Meditation has long been an essential practice throughout the world.
Study after study has proved its physical, mental and emotional benefits. Yet contemporary western cultures – namely, the United States – have only recently embraced meditation’s utility.
“I’ve seen it go from sort of respectable to completely acceptable,” says Sameet Kumar, PhD, Psychologist at Memorial Cancer Institute.
Dr. Kumar has been a Memorial employee for the past seven years and worked with oncology patients for nearly 20. He provides psychological support for patients and caregivers going through cancer treatment, hospitalization, end-of-life care and bereavement. He also helps people adjust to the unexpected life changes that often arise as a result of illness and treatment.
Dr. Kumar has practiced meditation for 30 years. He’s integrated practice into his work as a complementary means of healing, teaching patients to use the ancient method to help them manage their emotional and psychological response to diagnosis and treatment.
It’s intense, and Dr. Kumar says doctors and nurses often ask him how he copes with the emotional piece.
“I’ve always had a bent toward existentialism and spirituality,” he explains. “It’s absolutely essential for doing this kind of work, but also for life in general. It gives me the strength, the energy and the resilience to do it.”
After realizing some colleagues were interested in learning about meditation, he decided to offer a free class for Memorial employees. Forty people attended the first session.
The class is now regularly held every quarter, usually drawing 80-100 people hoping to score a small space in which to quiet their mind. Dr. Kumar would like to find a larger venue in the future so he won’t have to turn folks away.
“We have a very patient-first culture at Memorial, which I believe distinguishes us from other hospitals in the community,” Dr. Kumar says. “Part of that is a continuum of healers who are healthy and able to be rejuvenated in a healthy way. Meditation for me is the foundation to all of that.”