Too Busy To Meditate? Got Time To Walk?

Lindsey is a new graduate just off of orientation. When she is able, she spends five to ten minutes of her lunch break in the hospital chapel meditating. She says it helps her manage the sense of overwhelm she experiences as a new Nurse. She runs and does yoga and doesn’t always have time for more time to meditate.

Most of us spend our shift in overwhelm without a proper meal break. We may find the pace of the day picks up at the end of the shift when we run around shuttling kids to games, running errands and getting dinner on the table.

So if the idea of meditating seems impossible but you want to give it a try, I’ve got a solution for you.

Mindfulness for busy people: Give Walking Meditation a try.

You can do this when you are walking from your car to the soccer field or the supermarket with these four easy steps.

Gratitude: Invite yourself to appreciate your body’s ability to walk. While your body may not be perfect, it is yours and it has the ability to get you from point A to point B.

Feel your Feet: Connect to the sensations in your feet as the heels and the toes come into contact with the ground. If you walk slow enough you can say lifting, moving, placing as you make those movements.

Take in the sensory world around you: Expand your awareness from your feet to the sights, sounds, smells and touch sensations as you are walking. You may notice the smell of fresh cut grass, the feel of wind on your face or the warmth of the sun on your back.

Use your Inside Voice: You can be getting your mindfulness on without anyone even noticing. Feel free to come up with a phrase that allows you to get centered and focused, such as “Breathing in, I feel relaxed. Breathing out, I let go of what I no longer need.”

The “S” Word We Never Talk About In Nursing

No, not the 4-letter word. We talk about that too much; It’s the 5 letter word: SHAME. As a profession predominantly made up of women who care for people professionally and personally, we want people to like us. Sometimes in order to sustain that positive image, we keep our shameful secrets hidden from those that might judge us.

Personal issues such as divorce, children failing school or family suicide can trigger shame when we can’t sustain the image we attempt to create. Narcotic access has created some issues for Nurses. I have worked with at least three Nurses who have lost their nursing license (at least temporarily) for stealing drugs and/or using during work hours. I’ve known other Nurses who have lost their license from driving under the influence of alcohol.

Brene Brown has done a tremendous amount of research studying shame. One of the most important things she has said is that “vulnerability is NOT weakness”. Think back to a time when you had a difficult conversation and were vulnerable, perhaps in a romantic or personal relationship. It takes a lot of courage to drop our guard, be exposed, let go of control and be open to not knowing what comes next. That is not weakness. We have a choice, we can chose silence and go down the self harm route of depression, anxiety, and addiction or we can open up and talk about it so it loses its powerful hold over us.

If you or someone you know is going through a difficult experience, find someone who creates safety to be comfortable to share the experience with. If you are the listener, be just that – a listener. Notice the judgments come up and let them go so that you can bring empathy to help the healing process. For more about  Brene Brown, check out her Ted talk on vulnerability.

Nurse with Mullet Stars in Eclampsia Drill

Nurses are inundated with change, yet we need to be competent and maintain skills to optimize patient lives. We've all tried creating shortcuts to Healthstream, until they built questions into the lesson or prevent fast forwarding. Healthstream is fine for the standard JCAHO competencies but drills provide hands on learning in an active setting for real scenarios like Stroke, MI or Code Blue. Experience, competency and drills allowed Sully to land a plane safely on the Hudson River and these coworkers are ready to manage a eclamptic seizure during their shift.

Nurse Sarah E displays her best seizure performance causing the nurses to jump into action. While we create a safe learning environment, we are all business and look for recognition of symptoms, SBAR communication, closed loop communication and we make sure someone is attending to the boyfriend in the mullet, played by Sarah B. 

The Nurses that showed up for this drill were superstars that I have worked together on nights for years. While they know each other well enough that they could read each other's minds, they functioned so efficiently, that if Sarah E really seized, she was in good hands. Nurses that feel intimidated have the opportunity to ask questions, get their hands on equipment and feel confident in their next emergency. What drill can you create with coworkers at your job?

Nurses Sarah E and Sarah B without a fake belly or a mullet.

Nurses Sarah E and Sarah B without a fake belly or a mullet.

The Super Heroes of Nepal

Venerable Metteyya and the nuns of Karuna School 

Venerable Metteyya and the nuns of Karuna School 

Two weeks in Nepal, two days of travel over 7,000 miles - I am happy to be home in San Francisco. As an outdoor enthusiast, I resonated with a quote from Lonely Planet's Nepal guide "while you first come to Nepal for the mountains, you return here for the people". I most certainly will be returning to Nepal for the people and I just might squeeze in a trek next time.

