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.
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.
I was recently at dinner with friends — all of us acupuncturists with various backgrounds — and we were deep in discussion about how to describe what it is that we do. One said, “I call myself a Chinese Medicine Practitioner because that’s what I studied — all aspects of it (needles, herbs, movement & philosophy).” I wondered aloud, “Do you think that right now, there is a group of healers in China having dinner together saying, ‘I call myself a Western Medicine Practitioner because that’s what I studied – love those MRI’s and cortisone injections!’ ”
We tossed around the use of the term “Chinese Medicine.” What we are really pointing to when we use this term is ancient wisdom — not wisdom that is only exclusive to China, either but threaded through all the ancient world religions and traditions. It is the wisdom of observing the natural movements of life and the power of nature to heal the body, mind, and spirit.
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.
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?
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.
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.
In the beginning, I was cautioned that most elderly veterans would be too debilitated, distressed, or lack the focus and cognitive ability to participate in a group program using CMBM techniques. It has been my experience, however, that CMBM groups are very effective in addressing the primary issues that elderly group members present with, including physical pain, grief, and sensory and cognitive limitations. Continue reading →
When people ask me for the most persuasive proof of the power of nutrition to heal, I reply with a question: did you know that Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease through diet and lifestyle is covered by Medicare?
Medicare vetted the program for 17 years before deciding to cover it for patients, under a new category entitled “intensive cardiac rehabilitation” — the first time Medicare has covered an integrative medicine program.
Join Mind-Body Medicine faculty member Kathy Farah, MD, a family doc from western Wisconsin, in this very brief guided visualization in which we appreciate our breath in a different way, as it travels deep into our lungs, giving us oxygen at a cellular level. Wonderful. Love her voice! Editor