Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas. What Does It Mean To You?

When my kids were younger, they could not wait till the 25th of December. We had to hide their presents and put them under the Christmas tree when they were asleep. As children, the allure of Christmas was the time to receive the toy they had been dreaming about for the whole year. As adults some of us continue to do that and lose sight of what the day really means.

God, by giving his son as a gift to mankind in spite of our shortcomings was signifying that we have to learn from Him. Christmas therefore is the time to reflect and take stock of what has happened to you the whole year and bask in the atmosphere of hope and love. He came to serve and lay down his life for us.

In your day to day life are you serving with all your heart? Mother Teresa realized that and served with all she had. I am not asking you to forgo everything and behave like Mother Teresa. Whether you heal the sick or haul lumber you're doing God's work. He wants us to take it serious and do it with love.

This is what prompted an Akron cardiologist, Paul A. Wright, MD to seek mother Teresa in search of how he can serve his fellow human being better. In spite of his material wealth and successful cardiology practice he needed something more to help him be at peace. Dr Wright's work with Mother Teresa has been chronicled in his book Mother Teresa's Prescription.

As you enter the New year, I hope you also cling to Jesus' prescription and learn from Him. To serve without counting the cost, to be selfless, humble and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the source of peace which will give you inner strength to live a peaceful and healthy life.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Life Is A Seesaw

I hate going to restaurants. As an obstetrician used to eating fast, the food takes too long. The waiter will take my order and vanish into the kitchen for what looks like a century. The sight of other people's food will stimulate my salivary glands and cause my stomach to protest. Finally, the food will arrive and most of the time it's what I ordered, but sometimes something goes wrong. I either get the wrong food or the food does not taste good. Either way, I get disappointed and regret going to the restaurant. I could have eaten at home.

Does this sound familiar? I am sure you've had such an experience. Life is like that. You cannot go through life and expect everything to be Kosher. In Harold S. Kushner's book, "when bad things happen to good people," he deals with these issues. The human experience, imperfect, is prone to errors. The question is not whether bad things will happen to you but when they will happen. The key to dealing with these, sometimes, unexpected jolts in life is to first and foremost remember that you're human with "feet of clay" . If you put your feet in water long enough, one of these days you may lose your feet. You should therefore consider the following ideas to immunize yourself against loosing your clay feet.

  1. You should be a great optimist. Optimists regard the world as a positive place. However optimism is even stronger if it's combined with faith.
  2. Your past disappointments should be lessons for you. They will provide you insights into what went wrong so you don't repeat the same mistakes again. As George Santayana said, " those who don't know history are bound to repeat it." If you learn form your past you develop new skills and faculties that will help you weather future blows.
  3. Create trusting relationships to buffer you when things don't go your way.
  4. Remember the world is not perfect.
  5. When you're driving, look at the cemetery. It will remind you that you're here for a purpose and when your time comes you'll go off the stage. At least you're alive, hence make the best of your time here no matter what your current situation is.
  6. Have a high sense of humor so you can laugh at yourself often. This way, you don't take yourself serious and think you are superhuman who cannot be touched by human calamities.
  7. Above all, remember even the Saviour suffered.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Should Healthcare Providers Inquire About Their Patients' Spirituality?

In the last post Dr. Koenig "suggested that health-care professionals at least take a spiritual history, asking whether the patient has religious or spiritual beliefs that give comfort during times of stress, or whether they are connected to a faith community. If appropriate, the patient might also be referred to pastoral care."

An article that appeared in the Journal of The American Medical Physician in 2001 recommended a tool to be used by healthcare providers to inquire about their patients' spirituality. Dr Puchalski at the George Washington University Institute of Spirituality and Health also encourages providers to take spiritual history from patients using the acronym FICCA. However, many healthcare providers are not comfortable with this idea as they think they may be intruding in the patients' privacy. When patients are ill, spirituality may calm them and help them cope. What do you think? Should healthcare providers take a spiritual history
from patients?

At my office I ask my patients whether they belong to any church or not. I had a Jewish patient who pointed out that she is Jewish and does not belong to a church, rather, she belongs to a synagogue. I have changed my questionnaire to reflect that suggestion. I must confess that most patients have had no problems with that. By broaching the church issue I get the opportunity to discuss spirituality with my patients when I find it necessary. Let me know your views about this issue.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Religious People Live Longer-Study Shows

A study conducted in Canada showed that religious people live longer. Dr Koenig summarised the research finding that linked involvement in religious activities like praying, church attendance and faith with improved immune system, longevity and many more health benefits. He says it is imperative that physicians ask their patients about their belief system and recruit their belief to help them cope and heal. This is an awesome discovery that needs to be pursued further.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"Today's Seeds Are Tomorrow's Flowers"

Every Tuesday, I raid the gift shop at the Oberlin Medical Center in Oberlin, Ohio for chocolates for the medical staff I work with in the operating room. On one of these visits, I stumbled on a plaque with the inscription, "Today's seeds are tomorrow's flowers." This touched a cord in my heart. If I am not able to plant the seeds or the flowers in my garden today, I wont be able to smell the flowers in the future. I thought that was a pregnant statement that needed attention. I stayed at the shop and contemplated for a moment and bought all the three plaques for the medical assistants at my office and kept one for myself.

This drew my attention to the importance of the power of now by Eckhart Tolle. He describes how if we walk away from the present moment and expend all our energies on what happened yesterday and what will happen in the future we will miss a great opportunity of our life because we will lose the present moment. Based on yesterday's programing of our minds, we are crippled today because we worry too much about the future. However, the present moment is all we have. Until we shake off our anxiety for tomorrow we will not have the full potential to do what we have to do today to yield results tomorrow.

It looks like this is an old concept, because in Matthew, Jesus talked about the same principle of not worrying about tomorrow. Hence, we should not let today slip through our hands, for if it escapes us, tomorrow will bring more anxiety and thus unhappiness. "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Matthew 6:27. Thus as we meditate daily, we should reflect on these words and embrace the now like there is no tomorrow. When you wake up in the morning and you are healthy, you've got it made. In spite of all your problems, health gives you an edge that gives you the flip to help you sow your seeds in the present moment so you can smell the flowers tomorrow.