From Infinity to Beyond

2015 is the year of infinity (2+1+5=8 or infinity)

As we move from this moment in 2015 to the next in 2016, we are reflecting on “what is happening now?” to “what wants to happen in the future “now”?”

We are always “becoming,” but somehow moving from one year to the next feels almost superstitiously significant.  I recall a friend telling me that whatever one is doing at the New Year, they would be doing for the rest of the year.

This year, I am becoming a Kundali yoga instructor; I even have a new name: I am Onkarprem Kaur.  In my new identity, I am embracing that “Love is the experience of selflessness within the self.” Kundalini yoga is known as the yoga of awareness, which incorporates components of pranayama (breathing exercises), kriyas (physical postures), meditation, mantras, chanting & deep relaxation to connect practitioners with their higher state of consciousness. My ego or my “mind-made self” has been triggered by each class, and I am discovering firsthand Einstein’s teaching that Ego=1/Knowledge. After teaching my first class, I was criticized for the same amount of time as I had taught. I found myself ready to quit the program, walking barefoot dressed in white linen around Boston, listening to “Back in Black” full blast, while dropping the F-bomb. Not my highest self.

Just as the reptile vigorously defends its territory, clinicians can emphatically defend their assumptions, diagnoses, and self-esteem. Egoism puts the clinician before the patient.  Self interest converts the patient or a coworker into an inconvenient irritant.  

Approximately 80% of medical errors are due to human errors.  These errors are due to self-interest. Our brain has two control centers: the automatic or reptilian brain, which processes stimuli in nanoseconds and which reacts instantly and emphatically; and the conscious brain which generates our higher self, our true unlimited potential.  

In “Medicine, Mistakes, and the Reptilian Brain: The NewMind Response to Better Decisions,” John Mary Meagher (2011) attributes errors in medicine to three major causes: haste, apathy and egoism. Haste includes convenience, stress, irritability, emphatic expression and impulsivity. Apathy includes labeling (stigmatizing), fatigue, stress, convenience and irritability. Egoism includes irritability, convenience, emphatic expression and labeling.

As we move from infinity (2015) to beyond, we can use ego and irritability as a vital sign to indicate that something is amiss. What is your irritability barometer?

1) List irritations that occur at home & work

2) Match the responses to the irritations (Neutral, mild, moderate, severe)

3) Monitor the responses over time

Use the "irritant" on the x-axis and grade your irritability response to the irritant as neutral, mild, moderate or severe on the y-axis.

Neutral response: Respond with humor or view the irritant from three months into the future

Mild irritability: Begin to blame, criticize or dislike/ any one or anything, or to sigh, roll the eyes, and become sarcastic.

Moderate irritability: To look at the time, to quicken one’s pace, to interrupt, to be preoccupied with formulating a response; to change one’s voice pitch or tone, to tighten one’s jaw or paw; to lean forward in one’s chair, and movements to become jerky.

Severe irritability: One’s voice becomes edgy-growling, one’s breaths quicken, one doesn’t listen, one talk over the other person. Regardless of what is said, one takes the opposite point of view. One squirms, sweats, changes stance, has the urge to stand up and show the patient the door.

Ask yourself the following questions: Am I more irritated? Am I labeling or stigmatizing? Is this way more convenient for me? If Yes, Ask Why?

Am I open to challenging data? Am I looking at the time? Would I like to be tended to as I am tending now?  If No, Ask Why?

Why? (Haste, Fatigue, Egotism, Doubt)

Haste: Am I rushed? (Antidotes: Not so fast, think first. Guessing is foolish.)

Fatigue: Am I tired? Am I apathetic? (Antidote: Rest. I am not helpless. I can make a difference.)

Egotism: Am I worried about my self-image? (Antidote: I am being paid to tend the patient, not my self image.)

Doubt: Am I harboring doubt about my thoroughness, knowledge, competence, conclusions? (Antidote: Doubt is your last chance to correct. Obtain help when needed. Reassess.)

Meagher (2011) encourages us to ask: Would I like to be treated as I am treating this patient? Who does this thought or action serve, the patient or me?

In contrast to egoism which pretends all that we are, humility prioritizes the patient and allows us to speak truth to the tyrants, both within and without. The humble person is empowered to advocate and to speak authentically.  The correct action is often inconvenient, and stellar action is always inconvenient.

I was worried about my self-image as a teacher.  My self-doubt allowed me to correct my course of action. In a short speech to the group, I was able to calm my inner bully, find my authentic voice, humble my ego, and to maintain both my dignity and that of my fellow students and my teachers. Not stellar, but good enough. My 40 day self-assigned kriya homework is designed to let go of my ego, now I will have to think more about why I am blogging about ego. The learning continues....