When the doctor becomes the patient: A transformative experience

I grew up in India with my loving family, living in a 1,000-square-foot room. I was fearless and often experienced the bumps and bruises of an active boyhood. I always got up, dusted myself off, and walked again. I learned resilience and was a happy child.

Throughout my work as a physician, the importance of resilience has resonated. I lead research on the effects of consciousness, meditation, yoga, and spirituality on health. Little did I know my understanding of these issues was going to hit close to home.

Becoming a patient: A transformative day

It was an ordinary day. After long hours at work, I went home to enjoy dinner with my family. I did my daily exercise on the treadmill and relaxed, watching television with my son.

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Suddenly, I experienced crushing pain. At first I didn’t want to take it seriously, but this pain was too much to bear and I fell on my knees. My wife quickly called 911, thinking it was a food allergy. When the EMTs arrived, I asked them to take me to the hospital where I work. There wasn’t time for that, they told me.

Those were the last words I heard.

Mindful awareness: Pain, but no suffering

I woke next to the squeaking sound of the bed wheels. I heard my best friend screaming, “I am here!” I felt a severe pain on my left shin. At that moment, I was simply aware of what was happening. The “watching myself” began. Was this a spiritual self-awareness, or the meta-awareness described by neuroscientists?

For the next few hours in the ICU, I had the range of disconcerting symptoms that accompanies a severe heart attack — the type of heart attack that only 5% of people survive. Yet it was like I was watching myself in a movie. While I was aware of profound discomforts that should have been terrifying, I felt no suffering. This experience stands out to me even today.

During my heart attack, I experienced a distance between myself, my body, and my mind. I was the witness of the event, not its victim. I believe that this is the result of a regular yoga and meditation practice that transformed my life forever. The type of yoga I practice emphasizes this distance between mind and body, but such benefits are not unique to any single type of yoga or method of meditation. My personal preference is Sadhguru yoga — you can try a simple Sadhguru meditation exercise here.

Bringing intention to illness

My experience is a powerful reminder that aligning spirituality with health not only can help you stay well, but can help you weather “dis-ease” with more intention.

Facing our own mortality can shake us into acknowledging that our time on this earth is indeed short. It serves up a strong reminder to prioritize the things that matter the most in your life. Before the heart attack, my life was driven primarily through intellectual knowledge. But now, I experientially know that there is much more to life than what my intellect perceives. I ask myself: Have I lived my life to the fullest? What impact have I had on the people around me, the city I live in, and the planet I walk on?

We have no control over what life throws at us. But we have a lot of say over what happens within us. I am grateful to the unbroken chain of resuscitation, science, and, I believe, my spiritual practices. As the new year begins, I’d encourage you to consider making spirituality — however you define it — a part of your health goals.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4 NIV

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 NIV

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19 NIV

The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. Psalm 118:24 NIV

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 NIV

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV

Recommended contacts for prayer request and Bible study

www.agapetemplesda.com

www.adventistontario.org

https://www.hopechannel.com/au/learn/courses

breathoflife.tv/

https://3abn.org/all-streams/3abn.html

http://www.nadadventist.org/article/15/contact-us

https://www.adventist.org/en/utility/contact/

It Is Written

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