CT meditates: a comedy (9) Notice, Shift, Rewire


So I’m coming back to Start Here. One of the precepts of the book that I’m most enjoying is the idea of NOTICE-SHIFT-REWIRE. Of course, read the book to get the complete impact of this powerful idea. This is part of meditation practice, to be more aware of your body, your breath, the task at hand, to improve focus and reduce distraction.

The crux of it:
NOTICE: be present. Use meditation or whatever tools you have to be present in the moment. Stop thinking about the past, about the future, what your calendar says, and place your focus on NOW.

SHIFT: when your mind inevitably drifts off to another idea, topic, worry, concern, SHIFT back to being present, back to your breath. The wandering is inevitable; do not feel bad about it, the importance is to SHIFT when you NOTICE.

REWIRE: Perhaps the most powerful piece: spend 12 seconds feeling grateful that you were able to successfully SHIFT back to focus. Each time you are successful, REWIRING reinforces the good behavior and it becomes a little easier next time.

Funny story? One of the co-authors also stars in a short video describing the process of NOTICE-SHIFT-REWIRE. He is a PhD, lives in Boulder, and has a healthy Boulder-ite glow, and looks like a youngster (to this 50 year old, anyway). Watching the video, I noticed myself disbelieving that any youngster could teach me anything useful. What does THIS GUY know about Buddhism? Hegel? Kant? Confucius?

And then, I listen, and come to realize that he is REALLY SMART and ties these traditions together cleverly with modern neuroscience, and then I get over myself.

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? Young people can also be smart.

CT meditates: a comedy (8). Leading meditation (boring)


So I was asked to lead a short meditation in a workshop I was helping to conduct. We’re doing some work on Personal Resilience in our organization. I also gave a similar talk to some pharmacy residents, and decided to incorporate a brief guided meditation exercise (WITH ME AS GUIDE?!?!).

So, I did my best. I cultivated my “indoor voice” quiet-but-not-too-quiet, developed a script: “If you’re comfortable, sit with your feet flat on the floor; then if you’re comfortable, close your eyes; then think of your hands resting on your lap; then think of a string and balloon attached to the top of your head, gently straightening your neck and making your head feel light; then think of a heavy warm blanket around your shoulders, allowing them to relax downward.”

Of course, the feedback after the session from some polite participants: “Nice” and “Relaxing” and “It helped me clear my head.” My favorite, though was:

“Well, it felt much longer than 3 minutes and was kind of boring.”


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

CMIO’s take? Meditation practice can actually help with statements I would have previously taken personally. Observe the statement, note it, put it aside, return to your breath. See?

CT meditates: a comedy (7) Monkey Mind


Monkey Mind! A term particularly apt, at least for me, as I navel-gaze into my own brain (hmm, mixed metaphors also seem to be a personal problem). Sitting quietly in a chair paying attention to breath CANNOT BE THIS HARD, but my analytical internal left-brain monkey is active all the time.

I mentioned my new-found meditation habit to a colleague who tells me “I did T.M. (transcendental meditation) for 20 years. During my hippie days…” (there has GOT to be a story there).

I also mentioned this to a patient of mine, who suffers from severe anxiety, as a possible solution, and that I’m starting to meditate myself, but am having some difficulty. He smiles, says that he does this every morning for 30 minutes, and that it helps him a great deal with his anxiety symptoms. What we don’t know about our patients…

And then, he amazes me by reassuring ME! “Don’t worry, doctor, keep focusing on your breath. You’ll get it.”


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? Sometimes advice comes from the most unexpected places. Be ready to accept it!

CT meditates: a comedy (6) Book of Joy


Reading this book, on the recommendation of my children. If parents can take credit in any way for their children’s accomplishments and thoughtfulness, I will ride their coattails all the way.

This book is the outcome of a weeklong meeting between two 80+ year old spiritual leaders summing up the common threads of their philosophies and hard-won learnings.

It is a delightful read, full of humor, grace, thoughtfulness, kindness and love. And, the Archbishop also teaches the Dalai Lama to dance(!)

