By: Michael Lewis, MD
If you haven’t figured it out yet, meditation is AWESOME! It is a chance to ‘try’ and silence that infernal thought making machine in your cranial vault! However, if you are one to see the word meditation and think, “No way! Not even close –I get it, I’m supposed to chant and sit with my arms open signing ‘asshole’ with my thumb and first finger?” (See pic below). Well, first I will recommend that you open your mind. Secondly, not all meditation is bells, chants, lotus positions and mantras- though that can be cool too. Lastly, you don’t have to be a guru or ‘spiritual bully‘ to do it. If it makes you feel better, substitute the word meditation for a “time to turn off your mind” moment. Let’s try it: I’m gonna go “turn off my mind” for 10 minutes.” Feels good right? Ok, moving on.
The word auscultation is the Latin verb for listening. Doctors do this all the time, especially when ‘auscultating’ the lungs for breath sounds. We are essentially listening to patients breathe sounds, or more appropriately in meditation circles: “paying attention to the breath.” Get this – I see listening to the lungs as an opportunity to meditate!
This meditation developed out of laziness funnily enough. I didn’t want to commit to a daily meditation practice at the time, and I remember my man Eckhart (Tolle) saying, just take 4 breaths a day to start. I said to myself (or it could’ve been out loud), “no shit!? I can do that.” And that was the origin of “auscultation meditation.”
Meditation is a difficult, yet a simple practice to continue and keep up, so the trick is to find the “turn your mind off moments” when you can get them. We are in an era of high stress and anxiety with bosses, house payments, credit card bills, and car payments all tugging at your last frickin’ nerve, so why not take a moment when you can get it.
In my office, I work as a family practice physician. I realized that I see about 20 patients per day, and listen to about 14 or so chests. I listen to each chest with my stethoscope in 4 zones. The way I see it, that is 56 (14 x 4=56) uninterrupted breaths I can take in a meditative state daily, in addition to a meditation practice.
Let me explain my simple and short process.
THE AUSCULTATION MEDITATION:
When I am ready to listen to my patient’s lungs, I set myself up next to them. I put on my stethoscope (plug in my ear pieces) and everything becomes silent except for my breath, which is beautifully louder than it was a second ago. Just as if you plugged your ears with your fingers and breathed. Yes, like that!
I then place one hand on their shoulder and place my stethoscope on their back – usually on the patient’s left lower zone of their lungs. I close my eyes.
“Really deep breath now,” I say, as I tap on their shoulder gently. Magically, their breath becomes the predominant sound in my ears, and at this point their breath becomes mine as I sync my breath to theirs. I tap their shoulder again and move to the next zone and repeat the process, paying the utmost attention to their breath as I breathe in-concert with theirs. My hearing is now extremely acute and all that exists are the breaths we share. I do this for two more zones until I have heard all 4 lung locations. I stand there for 1 second as I remove my stethoscope from my ears. I open my eyes, and for a moment, the world is totally bright, still, silent and calm. This is how I know my ‘auscultation meditation’ worked. “Sounds good!” I say (or whatever it sounded like).
My patient didn’t even know what I just did.
Interestingly, I am so present during the meditation that I can hear better, and pick up subtleties in their lung sounds that may have eluded me if I wasn’t in that state.
A meditative state doesn’t mean you go away – It means you are ever so present
You can do this anytime, anywhere. You could auscultate the world if you want to and you don’t even need a stethoscope. Just pay attention to the sounds of the world. Pay attention to your breaths. Pay attention to the sounds between the sounds. Good luck.
A quick tip to turn your mind off: When you breathe, pay close attention to your breath, such as paying attention to the temperature, the sound, the way it travels through your nose, throat, the way it fills your lungs, it will be almost impossible to “think.”
Breathe in—–Breathe out
Yes! You are alive.