Incorporating Meditation in Your Medical Practice

July 31, 2014

The most tangible benefit of meditation is the sense of calm and peace, even balance that you feel. It is also a great technique to foster the art of customer service.

This is a little off topic for what I normally write about, but I was going through my "minute meditation" the other day and was struck by how much meditation does for me personally and my team. It is even one of the techniques I teach when I train practices and providers on the art of customer service in their medical practice; so why not discuss it in this forum too?

First let's touch on what meditation is: The term has become really popular and is now used loosely and even inaccurately. For the purposes of today's post, meditation is a precise technique for resting the mind and turning inward. It is not part of any religion; in fact most refer to it as a science with a particular order, principles, and verifiable results.

The most tangible benefit of meditation is the sense of calm and peace, even balance that you feel. Studies suggest that meditating, even for a few minutes per day, can help patients manage symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, hypertension, pain, sleep problems, cancer, heart disease, and asthma.

Sounds pretty amazing right? I can personally attest to decreased stress and a few other benefits, but don't take my word for it. The best way to understand the benefits of meditation is to try it for yourself. And I know all of the excuses: The number one excuse is "I don't have time" followed closely by "I can't sit still" or "I can't quiet my mind." To that I say there is a technique and time for everyone.

Here are a couple meditation types you might try on yourself or recommend to patients:

• Guided meditation. This is a pre-recorded or live meditation in which you listen to someone's voice as the instructor who will guide you on the path to quieting your mind and relaxing. These vary in length and are as easily accessible as a YouTube video.

• Mindfulness meditation. In mindfulness meditation you focus on the present moment, for instance your breathing in and out. You observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment.

• Yoga. It is likely that you are familiar with yoga, but didn't realize that is can be considered a meditation. In yoga you focus on each physical movement and sensation in the present moment, and calm your mind from the stress and business of your day.

• Walking meditation. This is a style that almost every can accomplish simply by focusing on each step they are taking and being intensely focused on the present moment. Instead of reading your phone on the way to the car today, try a walking meditation and see how that feels.

• Minute Meditation. This is one of my favorites, and although I make time every day for a minimum of 20 minutes of meditation (most often I do 20 minutes twice daily), when I don't have time for a formal sit down I use one of the two examples of minute meditations below.

Example 1: Peace Begins With Me

Basically, you sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, relax your arms and touch each finger to your thumb and repeat "Peace begins with me" for each tap.

1. Touch thumb to index finger while mentally saying "peace."

2. Touch thumb to middle finger while mentally saying "begins."

3. Touch thumb to ring finger while mentally saying "with."

4. Touch thumb to pinkie finger while mentally saying "me."

Repeat for 60 seconds. You can use this physical technique (adapted from Kundalini Yoga) for a number of phrases; whatever you need:

"I trust myself." (Tap "my" on one finger and "self" on the next.)

"Let Audrey be Audrey." (Switch my name with your name.)

Example 2: Five Second Breath

Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Start with taking a deep breath in for five seconds (counting to five in your head), hold your breath for five seconds, breathe out for five seconds (counting to five in your head), and finally hold your breath for five seconds. Repeat this cycle for one minute. Voila! Instant Zen!