by Aram Kim
I grew up in a Christian family in South Korea. As such, I have not had a formal training in meditation. I first started meditation two years ago. At the time, I was suffering from nightmare induced insomnia and depression. These nightmares were often about my father who was abusive to me in my development. It was the most miserable days of my life. I was willing to try anything that would help me go to sleep and feel better.
I had gone to the doctor, but he said that I was perfectly healthy. He recommended that maybe I could go get tested at the sleep center at Duke but warned me that the fee would be substantial. That was not an option for me. I would not go to the psychiatrist because I was barely getting by with paying bills and groceries. I think this is when I started drinking on a daily basis. The intoxication helped me to forget the nightmares somewhat, but at the same time, I was not living my life clearly either.
When I started meditation, I had no idea what was going on. There were so many different types of meditation. I often started daydreaming or fell asleep as soon as I closed my eyes. It was an exercise in frustration. I did not understand how counting breaths can help me understand the secrets of life or somehow turn me into an enlightened person. But then I realized that I was falling asleep during my meditation and found it very useful when I am anxious about falling asleep at night.
However, the real benefit of meditation came about a year later. Gradually, I began to understand things about myself, my father, and life in general. Although nobody has really explained to me how and why, I realized under what circumstances I was born in my family and –more importantly- under what circumstances my father grew up in. When I came to this, there was no reason to be hurt and scared because I understood things were as they were.
In being healed, I would have forgiven my father one would think. However, forgiveness implies that there was actually a wrongdoing on the behalf of other party. When I understood that my father did not know to treat me any better because he himself grew up in a post-Korean war era without supportive parents, I knew that there was no real harm. It did not mean that I would let him anyone else hurt me like that again, but I understood the circumstances surrounding the past events. I stopped having the nightmares and started sleeping like a baby.
This is not where my experience with meditation and depression ends, however.
A lot of people at school are puzzled about me. Of the many things I have heard about me, the two most interesting description was that I was “excessively happy” and “like contantly being on mushroom.” The following event was what I attribute to the change in my life.
It was early March of 2005. I was having a horrible sickness. I remember being in terrible fever at night. It was so painful that I wanted to die. Then I remembered from one of my lessons that embracing the physical pain was the way out of my psychological pain. At this time, I still had depression related problem even though my issues with Dad had mostly been resolved. So that is exactly what I did. I stopped resisting and hating the pain and “allowed” the pain to be a part of me. It was difficult, and I passed out in the midst of it.
The next morning was different. I was not sick anymore. The fever was gone. But there was something more significant than the missing fever. At first, I felt intoxicated since my mind was different. It was a few hours later that day I realized that I was not anxious and depressed anymore. Even more than that, nothing worried me. Thoughts of money, work, girlfriend, etc. did not really concern me. I thought it was so strange that I would not concern myself with things like that, so I thought long and hard about all the “bad things” in my life. To my surprise, I was somehow immune to generating negative emotions.
The next four days I did nothing but whatever I liked to do. I would lie down and listen to music or walk my dog around the town. Watch the clouds float by. Whatever I liked to do. I stopped going to work. It was heaven. I played video games.
Then I realized how sad everyone else was. This person was disappointed. That person was anxious. I remembered that I used to be that way. I wanted to explain to them that they did not need to feel that way – regardless of what predicaments they may be in. But it was so difficult to explain it to them, and no one really understood what I was trying to say. I taught meditation to few people, but they were easily discouraged and did not have the motivation to continue.
Since then, I met people like me who smiled gently and took life as it came. Some of these people were just born this way, but others came to the same conclusion that I came to through means other than “meditation.” (Some of these people I met in medical school.) Being with these people, I have realized that I am not the only one in this world who thinks Life is beautiful and, at least for me, meditation played a big part on my maturing process since it facilitated so much understanding.
Physician, heal thyself. As aspiring future holistic physicians, our responsibility is not only with physical health but also with healing our own psyche and spirit. Whether it may be yoga, meditation, worship, religion, or a poem, we owe it to ourselves and our patients to be healthy in all aspects of our lives. I can give many reasons why this is pertinent, but a better reason would be, “why not?” Why would you not want to live the rest of your life beautifully and vibrantly?