Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.
A Spiritual Call for Physicians
The prime directive of the unconscious mind is to protect the body, and it will signal us when we’re off track. The question is: how often do doctors actually listen to what our bodies and environment are telling us? As physicians we’ve been trained since medical school to ignore our bodies…the urge to pee, the need to sleep, the hunger to eat. Some of us ignore when we’re ill. Personally, I ignored recommendations to rest after a knee surgery and was up on my knee and working after only a day and a half.
It’s ingrained in us to put patients (and everyone else) first. Listening to our own body, mind, and spirit seems foreign until we’re face down in the dirt.
So, where do we begin? How do we start to honor what our unconscious mind (what some may call “The Universe”, “God”, “Higher Power”, etc.) is telling us? How do we even begin to listen? The answers can be simple:
1. Get quiet — I don’t mean sit down in crossed-leg pose, close your eyes and “clear your mind.” I simply mean create quiet time for a particular amount of time each day. Start with 5 minutes and work up to 30 minutes each day. When you become a rock star at quiet time, you’ll be able to (and with pleasure) create up to 60 minutes or more of quiet time each day.
Quiet time is decompression time. If you’ve been in the office all day, you’ve been talking, walking, listening to someone ALL DAY LONG. Quiet time is the time you give to yourself to let your brain relax from “active thinking”. Passive thinking will happen; that’s okay. The thoughts will come and go. Let them. Soon, the thoughts that come will be ones that are from deeper than the surface. Initially they may sound something like “I should’ve done this…” or “I need to do that….” As you allow yourself to get quiet on a daily basis, you’ll find that, once those initial thoughts of obligation and responsibility pass, your mind will relax and you’ll be able to enjoy your silence.
Some great opportunities to insert quiet time are:
- Lunch time. If you don’t take a lunch, that’ll be your first step. Make yourself enough of a priority to take AT LEAST a 30 minute lunch. From there, try to work up to one hour.
- On the drive to or from work. Many of you may like to listen to talk radio or music, but try driving one way of your commute in silence and notice how it impacts the rest of your day.
- When you first get home. Go directly to your room (to your bathroom even), close the door, and take five. Later in the evening you can choose a time to take longer to decompress.
- The gym. Seems like an unlikely place, but if you go to the gym and you have noise cancelling headphones, this is a great way to focus and release some tension.
2. Get still — Getting still is distinct from getting quiet. When we get still there’s a structural message we send our body that it’s time to relax. Combine getting still with getting quiet and you have a powerful way to get in touch with your unconscious mind. Being in touch with the unconscious mind is like being deeper in touch with the Self (the Intuition, some would call it). When open to and in touch with your intuition, your mind will see what you need in order to move in the direction that will serve your highest good.
3. Observe and notice repeated messages from the outside world — When we get still and quiet, we began to notice things we never noticed before. Not only do we get clear about what’s happening internally for us, we also start to see what’s happening in our lives that’s NOT WORKING. We become aware.
Sometimes, we can become aware of things that life has been hinting we need to do and we’ve been ignoring. I know this may sounds a little “fru fru hippie nonsensical.” But have you ever been thinking you needed to call someone and moments later you receive a text from them? Or maybe you’ve thought about going to a place and taking an action only to see (or hear) a commercial on the radio or television about that place or thing the same day. Some may call these coincidences (and they may be); but, if you’re in tune with and listening to the unconscious mind, you may know that it caused you to NOTICE the thing that was already in place for a reason…to take action now! So instead of discarding these “coincidences,” begin to ask yourself, “what can I take away?” or “what is there to be learned here?” I myself ask, “What are you trying to tell me that I can’t see myself”?
These are only three of countless, very simple things that you can do to become present. These methods could also help you see the important things you’ve been ignoring. Maybe you haven’t been taking care of yourself. Or maybe you’re operating out of alignment with your values. It could be time to make a change. Sometimes you realize you don’t have to do it all alone: it’s time to ask for help.
I’m sure you can think of a few others not mentioned here. Go ahead…write them down. When you’ve discovered what you need to do to serve your highest well being, find the communities (or person) who can help you get there. Remember, putting yourself first isn’t selfish, it’s self-care. And asking for support doesn’t mean you are weak, it’s a sign of strength and courage.
Maiysha Clairborne, MD © 2016
Maiysha Clairborne, MD is an integrative medicine physician and executive coach. She blogs at thestressfreemommd.com and is the author of The Wellness Blueprint and Eat Your Disease Away.