Bali from Italian OTI interviews Sudha about her job.
I hear that you organise a meditation programme in the hospital where you work. Please tell us all about it.
After having spent two years working at Osho Miasto in Tuscany, and doing a lot of work on myself, life suddenly brought me back ‘into the world’. I felt that I still had something to learn and to share. So one day I found myself at the G.B. Grassi Hospital in Ostia, near Rome, coordinating the Day Hospital programme of the oncology ward.
I always wanted to bring meditation into hospitals, to share a bit of ‘meaning’, in particular because, I think, it is very important for people with cancer. When they come I often notice how spaced out they are, how vulnerable, full of anxiety and fear. It is as if they had lost contact with themselves. They are afraid of death. My intention was to offer Osho’s active meditations and to give these patients an opportunity to do a bit of work on themselves.
In the beginning I did not quite know how to implement my idea, but then I talked to Dr. Maria Rita, the head of my department. She liked my idea and thought that it would be possible to obtain a space for meditation. She suggested to write a proper project, which we then prepared together, and to take it to the CEO of the hospital.
It took about six months to finally get the approval from the commission. It was a difficult wait as we were in a hurry to start. We had already spoken to some patients and they kept asking us when we would start. Although we did not yet have a room, three of my colleagues and I decided to go ahead nevertheless. As we had no other options they were held in a corridor. Elisa, Cristina, Francesca had no experience with meditation, but were very curious to know more about it.
The first meditation I proposed was Kundalini. We put some blankets on the floor, with sheets on top, and chairs for patients who wanted to sit. Then we turned on the music. At first it felt strange to hear the Kundalini music in my hospital! I was a bit scared; I had no idea what would happen next.
The patients – there were eight or ten, plus the four of us – were intrigued by their new experience: some were doing chemotherapy, some radiotherapy, and others who were there for their periodical check-ups. This was the beginning of our great adventure! From that moment some patients never missed one of our Monday meditation.
I then had the idea to also offer Nadabrahma, Chakra Sounds and Prayer meditation. This last one was very beautiful because it creates expansion and a feeling of happiness. A patient shared that she forgot all about her illness and had found a space of intimate sharing. Although she did not know the other participants, she felt a deep closeness with them. That day she did not even feel nauseous (from the chemo) and felt generally very good. She was very grateful to have been able to be in that space of trust…
Do you now have a dedicated space for meditation?
Yes. It’s a fairly large room that we transform each time from being a meeting room into a ‘Buddha Hall’. With a donation from a patient we bought meditation chairs. These are more comfortable – the normal chairs can be quite uncomfortable because of their height. With another donation we have been promised we will buy more chairs and tatami mats to insulate the floor. Presently we are using cardboard sheets, given that there are no carpets.
The patients are very cooperative, enthusiastic and happy and always insist to lend us a hand: they help clean the floor, move the chairs out of the way and spread the cardboard on the floor…
This programme is exclusively for patients in the Day Hospital?
Yes. The meditations are scheduled for the afternoon, after the chemotherapy treatment is over. Now we would like create two groups, one specifically for patients receiving chemotherapy. For them it is difficult to do Kundalini. Something softer is better. Patients on chemotherapy need to relax, not only because they often suffer from awful side effects, but because they have so much anxiety, so much fear, so much unprocessed emotion. I think that relaxation techniques would be the most helpful. Everybody who starts this ‘pharmacological journey’ embarks on a journey that is not only of the body but also of the inner.
When they feel better the can do a more active meditation. I proposed Nataraj and some liked it a lot. It was great to see how some danced the whole hour, but for others it was a bit too much, also because many are not used to move their body. But everybody liked the music.
In addition to Osho’s active meditations do you also offer other meditations?
Yes, I did a meditation for the heart. It is very important, in my eyes, that the patients accept their illness and find some relaxation. When we are confronted with illness, when we stand between life and death, when nobody knows what’s going to happen next, when we know that death is coming, a big fear arises… anxiety, terror. A diagnosis of cancer totally disrupts our life; we are no longer the same person we have been before.
