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mindfulness: a doctor’s tale

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I’ve been a student of Buddhist meditation for ten years and currently host a weekly meditation group. I’m also interested in assisting healthcare professionals as they develop a mindfulness-based approach to their work. The article excerpted below describes how mediation is making its way from the Buddhist fringe into mainstream medicine. 

From: Korones, D.N. (2010). Living in the moment. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 28(31), 4778-4779.

As an oncologist and palliative care physician, I was vaguely aware of the concept of mindfulness, “the quality of being fully present and attentive in the moment during everyday activities.” Originally a Buddhist practice, its purpose was “to alleviate suffering and cultivate compassion.” Hence, it is not surprising that this discipline might have application in medicine for our patients as well as ourselves. Mindfulness techniques appear to be effective in helping patients cope with pain, disability, and stress, and, similarly, may reduce stress in health care providers and enhance their ability to care for their patients. Physicians and patients can learn mindfulness techniques in a series of sessions devoted to gaining an understanding of this discipline and how to practice it. But until recently, whenever I heard the word, “mindfulness,” and heard others extol its virtues, I did not really understand what it meant, or what relevance it had to me or the work I do. In fact, the whole concept of mindfulness confused me, even intimidated me. It just seemed sort of “out there,” abstract, even a bit weird.

Then a few years ago, at my medical school at the University of Rochester, I was asked if I would be interested in teaching mindfulness to our residents. … They went on to explain that if I was interested, I would be required to take a course in mindfulness-based stress reduction to get a better sense of what it was all about, and be able to more effectively teach the residents.

… So with considerable trepidation, I signed up, and when I rushed across town from a particularly intense day of work and walked into my first evening class, I was not at all sure what I was getting myself into. There was our instructor (a physician himself) sitting cross-legged, barefoot, in jeans, ringing a gentle-sounding, high-pitched gong to get our attention. I remember thinking, “Oh, my God, get me out of here!” But I stayed and listened to the 20 or so people from various walks of health care explain why they were there. They were good people, and like me, they felt that the weight of their work was sometimes so crushing it could interfere with their ability to do that work effectively, and live their lives well.

The next thing I knew, I, too, was sitting cross-legged, listening to the ring of the bell, closing my eyes, quieting my beleaguered brain, and just being there. And as the weeks rolled by, and I would rush over to class after hectic days of work, and sit, eyes closed, legs crossed, I began to feel this wave of something that is hard to explain: a sort of combination of relaxation, relief, rest, rejuvenation, a feeling of being unfettered, uncluttered. It felt good. This class that I had so dreaded gradually grew to be one I cherished.

Click here to read the full text.
© 2010 by American Society of Clinical Oncology


One response »

  1. lovely post.
    3rd yr nursing student.


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