The Mindful Physician
When I was a freshman in high school, I went on a school trip to Washington DC. A new sculpture created by J. Seward Johnson Jr had just been installed at East Potomac Park and our group visited the park at night. We were told that what we were about to see was a "surprise", so none of us were sure what to expect. When we arrived we were a little taken aback. In front of us was a dramatic 72 foot long statue of a giant embedded in the earth, struggling to free himself. I remember wondering if he was just having a hard time waking up, or if he was angry, or in distress. I still vividly remember seeing "The Awakening" that night.
Last week I had the good fortune of attending the last session for the 4th cohort of the Physicians Leadership Academy and was so grateful to hear instructor Dr. Roberto Benzo's wise words about being a mindful physician. While Roberto's words resonated with me, I was even more impacted when PLA Co-Director Phil Cass described his friend Roberto as an AWAKE physician. I of course was reminded of the "Awakening" sculpture, and realized the man in the sculpture could represent our struggle with being mindful physicians. Roberto is the epitome of mindfulness, and his words empowered us to be "gladiators". Mindfulness requires daily practice, a commitment to the truth, and a deep belief in the law of cause and effect. Always doing the right thing can be a struggle, as demonstrated by the awakening giant.
The PLA fellows were able to articulate the benefits of being awake, of being mindful. Some things I heard were:
"When I am mindful, people around me get more of me."
"Mindfulness makes me a better person."
"Mindfulness is an opportunity, a gift."
"Mindfulness allows a physician to be fully human, to be exactly who they already are. This is what patients need."
"Mindfulness helps me differentiate what I want instead of what I should do. It is empowering and helps me prioritize."
"Mindfulness allows honesty, gratefulness and sincerity."
"Mindfulness gives me a sense of appreciating life."
"Mindfulness is not just attention, it is kind attention, very special attention to what matters to you."
It was a beautiful moment seeing all of them looking so peaceful and content, with gentle smiles on their faces. I have enjoyed seeing them grow individually and together these last ten months.
This short poem by P Hocks states it nicely.
It is called "long, long".
I think that now is the time to wake up.
And then only in the full lucidity of my own awakening,
Will I find you there beside me,
And you were with me all along.
Next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, perhaps you can ponder the question often asked by Phil Cass . "How have you been kind to yourself?"
The 5th PLA class enrollment is underway. An Information Session is being held on Wed., July 18th from 5:30-7:00 pm at the CMA, 1390 Dublin Rd. Register to PLA Co-Director Diane May at dmay@PhysiciansLeadershipAcademy.org. Can't make the session? Diane will set up a phone call for you.
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