My intention is to provide support for patients as soon as they arrive in oncology, especially on the first day, when they come to get chemotherapy. It helps if they have the opportunity to sit down with me and talk for a moment. They might feel they have a mountain to climb and are afraid of not succeeding. But I see that, little by little, because they feel understood, they are listened to, something changes in them.
That I am able to do this I owe to my beloved master, for if it were not for him I do not think I’d be able to do this.
Osho is now with you in the hospital?
Yes, the master is there, fully present, behind everything we do. For example, after we received the money to buy the first chairs, we had the idea to make little thankyou cards also for other patients who gave us donations. On those cards we wrote an Osho quote which says: “If you have truly loved, you can let go.”
Then a colleague asked me: “Why don’t we have a picture of Osho?” I felt a bit scared and intimidated but it was as if I was asking for it and, as soon as my colleague said so, I pulled out the photo that I had already prepared in a little silver frame! Now it’s on my desk!
Or when we need a quote, for example about friendship or sharing, for meetings between colleagues, always Osho’s name comes up; and before meetings, now we do a meditation together.
You brought meditation also among your colleagues!
On Fridays, before our weekly meeting, we sit for fifteen minutes in silence, watching the breath. All we do is watching the breath, very simple. Sometimes there are also doctors present. I always wanted to lead meditations at work. It has not always accepted, such as when I proposed to my colleagues to do gibberish before starting the meetings…
But I can do it with patients. The last time, before we did the heart meditation, I asked them to do five minutes of gibberish with silence afterwards. They were very happy to do it. Once I did it even before the Kundalini, to help the shaking. It was very interesting.
It is a great experiment!
Yes, indeed! My colleagues told me they feel less aggressive if we do the meditation before the meeting. When you are always in a hurry and everything is urgent, to stop for a moment is really necessary. In fact, when the meeting for some reason has to be skipped – which happens quite often – everybody behaves differently.
Is it a forward-thinking hospital or is it just you who brought these new ideas?
No, this hospital is nothing special. When I first started it was not easy to work there. But one day, during a difficult time, I accidentally found an Osho Times on my desk. Nobody talked about meditation then, and I had no clue how it got there. I asked my colleagues and they told me that it was left by a patient. I went to see that patient and told her that I was doing meditation and was a disciple of Osho.
This, for me, was a message that I could stay and work there. I am truly grateful for what we have done and that people have started to trust us. The message that there is another way to live life and that this has something to do with awareness, is falling on fertile ground.
Does anyone mind hearing Osho’s name?
Initially I did not mention that the meditations were from Osho because I did not want them to be rejected. Since I am in a public environment where all these ‘strange’ things are not always welcome, I introduced them one at the time. It worked. When a physician asked us what we were doing in the meeting room I told him that we were preparing the hall for a meditation. He was intrigued. I explained the meditaion to him and gave him a copy of the instructions for the various stages. He found it very interesting and said he would come when he had spare time.
Another doctor praised us for what we are doing and our health director is now open to the project. No objections there. The start had been difficult but now I know that quite a few are curious to know more about it.
When I ask patients if they have heard of meditation, they say yes, maybe just hearsay, but I think something is going on, the need is very real now. And to the sick, who are more sensitive, it is easier to bring the message across.
“All of us have rediscovered the pleasure of coming back inside ourselves and a world of emotions we thought we had lost…” is one of the feed-backs from a patient who did the meditations.
It was worth the effort!
Based on an interview by Bali from the Italian Osho Times.
Sudha was born in Sicily. While she worked, for almost 20 years, as a psychiatric nurse she understood that there was not much difference between her and her patients. Through a leaflet, in 1996, she became acquainted with Dynamic and Kundalini which she loved immediately, without knowing anything about Osho. The following year she took sannyas and then visited Pune. She lived in Miasto for two years and in 2005 she went back to work in a hospital where, in 2012, she started offering Osho’s meditations.