Last week I shared the story of how Nathalie Minami found meditation, as well as how she made it part of her life as hospital physician. This week I would like to focus on her way of practicing, which evolved naturally over time.
Nathalie works about 80 hours a week in a high-stress hospital environment. So she needs good self-care in order to stay healthy, focused, and available for both her patients and her own life. (And she recognizes that 80 hours a week is not ideal, but it’s what she has to do right now to further future goals.)
After meditating for years, Nathalie felt the need to move her body more to stay in balance. When she was studying in medical school, she ran a lot and went regularly to the gym. And while she felt that she very much needed the workout, this limited the time she found for meditation. In order to bridge that gap, she began to practice yoga more and more. In yoga she found some experience of ongoing transformation that she missed in regular exercise.
After trying different yoga styles, she found that Ashtanga yoga allowed her to best bring together the meditative effects she wished for her mind, with the need she felt for a powerful physical workout. Very well guided by teachers, she studied and practiced the first Ashtanga series and felt the deep benefits in body, energy, mood, and mind. However, she still wished to meditate as a separate practice and still attended meditation retreats, feeling sometimes a conflict between splitting her time between her yoga and meditation practice.
While she practiced in a yoga studio in the early morning before her work, she reduced her meditation time, and that didn’t feel so good. But as she entered the second series of more advanced asanas and practiced more alone, she felt that her mind was changing. In some way the yoga practice became a moving meditation practice. The postures were so challenging that she had to be totally focused and her mind had to be still; otherwise she would lose her physical balance. So naturally her mind developed meditative concentration as her Ashtanga yoga practice developed.
Those two threads of practice for body and mind became one and each started clearly benefiting the other. The more she felt this, the less conflict there was in deciding what to spend the time on and when. In the morning her mind is more pliable and awake, so she practices yoga for 45 minutes very early, before work. In the evening her body is softer, more pliable, but her mind is tired. The yoga practice would be physically easier at this time, but then she just wants to go home, eat, and sleep.
So usually she practices in the morning, sets an intention for the day and is then grounded, open, awake, and in good energetic flow when she arrives at work. She prays before she starts to be the best possible physician for her patients that day. If she can’t practice yoga early, evening is the time. With this ongoing commitment, work and life are much easier.
The more she is able to bring her meditation practice into her yoga practice, the more she feels her mind and body join together. This kind of moving meditation helps her to feel grounded with a calm, happy and open mind. These 45 minutes make all the difference for her, and is a base she can do her work from, bringing the clarity, presence and openness she needs.
During the day, Nathalie notices when things get too challenging. She knows her own signals and stops for a short moment and breathes consciously. She does whatever is needed, calming herself, comforting someone else, wishing others well, doing a short prayer. Especially if someone is in a very critical condition: for example, a patient might wish to die, but the family doesn’t want them to, and she will have one of these moments.
Sometimes she is overcome by negative self talk about her own abilities to really help. She notices it, suffers a bit, but is okay with it. She knows that everyone has these moments and doesn’t add more pain to it. She tries to calm herself, does a kind of reality check about her qualities and tries to get over it. In the evening at home she might read a bit about that topic, eat, and rest well.
Whenever possible she tries to attend a short meditation retreat to reconnect with her meditation practice. She is always so inspired on retreat, and afterwards the integration of meditation into her daily life is much easier for some time. She enjoys the presence of a teacher and of others who are interested in meditation and sharing the practice. In this way she can rekindle her commitment and inspiration in her daily life.
As it’s so important to live in a grounded and well-supported way in order to be available for her daily challenges, Nathalie is happy to have found these practices. They help her to help others as physician. Next week I’d like to share how she works with the biggest challenges she sees in her patients.
Have a good week!