CT meditates: a comedy (21). Wisdom is like rainwater

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from: the Noun project dot com, By Iconathon, US

The Dalai Lama, in response to the critique about detachment and laziness: if we are going to be mindful, and then detach ourselves from immediate concerns and not take them so personally, won’t we become lazy, un-involved? What if we are ambitious and want to improve?

From The Book of Joy page 212. The Dalai Lama states:

We should also realize that the recognition of our own limitations and weaknesses can be very positive. This can be wisdom. If you realize that you are inadequate in some way, then you develop effort. If you think, everything is fine and I’m okay just as I am, then you will not try to develop further. There is a Tibetan saying that wisdom is like rainwater –both gather in the low places.

Speaking of rainwater in low places; this is the flimsy excuse I used with my spouse to justify my need to upgrade my iPhone (a few years ago: hmm; maybe it is already time again):

I was on a bike ride with my kids around our neighborhood on some dirt paths. Westerly Creek is normally a tiny stream that meanders through our area and bisects one of the biking paths. Normally the depth is about 6-8 inches, easily forded riding a mountain bike (and a nice and messy adventure for middle schoolers). However, this particular ride was soon after a major storm, and the stream seemed only slightly deeper and wider than usual. The kids were reluctant to cross. Being the good parent, I made fun of them: “Couple of scaredy cats. Look, I’ll ride to the other side and you’ll see.” I promptly rode in, immediately sank in up to my WAIST, when I floated off my bike, and then scrambled back out. My son pointed out: “Isn’t your phone in your pocket?” And so it was. And no amount of blow drying, rice-filled container packing, or finger crossing would bring it back. I was “forced” to go get a new phone. 😦 🙂

Those of you keeping track of my images on these mindfulness posts; thank you to The Noun Project (https://thenounproject.com) for being a terrific resource for Creative Commons icons licensed for public use, as long as you attribute the source.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? Do not mistake the calm exterior for someone who doesn’t care. Also: wisdom, unlike rainwater, does not ALWAYS gather in the low places.

CT meditates: a comedy (20). Stumbling on happiness (book)

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from Amazon.com

I love Daniel Gilbert’s work: Stumbling on Happiness. It is a collection of gems, and is interspersed with the results of clever psychology experiments that tell us how your mind works, and it doesn’t work the way you think it works!

Specifically, I enjoyed the three-part description of the components of happiness at work. Ask yourself, is your work:

  • Meaningful (do you see a greater purpose to your work)
  • Pleasurable (do you enjoy the work)
  • are you Good at it?

I remember this using the acronym “MPG.” Having work that is at least one of these, leads to happiness. Having all three is the jackpot.

Remember, if you’re coming on the 3-minute daily journey with me:  eyes closed,
with just the simple goal of spending 3 minutes in a comfortable pose, and focusing on breath. Then to watch the inevitable stream of thoughts floating by, observing each one as a puffy cloud, letting it just drift by without diving into it, and returning to breath.

CMIO’s take? I am grateful to acknowledge that my job is M, P and G. Are you working toward your MPG?

CT meditates: a comedy (19). The second arrow

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It takes my son to teach me about important concepts from the Book of Joy.

An ordinary person feels two pains, two arrows, with any tragedy. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he feels the pain of two arrows.

It seems that the Dalai Lama was suggesting that by shifting our perspective to a broader, more compassionate one, we can avoid the worry and suffering that is the second arrow.

I was struggling one evening a few months ago, to explain how our minds construct meaning around any event, and that we can control our own narrative. By being present, and being grateful, and being compassionate, sometimes we can avoid making things worse in our own minds. To which my very wise child replied: “Oh, you mean the second arrow. From the Book of Joy.”

And, after spending the next couple weeks reading the Book of Joy, I concluded:

Thanks, yes, that is what I meant.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take: wisdom comes from many directions.

CT meditates: a comedy (18). Flow!

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From Amazon.com

Have you read Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi? Mihaly’s last name prompts me to remember Wheel of Fortune: “May I buy a vowel?”

Nevertheless, this classic book introduced the world to the concept of flow:

…the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.

I’m sure we have all felt this at one time or another. And the amazing thing about this: it does not occur during passive activity like watching TV or reading, but only when the task is challenging, requiring skill and concentration. There are clear goals, you get immediate feedback. Only then can you experience a deep, effortless involvement, a sense of control. Your sense of self vanishes, time seems to stop.

