Essential Experience

Four core elements of experience have shaped who I am as a doctor and group facilitator.

Transformational Life Coaching: In the summer of 1989 I was a recently married, competitive bicyclist just about to start my second year of medical school. One ordinary Saturday as a young, naïve, arrogant medical student I did an extraordinary thing: I accepted the invitation of a fellow cyclist (now a dear friend and long time companion on a shared path of self discovery) to attend a workshop with her transformational life coach, Ms. Georgina Lindsey. In 1989 life coaching wasn’t exactly common, especially for medical students. (Even today, with coaching available in person, by phone, and via the web for people seeking support in any aspect of their lives, truly transformational heart-based coaching is exceedingly rare.)

My first intimate seminar experience with Ms. Lindsey’s Transformational Technologies (now Naked Grace Transformational Coaching) changed my life. During the seminar Ms. Lindsey ’diagnosed’ each person’s act (their habitual way of thinking, feeling and interacting with the world). My ego wasn’t thrilled with the ‘diagnosis’ of my act— “poor me”. And, the heart was elated by its homecoming to the realm (recognized by many names) which I have come to know, love, and personally name the Still Quiet Place.

For 15 years, it was my good fortune to be coached by Ms. Lindsey on a weekly basis. Her pioneering and evolutionary work is an ongoing synthesis of physiology, psychology, consciousness, healing, creativity, and ontology (the philosophy of being). Over the years Ms. Lindsey has persistently encouraged me to step through fears and limiting preconceptions. Her coaching saw me through medical school, residency, the delights and challenges of marriage and parenting, and all of the experiences that have led to the creation and development of the Still Quiet Place offerings.

For the last five years it has been my profound privilege to apprentice with Ms. Lindsey. In a culture with a penchant for weekend workshops, a rigorous and intimate apprenticeship with a true master (one who has attained mastery) is priceless. Even as I write this, her skillful combination of hard-won wisdom, lighthearted humor, keen intuition, and loving compassion continues to facilitate the joyful expression of my deepest passions and creative gifts, supporting me in inspiring others to discover their natural inner peace and happiness.

Holistic Medicine: In the winter of 1990 I had two cycling “accidents” in short succession. My work with Ms. Lindsey helped me realize that things are not as they seem, and that accidents are opportunities in disguise. While rehabilitating my knee, I received an announcement for the annual conference of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA). I had missed every deadline – registration, scholarship and housing. Yet, I felt drawn to participate in this new world. Following Ms. Lindsey’s coaching to “live from vision rather than circumstance,” I sent in my application. As fate, (or “Naked Grace”), would have it, a woman canceled at the last minute and I received her slot, scholarship and housing! Arriving at the conference I had the undeniable experience of coming home – again! In contrast to most of my experiences in medical school the physicians in the AHMA treated their patients as whole human beings (rather than as diseases) and supported them in optimizing their health and well being. Not only did they truly enjoy their work, they also lived balanced healthy lives.

After returning from the conference, I boldly sent a brief letter to the AHMA board of trustees suggesting creative ways the organization might nurture the natural holism in medical students and residents. Miraculously, four months after that conference I was asked to join the board of the AHMA, serving as the medical student trustee. In the early 1990s Holistic Medicine was an emerging field which many conventional doctors viewed with skepticism or disdain. The field consisted of a small group of dedicated physicians with private practices. Unlike now, there were no doctors who were household names, much less media personalities, no well-known, nationally recognized clinics, no departments of integrative medicine at major medical centers, and no National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NICAM).

Being at the forefront of this movement taught me compassionate ways of caring for individual patients and a variety of healing modalities. Additionally, this experience exposed me to the challenges of bringing pioneering work into established institutions such as hospitals, clinics, and schools.

Mindfulness: In 1993 when the Bill Moyers PBS special Healing and the Mind aired, I was a second year resident in Internal Medicine . As I watched the segment on the Stress Reduction Clinic at University of Massachusetts Medical Center , I had an undeniable longing to participate in the specific form of transformative work known as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). I read the book Full Catastrophe Living, written by the clinic’s director, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, and began a daily mindfulness practice.

The four years of fierce self exploration with Ms. Lindsey had nurtured my natural mindfulness, and were ideal preparation for the focused program at U. Mass. Despite my minimal formal practice, a familiar mixture of zeal, intuition, and faith, compelled me to contact Dr. Kabat-Zinn at the Stress Reduction Clinic, repeatedly! Coached to apply Ms. Lindsey’s distinction of “Outrageous Request,” I arranged to participate in comprehensive training in MBSR. The Stress Reduction Clinic accommodated my schedule; the director of my conventional internal medicine residency not only gave me a month to devote to studying mindfulness, she also gave me credit for attending the program and found funding to pay my tuition! For one vibrant Massachusetts October, I immersed myself in the study and practice of mindfulness. The training deepened my experience of the compassionate stillness which exists underneath our daily mental chatter.

Upon returning to my residency, I conducted a large scale research trial on the benefits of offering mindfulness to patients with chronic pain and illness. (This was five years before the National Institute of Health established the Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, and 15 years before NICAM declared that the benefits of mindfulness were so well documented that mindfulness was no longer considered complimentary or alternative). Within the hospital, my undertaking was met with a combination of quiet support, curiosity, and outright resistance. Throughout this time, mindfulness and the coaching continued to enhance my capacity to experience peace and joy, which in turn intensified my commitment to sharing these practices with others.

Children: One afternoon in 2000 (when my six-month-old daughter had begun to crawl, knocking over my son’s blocks, and drawing my attention away from him), my son, then three, asked if he could “meditate” with me. So I made up a short practice for him. One day shortly after that he felt sad and, not knowing exactly what I was offering, I asked if he would like to do a “Feelings meditation”. He said “yes”. Such simple family moments inspired me to begin distilling my experiences from the coaching and mindfulness into what are now the child-friendly phrase and playful practices of the Still Quiet Place. (You can listen to Feelings by clicking here.)

Around this time in late 2000, both medical research and the daily news began documenting that our children and adolescents are suffering. Some suffer from the “normal” daily stress of living in our fast-paced, accomplishment driven, media-saturated world. Others suffer from epidemics of ADHD depression, anxiety, and bullying. Still others engage in a variety of self-harming behaviors including over-eating, anorexia, using drugs and alcohol, engaging in care-less, unprotected sex, and cutting. Knowing that over 25 years of scientific research had demonstrated that mindfulness relieves adult stress, depression, anxiety, and hostility, encouraged me to offer the simple practices I had created for my son to more children, expanding the Still Quiet Place out of our family room and into the world.

As a doctor, researcher, and mother I am committed to rigorously assessing the effects of teaching mindfulness to children. The preliminary data from my studies at Stanford, and the positive experiences of the children and families I have been privileged to serve have only increased my passion for this work.

It is more than heartwarming to witness children discover their natural peace and inner wisdom, and to see them bring these qualities into their daily lives. I see no reason that young people should wait until they are adults to learn these beneficial life skills.

Following the path, participating in the coaching, practicing mindfulness and bringing this work into my professional and personal life has frequently been challenged by my colleagues, my friends, my family, my husband, and often – most persistently – by my own limited thinking. Persevering, despite these challenges, has continually refined what is offered through me. The Still Quiet Place is the joyful alchemy of all the elements of my ongoing education – conventional medicine, transformational coaching, holistic medicine, mindfulness, and mothering.

Offering these skills to children, parents and teachers is the truest form of preventive medicine I know.

© Copyright The Still Quiet Place 2010