(Sri Sri Ravishankar launches PRERNA, which is an Art of Living initiative in celebration with SAARC Federation of oncologists. PRERNA is a special programs designed for cancers patients. Below is the transcript of Sri Sri's talk at the Federation of Oncologists’ Conference)
It is so nice to be here with all of you doctors. You are all doing such good work, you are all the caregivers. Many of you are giving care to others, but you need to take care of yourselves also.
I am happy that all of you together have come up with PRERNA. A lifestyle change has to happen if a patient needs to get better; that is most essential.
When you see life with the eyes of wisdom, all these negative emotions will simply drop away and you will start smiling from the core of your being.
I recently read an article by the American Psychology Association that if you meditate for eight weeks, the structure of the brain changes and the grey matter in the brain increases. So, if just eight weeks of meditation can have such a huge impact, then there is a lot of hope in society.
Another research says that the anxiety level of students in high school is the same as the anxiety levels of patients in the asylum in the 1950s. This is alarming.
Today, there is so much stress and anxiety in people. A 20 year old boy comes and says, 'I am fed up with life'. They have not even seen what life is and they are already fed up with life! This means that they are definitely not going to be healthy; in the next five to six years they will have all sorts of problems.
Schizophrenia is another thing that is clogging the student population these days. Brilliant students cannot handle stress, something happens to them and they become bipolar and schizophrenic.
I want to ask you, did you ever hear about schizophrenia or bipolar 25-30 years ago? (Audience says, ‘No.’ )
Today in every city, big or small, we are hearing about these illnesses. We need to take care of the health of the society by looking into the lifestyle management and see what we can do about it. As we all know, stress is the cause of all this.
What is stress? One of the definitions that you can give for stress is, when you have a lot to do and have very little energy and time to do it. This creates stress. Today it is not practically possible to reduce your work. Time is constant, you cannot increase time. So the only other alternative that we have is to increase our energy levels. And there are many ways to increase energy:
1. Food; eating healthy food. In the SAARC countries, we eat food that is not very healthy, and that is low in nutrition. We only eat carbohydrates. Our food is very imbalanced. The vegetables that we eat are potato, tomato, brinjal and onion. That’s it! There’s starch in potato, starch in our roti (Indian bread) and in our dal (pulses). This is an imbalanced diet. We don’t consume nutritious food in our day to day life. We need to bring back the awareness about nutrition and healthy food habits.
Research says that the anxiety level of students in high school is the same as the anxiety levels of patients in the asylum in the 1950s. This is alarming.
2. Good sleep. Sleep also gives you energy. Sleep helps more than medication. I cannot undermine the effects of medication, but if you give someone medicine and don’t let them sleep then even medicines will not work. So, sleep is very important.
Insomnia is a big issue today, and lack of good sleep is also another big issue. People are unable to sleep well. Nightmares have become a common phenomenon. There are techniques in yoga which help people to sleep better without medication and sleeping tablets. Doing some postures and some meditation can give you very good sleep.
Adopting these methods would help.
3. Hygiene. A sense of hygiene is lacking in all SAARC countries. We need to create awareness about it. This is what The Art of Living Foundation has been doing through its 5H program (Health, Hygiene, Homes for people, Harmony in diversity and Human Values).
We are all different people. In India there are 600 different dialects, and so many different religions. So what is most important is to live in harmony. So these are the 5 issues that we are looking into in our 5H program.
We must see how we can prevent diseases by helping people to attend to their environment. Many people don’t open their doors in winter, and when you get inside, there is stale air in the rooms. In many houses there is no cross-ventilation. I heard from a very well known oncologist that one of the main issues of cancer is that people don’t breathe enough. If you oxidize (take in a good amount of oxygen) your body then it flushes out toxins and helps you to heal yourself. Deep breathing definitely helps prevent cancer. I have seen hundreds of cases where breathing exercises, meditation, yoga and some changes in diet have helped people with cancer overcome this disease. People didn’t have to go through chemo as they found that their body had started healing itself.
4. Breathing is another source of energy. Fresh air and clean air is essential. Sometimes in big cities when we walk around, not just the petrol fumes but also the electro-magnetic garbage affects the body. If you watch television for 8-9 hours, it will definitely cause illnesses.
In America, when parents have to do some work, they leave their kids in front of the television. Young kids, three to four year olds sit and watch television for hours! What will happen to their brain if they are taking in so many impressions? The result of this is that they develop Attention Deficiency Syndrome.
We need to take care of the health of society by looking into our lifestyle management and see what we can do to reduce stress.
We need to educate people to honor this beautiful instrument that nature has given us called the body. We need to honor the body and honor the mind.
If you pent up all negative emotions, then cancer will be the consequence of it. You’re harboring anger, jealousy, greed; you hold on to all these emotions that you cannot express. Here again, these techniques and knowledge will help.
Look at life from a broader perspective and you will see anger and jealousy fade away. What are you jealous about? There are seven billion people on this planet and everybody has enough opportunity. When you see life with the eyes of wisdom, all these negative emotions will simply drop away and you will start smiling from the core of your being. The goal of The Art of Living is to put a smile on every face. Coming out from your box and seeing life from a different perspective makes all the difference in life.
When a small problem comes, or (whatever you think as) a big problem comes to you, you get stuck with it. Wake up and see, there are bigger problems that people are facing. They need you and you can be of use to them. Start moving in that direction of helping people who are really in need. When you do this, then suddenly you will find that your problem is so insignificant, it is much smaller and not as big as you thought. The moment you recognize that your problem is not that big, you have already have found the energy and the enthusiasm to handle it and move through it.
The mind needs a little training. Just in a matter of few hours we can train people, give them an orientation and some little tips that would help them handle their own mind, emotions and change their lifestyle. We cannot change someone’s lifestyle, they have to do it by themselves. As doctors you administer medicines to them, but they have to take responsibility to take it. Similarly, you can only give them the ways to get rid of stress.
Wake up and see, there are bigger problems that people are facing. They need you and you can be of use to them. Start moving in the direction of helping people who are really in need.
There is a story about Mullah Nasruddin. Once Mulla was admitted into a hospital with multiple fractures and was bandaged all over. His friend came and asked him, ‘Mullah how are you doing?’
He said, ‘I am fine. It only pains when I laugh’.
His friend asked, ‘How can you laugh being in this situation?’
He said, ‘If I don’t laugh now, I have never laughed in my life’.
That is wisdom: the strength to smile in all occasions. Take life not as a struggle, but as a challenge. Take life not as a suffering, but a way to express the multitude of emotions. That is what I call wisdom.
We have had this knowledge for centuries but it was limited to only a few people. They would use it for themselves and give it to their children but never shared it with the whole world. I thought that this is the time that we need to share this knowledge with everybody. All these techniques should benefit people to live a better and healthier life.