When I created this site in medical school my wife asked a very poignant question: “Who are you and why should we listen to you?”
The short answer is: you shouldn’t. Don’t listen to me with the idea that I am an authority figure on the subject or that I have a profound mastery of mindfulness. Don’t listen to me because I have an MD abutting my last name or because I specialize in psychiatry.
Instead, walk with me for a while as I stumble, fall, and pick myself back up over and over again in the hope of experiencing the world in a mindful way.
Maybe like the latest Hollywood trend of creating prequels I should provide a little backstory for the reader to understand my frame of reference. I’m an only child and grew up in a comfortable home. In elementary school I began manifesting obsessions with cleanliness, symmetry, and control that lead to compensatory behaviors of hand washing, mental undoing, and constant checking. I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and began psychodynamic therapy.
Anyone who has ever dealt with OCD knows that the concrete obsessions and compulsions are the 10% of the iceberg that is visible above water. The real heft of OCD lies in the general obsessional nature of all thoughts. It’s like your brain accidentally hits record instead of play when attempting to think and you end up with this loop of a thought doing laps in your head.
Study after study has demonstrated the efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in the treatment of OCD. However, like the patient with heartburn who refuses to give up his coveted chilidogs, I knew what was best for the treatment of my OCD symptoms but it took me years to commit to CBT.I was formally exposed to mindfulness when I began my work in CBT. I was intrigued by the material and read everything I could get my hands on that related to mindfulness. Before I knew it I had read 50 books in 5 months (OCD is good for some things).
This website chronicles my journey since this first introduction. I considered naming my site “Mindful, MD” but decided that using the adjective version of the word would suggest that I myself, the modified subject, were mindful. This felt entirely too pompous and false in light of how I see myself. Instead I decided to name the site “Mindfulness, MD” and made the adjective mindful into a noun, a subject in and of itself. This noun form better represents what mindfulness means to me and what I hope to impart to the reader: mindfulness is something both within and without each one of us that we can learn from and with. It is important to remember that no one can tell you what mindfulness means to you. The best I can do as a writer is to provide an allegory with my evolving life story that allows you as a reader to investigate for yourself what it means to be mindful in your own life.
I feel like a quote from Rumi as translated by Coleman Barks nicely summarizes my intention behind this blog:
“Don’t turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.”
Rūmī, Jalāl Al-Dīn, and Coleman Barks. The Essential Rumi. San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1995. Print.