Feeling Mindfully Yucky?

“In some moments when you go into your pain and face it openly, it may seem as if you are locked in hand-to-hand combat with it or as if you are undergoing torture.  It is helpful to recognize that these are just thoughts.  It helps to remind yourself that the work of mindfulness is not meant to be a battle between you and your pain and it won’t be unless you make it one.  If you do make it a struggle, it will only make for greater tension and therefore more pain.  Mindfulness involves a determined effort to observe and accept your physical discomfort and your agitated emotions, moment by moment.  Remember, you are trying to find out about your pain, to learn from it, to know it better, not to stop it or get rid of it or escape from it.  If you can assume this attitude and be calmly with your pain, looking at it in this way for even one breath or even half a breath, that is a step in the right direction.  From there you might be able to expand it and remain calm and open while facing the pain for maybe two or three breaths or even longer.”  ~Jon Kabat-Zinn in Full Catastrophe Living (1990) p. 295

While I don’t believe that academic medical centers are necessarily more dangerous for patients in July, I think it’s very challenging and stressful to train new residents during this time, especially on the general hospital psychiatry consultation service.

Sometimes, when I get a consultation “question” like “Transfer patient to another galaxy,” I wish my work were not so hard. I notice my brow furrowing, my stomach clenching, and I get that little headache in my left temple. I want to avoid feeling so…yucky.

I think learning mindfulness could be helpful to me. It’s really not about relaxing. It’s more about learning to be with the pain. I’ve heard that training the mind to sort of lean into the sensation of discomfort without getting distracted or desperately trying to squelch frustration, tension, impatience, and anger is like training a puppy to stay ten thousand times.dog nap

Mindfulness takes a good deal of discipline. When you feel stress coming on, you must immediately assume one of the many yoga positions, placing the outer aspect of your right ankle behind your left ear. Don’t try to ignore the popping sound of your lower leg snapping off at the knee.

You must learn to truly experience the sound of it, rather than think about it.

And then, on your next in-breath, do a double-back flip. On your out-breath, be sure to have your insurance card ready at the emergency room.

Now, if you’re ready, lie down on the floor and assume the classic “corpse” position. On your next out-breath, execute a left hook to the chin of the undertaker.

The next posture, shown below, is not advisable if you’re thinking of becoming pregnant or you’ve just consumed a platter of chili peppers and buffalo wings. Remember to breathe.


And then turn over on your stomach, accomplishing this maneuver by levitating no more than 8 inches off the rug or mat or bed of 10-penny nails (or whatever you’re lying on), spinning like a dervish a dozen times and, on your next in-breath, plummeting back down. You will then be in the “reverse corpse” position. Notice that you are safe from CPR in this posture.

Now, when you’re ready, slowly turn your head 360 degrees so that your chin is now resting comfortably on your upper back, remembering to breath in and out. Notice any cracking noises. Pay close attention to any priests in the area. if your head flops over on the left or right scapula, gently return it to the center of your upper back, ten thousand times if necessary–always on the out-breath.

And then, if it’s acceptable to you, flip over on your back so that now your nose is pressing firmly into the carpet, the hot coals, or swarm of giant scorpions. On your next in-breath, draw your knees up toward your buttocks (pronounced byoo-tox with the emphasis on the second syllable). keeping your left hand on the floor and your right hand holding the lighted match in a strategic location. Gently lift your buttocks and expel gas forcefully (known by experts as “mindful flatulence”).

You will probably be in the middle of your next out-breath as you fly horizontally at something approaching warp speed, crashing, cartoon-like, through the wall behind you.

Remember to breathe.



  1. Whew…..I would need a muscle relaxer and anti anxiety med after all that! Just visualizing that has increased my stress level. JK. Thank you for the chuckle…..a little levity to end my evening is always nice.


  2. Nice one!


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