“Western medicine defines health as the absence of disease,” Dr. Elliott Dacher, founder of the Meditation and Mindfulness program, says. Regardless of whether you have a disease or not, wellness has come to mean leading the best possible life you can — it’s a combination of mind, body, and spirit.
“In the program I conduct,” Dr. Dacher says, “we deal with the mind, spirit, and enhancing the well-being of the individual.” The key to doing this, he explains, is meditation.
“With meditation you learn that you can be quiet and at peace and at ease inside,” Dr. Dacher says, ”irrespective of the outer circumstances. Ultimately, it can lead to a sense of well-being, and more internal calm — happiness without reason.”
Meditation has the capability to relieve symptoms related to stress and even chronic illness. It has a value in and of itself, however, as a way to promote well-being. “When you have a life where you can be present with an inner stability, there’s a sense of well-being,” Dr. Dacher says.
Anyone can learn meditation. There are a number of different approaches, but the most common focuses on the breath. This technique allows you to quiet the mind and still the voices that might drown out awareness.
Imagine shaking up a bowl of water with mud on the bottom: It’s impossible to see anything at first, but if you allow the residue to settle down, the water becomes clear again. This is essentially what happens when you settle the mind down through meditation. It leads to an awareness and mental clarity, and therefore an opportunity for presence. Presence is often described as the ability to use awareness and make wise decisions.
Dr. Dacher uses a simple scenario to explain this. “So if a mother is in a boat and her child falls in the water,” Dr. Dacher says, “she doesn’t have to think about what to do, she instinctively jumps into the water to save the child. Similarly, meditation leads to presence, a place where appropriate reactions can be natural. You see a situation, you understand what it’s all about, and you deal with it in an appropriate way.”
A persistent enemy of wise decision making is our reliance on false narratives. These are the perceptions and stories we carry with us that interfere with our view of reality. Awareness and presence lead to a place where we can begin to see things as they are, not as we shape them in our minds.
Dr. Dacher is a retired internist. His course is not intended as a medical intervention.
Dr. Elliott Dacher’s Meditation and Mindfulness program series begins Oct. 2 at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and will run every Wednesday until Nov. 13. bit.ly/mvhmindful.