Dr. Tutu tells a story of defusing a crisis during the Apartheid years in South Africa. He was attending a funeral of a black leader shot by white police officers; both were in attendance and the atmosphere was tense. He tells the story:

“…’at the beginning of creation, God molded us out of clay and then put us into a kiln, like you do with bricks. God put one lot in and then got busy with other things and forgot about those he had put into the kiln. And after awhile he remembered and rushed to the kiln, where the whole lot was burned to cinders. They say this is how we black people came about.’ Everyone laughed a little. And then I said: ‘God put in a second lot, and this time he was overanxious and opened the oven too quickly, and this second lot that came out was underdone. And that’s how white people came about.'” [pp 217-218 from the Book of Joy]

This seemed to defuse a particularly tense situation.

Of course, my parents taught me an alternate Asian version ending of that story, that “God’s third batch came out perfectly; that’s how Asian people came about.”

Nevertheless, this book is filled with philosophical gems, including ideas of meditation, presence, gratitude, compassion.

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? Secular or not, world leader or not, presence, gratitude, compassion are never out of style.

CT meditates: a comedy (5). Three domains of physician well-being


So, lets get this clear. I have heard both sides of the debate about “Physician Wellness Programs are Lipstick on a Pig“. Yes, of course. Many physicians are burned out because of inefficient practice, and often it is due to the setup and requirements of the Electronic Health Record. Therefore, according to this contingent, recommending ANY physician wellness program is like saying “suck it up; here’s some candy; hope you forget that your EHR sucks.”

In fact, in my organization, I have heard the sentiment: “CT Lin is personally ruining the quality of care at our organization” and also “SOMEONE (maybe CT) caused this dictation outage“. He just wants us to TYPE in the damn EHR.

On the other hand, I very much like the tripartite chart shown above: Physician Wellness can be described as three interrelated things: Personal Resilience (that CAN be improved with Wellness programs, and meditative practice, as I’m embarking on this month), Practice Efficiency (that I have and will continue describe our Sprint efforts and Care Redesign efforts), as well as a Culture of Wellness (where hospital and medical leadership – see my last post- emphasize how we will work together, and seek constant improvement).

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

CMIO’s take? Don’t take it personally. It is both a meditative practice, and good career advice for a CMIO. I am a personification of this principle.

CT meditates: a comedy (4). Book review: Start Here


So, today is about gratitude. Thank you to Dr. Patrick Kneeland, Executive Medical Director for Patient and Provider Experience at UCHealth. In his efforts to improve provider resilience (just one component of the many things he does), he has brought together about 50 providers to take the Life XT (cross-training) course. The course book is Start Here, pictured above. The actual course is 4 x 1 hour group sessions led by a facilitator, we have just had our second session.

What is unique about this, is the combination of millennia of meditative traditions combined now with modern neuroscience and neuroplasticity research. It speaks to both sides of my brain. And that I now have 50 colleagues with whom to discuss this journey.

The Life XT program is described here http://life-xt.com/  And no, I am not an investor or in any way related. It is just cool. I would highly recommend the book.

Remember: if you are coming on this meditative 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.

Got it?

CMIO’s take? Let the craziness of the season flow by you. Be an island of peacefulness for yourself and maybe for others.


CT meditates: a comedy (3). Stumbling meditation!

from: http://www.clevelandbuddhisttemple.com/meditate.html

Falling over during Walking Meditation!

So, our family traveled to Shambhala mountain retreat just outside of Ft. Collins (no, I’m not necessarily a Buddhist, Shambhala  is also a great place for a secular retreat) for a Thanksgiving Retreat and Renewal. I’m happy to bend your ear for an hour talking about how fun that was (meditation, yoga, hiking and doing tai chi in the spectacular foothills of the Colorado Rockies).

Today, is my time to tell you that I am bad at walking meditation.

For meditation at Shambhala, we sat for 3 sessions of about 90 minutes, with 10 minutes of Walking meditation interspersed during the session. The instructor struck the chime about 15 minutes into our seated session, and up we get, hands held just-so (one hand in a gentle fist, thumb tucked inside, other hand gently cupping, hands held just above the belly button). Then we’re off, striding at about one step per second, perhaps at 3/4 mile per hour (thinking of a treadmill pace) in a big circle around the room, eyes half closed, staying in sync with everyone. I’m working hard (see? doing it wrong to work hard) to empty my mind of everything except how my feet feel on the floor.

