The power of inner space — a case study in Consciousness as Medicine

A remarkable case study of reversal of anxiety neurosis in a middle-aged man who believed that nothing was possible, till he met a therapist who helped him experience a space within him imbued with joy and peace. A single experience of inner peace and the fact that he could control his reactions helped him to come out of a hopeless situation and recover his job and family.

It was the first week of March, 2012 and I received a call from my colleague that she wanted me to see her brother-in-law urgently. “He has not been able to speak for the last two weeks, he is choking each time he tries to speak”. I suggested that he had better see an ENT surgeon, but she insisted that I see him and then decide on what to do.

The first meeting

In a couple of hours a middle-aged gentleman (RG) arrived, his attire in disarray, hair dishevelled, a blank look on his face. As he sat on a chair, I observed his hands were trembling and his legs were vigorously shaking. He was profusely perspiring. I tried to engage him in small social chat, but he refused to look at my eyes, all the while looking at the ground.

“There is no way-out…”

I encouraged RG to speak, but he would speak only in monosyllables. When asked about what was troubling him, the shivering intensified and a fear overcame his eyes. He kept on reiterating that, “There is no solution … only way-out is to find a new job.” He was feeling helpless and hopeless.

Slowly he disclosed how for the last three months he had been under unbearable stress. His situation at the office was hopeless, he had a nasty boss who was determined to harass and oust him. Mr. RG had in fact taken a three-week leave to escape the office and search for a new job. His family was in disarray; he was unable to relate to his growing daughter and the ever- increasing stress of managing the financial health of the family. And to add to the misery he was emotionally exhausted, depressed, unable to think clearly or attend interviews.

For an hour or so, I heard his story, which appeared daunting to me too. I was wondering how I could help him, perhaps help him find another job. I understood that words alone would be of no use, something deeper needed to be done.

“Please sit down”, I suggested. He looked perplexed at this request, “but I am sitting, doctor”. I replied, “Yes, but do you feel your body touching the cushion of the chair, do you feel your feet touching the floor, do you feel your back touching… please uncross your legs. Let your feet touch the floor, feel your hands touching your thighs… just feel the sensations in the different parts of the body.” I helped him to become aware of the different parts of his body. “Please close your eyes, and feel your feet touching the floor, feel the pressure on the feet, feel the sensations….”

I could sense the subtle change in his body, as he became conscious of the different sensations of the body, and moved his awareness sequentially. “Become aware of your breath, and just observe the flow of breath as you breathe in and breathe out… allow your breath to become slow and quiet… slowly become conscious of your heart region and become aware of the sensations there … now slowly move inside your heart … feel the vastness.” I sensed that he was going within, “Breathe quietly, and just be in this space. There is nothing to do, just be there.” We remained in that space for around 15 minutes.

Tears of joy

By the end of the session, tears were rolling down his cheeks. “I have never felt such happiness, I feel so happy… I don’t under- stand.” He kept on repeating these words, and was surprised at how he could feel happy when his life-situation was apparently so hopeless.

I tried to explain that during the session somehow he was able to contact a space within himself, whose basic nature was peace and joy. “It is natural to feel so, when one is in touch with that space.”


I asked him if there are times in a day when he feels free of stress, “In the mornings when I pray to Lord Murugan” is when he felt free from the problems. I suggested that if he wanted, he could pray to Lord Murugan even in the office, and feel the connection with God. I provided him with a small experience of how he could offer his problems to God and be free from the burden of stress.


I tried to explain the concept of choice, how one has a choice over one’s mind, a choice to respond to outer situations. The choice to breathe and the choice to control the rhythm of one’s own breath, a choice no one can take away from us. I tried to explain that one has the power only on one’s own self, and not on others’ actions or behaviour. Age has nothing to do with learning, one can awaken and learn at any age, and the inner knowledge is much more important than outer degrees or accumulation of wealth, etc.

I advised him to practise breathing with awareness at home, to pray and feel good and strong about himself.

By the end of the session, he looked a different person, the breathing had changed and the face appeared much lighter. I knew something vital had changed in him, but was not sure how long it would last. I instructed him to call me each day to update his status.


One day later he replied in a text that he “feels much better”. Three days later, when I called him up in the evening, he was in his office. He sounded different, confident and bold. “Much better, fine.” Seven days later, the first time he had called up himself, he said, “I am not going to find another job, I am fine.” I followed him for another week, he was holding on.

Three months later, I was introduced to him at a social event. I could not recognise him. He shook my hands, and said, “Do you remember me, Doctor?” I was amazed, he looked so confident. I had never expected RG to respond so dramatically. I saw at first-hand the power of something deeper within which had had such a profound influence on someone’s life. I saw how one simple idea of a choice could transform someone so deeply.

On that day, something seriously shook my medical knowledge and a new door opened. The Inner Life assumed much more reality and importance. Today, after two-and-a-half years, I remember RG whenever I meet people with despair who believe, “It is not possible.”

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