The Center for Mind-Body Medicine
James S. Gordon MD

About James S. Gordon MD

James S. Gordon, MD is Founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine; Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Family Medicine; Georgetown University School of Medicine and author of Manifesto for a New Medicine, Comprehensive Cancer Care, and Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey out of Depression.

In Jacmel: The Missing Twin

 

The loss of life here in Jacmel is far less than in Port-au-Prince but the burden is still heavy. There are of course the ordinary deaths that come with age, and the losses of younger people cut down by accident, sudden illness, or murder. And in the background for everyone in this coastal city, and all the surrounding communities, as well as in Port-au-Prince, is the tide of losses that came with the January 2010 earthquake. The deaths of children seem the hardest to bear.

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The Blood Sugar Solution: Mark Hyman's Thoughtful Guidance

I’m proud to announce that my good friend, colleague, and CMBM board member, Dr. Mark Hyman has just released his latest book, The Blood Sugar Solution. This book is a must read continuation of his groundbreaking work with diabesity (the continuum of abnormal biology that ranges from mild insulin resistance to full-blown diabetes). It’s a book I recommend to all of you without reservation. Dr. Hyman has elegantly described the complex and precarious situation that many Americans have found themselves in–struggling with multiple forms of chronic illness with severe physical and psychological ramifications. He uses an intelligent and scientifically-validated approach to lay out a clearly guided roadmap for reversing this course.

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Amazing Graces: Days Two, Three, and Four

The Missing Twin: Part One

The loss of life here in Jacmel is far less than in Port-au-Prince but the burden is still heavy. There are of course the ordinary deaths that come with age, and the losses of younger people cut down by accident, sudden illness, or murder. And in the background for everyone in this coastal city, and all the surrounding communities, as well as in Port-au-Prince, is the tide of losses that came with the January 2010 earthquake. The deaths of children seem the hardest to bear.

Toni, a clinical social worker from Baton Rouge, tells me about a woman in her group–a school teacher. Her six-year-old twin sons were buried under the rubble with their father. He struggled to carry both out, but one fell under a collapsing ceiling. The father suffered a serious head injury as he carried the first boy to safety. Still, he returned to dig frantically for the fallen twin, but to no avail. By the time he reached him, his second son was no longer moving or breathing. Two years later the family is still frozen in grief. The surviving twin is furious. “Why are you alive?” he shouts, when family tension rises, at his father. “And why is my brother not? He should be alive, and you dead.” Toni and I both suspect that the boy feels guilty that he could as easily be angry at himself.

After her son died, his mother “lost my smile. When I smile now,” she goes on, “it feels”–and here she grimaces, all teeth–“like this.”

James S. Gordon MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.

Amazing Graces: Days 2 & 3 in Jacmel

By the second day there are actually 135 participants-almost 180 of us altogether. The ones who didn’t come to the opening are present and others from the waiting list have found a way. There are thirteen in most of our small groups.

One of the remarkable things about our trainings is how often people who at first seem utterly closed down—walled off with indifference and suspicion, sunken beneath sorrow—suddenly come alive, sharing what they have not spoken of before; discovering new worlds of feelings, possibilities, hope.

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Amazing Graces: Days Two and Three

By the second day there are actually 135 participants-almost 180 of us altogether. The ones who didn’t come to the opening are present and others from the waiting list have found a way. There are thirteen in most of our small groups.

One of the remarkable things about our trainings is how often people who at first seem utterly closed down—walled off with indifference and suspicion, sunken beneath sorrow—suddenly come alive, sharing what they have not spoken of before; discovering new worlds of feelings, possibilities, hope.

The soft belly meditation invites calm and acceptance. The drawings play to the imagination, sometimes revealing solutions to problems that have seemed intractable. Shaking and dancing loosens most of us up. And the experiences that follow in the large and small groups provoke wonder.

Regine tells me about one of the leaders of the regional police. He came to early morning yoga and scoffed, “I thought we were talking about taking care of people. This is sports.” The drawings seemed, at first, ridiculous. “This is child’s play.” He stays and later in the day she sees him sitting quietly in meditation, laughing as he shakes and dances. He’s back the next day and the day after.

The drawings of a young woman whose face is filled with rage evolve from cramped stick figures–she is fighting with her parents–to a full bodied woman standing apart from them looking at the horizon. When she does the safe place imagery she sees herself “playing hide and seek with my friends having fun as I did when I was a girl.” And then–and a smile cracks her stern face–“flying free.”

I do Mindful Eating in the large group: a third of a banana for each participant. Almost two hundred people feel, smell, taste, and slowly chew. A fit man in his 50’s comes to the front of the room. “I have tended banana trees since I was a child. I know everything about the fruit and the tree and the soil and the bugs that come around. I sell bananas and give them away to the poor and have done so for many years. I eat them every day. And yet, I have to tell you, this is the first time I have truly eaten a banana.” The room swells with laughter as everyone gets the message: It really is possible to come to any experience, including eating an everyday banana, with an open mind and an open heart, as if for the first time.

James S. Gordon MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.

Day 1 of the Training- Jacmel, Haiti

The view from Soeurs Salesiennes school where we are doing our training opens out to the sea of Haiti’s south coast. Nuns glide quietly over the grounds and little girls in white blouses and blue jumpers with beribboned hair skip hand in hand.

