When a plane is about to take off and the flight attendants are demonstrating the safety procedures, they give the instruction, “In case of a drop in cabin pressure, please put on your oxygen mask before helping others.” Is it selfish? It may appear so at first, but unless you are fit, how can you help others? When you are weak, how will you help others to be strong? Without money or knowledge, how will you help others to be wealthy or knowledgeable?
Similarly, can doctors help their patients without being fit? Healthcare professionals, whose work is primarily that of taking care of others, very often forget themselves. Caregivers usually put patients first, unmindful of their own circumstances. In particular, we expect doctors to be calm and balanced in their judgment. Whendoctorsareconfused, exhausted, angry restless, their judgment will be clouded, their focus will waver, and their performance will definitely not be up to par with their potential. Would you like to be treated by such a doctor? I assume the answer is ‘no’.
Nowadays medical professionals are under tremendous pressure and are affected by burnout, disillusionment, exhaustion, and stress. A study conducted in 2016 on a cross-section of Indian doctors revealed that 45% and 65% scored high on a scale of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization respectively. There has been a concerning increase in the number of untimely deaths, suicidal tendencies, anxiety-related disorders, fatigue, stress, compassion fatigue and burnout among Indian doctors. When you realize that there is just one doctor for every 1,700 people, it is not surprising.
But this is also a worldwide phenomenon, so taking cognizance of these circumstances the World Medical Association (WMA) General Assembly added an important clause to the Declaration of Geneva on 14 October 2017 in Chicago: “I will attend to my own health, well-being and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.”
When we are not at ease, we are in a state of dis-ease. It is like a car that needs a service – when the engine requires oil or the tires need more pressure. In other words, the tuning is disturbed. In the field of quantum biology, the human body is also considered to have its particular vibrational frequency, and any illness that affects the body affects the vibratory level of the cells. For example, when we have a cold, a fever, cancer, diabetes, or a mental-emotional condition like depression, our natural rhythm or vibration is affected, whereas the state of health that is associated with vibrational coherency of the body, mind, and spirit creates happiness and balance within.
So we can ask ourselves: “How can this be achieved?” Are there practices that help us? In fact, the age-old tradition of meditation, which has been practiced since before recorded history, has many health benefits. It is not that meditation will cure physical illnesses, because if you have a virus or a broken leg you need medical attention. But recent EEG and functional MRI research studies have shown that the act of meditation produces both short-term as well as long-term neurophysiological and neuroanatomical changes that affect our sense of well-being. For example:
1. One 2-month Mindfulness Meditation program resulted in increased left-sided electrical activation of the anterior brain. This pattern is associated with positive effects and emotions. No such changes occurred in the control group.
2. Another study, comparing experienced meditators with control subjects of a similar age, found greater gray matter density in lower brainstem regions involved in the autonomic system and cardiorespiratory control in the meditators.
3. A meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies examining around 300 meditation practitioners found 8 brain regions consistently altered in meditators, including areas key to meta-awareness, body awareness, and self- and emotion regulation.
4. Anatomical changes have been reported in the cerebral cortex, subcortical gray and white matter, brainstem and cerebellum of meditators.
One way it can be achieved is by practicing Heartfulness Meditation, a very simple system of Raja Yoga that helps practitioners reach deep meditative states and expanded levels of consciousness in a relatively short period of time with minimal effort. This is because of the transformative effects of Yogic Transmission or Pranahuti, which helps establish balance and vibrational coherence in all those who receive it.
A coherent vibrational field forms when we meditate on the heart with Transmission, so that the heart and mind start to work together as one, and this affects every aspect of life. It allows the mind to be fully alert and cognitive, while we simultaneously experience the mystical consciousness of the heart. We develop an expanded consciousness and can utilize our mind’s potential in a more dynamic way.
Research on the effects of Heartfulness Meditation demonstrates improved heart rate, BP, sleep patterns and heart rate variability, as well as a significant effect on the length of the telomeres that cap our chromosomes, correlated with improved immunity and longevity. Heartfulness Meditation also refines and deepens intellectual capacity to include intuition and wisdom. Thinking expands and deepens to include feeling. Emotions like fear, greed, worry, anger, and confusion are replaced by courage, love, clarity of mind, purpose, peace and a state of contentment. These latter qualities are clearly desirable in a doctor, as a doctor’s decisions impact the lives of patients and everyone connected with them. Do we want our doctors to be victims of stress, overwork, disillusionment, and discontent?
On Doctors’ Day, in the spirit of “Physician, heal thyself,” I invite medical professionals the world over to join me in experiencing Heartfulness Meditation at www.heartfulness.org/masterclass or via our LetsMeditate App.
All the best,
Levine GN, Lange RA, Bairey‐Merz CN, et al. Meditation and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Journal of the American Heart Association: Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Disease. 2017;6(10):e002218. doi:10.1161/JAHA.117.002218
Thimmapuram J, Pargament R, Sibliss K, Grim R, Risques R, Toorens E. Effect of Heartfulness Meditation on burnout, emotional wellness, and telomere length in healthcare professionals. Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives. 2017;7(1):21-27. doi:10.1080/20009666.2016.1270806.