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Medical practitioners should consider contemplative medicine

Panellists Dr Ferose Omardeen (from left), Dr Godfrey Araujo, Fr Laurence Freeman, Dr Gene Bebeau, registered nurse Cynthia Carrington Murray, Dr Safeeya Mohammed and Dr Arune Pooransingh. Photo courtesy Judy Joseph-McSween.

Meditation can help us to cope with the daily challenges of our world. This was the common view of speakers at an October 19 health seminar at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, put on by the regional chapter of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM).

It is necessary to connect with the “deep calming recesses of our muse,” said master of ceremonies Dr Godfrey Araujo, himself a meditator of 39 years. Regional Co-ordinator Sr Ruth Montrichard SJC, in her welcome, said the WCCM interacts with people of all faith traditions.

The seminar was attended by local and oversea medical practitioners, and members of the wider public interested in meditation and contemplative medicine.

The feature address was delivered by Fr Laurence Freeman OSB who has conducted numerous research projects investigating the effects of meditation. He spoke at length on contemplative medicine, providing inspiring stories and allowing members of the audience to even experience the benefits by having a short period of meditation themselves.

Stating that the loss of contact with one’s vocation can lead to depression and stress, he said there is a direct relation between medicine and meditation as they both come from a Greek root which means to give care and attention.

Addressing the issue of focused attention, he demonstrated how the ability of a medical practitioner to give oneself wholeheartedly to the patient being treated is the goal of contemplative medicine, although some may view it as impossible in hospital settings, adding “Where you place your attention and quality of attention is reality.”

Providing examples from his study, he further noted that when one introduces meditation, some kind of healing can take place in damaged or broken relationships as well, since medical relationships usually involve all aspects of the person and not just the physical.

He advocated for the self-knowledge that meditation can provide, saying “Self-knowledge is a prerequisite for the knowledge of God…Contemplative medicine helps us to see the distinction between healing someone and curing them.”

He said the loss of relationship between clinicians and their patients is damaging to health care treatment, and minor errors as a result of attention not being rightly placed leads to hundreds or even thousands of preventable deaths. He said even among clinicians themselves there is much ill-health and that at the root of the rapid increase in new diagnoses generally, is a “chronic lack of awareness”. He advocated for a shift in perception which can come about through contemplative medicine.

The talks were followed by open and panel discussions facilitated by Judy Joseph-Mc Sween and Sandee Bengochea. Panellists included local anaesthetist Dr Arune Pooransingh and Anesthesiology Specialist from Florida, Dr Gene Bebeau. Dr Bebeau teaches Christian Meditation in parishes and is the North America Regional Coordinator and Director of WCCM School of Meditation.

The WCCM in Trinidad runs the John Main Centre for Meditation and Inter-Faith dialogue on Pembroke Street, Port of Spain, which is available to the public for meditation sessions. There are also meditation groups at Living Water Community; Church of the Nativity, Diego Martin; Servol; St Joseph’s Convent, St Joseph; Assumption Church, Maraval; St Theresa’s, Barataria; and Nazareth House, San Fernando. – EH