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Lions Roar : January 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2011 53 Four inspiring stories of how real people are integrating mindfulness into their lives. By AnDREA MillER mindful perspective helps me be more patient and understanding than I would be if I weren’t thinking along those lines.” the City of Madison Police Department is supportive of em- ployees using mindfulness. last year, her training team even offered a retreat held in Madison as an optional specialized train- ing. this retreat was led by sharon salzberg, cofounder of the Insight Meditation society in Massachusetts, and Cheri Maples, a former officer with the City of Madison Police Department (salzberg and Maples will be leading a similar retreat at Garri- son Institute in January). “It ran the whole gambit,” winter says. Participants had group discussions, practiced walking and sit- ting meditation, and listened to talks. the retreat activities “kept your mind going, but relaxed your mind at the same time.” winter and several other participants were so inspired by the retreat they decided to continue meeting. “we get together once a month,” she tells me. “we have lunch and talk about medita- tion. this group has been amazing. we didn’t really know each other before the retreat, but mindfulness has been a way for us to get to know each other.” everything into the heart. with the aid of this meditation, says Dr. ehrlich, “I could connect on an emotional level with people more than I’d ever done before. It gave me a better sense of where people were at.” But, for Dr. ehrlich, Mindfulness Based stress reduction (MBsr) has also had a profound effect. ehrlich practices in new York at the Beth Israel Continuum Center for Health and Healing, one of the largest integrative medicine centers in the United states, and for years before taking an MBsr course himself, he was recommending it to patients. He says, “these were people who were dealing with all kinds of problems—chronic stress, chronic pain, depression, insomnia, irritable bowels—and pretty much unanimously I would get incredible feedback.” Patients would come back from an MBsr program saying, “It changed my life.” when ehrlich became the medical director of the Continuum Center, he invited an MBsr teacher to begin leading programs there, and finally ehrlich himself took the course. since then, he too has noticed enormous changes in his life, principally in how he deals with stress. “I was known for not having the gentlest temper and I didn’t like that about myself,” he says. “I would become irritable and always be sorry afterwards. It would happen with coworkers and family members, and it would happen occasionally with patients. I’m still far from perfect—I have lapses. But I’m aware of them almost as they’re happening, so I’m able to not be as reactive.” In the past, Dr. ehrlich found that he didn’t necessarily take his irritation out on his patients directly, but he would lose con- nection with them—lose compassion. “sometimes, as a busy doctor, you get concerned with the clock,” he says, especially when patients take up more than their allotted time. In this situ- ation, ehrlich often used to get nervous and cut his attention off, rushing the patient. now, he’s more aware of his thoughts and emotions and can verbalize his concerns, saying something like: We’ve run out of time. I know we haven’t finished everything, so let’s meet again soon. “I’m more in touch with the needs, or unmet needs, of the patient,” he says. Dr. ehrlich encourages his patients to be aware as well. “to the extent that I can, I teach them to pay attention to their own symptoms and their own mindset, and get them to look at their thoughts, bodily sensations, and emotions as temporary things that come and go. It’s an amazing process to do this within my- self, and also do it together with patients.”