The components of flow thus include: challenge, enthusiasm, skill.

This occurs for me in a challenging meeting at work, where we snatch win-win victory from the jaws of defeat (Hamilton reference, anyone?), or when working with a patient on a difficult task, and achieving a breakthrough in their health.

Or, embarrassingly, when I play a video game. Yes, I admit it. I used to be an addict to Farmville, and similar games, and countless iPhone games (Clash of Clans, anyone?), and of course the classic Starcraft II. I mean, who DOESN’T play Starcraft, really?

I’ll also mention the book Reality is Broken – why games make us better, by Jane McGonigal (or watch her great TED talks: careful, her 3 talks will suck you right in). But she also connects to Flow and argues that the Clear Goals in games make Flow more common that in real life, where the rules and goals are much more ambiguous.

Remember, if you’re coming on the 3-minute daily journey with me:  eyes closed, with just the simple goal of spending 3 minutes in a comfortable pose, and focusing on breath. Then to watch the inevitable stream of thoughts floating by, observing each one as a puffy cloud, letting it just drift by without diving into it, and returning to breath.

CMIO’s take? Do you play games? (no, I do not mean consternating mind-games with your colleagues and family) Why not? How recently have you experienced Flow? Do you design your day to achieve Flow (challenge, enthusiasm, skill) as often as possible?

CT meditates: a comedy (17). You are not yet perfect.

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Yoga pose ASANA, I’m told. I’m pretty sure that most Yoga poses are beyond me. We did do some yoga during our Thanksgiving Retreat and Renewal. This is where I discovered my ineptitude. And I got past it and still enjoyed the impossibility of some of the yoga poses.

From the Book of Joy (pg 92), I loved a particular quote from the Dalai Lama:

I would say to everyone: You are made for perfection, but you are not yet perfect. You are masterpiece in the making.

I love this. You can say this to your downtrodden colleague. To yourself. To your tumultuous offspring. To your spouse (carefully!).

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? You are not yet perfect. Neither am I.

CT meditates: a comedy (16). Mindfulness Quiz, and “Smile…Breathe…This is a test”

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https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/take_quiz/mindfulness

I like this mindfulness quiz.

Just going through this, lets you take a step back and think about your own approach to mindfulness.

What tricks do you use in your daily practice?

One idea I heard from a Communications workshop participant recently: when about to step into what you anticipate to be a difficult situation, think to yourself:
“Smile… Breathe … This is a test.”

Meaning that: smiling helps set a tone for your own nonverbals and body. Then a deep breath signals cleansing thoughts and being present. Then “this is a test” reminds us that we may be On Stage, not to take things personally. Maybe this is a puzzle that can be looked at objectively and solved with patience.” I like this idea very much.

Another colleague once said that her momentary mindfulness trick was, just before knocking on the next exam room door and entering, she would say to herself: “Let me stay out of the way.” Then take a breath, knock, and enter the room. Nice! I have started to make this a habit before knocking on every exam room door. Works wonders (when I remember).

Remember, if you’re coming on the 3-minute daily journey with me:  eyes closed, with just the simple goal of spending 3 minutes in a comfortable pose, and focusing on breath. Then to watch the inevitable stream of thoughts floating by, observing each one as a puffy cloud, letting it just drift by without diving into it, and returning to breath.

CMIO’s take? Smile. Breathe. This is a test.

CT meditates: a comedy (15). Chris Sinsky and AMA steps forward

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https://www.stepsforward.org/modules/physician-burnout

I am loving the website that the American Medical Association has built, called “Steps Forward.” For years we have struggled to help docs run their clinics more efficiently, reduce waste, improve workflows. This is of course, under the rubric of “I hate the EHR; get that CT Lin guy to come out here and fix this (#$*&# EHR.”

When our team gets there, we often find an internal mess of tangled workflows, duplicated tasks, inefficient and inconsistent handoffs, etc. We end up spending MOST of our time on re-engineering their office, with some attention paid to changing a few tools in their EHR, developing some preference lists and smartphrases. Most of the work is team-building, huddles, shared decision-making.

Christine Sinsky MD, the self-styled “VP of Joy” at the AMA (what a title!) has helped construct an amazing, free resource called Steps Forward (link above) that I highly encourage everyone to visit. It is a step-by-step guide on improving DOZENS of workflows for hardworking physicians in all specialties.

I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Sinsky recently, and we had a great discussion about the many strategies of combining EHR optimization with provider burnout, some of which I’ll get to discuss more here.

