Taking The Path That Needed To Be Taken
It was April 6, 2006 when something happened. I had been getting tired a lot lately. I had a diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, had 4 cancers (3 successfully treated) and was slowing down. That meant I was having trouble maintaining my normal 60-70 hour weeks being a urologic surgeon, researcher, lab supervisor, medical school professor, father, husband and trying to be a normal person. On that day I went into work at my usual 6:00. I saw a difficult patient in the waiting room and just couldn’t go on. I walked out and never resumed a full-time practice. I went to a nearby beach and cried. I knew my life would probably never be the same. I was now “free falling”. I had put years into medicine. I was 61. A great deal of my identity and ego were tied up in my job. I had made a reasonable international reputation with procedures I developed and research I had done. That suddenly disappeared. I gave up my grants, my patients, and the connections I had made with my colleagues. I tried to remember who I was and what I was about.
I took a vacation to Arizona and went to a small mining town called Jerome. While seeking out a cup of coffee, I stumbled into a small bookstore and thought I would find something “different to read”. I found “Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior” by Chogyam Trungpa.
I started reading it and spent hours by myself reading in the car, often breaking into tears. It was truthy and it was clear to me what was my next chapter in life.
That was the beginning of meditation lessons, MBSR classes (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), MBSR teacher training, UCLA mindfulness facilitation training, Mindful Schools training, and beginning to teach. Today I teach mindfulness classes to adults, children and inmates in prison. I feel whole again. I feel I am helping people again and am very satisfied. I have more time for my family.
In retrospect mindfulness allowed me to go back to old interests in spirituality and psychology. I can’t imagine being any more satisfied with my work than I am today. I am healthier than I have been in years and my cancers are in full remission. I am truly grateful for the serendipity that put me on this path. In retrospect, I really took to “free falling” and non-grasping. The world is open and waiting.
Guest Writer Dr Richard Berger from Seattle, Washington