As Director of Research with the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic, physician Amit Sood combines alternative and Western medicine to treat a range of problems, from nicotine addiction to the side effects of chemotherapy. Drawing on both traditional ayurvedic (from his native India) and Chinese medicine, Sood uses healing methods that restore well-being rather than just treating illness, he says. “They use multiple ‘mild’ therapeutic interventions simultaneously, resulting in a lower risk of side effects.” A key technique involves what he calls “focused awareness.” Says Sood, “I train patients in cultivating an awareness that allows them to increase their depth of perception and decrease judgment, to refine their awareness with forgiveness and acceptance.”
The technique is best cultivated by practicing mindfulness throughout the day. Sood says the goal is to disengage from obsessive thoughts, which cause unnecessary suffering. “When your attention is mostly within your mind,” he says, “you tend to focus on the negative and think excessively.” Greater awareness of life’s everyday moments shifts attention away from the spiraling negativity of thoughts.
He also suggests meditation or prayer, which he says can help patients find meaning and purpose despite their conditions. A pleasant side effect: less stress and a more peaceful state of mind. Sood believes these non-drug-based approaches help give patients the internal resilience needed to undergo challenging treatments. “We may not be able to remove the pain always,” Sood says, “but we can get rid of the suffering all the time.”
“Amit Sood is an amazingly kind man who runs the integrative medicine program at the Mayo Clinic. He has great insights into the mind-body connection and how our bodies function—or don’t function. He does very innovative research on meditation and the role it can play in aiding health. It is important for there to be doctors like him in respected leading institutions, challenging and highlighting the limitations of conventional medicine on its own for dealing with illness and preventative care.”—Noreena Hertz, economist and author of several books on globalization including The Silent Takeover.
Photo courtesy of Ode Magazine.