Friday, November 13, 2009

Practicing Medicine and Meditation

I have been practicing medicine for about twenty years. I have always thought it a little odd that we call it "practicing." When I was a kid, that word always meant getting out my cello, rosining the bow, and playing my scales and assigned pieces. When I practiced the cello, I was aiming for a concert, or a recital. Preparing for the big event. Practice was a means to a specific end.

In medicine, there is no big event for which we're preparing. We just practice every day. There are the usual jokes, like "someday maybe I'll get it right" and so forth. But for the most part, "I practice medicine" is just another way of saying "I'm a doctor." I don't know any other profession that uses that term. Do you? A mechanic doesn't say, "I'm practicing auto mechanics." Imagine your chagrin if he did! A teacher doesn't say, "I practice education." He better not; not with my kid in his class! But nobody seems to mind that their doctors are practicing.

About a month ago I began another kind of practice: meditation. Here again is an activity for which the practice is the activity, is the point. Sure, some people say or think, "I'm meditating now" but I think most or many experienced meditators refer to it as "practicing meditation." I really like that. If I thought I were practicing for some big meditation performance, which I had to pull off without a false note, I'd have given up after the first five minutes!

Meditation is practicing. Every time I bring my attention back to my breath it is like playing a note in tune just for a moment, before my unruly mind goes stumbling all over the neck of the cello again.


Lisa Abeyta said...

Great post. I like the comparison. You know - in the same way you practice meditation to learn to focus exclusively on that moment, practicing medicine is much the same. You focus for that moment all of your past experience, knowledge and intuition on the medical issue at hand

Margie said...

Terrific! Here's to practicing!

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