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One Life
Nancy Lanphear MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Division Developmental Pediatrics,, Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia

My reason to complete a Contemplative Medicine Fellowship


I have often felt that I lead 2 lives. I am an academic developmental behavioral pediatrician and a dedicated meditator and yoga practitioner/teacher. These two lives, at times, have intersected when I teach yoga at work or a professional meeting or when I have given talks on how yoga and meditation lead to a more resilient path.


In 2022, a friend shared an advertisement from the New York Zen Center for a new Contemplative Medicine Fellowship. I was intrigued but did not investigate further. Over the next 2 months, information about the fellowship came my way from several other sources. I have found, that when a message shows up repeatedly in my life, it may a message from the universe.  I applied for the fellowship and was accepted.


The cohort of fellows included physicians from multiple specialties, nurse practitioners, a midwife, and a physician assistant. Thirty-two of us came from divergent paths, with many similarities related to contemplative practices and a hope for change.


The fellowship’s goal is to create leaders who want to change the culture of care to benefit patients, clinicians, and the health care system. It was a yearlong immersion using the core practices of wisdom, ethics, and content from the Buddhist tradition. There was not a requirement to be or want to be a Buddhist.


Over the year we had monthly full day Zoom trainings led by the 3 guiding teachers (Sensei Chodo, Tieraona Low Dog, MD, and Sensei Koshin.) Evening sessions with visiting teachers, a 3 day fall retreat in New York city, and a final retreat and graduation in Santa Fe. Along the way, we had weekly curricular modules, buddy calls, discussion board writings, books to read, meditation, and Daily Medicine practices that related to personal, interpersonal, and professional care. The curriculum included visiting teachers focused on social justice, compassion, meditation, and poetry.  We each completed a Capstone project.


This fellowship allowed me to step back, even while I maintained my work to focus on how my medical practice affects me and how I show up in all aspects of life and work. Some of the key teachings were the benefit of a pause, bearing witness to others and acknowledging suffering in ourselves and others.


The concepts were broken down into manageable parts. We began with a simple pause. How often do we pause prior to a new activity, to consider what we will say, to choose the next thing to do, or to complete a meeting or visit with a patient? A pause is just a few seconds to reset and can have a profound impact on your words and actions.


At the end of the year, for most of us, the sangha or community had been an essential element for sustainment and inspiration throughout the year.


These teachings and the time to practice and reflect with others continues to shape my activities and perspective. I am more aware of the times that I am not “in the moment”. For example, seeing one patient and thinking about the others to come for the day. I strive to be present for the full conversation and plan less for what I think that I want to say. I also may consider if what I want to say is truly needed and important in that moment.


My professional life as a physician is not as separated from my contemplative practice. I have a better understanding of how to have one life. It is a lifelong journey.

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