Mindfulness Meditation Soothes Patients and Providers Alike

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Hand of African-American woman as she meditates.

Over the last few years, meditation has become increasingly popular, but the ancient calming technique is hardly new.

Tracing its origins as far back as 1500 BC, mediation can be used to increase concentration, help with depression, and reduce stress and anxiety. It’s even been shown to benefit chronic pain patients.

“There is clear evidence that mindfulness meditation can change the way our brains look and function.”

“The benefits of mindfulness-based meditation practices are now unequivocal,” says Dr. Arash Asher, director of Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship at Cedars-Sinai’s Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.

“In a remarkable study, even a short 8-week mindfulness meditation program was found to reduce size and activity of the amygdala, which is the area of the brain that is associated with fear and anxiety. In other words, there is clear evidence that mindfulness meditation can change the way our brains look and function.”


Read: Stressed? Try Mindfulness


At Cedars-Sinai, mindfulness meditation classes are bringing these benefits to medical staff. Each week, Paula Ravets, PhD, a certified facilitator in mindfulness meditation, teaches a 30-minute class to equip participants with the tools to bring the practice to their own lives.

“These classes are free and open to all staff and patients, but most attendees are staff looking for a way to be more fully present in their work and in their lives,” says Ravets.

“Mindfulness is a powerful tool for care providers who are often juggling the demands of the job and the demanding nature of the hospital environment while trying to maintain professionalism and an attitude of compassion.”


Read: Reiki Brings Relaxation to Cedars-Sinai Patients


According to Ravets, meditation offers a way to train the mind towards equanimity—or being level and calm in the face of pressure or stress.

“Meditation helps put us in charge of our minds instead of letting our minds be in charge of us,” adds Dr. Asher.

In partnership with the Spiritual Care Department, Ravets first brought mindfulness meditation to Cedars-Sinai in 2013. She started the program in the NICU and designed it to support the needs of the parents, but quickly found that staff there were in need as well.

“The NICU nurses were excited to practice this alternative mode of self-care that could be as useful in the midst of a nonstop shift as it was transitioning after work,” says Ravets. “When the care provider is working from a greater sense of ease and awareness, there is a ripple effect that benefits the patients as well.”

“Mindfulness is a powerful tool for care providers who are often juggling the demands of the job and the demanding nature of the hospital environment while trying to maintain professionalism and an attitude of compassion.”

The weekly classes are part silent meditation, part guided mediation and are taught from a secular perspective.

“Many people are reluctant to give meditation a try because they think of it as a religious practice,” says Ravets. “And while it’s true that meditation is a part of many religions, it can certainly offer benefits in a secular, pragmatic application.”

Just like any other form of exercise, getting started with mediation can be daunting.

“It’s not easy, but it’s not hard either,” Ravets says. “Like all new things, it just needs to be practiced.”


Free Mindful Meditation classes are offered weekly, Thursday 12-12:30 pm in the chapel, located near the Plaza Level lobby. Patients unable to physically attend can join classes via the TVs in their rooms.

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