It was a tense moment. The phlebotomist had tried drawing blood from both of my arms without success, and had left the room in search of a colleague to take over. I sat, band aids and bruises in the crooks of my arms, curious about how this next attempt would go… when I had a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious). It wasn’t all down to the technician — I could help! I just had to riffle through the rolodex in my brain to find the right resources.
I learned to meditate over 20 years ago. It opened the doors to a lifelong practice of meditation techniques, including Vipassana and yoga, and spiritual exploration with wonderful teachers. As I practiced and practiced, I noticed that I was able to listen more deeply to both my patients and myself, and felt less stressed in my daily work as a medical doctor.
It wasn’t until 15 years ago when I began to work with The Center for Mind-Body Medicine that I learned the importance of teaching my patients these skills, too. Stress is a contributing factor for 80% of all chronic illness in our country, and numerous studies have shown the power of meditation and mind-body skills to reduce the effects of stress and even reverse illness. I talk at length about this in my book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, A Doctors 4-Step Program for Treating Autoimmune Disease. At Blum Center for Health we teach these skills in Mind-Body Groups, following the model developed by The Center for Mind-Body Medicine.
Conquering this recipe reminded me of Charlie Brown’s travails with Lucy and that football. There would be Lucy, pleading with Charlie to take one more shot at kicking the football and promising she wasn’t going to mess with him anymore—and always pulling away the ball at the last moment. The Brussels sprouts in this recipe played Lucy to my Charlie. They teased me with their offerings of wellness—especially a compound shown to keep DNA from fragmenting during cell reproduction—but they kept refusing to play nice with every taste companion I threw their way. I was about to walk away for good when an email arrived from a friend who knew about my frustrations. She sent along a picture of a beautiful Brussels sprout stalk in her garden, with the small sprouts dotting the stalk, along with a caption that said, “Please give us another chance! We’ll be good!’ So I said, “Okay. One. Last. Chance.” And whaddya know? I finally achieved success. Roasting was the key, creating a golden-brown, sweet-tasting, crunchy treat.
Boise, Idaho has become a busy resettlement community for refugees from all over the world. To thrive in our country is a significant challenge for these new arrivals. Two colleagues and I designed and implemented a mind-body skills program as part of the International Rescue Committee Life Skills Class for refugee women, with a focus on language acquisition for basic daily activities such as shopping, cooking, and going to the doctor.
At the center of the program are self-care practices that strengthen an individual’s ability to care for themselves, based on the model established by The Center for Mind-Body Medicine. We hoped the shared experience of the women would also contribute to a sense of community support.