Trouble is, I get so involved in thinking “Hmm, when do I shift my weight? Do I land on my heel or my toe? How do I roll my foot for the step? Do I use the outside of my foot more? How much sound am I making? Whoops! going too fast. Whoops, slowed down too much” that I ACTUALLY LOST MY BALANCE and fell out of line. Three sessions of walking meditation, and I LOST BALANCE EVERY TIME.

Apparently, I’m bad at this. Gonna keep trying anyway.

Fun fact, I did have a chance to do walking meditation (a bit quicker though) at Denver International Airport, coming back from a trip. I was walking (avoiding the moving walkway) through Terminal C, in a relatively calm area, and half-closed my eyes, picked a spot in the distance, and strode peacefully, focused on breath, for about 100 breaths.

The yards melted away and I felt energized by the end. Hmm. From theory to practice! And I did not fall over. Bonus!

CMIO’s take? More new things to try. Failing is not always bad. Put away your skeptic’s mind from time to time.

CT meditates: a comedy (2) Insight Timer

resting meditate

Well, sure. Some of you with great flexibility might right away achieve the classic meditation pose, with legs crossed, feet upturned into a locked triangle. That is too advanced for me. I prefer sitting in a chair to meditate. Either feet on the ground or even in a nice recliner. Hey, why suffer when meditating? And, I’m a beginner, gimme a break.

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 (All you overachievers out there, feel free to do more).

Want to try something fun? Here’s a free app I’ve found (for both iPhone and Android) called Insight Timer that produces a nice chime to begin and end your 3 minutes.


There are of course many others: I have heard of Headspace and Simple Habit apps.

CMIO’s take? Take time. Breathe. I’ve found that even 3 minutes of brief meditation creates awareness, focus.

CT Meditates: a Comedy (Post #1)

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I am introducing an ambitious goal for myself: a DAILY blog post between now and the end of the year (every day of the month of December 2017) on MEDITATION, and my comedic efforts at self-awareness, presence, gratitude, compassion, engagement, all the good things that come from such practice. In this age of Physician Burnout, and for Physician Informaticists, it is particularly apt.

I have lots to say (hmm, ironic: how does that comport with being silent, present and self-reflective?) and will say it in little bits each day.

Will you come along on the journey? And those of you who meditate, please leave a comment or please, teach me something. And those of you who don’t yet, maybe consider joining in?

My entree into meditation was a book called Start Here (more on this later), with the simple idea that meditation can have benefits in as little as THREE MINUTES A DAY. Now, who doesn’t have 3 minutes? Really. And your task, for these 3 minutes is:

  • Sit comfortably, legs relaxed, feet on the floor or resting comfortably, hands on thighs or in your lap, good straight posture, in a place where you are not interrupted, preferably a quiet place.
  • Eyes closed.
  • Breathe in and out naturally.
  • Notice your breath, perhaps focus on the tip of your nose as the air goes in and out.
  • Inevitably, other thoughts will creep in. Notice them, set them aside, let them drift away, return to your breath.
  • That’s it. This is your WHOLE JOB for 3 minutes. It is harder that it looks.

First time I tried, I could not do it, had dozens of intrusive thoughts in the 3 minutes. It was an entire tragi-comedy in my head.

CMIO’s take? MEDITATE! I will try to keep my daily posts short, with insights I’ve gleaned. I will attempt to meditate every day, and I invite you to join in the doing and in the discussion.

30 Second Trick for Learning and Memory



Something I learned while taking that Coursera course on Learning how to Learn. Turns out it is never too late to learn something new. Here’s an idea that you can LEARN IN 30 seconds, and could have lasting repercussions:

Summarize your last meeting, or discussion, or class, or event that you want to remember, in 30 seconds. Maybe even an entire book. The act of having to prioritize, to summarize, to choose what is important, to actively recall — this engages the frontal cortex just enough to help re-inforce memories. It is indeed a “mind-sprint” equivalent of an 100-yard dash.

This is not only backed by science (see that Coursera course!) but feels right. I currently use a little black book to write down minutes of my meetings. However, I DID NOT take the extra 30 seconds to summarize. I think I will begin doing this.

CMIO’s take? Just like one should never be “too sick to go to the doctor,” one is never too old to learn something new. Thirty seconds is all it takes. Do you do this? Let me know!