"At the completion of my medical training, I opted for a hiatus - to pursue personal goals, psychologically re-group and re-discover purpose.
I was no longer facing the busyness of clinic, the exhaustion of long surgeries, nor the hoops through which to jump for the next accreditation. I had free time to expend however I pleased. And within this newly-created space – the space to which I had looked forward for countless harried years - I unexpectedly discovered a deep pain. It turned out to simply be the pain of being alone with myself.
Through a serendipitous recommendation, I found a place that helps a person to uncover the source of this pain, and provides tools with which to examine it. And working through this pain, I was surprised at what I found on the other side.
I don’t have the word count, nor your attention span, to talk about where I went, the amazing folks with whom I travelled, and the many lessons learned. But I share below what I feel to be its essence:
Distraction & Judgment = Disconnection.
We spend an extraordinary amount of effort creating boundaries. To separate you from me. Us from them. Here from wherever else we’d rather be. It is easier to disconnect – to judge the “now” and be distracted by the “better” – than to be present. Although not new, with the help of our current technological landscape, this issue is at epidemic proportions. We are hiding from life and, thus, from being human.
Presence & Compassion = Connection (& Love).
With the simple act of being present with whatever is going on around us, we begin to slowly emerge from our safe and dark non-realities. By seeing another as a fellow flawed human – not writing them off with judgment or categorization – we re-discover vital connection through compassion. By cultivating presence with our full range of human emotion, we cultivate critical self-understanding, self-compassion, and self-love. We thus neither crave, nor grasp, nor resist. We simply live.
I am far from the perfect embodiment of these principles. This is a starting point, from which to slowly remedy my spirit with a daily practice. The door is pried open just a crack, and I try to move it further every day.
Physicians possess a unique connection to humanity, as we are privy to moments of extreme, and entrusted to protect in these vulnerable moments. We should embrace this mindfulness practice. Not just so we may set an example for our patients, but so we may heal ourselves. As only when we are healed, may we effectively heal others.
Instead, we are trained to be busy, and shamed for not busying ourselves. For not “multitasking”. For not taking on another project. For spending too much time with a patient, or with our families. We are effectively – surgically – trained to be disconnected.
Medical training should indeed be rigorous, and physicians should be steeped in the practice of efficiency. But a delicate balance is required, so we may best help others. I believe that the disaffection felt by the majority of physicians toward their chosen paths can be found within this paradigm.
As I begin my career, I have set an intention: to take care of myself so I may take care of others. To pay attention to myself, so I may pay attention to others. To love myself, so I may love others. And to help other physicians discover the importance of these principles. I am doing this by example, as well as by creation, through a company I have co-founded.
Thank you for listening.
Los Angeles, CA