A psychiatrist discusses his midlife embrace of Vedanta philosophy and related insights on depression, anxiety, and other subjects in this debut memoir and self-help guide.
Although Vasudev hails from a Hindu family, he says that “No one really talked about God or spirituality at home.” After an introductory chapter celebrating his current calmer and more joyful sense of self, he circles back to his past, detailing his childhood in India, which encompassed several family moves (his father was in the Indian Army) as well as many later challenges while he attended medical school, including dealing with its rites of passage, reminiscent of hazing. It was only in midlife, in 2013, that the Canada-based geriatric psychiatrist, despondent over his father’s recent death, went to a meditation class at the suggestion of his wife; he then read Paramhansa Yogananda’s 1946 book The Autobiography of a Yogi, and his life was transformed. Specifically, he became more open to the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta. Here, he breaks down key Vedanta precepts, including the different kinds of karma, and shares several parablelike stories drawn from various works, including the Bhagavad-Gita. He also dedicates chapters to depression, anxiety, psychosis, obsessions and compulsions, PTSD, and addictions; in them, he includes some of his patients’ stories and notes how Vedanta ideas, such as the power of deep breathing, may help address and manage mental health issues. He concludes by encouraging readers to embark on a spiritual journey to find their divine selves. Although Vasudev’s celebration of Eastern philosophy is certainly common to many midlife-awakening memoirs, he offers a rather unique blend here by not only highlighting traditional Hindu texts, but also sharing his experience and expertise as a psychiatrist. The result is an intriguing dive into the concept of self and a caring, relatable guide. At one point, for example, the author acknowledges that he’s had to learn to listen better to his patients, including a schizophrenic’s claim that “there is a spiritual reason for her experiences.” Vasudev is by no means comprehensive in his psychology discussion, but his book will serve as a springboard to many readers for further exploration.
Thought-provoking, Hindu-focused mental health commentary.