This semester I started teaching an elective course “Mindfulness in Medicine.” There are six of us in the class ( myself included). These 5 students out of a class of 140 chose to participate and WOW has it been amazing.
It’s a simple class really – we are spread out all over the united states so it takes place online. This works well for me because I don’t have to meet in a group and miss out on hearing the conversation. (did I mention I am hard of hearing?).
So the class goes like this: We are each reading a different book about mindfulness meditation – Jack Kornfield, Eswaren, Kabbat Zinn and more. And we are each committing to having a meditation practice. We communicate about what we are doing in a weekly email discussion started by one participant. The discussion centers on some part of their practice and their text so that we can all get a taste of the books we are not reading. We also look at the benefits of mindfulness in the practice of medicine.
This morning as I did my walking meditation in the dark my mind drifted to the class discussion. One of the students told a story from his book, by Eswaran on the mantra, of an elephant in a market – his trunk swinging wildly from booth to booth grabbing things until his wise master gave him a bamboo stick. After that he was able to walk gracefully through the market, holding his stick high and not disturbing any of the vendors.
If you have tried to meditate you understand this completely – your mind is the elephant trunk, busy getting into everything, not noticing anything and in the case of this story the mantra is the bamboo stick.
I am sharing this with you because it was shared with me and it has been ringing in my mind all week. I have a lot of gratitude for these medical students. I also am filled with hope, because some of you might have them for your doctor someday. That will be a good thing.
Is it easy to meditate? No of course not, nothing worth doing is easy for long.
Is it easy to set aside the time, the place the willingness? To keep from falling asleep? To stop the flailing trunk?
No of course not.
So I started this class and now I have these five remarkable students to remind me to keep a hold on my bamboo stick, to just get up and try, to just be willing.
It was dark at 530 this morning, but I could see the north star.