A Beautiful Beginning
Posted by Devendra Tayade on Jan 29, 2018
26th January (India)/ 25th January (USA) marked the beginning of the first Laddership circle for doctors and I was as nervous as anyone on this earth since, there was a realization that this could be a beginning of something significant. The theme for the first week was Stories and immediately we could see how our lives were intertwined by the threads of questions we collectively hold. Through this blog I am making an attempt lay down some of those common threads and the learnings they brought. They are as follows:
1. East meets West: This circle started with introductions and a simple question about what drew each individual to participate in this circle. With 4 fellows from east and 4 fellows from west, along with five volunteers who have experience on both sides of the globe it was powerful to learn about the backgrounds of each person, as well as the internal motivations that drew them to participate, whether it was around the exploration of how to bring trust back into medicine, or how to continually align one’s work with one’s values, or how to simply continue growing as an individual.
2. Learning has no age limit: Both Dr. Bill and Larry started their journeys around the same time. Dr. Bill, an ophthalmic surgeon, sometimes called Dr. Aum by his colleagues, recalled his desire during the early days to start an institute of holistic healing which would draw from the spirit he had seen at Aravind. He eventually went on to realize that dream. Larry began his journey as a medical educator and over the years went on contributing across the globe. Both of them have multiple decades of experience and yet showed up with a deep intention to learn from the circle that was humbling to witness.
3. Stepping out of our comfort zone, and into a personal quest: Balaji, a young ophthalmologist from Madurai confessed to finding it “excruciatingly painful” to try and articulate his thoughts (though the rest of us thought he did a beautiful job of it!). Jay talked about his own desire to push the boundaries, sharing that, professionally speaking he’d achieved a significant amount and yet – “I want so much more – the more is how can I contribute to my community and my society?” Annamalai, another young doctor summed it up with his question, “How do I become a better human being?”
4. Liberation in loss: Jay lost his house to the California wild fire. In the face of loss and agony he called it a liberating experience. He said “there’s the initial shock and pain and frustration – and then there’s also an opening, in realizing how little those possessions actually meant.” His ability to tap into the bigger picture and that deeper realization inspired all of us.
5. Living in alignment with your inner values: Dr. Haripriya, leading the team at Aravind Chennai recalled how Dr. V nurtured human values and built the whole Aravind Eye Care system on that ethos. She asks “How do we keep that spirit alive”. She also points out how tough job is parenting. One has to be on the right path to make sure kids are on the right path too. Radha who works in the US raised the similar question and asked how do we show up more and more in alignment with the values of service and selflessness?
6. Bringing back joy into medicine: Shalini, another doctor in the US, pointed out how organizations have corporatized the phrase ‘Joy of practice’, she recalled an article which said we can find joy at work if we are able to find meaning in that and hence she asks, “how do we find meaning in our work?”. Venu, a gastro enterologist articulated a similar question as his purpose and asked “how do we fulfill our inner mission and get from where we are now to where we want to be?” He referenced the power of small steps and a process that values small actions that can ripple into big shifts as something he wants to tap into. Radha surfaced the issue that doctors are often unable to dive into what’s going on their patient’s lives given the paperwork and various requirements of the system, but instead of externalizing the blame, she asks what is it that we can do to be more authentic in this kind of setting?
7. To intrude on the privacy of another’s grief or not? When we moved into deeper conversation, Shalini shared an instance when she a saw women crying and found herself in a dilemma around whether to speak to her or not. She chose to walk away thinking that the woman might not welcome an intrusion from a stranger. Radha and Jay were quick to recall similar instances where they’d seen a stranger in distress and approached that person and it had opened the doorway to a beautiful conversation that felt like a gift to both participants. Jay also shared that he’s had it go both ways – sometimes the help is not welcome, but he knows he acted in alignment with his true nature and is at peace with whatever the outcome is. Larry pointed out how there can be a strength in trusting people to respond honestly, and Dr. Bill talked about the beauty of the questioning process itself – and how by questioning an earlier decision we are opening ourselves up to multiple dimensions of the same circumstance and how the real challenge is “To carry a good question and learn to accept the uncertainty.”
8. Examining the Inner Workings of the Mind: Michael Singer’s extended writing on the False Solidity of the Self seemed to have struck a resonant chord with several fellows who appreciated the glimpse it offered into the hidden and constant way in which the mind constructs a picture of reality and then reacts to its constructed reality. While a few of us did find his ideas a bit hard to follow, others recommended reading it a few times to let the insights percolate.
By the end of the call it was surprising how though none of us had met everyone in person we were united by our values, the questions we carry within ourselves, and our quest to uncover meaning and live with ever greater purpose. As was pointed out at the close of our call, yes, we are each becoming part of the others’ stories, and each other’s purpose. May we all continue to explore ways in which we can support one another over these coming weeks and beyond.