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Lions Roar : January 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2011 52 Real People, Real Practice Four inspiring stories of how real people are integrating mindfulness into their lives. Dr. Martin Ehrlich InternIst, new York CItY “It’s an amazing process to do this within myself, and also do it together with patients.” when internist Dr. Martin ehrlich is walking down the hall and realizes that he’s rushing, he tries to stay with that realization and take a deep breath; between patients, when he’s washing his hands, he consciously focuses on letting go of his last patient so that he can be present for the next one; and when he’s touching patients—when he’s listening to their heartbeat or asking them to breathe—he breathes with them. All of the above are common oc- currences in ehrlich’s routine, but instead of seeing them as mun- dane or unimportant, he uses them as reminders to be mindful. ehrlich was already practicing medicine when he was intro- duced to meditation by his wife, a sufi, and though he doesn’t identify as a sufi himself, he says that sufi meditation has helped him in his interaction with patients. the meditation that’s prac- ticed in the sufi tradition involves focusing on love—on taking Mindy Winter PolICe offICer, MADIson, wIsConsIn “I’m dealing with people who are in great distress. Lives have been turned upside down.” “At any given time, especially when you’re likely to arrest some- body, you have to expect that things could get very ugly, very quickly,” says officer Mindy winter of wisconsin’s City of Madi- son Police Department. “You have to be ready for that,” she says, “but, it’s a fine line to walk. You can’t let your concern for officer safety negatively affect the way you deal with the public.” Policing is a stressful job, winter acknowledges. “so, it’s im- portant to find constructive outlets. It’s easy for anyone, not just police, to fall into less healthy ways of dealing with stress.” Mindfulness is winter’s constructive outlet. she was intro- duced to it about seven years ago when her romantic partner took a mindfulness course and came home talking about it. now, winter regularly meditates focusing on the breath. some- times she practices for just a few moments, sitting at her desk in the middle of her day. At other times she sits for longer periods at home. “It’s mind-boggling that more people don’t stop and breathe,” says winter. “our society is so go-go-go. Do this, do that, do six- teen things at once. I think we all need to take a breather every now and then and not think about things.” for the first five years that winter was a police officer, she worked a beat. About a year ago, she became a traffic crash inves- tigation specialist, which means that when there is a major car accident in her area, she’s on the scene. “I’m dealing with people who are in great distress, because a loved one has just died or they or their loved one is in a serious medical situation,” winter says. “lives have been turned upside down.” the trauma of seeing “what’s under the sheet” and dealing with tragedy day in and day out can make some officers shut down emo- tionally. But, winter says, mindfulness grounds her and enables her to be there for people in a more compassionate way. “Having a PHotoBYDr.roBertAlee