Mindfulness Versus Mindlessness

spaceheadWell, it was my last class of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program yesterday evening and I must say I’m thankful for the opportunity to have learned how mindfulness can help stressed out or burnt out physicians.

What I think about is how much time and energy I’ve spent trying to teach resident physicians how important it is to prevent delirium–up to half of cases can be prevented according to a recent podcast I heard in which Dr. Sharon Inouye, MD, was interviewed. She is the creator of the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) and the Confusion Assessment Method (CAM).

How about we pay at least as much attention to how we might prevent physician burnout? If we did, we might have more physicians who would be in a better position to counter the kind of academic, governmental, corporate, regulatory, and administrative mindless mismanagement that forces doctors to do things like this which sends a sad message to those who might be thinking about medicine as a career–making them think again.

Better yet, maybe the regulators and others could try mindfulness themselves.

The crucial factor influencing how well we can respond in any given situation seems to be the level of mindfulness we can bring to bear upon the moment. If we don’t care to be present, unconscious decision-making systems will function to get us through to the next moment, albeit in the grips of (often flawed) learned behaviors and conditioned responses. If, on the other hand, we can increase the amount of conscious awareness present by manifesting mindfulness, we expand the range of our possible responses. Even if disposed to anger, we can choose to act with kindness. This is the essence of our freedom in an otherwise heavily conditioned system.
-Andrew Olendzki, Tricycle Winter 2008


Montgomery, A. (2014). “The inevitability of physician burnout: Implications for interventions.” Burnout Research 1(1): 50-56.
For physicians, burnout is the inevitable consequence of the way that medical education is organised and the subsequent maladaptive behaviours that are reinforced in healthcare organisations via the hidden curriculum. Thus, burnout is an important indicator of how the organisation itself is functioning. A central theme in this paper will be the degree to which the organisational systems are responsible for the disconnect between performance and physician health. Healthcare pays considerable ‘lip-service’ to systems approaches, but in practice it valorises the role of the individual physician in terms of both success and failure. Thus, this contradiction needs to be addressed. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213058614000084




  1. parentsfriend says:

    Thank you. My goal has been to make emotional intelligence easy and accessible. When I worked in NY during 9/11 I was better able to stay strong because I had been developing these from when I was a foster parent and realized I had to keep my emotions from leading me astray, if I was going to expect the same from the kids. Now, they help me age a bit more gracefully and I hope at least a few others find them useful.

    Thank you once again for sharing. Practicing Kindness is one of the exercises and you did and I am grateful, another of the exercises.


    • Practicing Kindness reminds me of the lovingkindness meditation I learned in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class:

      “May you be happy; may you be well; may you be safe; may you have ease and well-being.”

      You’re always way ahead of the game, Kathy.


  2. Hello James. Being a bit ADHD, could not meditate, but did learn to OMM. One Minute Meditating. Became the portal in and out of my various Emotional Fitness Exercises, OMM before and after focusing on the exercise. Send your students here http://emotionalfitnesstraining.com/eft-easy-exercises/ or let me do a guest blog about staying emotionally fit. Thank you for all you do.

    Liked by 1 person

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