India is a country that has historically been celebrated for its spirituality, and this continues into extant times. It is a land known for the ancient well bring traditions such as yoga and Ayurveda. It is also known for its many sages, gurus and mystics who attract huge fan followings, both in India and abroad, for their traction to be a guide, mentor and moral compass, as perceived by their believers.
But today a new kind of 'healing' is making inroads into India. This time it is not one of indigenous origin but from the West, the USA in particular. It is posited on a 'heal your life' philosophy, that all dis-ease is caused by emotional afflictions within you which your body reacts and responds to, and when these are rectified full health and well-being are regained. This philosophy emanates from the groundbreaking book by Louise Hay titled 'Heal Your Life'. In the book, Hay, drawing from overcoming her own troubled personal experiences of abuse, dysfunctional relationships and cancer, delineates how each of us has the power to release negative emotions that are festering within us.
The book was seminal in shifting an understanding of disease as being instrumentally a physical ailment to one that is inherently entwined with, and a reflection of, our emotional selves. At the end of the book, Hay offers a comprehensive chronology of ailments and the corresponding repressed emotions they represent. Today Louise Hay has formally retired but her work and her ethos has spawned a thriving publishing house, namely, Hay House, that focuses on self help books. However, the part of her legacy that is at ground level and experientially empowering, is that of her 'Heal Your Life' workshops, that are making inroads into more communities and countries. And they are proliferating in India too.
I attended one such Louise Hay workshop in Kolkata. Conducted by a ‘Heal Your Life’ certified trainer Devina Fogla, it spanned two full days. Fogla, began the workshop by sharing her own powerful story – hailing from a prominent business family she nevertheless found her calling in life by training to become a healer and therapist. She recounted how she took the courage to travel alone to the UK and train there.
Fogla’s workshops tend to be with smaller numbers – this works well as intense emotional processing is an intrinsic part of the two day process. Chants, life affirming songs and visualisation form an energising part of the workshop. But two particular sessions were especially striking. One was that of role playing – where difficult, ‘seated’ emotions are ‘unseated’ by playing them out between the protagonist (the person ‘housing’ the emotions) and the people in her life involved with her emotional upset (the parts of the people were played out by people from among the workshop participants). The primary role is mainly of the protagonist and how she approaches each of the people she feels resentful towards with the objective of contextualising and resolving her resentment.
Often, this proves a meaningful stage for processing childhood traumas and unhelpful conditionings. Another technique, simple but effective, was that of replacing people who you feel are occupying negative space in your head with a benign object such as a pillow or cushion cover and ‘thrashing’ the life out of it – till you feel a release of the angst you have been feeling.
Lunch was included on both days and included delicious home made, vegetarian fare and local Bengali desserts. It was heartening to see, in a country such as India, where social norms often ask of people to wear firm masks that can prevent an easy sharing, the nature of this workshop worked to ease off those masks and begin the process of authentic sharing, even among strangers.
Being an all women workshop, what I really do hope also catches on is the increasing inclusivity of men in such spaces.
For more information of Devina Fogla’s work and workshops please see: http://lifesprecious.co.in/aboutme.html
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Written byDr Priya Virmani
Dr. Priya Virmani is a Political and Economic Analyst and an International Speaker based in London. She is the Foundress and Director of Paint Our World - a humanitarian project that works to heal underprivileged children who have endured trauma. Together with her passion for her work, she derives her nurture from being in nature, horse-riding, writing, painting, classical music and travelling. Travel, in her words, is 'the best medicine and the best teacher'. She loves travelling to explores the souls of places