When did you begin meditating and why?
Which meditation practice(s) did you choose?
How has meditation affected your life?
I began meditating in 1974 right after medical school.
I was a psychology major in college and deeply influenced by Albert Schweitzer, who had doctorates in music and theology when he went to medical school as a path to lifelong service in Africa.
So, with this mind-body-spirit perspective, I was thrilled to read two groundbreaking articles that Herbert Benson and Keith Wallace published when I was in medical school. In both studies, practitioners of Transcendental Meditation (TM), silently repeating their word (‘mantra’), demonstrated physiological changes of deep rest while awake. Those changes were often even greater than those found during sleep. Benson called these changes the Relaxation Response, which has formed the basis for his work ever since.
Not long afterwards, I discovered that one of the pathology faculty members was meditating behind his closed door for 20 minutes each afternoon. He referred me to his TM teacher and I learned to meditate.
Maria and her children waited in line with 400 others for our clinic gate to open at 8 AM. Our 5 doctors and 2 nurses were each waiting with their interpreter at 7 little tables in the one room church.
Maria was quiet and looked very sad. Her unhappy marriage was causing serious sleep problems. Medication made her feel bad and didn’t help. Her 7-year old daughter had warts on her hands and her 4-year old son was grinding his teeth during sleep.
This was my first mission trip. I had been told that our main service would be touching and loving our patients since our medication supply was insufficient to meet the needs of the people in this impoverished community. Stress-related conditions are common among these farm workers raising bananas, cocoa and other tropical foods. Maria and her children had symptoms often associated with stress.
Center faculty members Bob Buckley, Kathy Farah and Judith Pedersen-Benn , Certified practitioners Matt Erb and Julie Kilpatrick ,and Certification Candidate Noshene Ranjbar, worked with Lakota Indians on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota during November 2011. Here are excerpts from their report.
Our week at Pine Ridge was an exercise in flexibility, organizing as we went, practicing and teaching mind-body skills wherever we could, and being persistent but patient in the process. As word of what we were doing spread, more calls came in to have us work with various groups including the staff of the tribal police department. We learned quickly that if 30 people were registered for a group, this meant to expect 10 or 15!
We split up in various configurations and did a combination of workshops, series of groups, and sometimes one-time groups. In the end, we served around 165 people. We worked with teachers, counselors and students in the schools; the staffs of the tribe’s health administration department and the Indian Health Service hospital including the CEO, nurses, doctors and support staff. We worked with a non-profit that provides social services and foster care placement, and staff and clientele of a local non-profit substance abuse clinic. Each night we held a public group at the Jesuit-run Red Cloud School, open to anyone with interest that drew an eclectic mix of participants.
This post originally appeared in the author’s blog Mindful Mothering on December 7, 2011.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I still have thoughts swimming from David Whyte‘s workshop and one was on this idea of lovingkindness. That is not how he described it but he speaks of the essence of how we nurture ourselves. He suggests that we are the only part of creation that is allowed to deny itself, ie a tree or flower do not get to deny their essence but we as humans, constantly deny or reject parts of ourselves that we are dissatisfied with. And so this idea of how to nurture ourselves is cast aside by our self-criticism. Read more