The Center for Mind-Body Medicine

The Doctor Inside the Patient: Mind-Body Medicine in Ecuador

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.

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Self Care Reminders from the Third Grade

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.

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Aging & Consciousness: A Dramatic Transformation

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.

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Mind, Mood & Food: A Beautiful Blend

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!

Hot off the Presses: Research & Reports

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.

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Finding the Light in the Darkness

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.

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Launching Today: Freedom from Depression Audiobook

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.

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Mind-Body Bookshelf: Enjoy Every Sandwich

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.

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Day 5: Images of Our Time Together

So much happens to all of us in the Jacmel training as we go deeper, become more aware, take chances, and connect over five days.

Our faculty faces fears of not performing well, of not sleeping at night, and of missing what is muffled in translation. We take the chance of feeling our uncertainty of daily supervision and are gratified that our colleagues have at least as much compassion for us as we feel for those we are helping.

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Day Five: Images of Our Time Together

So much happens to all of us in the Jacmel training as we go deeper, become more aware, take chances, and connect over five days.

Our faculty faces fears of not performing well, of not sleeping at night, and of missing what is muffled in translation. We take the chance of feeling our uncertainty of daily supervision and are gratified that our colleagues have at least as much compassion for us as we feel for those we are helping.

The interns are stars, setting examples of emotional risk taking and taking care of business: filling in where the translator is a bit off, pointing out what faculty may have missed, and making sure, as if they have invited all of us into their own homes, that we are well cared for in lines at lunch, during the lectures, and at the beginning and end of each day.

I see the participants grow more receptive each day, feel them more engaged with every exercise we do. Men and women who have never heard of, let alone participated in, psychotherapy are exquisitely sensitive to each others’ complex feelings and thoughts, and us. Often without words, old and young, farmers as well as physicians, create a climate of acceptance in which everyone–and I really do mean everyone–seems to feel safe.

The suspicion and rancor among religious groups–Catholics, Protestants, Vodoun Healers—is palpable in the early days. Though the saying has it that Haiti is 80% Christian and 100% Vodoun, some of the Christians seem quite fearful. “Who are these Vodoun people?” They ask with uneasily politeness. By the last day, after having sat in the same small groups, most of them seem at ease. “We are just people” says Clement, who heads the Jacmel Vodoun Healers Association. “I feel like these people are my family,” and the nuns in their habits and scripture-quoting-Protestants nod their heads.

Nature is so important. In drawing after drawing on the final day, the restoration of hope is symbolized by new trees, green and blue where there was, on the first day, only brown.

If it is possible, community is even more important. The final day’s drawings of the goal each participant would hope to reach are crowded with family, friends, and neighbors. When the groups come to the front of the grande salle to receive their certificates of completion, they sing songs to their leader and intern, and to themselves, and they call themselves “family”.

Already on the first evening many of the participants are sharing what they’ve learned with children, spouses, and parents. On the fifth and last day, they are, without being asked, pledging to take “CMBM,” this work, to their schools, churches, clinics, and to everyone in their communities. Linda has to slow them down a bit. “Sharing with your friends and family is good, but you need to practice much more. You are just learning. When we have the Advanced Training in November we will teach you how to lead groups.”

James S. Gordon MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.

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