Traditional Medicine in India and Back:
A Student’s Study Abroad Perspective
India pt.3 (last segment)
“Rise and shine!” shouted Dr. Paul. The other students and I stumbled out to the courtyard for a 5:30 am yoga session. The night before was less than restful after some hungry species of insects insisted upon sharing my cot, making it was hard to determine if I was more itchy or tired. I may or may not have got in a few more winks during ‘meditation’ just before it was time to venture further up the mountain. Once a week CFHI volunteers set up health camp in faraway villager’s homes, so I fumbled to strap on a fifty-pound backpack filled to the brim with nearly everything available in the clinic—needles, gauze, medications, a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, and pen light. The hike began to awaken my senses, revealing more breathtaking landscape as we crossed rivers that flowed down into the valley, blanketed by mist not quite thick enough to be called fog. Soon enough, we were tripping over each other in a cramped dark living room. The patients who could not make the journey down to the clinic were mostly mothers with their newborns or the elderly, a majority of which suffered from diabetes. Dr. Paul’s medical training and experience encompassed the integrative use of allopathic and complementary medicine across the health continuum, so I was fascinated by his prescription of Ayurvedic herb Moringa oleifera in conjunction with oral anti-diabetic agents successfully manage blood glucose levels and prevent progression of the disease. Witnessing this integration of Eastern and Western medicine effectively treating even chronic diseases during mobile clinic hikes and follow-ups ignited my intention to further research these modalities. We live on this incredible planet, with plants growing out of it that we are only just beginning to understand, yet have used for millennia to heal. It blows my mind.
The last two weeks of the program were spent studying under 103 year old Naturopathic Physician Dr. Prem Nath Gupta. The centenarian is an oracle on Reiki, Accupressure, and Ayurveda. When he was 60 years old, he married 20-year old bride, Asha Gupta. He was the portrait of health with fewer wrinkles than myself, impeccable recollection, brimming with singular wisdom and energy. His vocabulary was articulate and poignant, I could have spend each day sitting under the shade of his primordial insight, soaking up any and every experience that he may share. Any bit of advice coming from a doctor who had only been operated on for cataracts at the age of 96 and a knee replacement surgery at 101 was worth taking to heart! He and Asha had recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. “We do not fight with each other,” she laughs. “I know he will be fine and I also have to keep myself healthy so I can take care of him.” She shared that a disciplined lifestyle, comprising good eating habits including lots of fluids, vegetables and fruits, a strict regime of yoga and physical activity, was the key to Dr Gupta’s health (Chowdhury, 2013).
There was a little something else, “Secret Wisdom”, found in the pages of an antique, yet not antiquated paperback book Dr. Gupta wrote some forty years back. As he passed me the copy signed ‘Dear Lauren’, I knew there was something special hidden in the pages smelling of ancient literature, nearly dropping out onto the floor. In its essence, the book is the gateway to health, peace, and fulfillment by acting as a compass to channel the power of thought vibrations, steeped in the scientific awareness that everything consists of atoms (organized charges of energy revolving at terrific speeds), creating vibrations oscillating at different frequencies.
Dr. Gupta (n.d.) primarily delved into techniques for practicing proper meditation in order to better focus these vibrations created by the mind:
The uncontrolled mind is confused and disjointed. It is never orderly and concentrated on one idea, one thought. The mind continues to scatter mental energy around aimlessly. It is a mental law that you can only achieve what you conceive clearly and desire ardently. But your conceiving and desiring backed by a firm faith in the basic step. Without belief you cannot be inspired to take the basic step necessary for making your desire a reality. (p.41)
After meeting this vibrant, breathing, walking example of love and health—I am forever inspired to take the challenge presented by “Secret Wisdom” and practice meditation, even if only for several minutes a day in an attempt to achieve full presence in this existence. Observing the effectiveness of this aspect of mindfulness based stress reduction and Ayurvedic herbs has kindled my ardent desire to innovatively fill the gaps in research by constructing studies that accurately measure and reflect the efficacy of these modalities in order to improve health outcomes in the global underserved community. The demand for such integrative management is reflected by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s objectives that coincide with this desire (NCCAM). What endless opportunities await and blossom from international education.
There are probably 54 embarrassing reasons not to post this article—however, the aim in sharing my story is to inspire others who have experienced similar barriers to rise up and take hold of every opportunity to fulfill their dreams. Refuse to allow financial barriers to prevent you from unlocking your full potential! The Gilman Scholarship can open doors to discovery for college students receiving Pell Grants and looking to study abroad for at least four weeks— fueling your personal, professional, and academic goals alike. Dr. Gupta’s wise words remain fresh in my mind: “For we are free to destroy ourselves as we are free to forge ahead and transcend the mental barriers within which most of us remain hemmed up throughout their lives” (Gupta, n.d.). Countless obstacles may also face you in your quest to study abroad, but there are infinite reasons to step out and explore what this world has to teach you.
Chowdhury, T. R. (2013, April 28). Dehradun doctor has knees replaced at 101. The Times of India. Retrieved
Gupta, P.N. (n.d.). Secret Wisdom. Dehradun, India: Practical Psychology Publications.
NCCAM. (2014). The Five Strategic Objectives. Retrieved from http://nccam.nih.gov/about/research/objectives