Friday, January 8, 2016

Meditation is good medicine: Submitted by Cathryn Smith, Program Leader, Workplace Health

Originally published in Fraser Health at:

Anthropologists suggest that on the inside we are made up of the same stuff as our hunter/gatherer ancestors. What has changed is our outside world. We live in a 24/7, always accessible, lights on, doing, scheduled, stuck-in-trafiic society, and this lifestyle impacts us on a physiological level.

Research supports that excess, unmanaged stress is linked to many chronic diseases and inflammatory conditions. If we hold that to be true, does it not makes sense that shifting to strategies to manage our outer world is good medicine? One of those strategies was the subject of my recent conversation on mindfulness with Fraser Health’s Dr. Aravindhan Ravindran, Diagnostic and Interventional Radiologist at Langley Memorial Hospital and Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

Mindfulness is derived from Buddhist spiritual practices, but has been adapted for many uses in our modern world. Simply put, it is a particular way of paying attention, cultivated through regular practice of observing the moment with curiosity, accepting the moment as is and bringing kindness and compassion to one’s experience.

Dr. Ravindran has been practicing meditation for over 20 years and teaching since 2000. He started meditation when he had just graduated from medical school and was studying for his exam while looking for work. He was in India at the time and, encouraged by his parents, gave it a try. Although he liked the principles of guided meditation, he did not see benefits immediately. But he kept with the practice and by the time he went to the UK to write his exams, his friends noticed a new calmness -- often others notice a change in you before you notice it yourself. He found he wasn’t stressed about his exam, felt he did better than he would have otherwise and soon his practice became more regular.

In 2000, Dr. Ravindran became a trainer of meditation which deepened his practice. According to Dr. Ravindran, some benefits of meditation include managing stress and changing the way we look at things. Wayne Dyer once said “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” which allows us to start building on something new. When we are not at our best, a positive belief can influence our outcome -- a bit like the placebo effect. Although there is much research to support this idea and society realizes the benefits of meditation as a preventative strategy, it is not generally used as a first line of treatment, or even in treatment at all.

I asked Dr. Ravindran how he responds when people say they “don’t know how to meditate.” He advises to start with a guided body relaxation practice first, which will also bring calmness to the mind as well as the body. Starting with an experienced trainer to walk through the steps helps -- it should not feel like a struggle. Dr. Ravindran also says that he doesn’t call what he does mindfulness. Instead he refers to the practice as “heartfulness.” After all, the idea is to still the mind, not fill it. And when you still the mind, you bring focus to your heart, from where we are guided make the best choices for ourselves. I guess that’s why they always say “follow your heart.”

Dr. Ravindran is bringing his teaching and experience to Fraser Health employees. He will be providing a guided teaching at Langley Memorial in November and hopes to be able to provide opportunities at other workplaces within Fraser Health at no cost. Now that’s being “heart-full."


  1. Mediation is an important part of a healthful life.

  2. I love the idea that meditation practice would be a part of healthcare.

  3. I love the idea that meditation practice would be a part of healthcare.

  4. Great post! I like the quote "when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change!" I have learned that what I focus on expands and I am infinitely grateful for my meditation practice. I choose to focus on the love in my heart every morning and I have noticed it helps me stay calm and create a peaceful vibration within. My stress level has decreased significantly since I have developed a regular meditation practice!