Our Panel Expert Toby Colliver shares his experience of a Chiropractic Mission Trip to India.
Have you ever seen one and a half million people gathered in one place?
Imagine the challenge of providing chiropractic care to as many of them as possible!
I have been lucky enough to have been part of just such an event in India for the last few years.
An organisation called the Sant Nirankari Mission, as part of their perpetual worldwide charity efforts, arrange a huge temporary show ground biannually where people from all corners of the country can visit and stay. An army of volunteers work tirelessly to set everything up - the infrastructure, utilities and kitchens - then dismantle it all again at the end. Imagine something almost ten times the size of Glastonbury. The idea is to share spiritual guidance and offer help to any Indian, regardless of class, caste or status. They can come and hear inspiring sermons, eat three square meals a day, seek shelter, and receive healthcare from doctors, dentists, pharmacists and of course chiropractors.
The main tenet of the Mission is that of ‘Oneness’. Of a universal energy that binds us all. Therefore everyone is equal and no one is denied access to care.
Together with about 65 chiropractors from Europe and the United States, we have a large tent within the show ground with rudimentary treatment tables and a translator assigned to each of us. It is truly humbling to see the huge queues of people waiting in line outside our tent, many of whom will be there for hours in the heat for the chance to be seen.
Everyone who came in to see us first attended a short talk, where chiropractic treatment was explained in simple terms: our purpose is to remove interference from the nervous system, by adjusting the spine, to allow brain and body to reconnect and thus restore health and healing. The human body is capable of incredible things when you get rid of what is in the way, especially if that person has surrendered to the process and has trust in their innate power.
Unencumbered by the usual distractions of running a practice, we could focus entirely on the soul in front of us, while tapping into the energy of the huge crowd right outside.
It’s a pretty amazing feeling to be part of such a big operation - a constant flow of people streaming in for the chance to get adjusted, most of whom had been living in pain or with other health conditions for years.
There is a beautiful chaos to it (it is India of course!) and most folk are just grateful to be there. In amongst the people dismounting the tables with wide smiles and bright eyes, we were also witnessing ‘miracles’ all the time: the lame walking, the deaf hearing, poorly babies thriving. All through simply giving the natural processes of healing a chance.
The most touching experience for me this year was meeting a little 8 year old boy called Suhail. His mother brought him to my table, and through the translator it transpired that he had no feeling in his legs and no control over his bowel and bladder, since surgery to remove a large tumour at the base of his spine. He had also lost the outer toes on both feet after they turned black due to lack of nerve supply. The scar on his back covered the entire width of his body and his trousers were soaked and even scratching and pinching his legs elicited no response. I told his mother that I didn’t know if I could help but reassured her that I wouldn’t hurt him and that it was worth trying. So I did what I am trained to do - find the spine segments that aren’t working and correct them. Afterwards I asked how he felt and his mother replied ‘he feels like he needs the toilet’, so I told them to come back tomorrow, and to whisk him away to the nearest facility!
They came to find me the next day and the first thing I noticed was: dry trousers! Apparently this was the first time since his surgery that he hadn’t soiled himself. Some of the other translators came over to see and I recruited them to help me test the sensation in his legs. When we covered his eyes and had him point to where we were touching, he got it right every time, causing great excitement in our little audience. Although still far from perfect, it was a significant improvement for him, and his mother was overwhelmed with joy. Seeing Suhail smile and laugh was enough to make my heart sing too.
After hugs and photos, Suhail and his mother left the tent to melt back into the millions-strong throng, and hopefully to the chance of a better quality of life.
One of the amazing aspects about the whole event is that despite so many people being present in such a small area, you never feel unsafe or overwhelmed. There is a calm energy surrounding the whole gathering which I am sure contributes to the results we see as chiropractors.
It is also very amusing to see that compared with the medical and pharmaceutical tents, our chiropractic tent is always by far the busiest. I think it is partly because the philosophy behind chiropractic is well aligned with that of the Mission. The founder of our profession, D.D. Palmer, stated that the purpose of chiropractic is ‘to reconnect man the physical with man the spiritual’. This message tends to get lost in a Western clinical setting where people just want someone to fix their back pain, but it is very rewarding to go back to our roots and to simply adjust people without any expectation and see what happens.
At the end of our few days there, we had managed to adjust over 12,000 people. A small percentage of the overall attendance, but a worthwhile contribution for sure.
As well as learning a lot about humanity, attending the Mission is always a powerful reminder of the innate wisdom of the body and spirit, and I always gain a deep appreciation of nature and our place in it.
I can’t wait to go back...!
You can find out more about the Sant Nirankari Mission here.
If you would like to learn more about Toby and his Chiropractic practice, you can find him here.