We are working in a school because no hotel in Jacmel can accommodate our crew-120 trainees plus 40 international faculty, interns, interpreters and staff. We need separate rooms for each of a dozen small groups as well as the grande salle for all 160. Many of the students are on vacation for Carnival and the Sisters who run the school have generously made it available to us.

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Day One of the Training

The view from Soeurs Salesiennes school where we are doing our training opens out to the sea of Haiti’s south coast. Nuns glide quietly over the grounds and little girls in white blouses and blue jumpers with beribboned hair skip hand in hand.

We are working in a school because no hotel in Jacmel can accommodate our crew-120 trainees plus 40 international faculty, interns, interpreters and staff. We need separate rooms for each of a dozen small groups as well as the grande salle for all 160. Many of the students are on vacation for Carnival and the Sisters who run the school have generously made it available to us.

Meanwhile, Carnival made it almost impossible for us to find any hotel rooms. And those we have are fraught with complications-not enough beds, no water, absent or erratic air conditioning in 90 degree heat, etc. Minor inconveniences really, but reminders of the much greater hardships that almost all Haitians have to endure. The fact that we are able to have the training at all makes me so grateful for all the efforts of Linda Metayer, our Haitian program director, and LeeAnn, Jesse, and Wilguens, our US & Haitian administrative team.

Usual first day confusion and chaos-90 out of 120 doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, teachers, priests, nuns, and voodoo healers show up. “Oh, did it begin today?” wonder some of the absent ones whom Linda and Regine, one of our interns, called. “We will be there later” they say, and indeed most of them appear.

There are nine in my small group (more tomorrow I am sure) plus Regine, who also teaches yoga each morning, and Marc my interpreter. There’s a wonderful young pediatrician who supervises 40 professionals in the public hospital in Jacmel. She has been in one of Linda’s workshops and comes to our training like a hungry woman to a feast. “Everything” she says “I want to bring everything I am learning to my team.” There are nurses and teachers, the directrice of the regional chapter of the Croix Rouge, a sister who is a school principle, and some people with less formal education who are committed to helping those who continue to suffer from the earthquake and its aftermath. The middle-aged farmer who is helping in the schools and seems to be the head of his local mountain village concludes the first group; “If we had had these techniques before or even just after the earthquake we would have been less victims.”

James S. Gordon MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.

Arriving in Jacmel

We wound over the mountains from Port-au-Prince and arrived in Jacmel in time for lunch. Spills of fruit, vegetables, brightly painted metal butterflies, ceramic vases pouring out of stands onto the edge of the narrow roadway. Agriculture—hoes not tractors–struggling up steep slopes.

At the community center cum chuch in Jacmel we gather—faculty with our twelve Haitian Interns, some of the brightest and most committed of the first group of 120 whom we trained. We have brought interpreters from Port-au-Prince who have helped us before–absolutely essential to be understood in Kreyol, absolutely essential for us and our new group of 120 trainees to understand one another.

The interns talk about what our model of self-care and mutual help has meant to them. Here is Junie, a Nurse and Teacher: “you taught us to heal with all the stress that was destroying us. And now, as we work with kids who are so agitated and move around so much, we teach them to release tension with breathing and shaking and dancing and they calm down.”

Jacqueline, a public health nurse, tells us that Mind-Body techniques have lowered her blood pressure and helped her sleep. “Now I’m working,” she goes on, “with my husband who has a tendency to be irritable.” She laughs, and so do we along with her.

Spencer, a social worker block wide, gap-toothed, and solid, tells us he is using mind-body techniques with the seven soccer teams he coaches. And, Regine talks about our model of sharing and quieting ourselves as a “bridge to peace” among the warring gangs with which she works.

International faculty, interns, and translators sit at our spaghetti and papaya lunch together getting to know one another, planning the five-day training to come.

James S. Gordon MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.

Arriving in Jacmel

We wound over the mountains from Port-au-Prince and arrived in Jacmel in time for lunch. Spills of fruit, vegetables, brightly painted metal butterflies, ceramic vases pouring out of stands onto the edge of the narrow roadway. Agriculture—hoes not tractors–struggling up steep slopes.

At the community center cum chuch in Jacmel we gather—faculty with our twelve Haitian Interns, some of the brightest and most committed of the first group of 120 whom we trained. We have brought interpreters from Port-au-Prince who have helped us before–absolutely essential to be understood in Kreyol, absolutely essential for us and our new group of 120 trainees to understand one another.

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Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day often offered choices and called up anxiety as well as affection. Was it presumptuous – or misleading- to send a card to x? Would y feel hurt if I neglected her? What kind of card could best, most honestly and lovingly convey feelings that were sometimes complex or even mixed. It was always easiest with little children I loved. I smiled and printed carefully and drew hearts, feeling happily like a child myself.

Today I find I’m doing something different. I begin the morning with thoughts of the children I love, my own and others’. I look at the photos I carry with me, see, in my mind’s eye each one playing, silently thank God or Nature or more often both, for their existence. And then as my day unfolds, on the way to the train back to Washington, their mothers come to my mind, and their fathers too, and I respond with unwritten valentines of gratitude. “Thank you for your children whom I love.” And my heart keeps opening, on the phone to friends and colleagues, on the screen of emails. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” I write to people I don’t know that well but like; “send your children Valentines. “ I find love coloring my glances at the train’s conductors with the day’s red roses pinned to their lapels. I sense sweetness in the suited men and women on their way to meetings.

The anxiety of choice or appropriateness evaporates. You are all my valentines.

Dr. James S. Gordon, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder and Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC. He is also Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.

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