Exploring Nepal is not for the delicate traveler. The smog can do a number on the lungs, you need tissues for the encounter with the porcelain hole in the ground and you might be challenged with a stomach bug here and there. The flights aren't cheap and it takes a very long time to get there. Due to political challenges, India has placed a blockade on fuel coming into Nepal. This meant no heat in some of our hotels but for Nepalis it impacts their daily lives for cooking, heat and transport with outrageous lines at gas stations. We resorted to buying fuel on the black market, which can be up to three times the normal price.

Practicing patience as we wait for fuel

Practicing patience as we wait for fuel

I had the added adventure of losing my luggage early in the trip. We literally watched it fly off the roof of the van while we in it. We turned around within minutes and it was scooped up by someone likely dealing with the economic hardship of post earthquake Nepal. I got a lesson in letting go and in return, I received a stylish wardrobe from my new friends.

Attempting to fit in with all the sweet nuns

Attempting to fit in with all the sweet nuns

I have never been surrounded by more productive people committed to improving the lives of others. As health care providers we often reap the benefits of feeling the impact we have with patients. Now imagine that ten fold. When I mentioned to Cornelia, the founder of Anatta that I climbed the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, she had also done that but only after building toilets for the indigenous people. So it should be no surprise to me that in addition to working full time as a neuropsychologist, sometimes talking to patients during an awake craniotomy, she created a non-profit called Anatta World Health and Education Outreach. Anatta is like an octopus with tentacles reaching out and sending love to the people of Nepal. 

Susan, Debra and Cornelia

Susan, Debra and Cornelia

When Cornelia's team at Anatta partners up with Bodhi Sakyadhita's team at CEBA and Venerable Metteyya, they are a serious force to be reckoned with. A monk usually lives a peaceful life meditating in a monastery supported by the community. Ven. Metteyya is part monk, part super hero. With a soft spoken voice, a smile as wide as Nepal and a gentle disposition, he ingratiates everyone he encounters. This dynamic trio is committed to improving the lives of the people of Nepal, with a strong emphasis on health and education. Many children complete school at grade 6 in Nepal. Traditional Nepal culture does not value education for girls, leaving few opportunities for girls, in which they are arranged to marry young while others are bought into human trafficking or prostitution. Through Anatta, these children have the opportunity to go to college.

Bodhi and The Karuna School girls welcome us

Bodhi and The Karuna School girls welcome us

This year, four young women will graduate as auxiliary Nurse Midwives. I had the honor to work with them and share stories of preeclampsia, hemorrhage and c-sections. I told them of a trend in San Francisco in which women eat the placenta and they shared that some villagers put cow dung on their babies umbilical cords - something they are educating the villagers to change and hopefully improve infant mortality.

Donna, Cornelia and Debra

Donna, Cornelia and Debra

In addition to the medical and dental clinic, CEBA sponsored a vet clinic and treated local street animals. We also had the opportunity to see the continued efforts of earthquake relief through Global Karuna  during the catastrophic earthquake last April, which killed over 8,000 people. I learned how complicated rescue efforts were due to red tape created by the Nepali government, the UN and so called disaster relief experts as they debated over who would win the contract - all while people were dying under rubble. 

Venerable Metteyya coordinating the rescue of nuns in a remote mountain village

Venerable Metteyya coordinating the rescue of nuns in a remote mountain village

While the quake was nine months ago, the rescue efforts are far from over. As a Westerner, we thought we were troopers wearing our wool hats to bed and snuggling up with a hot water bottle. An unheated hotel is quite a bit warmer than living on the side of the road in a tent village. There is much more work needed to be done and we can be part of that solution.

If you feel called to help in the continued earthquake relief, you can donate through Global Karuna here

If you are like me and appreciate the freedom your country affords you to be educated and marry who you want, when you want and if you want and you would like to support the work of Anatta through training nurses, building a community hospital, supporting education of boys and girls or supporting an orphanage, you can donate through Anatta here

Come join Anatta next year, make deep friendships and cry all the way home!

Come join Anatta next year, make deep friendships and cry all the way home!

Cornelia putting Anatta to good use during a medical clinic in Lumbini, Nepal

Cornelia putting Anatta to good use during a medical clinic in Lumbini, Nepal