however, real spirituality is our state of unity, our yoga, our unconditional love, our connection to God/Brahman. I explain to people how important it is to have unconditional love, awareness, being here and now as their main goal of life. Because all our psychological problems come from losing our spirituality and ceasing to live here and now. But in order to be truly happy, we have to live here and now and be aware of reality. Spirituality also implies selfless service. I teach people to engage in selfless service, even if it’s just a little bit. Even Western psychology acknowledges the benefits of selfless service and helping others. I read about one of the Western psychological techniques developed by one American college professor. He tested it on his students: the idea was for his students to do some selfless service, twice per week (e.g., to wash plates after dinner, to wash floors somewhere — in general, to help someone). One of the conditions was not to tell anybody about it, to keep it a secret. It’s amusing to me that the recommendation was doing it just twice per week (would doing it three or more times hurt?) but anyhow… But the point is that by doing something good they began to feel much better psychologically and happier. So, I explain to my students and clients that on the spiritual level we should be as aware as possible, live here and now, observe our mind, do selfless service as much as possible, and this will help us feel unconditional love. Because ultimately what we need and what we’re looking for — whether we realize it or not — is unconditional love. This is our nature. The less unconditional love we have, the more we are in distress, the more we have psychological, physical, and social problems.

With love,