A doctor’s foray into meditation

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It was mid-January, and I found myself catching some rays on a rooftop in Cancun with 15 other physicians — all women of varying ages and medical specialties. Besides enjoying the sand in my toes and a martini glass in my hand, I was there to attend the TransforMD retreat, looking for clarity on my life choices, values, and goals.

Daily Vedic meditation was to be integral to the agenda. That first evening, we observed Dr. Jill Wener, a conscious health meditation teacher, speak in Sanskrit in an opening meditation ritual as she thanked the gurus who have been before.

I did not kneel.

What have I gotten myself into, I thought?

Meditation was for limber coeds who drink oat milk, wear bright leggings and sit on the floor as the emoji depicts. They are not mature doctors with back pain.

When Jill whispered the mantra, which she explained is mine to be known and used only by me, I abhorred it. It mimicked wind chimes. As I tried to meditate, fortunately in a chair with excellent back support, repeating the mantra silently intensified my hatred of it.

I asked for a new word. Jill’s response was, “If you’re having such a visceral response to your mantra, then I hit the nail on the head.” In other words, live with it. Embrace it, which is not my motto in life, at all.

Also, did I mention I hate wind chimes?

Over the next four days of group meditation lectures, our teacher delved into the science of meditation. And news to me, there’s a lot of it, way too much to summarize here. Real science that’s done by PhDs, not “woo-woo” healers in the forest listening if a tree falls.

Electroencephalograms, measuring delta waves, sensory evoked potentials, neuroimaging: You know, the whole brain gambit.

Proponents believe meditation can reduce anxiety, calm the mind, and encourage mindfulness and overall well-being.

These would all be very good things for my monkey brain. But then Jill said, “Do it for 20 minutes, twice a day,” and an audible gasp was heard in the sun-filled breeze.

Who … us?

Do you not understand, we work intense jobs and have families and cycling and cooking and shopping and cleaning and bills to pay, and for heaven’s sake, there’s a new season of Mrs. Maisel on Prime to binge-watch, thank you very much, meditation lady.

Eventually, though, I stopped resisting. I stopped the excuses. I gave in to the process. I let my hated mantra bounce around in my mind at the pace and volume it wanted to, and I began to experience the “juicy bits” of meditation. The moments where I had no thoughts and my mind released, perhaps dare I say it “transcended” even for five seconds? I emerged back to the surface of thoughts, feeling more settled and calm. And then I did it again for 20 minutes the next morning. And then again. And again.

Meditation teachers promise the time you spend meditating creates for more peaceful, reflective, and restful days. “Waking 20 minutes early may interrupt your sleep time, but remember it will make you feel more rested throughout the day.” You know, because of delta waves and all that science stuff. And those wind chimes? I hope soon to embrace their cacophony of sound as well.

Note: This is an opinion piece, not to be taken as medical advice.

Shira Shiloah is an anesthesiologist and can be reached on Twitter @ShiraShiloahMD.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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