This week’s blog is by Mr Ranjit Rao from Melbourne. Mr Rao graduated as a medical doctor in 1994 and subsequently as a Surgeon and Urologist in 2006. Though he now works as a Surgeon, Ranjit remains open minded to a Holistic approach and encourages patients to take control of their lives with proper diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, as well as establishing a sensible and practical way of living. Many thanks to Ranjit for his contribution. I hope you enjoy the read.
The mindfulness revolution has spread across the world like wild fire. Thousands of scientific studies have shown benefits in happiness, concentration, memory, pain, improved health and greater empathy. The practice of being mindful has proven to be of benefit in many chronic illnesses including depression and anxiety, multiple sclerosis, post CVA, chronic pain, chronic fatigue and somatization disorders. The breadth of conditions in which mindfulness practice has proven to be of benefit is considerable and thus this is an important skill for GPs to learn so that they can educate their patients to improve health outcomes and also improve their own well being.
The term mindfulness is used for a certain state of awareness where one becomes aware of the movements of the mind, and realizes that we are in fact separate from the mind. It is also a path to a deeper state of being where the mind becomes transparent or clear, and then becomes a vehicle that transmits the inner world within.
This state is analogous to a turbulent lake that becomes absolutely calm and still, such that the very depths can be seen and felt clearly. The calm, still mind can be considered a “mindless” state. Only when the mind is completely empty and devoid of turbulence, can the deeper states be appreciated. The path to mindlessness is that of mindfulness.
This may seem to be just a semantic exercise, however the distinction is a very important one. One cannot simply become mindless by trying to stop the mind and emptying it of all thoughts. Trying to force the mind into submissiveness only leads to an inner revolt. It has to be a state that is arrived at through any number of different paths.
Even the “path of mindfulness” may not suit every individual. That is the danger with the “one path fits all”. Every individual is different and unique and requires a path that suits their temperament. Many years ago the Transcendental Meditation movement swept across the world imparting a mantra meditation which was said to be suitable for everyone. The Brahma Kumari movement uses visualisation as part of their meditation. Other techniques such as the Sudarshan Kriya of Art of Living, Shambhavi Maha Mudra of Isha Foundation, and Kriya Yoga of Paramahamsa Yogananda and the Self Realisation Fellowship utilize the breath and postures to raise the energies to heightened states. Vipassana meditation is a Buddhist style meditation, which would most closely replicate the modern day mindfulness technique.
In the yogic tradition there are several broad paths that are described depending on the nature of the individual. Karma yogis require a much more action-orientated path with an attitude of selfless service. Gnana yogis are more analytical and need to utilize the sharpness of their intellect to work out what is their real nature. Devotional people may take to the path of bhakti or surrender very naturally and aim to merge with the object of their devotion. Hata yogis use their body and breath to arrive at the inner domains of meditation. The traditional domain of Raja yoga uses all aspects but is mainly a mental discipline.
The beauty of the yogic traditions is that it recognises that many paths lead to the same goal. The inner state of mention is one that is difficult to quantify scientifically, however indirect measurements maybe performed via EEG, ECG, heart rate, and MRI. These consistently show patterns that are present in experienced meditators who are able to enter the state of “no-mind”, “beyond-mind” or “mindlessness”.
Mindfulness is just one path to mindlessness, and mindlessness is the window to the Soul! Below are some links and resources through which GPs can learn more about mindfulness and its role in clinical practice.
In Health and Wellness Mr Ranjit Rao
Mindfulness, meditation and stress reduction studies
Smith JE, Richardson J, Hoffman C, et al. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as supportive therapy in cancer care: systematic review. J Adv Nurs 2005;52:315-27.
Carlson LE, Ursuliak Z, Goodey E, et al. The effects of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients: 6-month followup. Support Care Cancer 2001;9:112-23.
Shapiro SL, Bootzin RR, Figueredo AJ, et al. The efficacy of mindfulness-based stress reduction in the treatment of sleep disturbance in women with breast cancer: an exploratory study. J Psychosom Res 2003;54:85-91.
Carlson LE, Speca M, Patel KD, et al. Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress, and immune parameters in breast and prostate cancer outpatients. Psychosom Med 2003;65:571-81.
Spiegel D, Bloom JR, Kraemer HC, et al. Effect of psychosocial treatment on survival of patients with metastatic breast cancer. Lancet 1989;2:888-891.
Fawzy F, Fawzy NW, Hyun CS, et al. Malignant melanoma. Effects of an early structured psychiatric intervention, coping, and affective state on recurrence and survival 6 years later. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1993;50:681-89.
Syrjala KL, Donaldson GW, Davis MW, et al. Relaxation and imagery and cognitive- behavioral training reduce pain during cancer treatment: a controlled clinical trial. Pain. 1995;63:189-98.K
Image courtesy of Vinoth Chandar.