This is the first in a series of treasures from our audio archives, classics and favorites that we think you’ll love.
Our founder and director, Dr. James Gordon, is a renowned raconteur. He has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of wise and funny stories that tend to illuminate key aspects of human nature, which he deploys throughout our trainings to call attention to the importance of self-awareness for healing. Empty Your Cup is a story he’s often told at our Mind-Body Medicine Professional Training Program. It’s become a staff favorite– a classic we hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do.
Spring has sprung as nature’s magic unfolds before our eyes. Winter’s barren land is now a carpet of flowers and greens. Shopping at the farmer’s market puts the freshest veggies of the season on your plate but how else can you connect to nature’s rhythm? Sprouting edible seeds! Seeds carry almost everything needed to form into a plant. With a little water, the seed is awakened and life springs into action. Eating sprouted seeds is a way to capture the essence of spring and a plethora of nutrients.
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.
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Financial stress can be one of the most painful and debilitating experiences— something with which many Americans have become intimately familiar.Often, when we are dealing with financial stress, we feel the dual burden of shame for having gotten where we are and a lack of control over how to get out.
Relax and re-center with Dr. Gordon in this 11-minute guided imagery podcast:
Guided imagery is a powerful technique that uses the imagination to create a relaxed state that can help with healing, learning and performance.
This mind-body technique, which Dr Gordon has taught at professional trainings around the world for over 20 years, is effective at reducing stress, relieving trauma and increasing creativity.
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.
Like many people I know, I’ve long been in continual dialogue with The New York Times, my breakfast companion for over 60 years. Often I’ve nodded my head with appreciation when The Times reporters have brought back news from far away or previously ignored places, or its columnists have set out a position with which I agreed or one I was groping toward. Sometimes I’ve been stumped, particularly by the arcana of financial reporting. And on occasion—coverage of the run-up to the war in Iraq comes to mind—I’ve found myself shouting at the folded paper, even shaking my fist.
I’ve written for The Times occasionally, over more than 40 years, mostly for The Book Review but also for the Science section. The Times has also written about me and my work, mostly quite favorably. And I’ve also written letters. A couple have been published, and a number of them have been rejected. Or is “ignored” the better word?
Perhaps it’s vanity or the infirmity that comes with age—or maybe it’s just experience and conviction—that makes me feel I have something to say that others should attend to. In any case, I decided that I’m going to share with you what doesn’t appear in The Times to let opinions and words that may have seemed peripheral, tendentious, or perhaps too challenging to The Times staff, find a more welcoming home.
What I’m going to do is publish the letter I wrote here with a link to the original article and another to the letters The Times did choose to publish. I hope you’ll find this experiment interesting and that it will also inspire you to let your own voices be heard. In any case, please let me know what you think.
This first posting, below, concerns a column by Nicholas Kristof “A Veteran’s Death, The Nation’s Shame,” which I admired, which appeared on April 15th, together with the letters that were in the paper today, April 20th.
Preventing Military Suicide with Self-Care
James S. Gordon, M.D.
In his poignant piece on escalating post-deployment military suicides (NYT, April 15), Nicholas Kristof writes that “we refurbish tanks after time in combat, but don’t much help men and women exorcise the demons of war.”
There are in fact programs that do address these demons successfully and in ways that are stigma free and widely acceptable to the military and their families. Unfortunately they are not yet widely available.
These programs are based on the understanding that persistent stress and trauma may come to all who are in combat; and that practical self-care skills like meditation, guided imagery and movement can provide prospective on and address the agitation and aggression, the overwhelming memories, isolation, despair, and suicidal feelings—the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—that may come in its wake.
At The Center for Mind-Body Medicine we have used this approach to reduce symptoms of war-related PTSD by 80%-in Kosovo and Gaza. The 300 US military and VA clinicians whom we have trained and the active duty, veterans, and family members with whom they work, appreciate the stress-reducing, mood enhancing practicality of our “mind-body” program. They embrace the opportunity to express themselves without fear of censure, or career foreclosure, in small groups whose support is reminiscent of combat units.
We are currently undertaking a Department of Defense funded randomized controlled trial of this method with war-traumatized US vets. Others are doing similar studies with similar approaches. Our preliminary results are promising, but research is slow and the time for many vets, like Ryan and Michael, is short. The Defense Department and the VA need to move ahead swiftly to offer this program and others to the hundreds of thousands who can make good, perhaps life-saving use of them.
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.
Both my home & office laptops developed crippling problems within one week. Well, hello, Universe!
My office computer recovered. But I found myself in an Apple store, after a discouraging meeting with the tech at the Genius Bar, having a serious discussion with a young saleswoman about purchasing a new mac. I happened to mention that I had started experimenting with unplugging for long stretches of time– leaving my cell phone behind, limiting my computer time… She stopped what she was doing and stared at me, stunned. “I could never do that!” she said earnestly– her eyes repeatedly returning to mine, questioning, fascinated.
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!
Food As Medicine Executive Chef Rebecca Katz, MS, just shared this lovely video, “Nourish means….” from the folks at NourishLife.org.
What nourishes you?