I am nearing the end of my first year of medical school, which seems as if it has gone by in a flash. However, earlier in the semester, I had got a nasty bout of the flu. I think it was exacerbated by the heavy workload, and lack of sleep. I was not feeling very well and was not in the state of mind to study so I took the opportunity and space to think, and reflect. While I was doing so, I came across Oli Doyle's excellent book Mindfulness Plain and Simple.
I have always been fascinated with the power of the human mind and therefore I began exploring meditation/mindfulness quite early in my life as a means to improve my performance. However, I soon realized that they were many other benefits I did not expect. I have read countless books regarding meditation/mindfulness from authors such as the Dali Lama, Swami Rama, and Eckart Tolle. While their work is insightful and filled with wisdom, I found it difficult at times to apply what they said in my own life. That is why I appreciated Oli Doyle's book so much. It inspired me to restart my meditation practice which was something I leaned on heavily during my undergraduate and graduate studies but I let slip when I began medical school.
As I delved deeper into meditation/mindfulness, I became increasingly cynical and despondent by the slew of "gurus" who had the "solution" to all of life's ills. They would claim that you could enjoy everlasting peace and happiness BUT only if you signed up for their next course. Once you did, there was always another technique, retreat, etc. to go on or learn.
Initially as I devoured through these books (and thankfully I was able to loan a lot of them from the Boston Public Library), I became excited at the potential to reach this "enlightened" state in which all my problems would be insignificant and that I would no longer feel "negative" emotions or pain. However, I soon realized that no matter how many books I read about this topic that would not occur. It was one of the biggest mistakes I made once I began this journey - something Oli Doyle does an excellent job discussing in his book. This book does a wonderful job of bringing these concepts back to earth in an easy to understand format. This is a quote directly from the back cover from his book:
I have the privilege of sharing my interview with author Oli Doyle below:
PM: What got you interested in learning more about mindfulness and integrating it into your life?
OD: I first got interested in meditation because life was going well, but I still wasn't happy. I tried everything I could find to relieve that suffering, but nothing else worked.
PM: What motivated you to write your excellent book, Mindfulness Plain and Simple? My first introduction to mindfulness-based practices was Echkart Tolle's book The Power of Now. I loved his book, but I found it hard to apply it in my life. However, I really enjoyed and appreciated your book for its practicality and pragmatism. I was able to apply the ideas in your book right away to my own life.
OD: The book came out of my own confusion when I was learning to meditate. When I discovered how simple it actually is, I wanted to make it quicker for others to learn, and I wanted to create something that would not alienate those who don't see themselves as 'spiritual '.
PM: One of the biggest struggles I have with integrating a mindfulness-based practice is to maintain that state of present moment attention while studying at school, playing sports, or spending time with friends. Would you have any advice to help transfer that state of presence one may experience when alone or while meditating into the activities of daily life?
OD: Welcome to the human race! In Zen, they do a mix of sitting and walking meditation to create a bridge between quiet awareness and active awareness, which I see as very skillful. Do some of your practice on the bus, in the car, during breaks at work and you can build that bridge too.
Also, I wrote The Mindful Living Series for just that purpose; to help turn life into mindfulness practice.
PM: Conflict is almost guaranteed to occur sometime in one's life. Whether it's avoiding conflict at all costs or being overly confrontational, it is an area that we all struggle with dealing. How would you recommend someone mindfully approach conflict?
OD: Watch your reactions (internal and external) closely. Listen to others fully, and allow them time and space to talk. And mostly, use conflict to learn more about yourself and to find the beliefs that are hiding within.
My books 'Mindful Relationships' and 'Mindfulness at Work ' have lots of conflict related practices too.
PM: For myself personally, meditation and mindfulness have played a huge role in allowing me to not only be more effective in every facet of my life, but also enjoy it more. Further, there continues to be more and more research elucidating the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation and mindfulness. However, there seems to still be some resistance from clinicians/high level athletes or working professionals to integrate this into their life for various reasons. Including, "I don't have time" or "Meditation is new age nonsense" or "I am already calm and do not need to meditate." What would you say to an individual or individual(s) who would say this about mindfulness/meditation.
OD: I wouldn't. Everyone has their own journey and their stories are none of my business.
PM:What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to a young person who feels overwhelmed, and feels like everything is out of control? It may seem mindfulness may be the last thing that they need to start incorporating into their life. How would you coach them on beginning to integrate mindfulness into their life (without belittling their emotions)?
OD: If they asked me, I would show them the skills, if not, I would just listen. Everyone has the same wisdom.
As you can tell from this interview Oli does a masterful job of taking the complexities of mindfulness and presenting it in a manner that appeases our mind's clever questions without losing it's true essence. Oli is someone who embodies what he teaches with a goal to spread the message and benefits of mindfulness instead of hoarding and keeping his message to himself. There are many tidbits that I have already started to apply in my own life!
In 2003, Oli Doyle sat down in the lounge room of a share house in Bendigo, Australia and tried to meditate. He tried to quiet his mind. He failed miserably. Armed with nothing but stubbornness, ignorance, and a long standing refusal to read the manual, Oli blundered along the meditative path until he finally realized: you just have to pay attention to what’s happening now. After smacking himself in the back of the head several times for not grasping this earlier, Oli set to work, training himself to be present. What followed was a transformation that was both ordinary and incredible. Stress mostly vanished, anxiety disappeared and life became steadily more enjoyable. This journey continues today. Once Oli figured out how to meditate, he was struck by two things: the simplicity of the practice, and the complicated nature of much of the teachings. If you would like to learn more about Oli Doyle or check out some of his other books, make sure to check out his Website, Twitter, and Facebook page.
If you have not begun a meditation/mindfulness practice before, make sure to check out my video above where I provide a brief introduction to meditation. However, meditation/mindfulness is NOT something that needs to be rigorously studied but something that must be experienced and practiced. So get started! :) Please leave a comment about the most important take-away from this interview and any positive experiences you may have had with meditation/mindfulness.
If you can't sustain it's not worth it,
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I am a medical student who is obsessed with the Be Activated Muscle Activation Technique, mastering movement and understanding what makes humans thrive.