“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”.
So said Blaise Pascal way back in the sixteen hundreds.
Last month, to the great amusement of some of my surgical colleagues, I attended a meditation workshop at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. It was delivered by Brother Laurence Freeman, a Benedictine monk and world leader in the practice of meditation.
Left to themselves, our minds tend to wander, continually reminiscing and ruminating about the past, anticipating and planning thefuture. When moments present themselves where we might have the opportunity to pause, there are now almost infinite ways of distracting ourselves using new technologies. The net result is that the present moment tends to get squeezed out. Therefore we tend to live in a state, Brother Freeman describes, of imperceptible disconnectedness. This lack of situational awareness may even lead to medical errors – one of the reasons that the “art of paying attention” is receiving so much attention in medical quality and safety circles.