Conventional medical training tends to follow a set route, typically shying away from practices such as mindfulness meditation: first, you start with a hospital residency, and then, you follow up with an additional fellowship. Personally, my hospital residency focused on internal medicine. I trained in immunology for my fellowship.
Once my training was complete, I went out into medical practice bursting with enthusiasm at the thought of being able to thwart disease with all my medical knowledge and prescription treatments.
After 3 years in practice, I quickly began to realize it takes a lot more than a mere prescription to heal a chronically ill patient.
Alternative Medicine Techniques
I knew there had to be another way to help relieve my patients’ pain–especially fibromyalgia pain, so over the next few years I made many trips to top medical institutes that were using Alternative Medical techniques to treat fibromyalgia patients or the chronically ill.
This was in the 1990s and Bill Moyers’ PBS series – Healing and the Mind – was gaining a wide audience of people seeking something different from their healthcare providers.
I was also seeking something different to offer my patients, so I traveled to the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, for a workshop with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the individuals featured in the Moyers series.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the leaders in the use of mindfulness meditation to help patients cope with stress and pain. He ran a clinic at the University of Massachusetts called the Stress and Pain Reduction Clinic. At the time his clinic was becoming famous due to his work with some of the most difficult cases.
At his clinic, Kabat-Zinn ran an 8-week mindfulness training program that focused on how patients could learn to use mindfulness meditation in their daily lives. It wasn’t religious training in any make, shape or form; it was essentially using an ancient Buddhist technique to reset the mind to be in harmony with the body.
Kabat-Zinn emphasized the importance of “being in the moment” and “paying attention your breath” to develop mindfulness.
The Wellness Course
I was so personally invigorated after this professional training workshop, that I organized my own Wellness courses (in both New York and Long Island) to teach my patients mindfulness for their fibromyalgia pain or other chronic pain.
I have been in medical practice for over 20 years and have enjoyed wonderful connections with many of my patients. However, it was in this 8-week mindfulness and meditation course (with small groups of my patients who suffer from fibromyalgia or chronic illness) where the doctor-patient relationship reached a whole new level.
To add to all of this, I couldn’t contain my excitement when The New York Times ran an article on my program in the Sunday Long Island section on April 28, 1996. The article was titled: The Doctor Wore Sweats, and sure enough, there was a picture of me and my fellow patients in our sweats doing yoga poses on the floor.
Today I care for many fibromyalgia patients. The underlying cause of fibromyalgia is currently unknown and there is no consensus on successful treatment for these patients. At Mitchell Medical Group, we follow many of the protocols of Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum (author of From Fatigued to Fantastic!) that include intravenous vitamins, including Vitamin C.
We use magnesium injections to reduce pain and muscle spasm, and injections of gamma globulin to reduce inflammation. Fortunately, we see successful results for many of our patients. However, I can’t be with my patients 24 hours a day and always tell them that learning techniques, such as mindfulness meditation for fibromyalgia, can be a great way to control fibromyalgia pain to some degree, regardless of where they are.
Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Life
Dr. Kabat-Zinn wrote a wonderful book called Wherever You Go, There You Are. It is a series of essays explaining how to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into daily life. If you have an interest in learning how to incorporate mindfulness into your life, then I would strongly recommend this book as the place to start.
The next step is to find a center that teaches mindfulness. They are popping up everywhere because there is a demand for these services. According to the Wall Street Journal (on Tuesday, February 17th, 2015) schools are now teaching mindfulness to children to improve their focus and concentration levels.
If you can’t find a meditation class near you why not try it yourself? Just pop in a CD, sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor, take a deep breath in through your nostrils, and let the OMMM out!
– Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC