As a frequent meditator, armed with new skills of awareness, I was recently struck by how noisy my Washington, DC surroundings actually are. Noticing my own internal reactions, I started to wonder if pervasive noise in the environment could cause me harm. Research is now saying that I am right to question.
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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.
Around two weeks before the start of any school vacation, the Counseling office experiences a cyclical peak of drop-in students. An influx of mostly third graders appear at my door with tears streaming down their cheeks, runny noses, and words that are difficult to decipher between hiccup-like breaths and broken syllables. They are usually accompanied by a friend who guarantees their safe passage to my office then departs, with the I’ve-been-there-too look and a silent nod saying it’s going to be okay.
As a longstanding educator and researcher in the field of aging, I have seen a dramatic transformation from a focus on “what’s wrong” as we grow older to “what’s possible”! I see this not only in my professional life but in connections with amazing elders such as 91 year- old Erica Leon, a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to Los Angeles from Hungary in her 70s and started painting when she re-connected with her long-lost fiancee from before WWII who was an art instructor! Now arthritis inhibits her ability to paint, but not to write poetry or to Skype her family daily in Hungary.
To paraphrase a CMBM alum, “When I heard The Center for Mind-Body Medicine would be offering a seminar called ‘Mind, Mood & Food’ at Kripalu, I felt like the heavens were bringing all my favorite things together.” The “trifecta”, as I like to call it, was a beautiful blend of relevant material taught by engaging faculty in a setting where what was being taught could be practiced. Imagine learning about foods that support brain health and then going to Kripalu’s dining hall where those foods are waiting for you on an abundant buffet. Picture completing a moving meditation with Jim Gordon and then going to Yoga Dance during a seminar break. Kathie Swift spoke about the benefits of being in nature for brain health, and I’m convinced Mother Nature was a seminar participant as the weather was perfect for walks to the lake. It was seventy degrees in mid-March in the Berkshires!
Mark Pettus, Jay Lomard and Chuck Parker offered a wealth of knowledge and fantastic synergy as they fed off each other’s energy and complemented each other’s work. A big round of applause goes to the hard-working staff at Kripalu. They were wonderful to work with and jumped right in to run the program like a well-oiled machine. Mind, Mood & Food at Kripalu is definitely worth a repeat!
Lots of big reports have been coming across our screens lately, and here are several that might interest you:
- Integrative Medicine in America: How Integrative Medicine Is Being Practiced in Clinical Centers Across the United States
Sponsored by The Bravewell Collaborative, the report ”…provides current data on the patient populations and health conditions most commonly treated with integrative strategies.
In a survey of 29 U.S. integrative medicine centers, 75 percent reported success using integrative practices to treat chronic pain and more than half reported positive results for gastrointestinal conditions, depression and anxiety, cancer and chronic stress.
Yesterday, I had an incredibly powerful yoga class. I spent the entire class practically wtih my eyes closed. It wasn’t intentional at first but then had great meaning for me. We started with a little flow and then stopped with eyes closed to “set an intention” as my teacher says. I closed my eyes and had some tears come out. I decided on this early early morning (I do yoga at 6 AM), I was going to search inward for the light, for the joy. That I could not attach to finding that in the stressful situations before me. That no matter how Zubin does on the steroids or if and when he deteriorates to a wheelchair, that no matter how he does in school or if we feel we get what we need there, that joy is not something I can wait for from these things. I have to search inward and get joy from within. And so I closed my eyes and set my intention, to search for the light and peace within.
Hot off the presses: Center Founder and Director James S. Gordon, MD’s new Sounds True audiobook, Freedom from Depression: a Practical Guide for the Journey launches today!
Based on Dr Gordon’s enormously popular book Unstuck: Your 7 Stage Journey Out of Depression, the audiobook contains new experiential and didactic material. Quoting the Sounds True website:
The true source of healing from depression comes from within—not from doctors or medications. Yet when depression drains away our vitality and will, how can we find the energy to help ourselves? With Freedom from Depression, Dr. James S. Gordon reveals a new and empowering approach for dealing with this misunderstood condition—a way out of the darkness that helps you restore balance and joy to your life.
Every man dies– not every man really lives.
– William Ross Wallace
Several thoughts struck me after completing Lee Lipsenthal’s Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day As If It Were Your Last. One- this is one of those very precious books like Randy Pauch’s The Last Lecture that are sublime in their honesty, vitality, and sheer joie de vivre. And two- I wish I had met Lee. We emailed several times as publication approached. I hoped he would be able to do an author talk for the Center, sharing some of his wisdom and unique personality– but he passed away before that could happen.