Medical matters: should doctors prescribe a course in mindfulness?

November 3, 2015

wildmind meditation newsMuiris Houston, The Irish Times: Mindfulness has become quite a buzzword of late. An ancient Buddhist practice, it is seen as being especially relevant to our modern frenetic lives. Jon Kabat- Zinn, an author and mindfulness teacher, who has played a central role in broadening the appeal and use of mindfulness, describes it as “simply the art of conscious living”.

It is a “systematic process of self-observation, self-inquiry and mindful action . . . the overall tenor of mindfulness practice is gentle, appreciative and nurturing”, he writes.

With the “coming” of mindfulness there has been an explosion of interest in its potential uses. Inevitably, the corporate world …

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Dalai Lama’s American doctor wants more compassion in medicine

October 29, 2015

wildmind meditation newsPBS Newshour: Before he was a personal physician to the Dalai Lama, Dr. Barry Kerzin never imagined that a professional trip to Tibet would lead him down a decades-long path studying Buddhism and meditation. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro talks to Kerzin in India about his feeling that compassion and empathy are essential to medical training.

Sixty-eight-year-old California native Barry Kerzin began his career as a professor of family medicine at the University of Washington. He never dreamed it would lead to a pro bono house calls thousands of miles away in Tibet.

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We need to take meditation more seriously as medicine

January 20, 2014

wildmind meditation newsJacoba Urist, Time: To be fair, I’m not sure how I would have responded had my surgeon suggested I meditate before or after surgery to ease my anxiety or post-operative pain. My guess is, like many women, I would have been skeptical: what exactly did sitting in half-lotus pose or breathing deeply have to do with the tumor in my right breast? And why was a doctor— whose job and training and every measure of success is rooted in science and clinical outcomes— prescribing a spiritual or religious method of therapy?

But a new review study, published last week in the Journal …

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Could an awareness of the heartbeat be a vital component of empathy?

August 16, 2013

Corazon de PiedraAn awareness of the heart (the physical organ, not the metaphorical seat of emotion) and its role in empathy. Noticing the heart concerns a process called interoceptive awareness (IA), which is just a fancy term for how we monitor the body’s internal state. There’s evidence that interoceptive awareness is important for social cognition, including empathy.

Neuroscientists think we detect our own heart-beats via two routes. One is “somatosensory” — that is, we feel the movement of the heart’s beat through our sense of touch. The other route is via the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain down to the heart and beyond, and which carries electrical impulses in both directions.

The British Psychological Society … Read more »

Meditation gets thumbs-up for pain, more muted support for stress

December 10, 2012

Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times: Meditation this week won the scientific stamp of approval from a federal panel as a means of reducing the severity of chronic and acute pain. The influential committee also concluded the practice of mindfulness has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing stress and anxiety, but it found the scientific evidence for that claim weaker and more inconsistent.

As a therapy to promote positive feelings, induce weight loss and improve attention and sleep, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality was less impressed with meditation. The group concluded there is currently an insufficient body of scientific evidence to conclude meditation is …

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Meditation helps doctors deal with the emotional flood

November 30, 2012

The woman was terminally ill with advanced cancer, and the oncologist who had been treating her for three years thought the next step might be to deliver chemotherapy directly to her brain. It was a risky treatment that he knew would not, could not, help her.

When Dr. Diane Meier asked what he thought the futile therapy would accomplish, the oncologist replied, “I don’t want Judy to think I’m abandoning her.”

In a recent interview, Meier said, “Most physicians have no other strategies, no other arrows in their quiver beyond administering tests and treatments.”

“To avoid feeling that they’ve abandoned their patients, doctors …

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Meditation reduces the severity and duration of acute respiratory infections

July 11, 2012

Training in mindfulness meditation or exercise is linked to a decrease in the severity and duration of acute respiratory infections (ARIs) in adults, according to a study published in the July/August issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

To assess the preventive effects of meditation or exercise on incidence, duration, and severity of ARI illness, Bruce Barrett, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and associates conducted a randomized trial involving 149 adults (82 percent female; 94 percent white; mean age, 59.3 years). Participants underwent eight weeks of training in mindfulness meditation (51 participants) or moderate-intensity sustained exercise (47 participants), or were part of an observational control (51 participants).

The researchers identified 27 … Read more »

Mindfulness is good for doctors and their patients

Training physicians in mindfulness meditation and communication skills can improve the quality of primary care for both practitioners and their patients, University of Rochester Medical Center researchers report in a study published online this week in the journal Academic Medicine.

As ways to improve primary care, the researchers also recommend promoting a sense of community among physicians and providing time to physicians for personal growth.

“Programs focused on personal awareness and self-development are only part of the solution,” the researchers stated. “Our health care delivery systems must implement systematic change at the practice level to create an environment that supports mindful practice, encourages transparent and clear communication among clinicians, staff, patients, and families, and reduces … Read more »

Meditation prescribed more often as alternative to conventional medicine.

Lara Salahi and Catherine Cole: When Danilo Ramirez, 44, was diagnosed with stage 2 lymphoma, his doctor told him chemotherapy and radiation would offer him his best shot to survive. But the thought of medical treatments with harsh side effects overwhelmed Ramirez.

“Mentally [chemotherapy] was really hard on me,” said Ramirez. “There were nights that I couldn’t sleep at all, knowing that I had to face that.”

Ramirez was too claustrophobic to endure radiation treatments, which required wearing a large protective mask.

“He almost was willing to refuse treatment for a potentially curable cancer,” said Ramirez’s doctor, Dr. Rex Hoffman, who is also the medical director of radiation oncology at Roy and Patricia Disney Family … Read more »

Minding mindfulness can ease anxiety, depression

April 11, 2011

Helen Adamopoulos: First, get into a comfortable position. Keep your spine erect, but don’t get tense. Close your eyes. Now breathe. Concentrate on the air filling your lungs.

If your mind wanders, note the thought (with a label such as “last night’s dinner”) and then return your focus to your breathing.

That is how to practice basic mindfulness, a meditation technique that can help people cope with conditions including depression, anxiety and chronic pain, according to Chicago social worker Georgia Jones.

She teaches clinicians the fundamentals of mindfulness and its relevance to psychotherapy and covered the basics at a lecture Wednesday at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital.

Jones works for the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago and … Read more »