The modules linked above are to Physician Burnout in particular, but browse the entire site for such common sense advice as: ensuring that patient prescription renewals can be fulfilled by non-physician staff; with a protocol, you can minimize rework and get patients to follow-up appropriately. Also, having labs drawn PRIOR to appointment eliminates the “how to notify the patient: phone, letter, online?” because you can actually discuss the results IN PERSON instead! Amazing.

OK, lets return to our breath today. Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? Lots of smart people out there working hard on Physician Burnout. What are you and your organization doing? And breathe people, breathe.

CT meditates: a comedy (14) Stanford wellness, military mindfulness, and Death Sticks

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I like Stanford’s relatively new Physician Wellness site; something we can all aspire to. It includes links to self-assessments (see “Test yourself” link on the far left of that page.

http://wellmd.stanford.edu/

What highly-competitive health care provider doesn’t want to test themselves against others? Maybe I can score the highest! Wait, maybe not the highest on a burnout scale…

It is a good conversation to have, with yourself about your own elements of burnout, and internal resources of resilience. How do you stack up? Is it time to “go home and rethink my life?”  (link: youtube video on the guy who tries to sell Star Wars’ Obiwan “Death Sticks”).

Remember, if you’re coming on the 3-minute daily journey with me:  eyes closed, with just the simple goal of spending 3 minutes in a comfortable pose, and focusing on breath. Then to watch the inevitable stream of thoughts floating by, observing each one as a puffy cloud, letting it just drift by without diving into it, and returning to breath.

Teaching our Communication workshop recently, I was reminded that the US military now has soldiers undergoing Mindfulness training with quantitative improvements in focus and performance. Hmm! Maybe this IS more than just mumbo-jumbo.

CMIO’s take? Mumbo-jumbo sometimes is good.

CT meditates: a comedy (13). Extending compassion

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Okay, I’m mixing my metaphors now, between yoga and meditation. And some of you probably think “what’s the difference? it is all new-agey stuff anyway.”

From both the Book of Joy (see recent post) and Start Here (recent post), the practice of compassion can be linked to a brief meditative exercise. One starts with thinking of oneself, and then gradually broadening the horizon. So, to start, sit quietly, and thinking of a close friend:

May you   … be free of suffering
… be happy
… be healthy
… live in peace and joy.

This should be relatively easy to do. Each step from here gets progressively harder, if you are being honest with yourself. Next, think of your self and make the same statements:

May I         … be free of suffering
… be happy
… be healthy
… live in peace and joy.

Even more difficult. Think of someone you only know casually; perhaps someone at work. Or harder yet, someone you know and with whom you have a tough time getting along. Same statements.

Finally, think of ALL beings, and make the same statement.

Work up to it. Don’t strain yourself. I would argue that even a brief 5 minute exercise working through these statements can: stretch your brain, generate some internal observations, and surely will alter your world view just a little. It did for me.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit! (and perhaps fold that into today’s 5 minutes).

CMIO’s take? Who knew that there is a step-by-step exercise for compassion? And that it benefits ME at least as much as it does others?

CT meditates: a comedy (12). Hiking at Shambhala

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Our trip to Shambhala mountain center would not have been complete without some strenuous hiking up above the retreat. It sits on 600 acres of land in the foothills and is pretty spectacular. Allen Ginsburg’s remains are buried here. And hiking the perimeter trail is a wonderful 10 mile traverse, of which we did a couple miles.

Funny story: we timed our hike to leave us plenty of time to be back for our next yoga session, but as we enjoyed ourselves so much, we realized we were going to be late. We hurried back down the mountain (whooping and jumping down the sloping trails as we went). However, as we came back into the retreat area, we jogged as quietly as we could past a stately, older retreat participant, garnering us a quick glare. Nothing like RUSHING BACK to be in time for restorative yoga.

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The gate to a Shinto shrine on the left, the Stupa on the right at Shambhala.

So, coming on the journey with me? I’m going to stay with a 3 minute meditation, eyes closed, with just the simple goal of spending 3 minutes in a comfortable pose, and focusing on breath. Then to watch the inevitable stream of thoughts floating by, observing each one as a puffy cloud, letting it just drift by without diving into it, and returning to my breath.

CMIO’s take? My favorite (mis)quoted line from Herbie the Love Bug: “Rushing is a cracked bowl, which knows no rice.”

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