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A Piece of My Mind
October 25, 2016

Do You Dare to Dharma?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois
JAMA. 2016;316(16):1677-1678. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.8526

This past January, in my third year of psychiatry residency, I found myself in a rehabbed farmhouse fidgeting gracelessly on a veritable tower of cushions. I was one day deep into a ten-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. I was acutely aware of back pain I’d never felt before, of joint creaking I’d never heard before. Fifty other adults from all walks of life were perched around me, each of us on a spectrum from stirring to squirming. For nine hours we had been practicing breath awareness meditation, harnessing gentle attention to the sensation of breath on the nostrils. The caterwauling of geese in the winter freeze mingled with the sounds from the modest television at the front of the meditation hall. This was our nightly discourse, during which we watched the 1991 teachings of the late S. N. Goenka, a master Vipassana teacher.

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