On day one of the Mind-Body Medicine Professional Training Program, our first large group modality is shaking and dancing. “Oh no,” I think, “I get to shake this body I usually ignore, in front of 250 people I don’t know. How silly will I look and will released energy make me sick in some way like throwing up or hurting my legs or my replaced hip joints?” A breath of relief comes as Dr. Gordon says we are to close our eyes. What was I thinking anyway? I am in a room of professional health care providers, with a doctor standing right next to me.
Over the past two years I have had the privilege of working with adults living with Sickle Cell Disease in the Philadelphia area. This journey has brought many gifts with it, not the least of which has been conducting Mind Body Skills Groups.
One epiphany helping me deepen my healing abilities was realizing my own wounds. The Center for Mind-Body Medicine training and the small group sessions opened me to this experience. One key element aiding my discovery was that of the genogram. In drawing my genogram (a generational diagram showing relationships) I was able to visualize familial conflicts and bonds helping me realize why I had become an obstetrician-gynecologist. I had struggled with my decision to become an OBGYN for a few years; the drain of being on call and running the business of private practice had taken its toll and I was burning out. Dr. Gordon describes that through genograms one may see multigenerational patterns of conformation and inspirational family strengths. Taking this concept further, one could say that the genogram is able to give one a life’s path.
Today we live in a fast-paced world, inundated by an abundance of activity and general craziness. This mantra meditation reminds us to breathe some peace into our lives. Beautifully narrated by The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s Clinical Director, Amy Shinal, this 4 minute audio walks you through a deep-breathing exercise using the words “breathe” and “peace” spoken quietly to yourself. Take a moment and quiet the noise of demands, stress, sadness, or whatever else is weighing on your mind. A great mantra to maintain throughout the holiday season and always. We could all use a little more peace in this world – Wouldn’t you agree?
Introducing….Mindful. We’re already partial to being mindful, but now there’s a magazine all about it–the latest findings, the latest programs, the most wonderful stories–the juicy bits. The October edition features an interview with Center founder and director Dr. James Gordon called “A Journey to the Center of Yourself,” 8 pages of his sage perspectives with beautiful illustrations. As soon as we got our hands on copies, staff members were pouring over the interesting articles cover-to-cover, from “At NASA, Meditation is Rocket Science” to “To Pause and Protect”, the cover story about Oregon police officers learning mindfulness techniques, to “Children Helping Children”… oh, my! Do I need to say we are all hooked?
Every meeting at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine starts with a minute or so of Soft Belly Meditation, which is deep breathing with the simple mantra, “soft….belly”.
Most interns and guests look a little wide-eyed at the first meeting here when the meditation is announced. Perhaps they’re thinking “What have I gotten myself into?” or “Who are these people?!” I know I did, when I started working here. But after attending meetings at other companies and meetups, where you launch into business without the benefit of a meditation, I definitely notice a difference.
Would you like to help the special children in your life cope with worry and anxiety?
We’re thrilled to announce the publication of Bye-Bye Butterflies: Seven Ways To Breathe Out Worry, written by our Mind-Body Medicine faculty member Lilita Matison, LCSW. As a K-5 children’s counselor for 5 years, Lilita became familiar with the children’s worries and creative about helping them mindfully cope. This book is a marvelous result. Publicity for the book describes it as teaching “self-regulation, stress management and mind-body techniques”, and it certainly does; but it’s really just the cutest, most empowering and practical gift you could give any young child.
It was our last mind-body skills group meeting, alas. We added a little movement to our repertoire of acquired tools, with some Osho Kundalini for shaking followed by dancing to the glorious Bob Marley, singing his Three Little Birds. As I was preparing to fade the music, the woman who had tears streaming down her face as she danced caught my attention. We’ll call her “Margaret” for privacy reasons. I watched as Margaret sat back down, wiping tears from her rose colored cheeks. She grabbed the heart stone, our “talking stick,” and spoke with pure joy, “I use to belly dance to stay in shape, but ever since my cancer diagnosis I disconnected from everything below my neck. Ovarian cancer does that to you. It robs you from feeling your abdominal area, or worse yet, it instills fear that you can harm yourself by moving. Today after shaking and dancing I feel that I’ve come home, back to my body. I feel whole for the first time in years.”
Our signature mind-body medicine technique is something Founder and Director James Gordon, MD calls “Soft Belly”, by way of encouraging each of us to relax — which few of us instinctively do these days.
We sit quietly, breathing in through our nose and out through our mouth, which both calms the sympathetic nervous system and awakens the parasympathetic nervous system, creating a feeling of relaxation in the mind and body. Dr. Gordon suggests we think “soft” as we breathe in and “belly” as we breathe out, reminding ourselves to relax our belly so we can take in full, healing breaths rather than shallow, tense ones.
Last week the esteemed British journal The Lancet Oncology published remarkable new research showing that healthy lifestyle changes may lengthen our telomeres — i.e., may begin to reverse aging on a cellular level — the first time anything has been shown to do this.