It took almost seven years for a diagnosis of a rare medical disorder to be made called achalasia. By this time, the prognosis was grim. I was going to either end up disabled with an inability to swallow or even possibly had esophageal cancer. And while I was laying on the gurney at the University of Washington in Seattle in pre-op holding, waiting to undergo surgery, I can honestly tell you I wasn’t focused on the possibility that I could have cancer or become disabled. Instead I was in this deep pain and sorrow wondering who am I and how did I get here? And then from the pain and the sorrow, I blacked out.
You see, when our lives are consumed with mindless distractions, we sometimes have to lose consciousness to see the light. You know, I woke up after successful surgery and thank God there was no cancer. It turns out that my internal soul compass was so far off course that the stress was eating away at my mental and my physical health. You know, all I could do in that moment was muster up the courage to ask: “Oh my gosh! You mean I’m alive!”
And my surgeon Dr. Carlos Pellegrini just peered down at me and said, “Of course, you are. So what are you going to do about it?”
You know, unfortunately it takes a life crisis like a hell-scare, a divorce, or a loss of a job to realize that we are not on the right path. This is the first fork in the road. Do we go back to that same life hoping for a change or do we decide to take the other path and create change?
And even if we want to create that change, how do we overcome that fear? You know, I first started to connect the clues while I was doing yoga and sitting in meditation. All of a sudden, that physical and emotional pain that I was suffering from would go away. And I would feel calm and focused and happy. As a neurologist, I wanted to know oh my gosh: is there something really happening here, or is this all just in my head?
I started to do the research and to my surprise there is decade’s worth of scientifical — scientific and medical evidence showing us the health and the psychological benefits of yoga and meditation. I know some of you must be wondering oh my gosh is this doctor seriously going to tell me to sit down and meditate? My parents were thinking the same thing. My mother — “Oh Romila, you are leaving to go to yoga teacher today? You’re a doctor1” Oh my god please don’t tell my mom I did this on stage. I know and so of course my response was, “Mom, we’re of Asian descent; didn’t anybody see this coming?”
So I started to travel around the world and study various forms of yoga and meditation with this one question in my mind: how can we shut off that fear that occurs from one of stress and career burnout and connect to our internal soul compass? To connect to our internal soul compass, we must do just one thing: breathe.
How many of you are aware of your own breath in this moment?
Yeah, I wasn’t aware of my own breath until I couldn’t breathe anymore. This is why I wanted to take mindfulness from the meditation mat into a mindful way of living. You know, what is mindfulness? It’s a term we hear so often thrown out in the media these days, right?
Mindfulness is one simple action: breathe. So you see when we breathe, we bring ourselves to the present moment. And in this present moment is where all of your dreams and desires reside. To connect to your purpose, you just have to breathe.
The answers we seek, like deep with inside of us not in this external world and these things that we buy. And what do I mean when I say inside of us? This is that powerful place again where all the answers reside: your intuition, that mother’s instinct, your gut instinct and wisdom. This is your internal soul compass.
And so again how do we connect to this place? Breathe! Yeah, as a neurologist that’s now specializing in mind body medicine, I help clients and corporation heal from the ongoing effects of stress and career burnout through mindful living. Mindful living will help you connect to your internal soul compass and I’m going to give you three of those steps right now.
Step one: is self-compassion through self-care. Self-care is not selfish; it’s just 20 minutes a day to honor your mind, your body and your spirit. Take this time to do an activity that makes you feel relaxed, like listening to uplifting music, taking a walk outside in nature even on a rainy day, yeah, or taking a long hot bath. It is that simple to start calming down the stress hormones in our minds and our bodies that get elevated when we’re stressed out from our jobs.