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I Wish That I Knew What I Know Now, When I Was Younger

Truer words have seldom been spoken.

I'm not a huge Rod Stewart or Small Faces fan, but I can relate to the sentiments expressed in that song-- Ooh la la. What exactly is it that I know now, that I didn't know when I was younger? Well, there are a lot of things, but TWO BIG THINGS I know now, that I didn't know then are: Mindfulness and meditation.

Another thing I didn't know when I was younger, is the meditation truism coined by Jon Kabat-Zinn: "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf". I wish I had learned to "surf" a lot earlier, but better late than never--let the waves come, and let the waves go.

Yet another thing I didn't know when I was younger (there are a lot of things) is the idea articulated by the Austrian holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl: "Between stimulus and response is a space. In that space is our power to choose" (emphasis added)--we can't control the waves that come our way, but we can control the manner in which we respond to them. How's that for mixing my meditation metaphors?

Responding skillfully, as opposed to blindly reacting. Focusing our attention, as opposed to letting our minds wander aimlessly. Prioritizing distractions that inevitably intrude upon us. Learning to recognize and observe our thoughts, emotions and impulses with a neutral curiosity. That's where mindfulness and meditation can really help us--both personally and professionally.

The reason I strive to be mindful (a way of living in the world, through meditation), is very much the same reason that I go to the gym--to be the best that I can be. Much like going to the gym helps me be my physical best, meditation helps be me be my mental/emotional best.

The lyrics to Ooh La La start with a tongue-in-cheek lament: "Poor old Grandad, I laughed at all his words", but they end with a hard truth: "Poor young grandson, there's nothing I can say. You'll have to learn, just like me, and that's the hardest way".

Old or young, it's never too late to start--meditating, that is. started meditating after I was 50, and I can attest to the benefits--why else would I advocate for it's inclusion in the benefits provided to our profession? For those of my colleagues who require more justification, try searching the term "neuroplasticity"  on your Google machine--you may be surprised by what you find.

I really do wish that I knew then, what I know now. Song lyrics aside, the sentiment is right on the money. Mindfulness and meditation can make a positive difference in our personal and professional lives--let's stop pooh-poohing mindfulness and meditation, lose the skepticism, and find out for ourselves!


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