by Mick Krasner, MD
“Strange Brew, Kill What’s Inside of You“
On a recent holiday traveling with eight of my family members, I was reminded of the song by the classic rock band, Cream, ‘Strange Brew’. How I got there, at least as far as I can trace the sequence of thoughts that led me, was first a reflection on how very different and at the same time very similar a group of closely or loosely related human beings can be. But then, with the second line of the chorus reverberating in my mind-Kill what’s inside of you-I asked myself how does that part relate to my experience? Why did that line keep looping through my thought stream?
I remember some years ago being at the very first University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness Scientific Assembly in 2002 where Jon Kabat-Zinn led over 300 of us in mindful yoga practice for nearly 3 hours. During his instruction, lying in the corpse posture, breathing, and trying to stay aware of sensations, emotions, and thoughts, he proposed a perspective that was quite new and challenging for me. He said, and this is as close to my recollection of his words verbatim, “Why wait? Die now. Die to the attachment to who and what you think you are, so you can enter the domain of being in this new moment.” I suppose hearing that during that experience set up something in me that now resonates with that line from Strange Brew, “Kill what’s inside of you” and our family time together.
The details of our similarities, differences, and chaotic, yet, beautiful holidays together are not that important. However, each of us with our unique internal individuation as well as a drive to be connected, creates a collective through which shared experiences develop. These shared experiences transcend the isolated solitude of whom we imagine ourselves to be. And in many ways, these become the glue that keeps our tendencies separate from occurring. It also makes space for the exploration of differences, individual missions, and meaning, and how each of us desires to show up in the world both uniquely and communally.
It may be that the very core of our drive as health professionals arise from these impulses. We know the desire to care for others, attend to our patients and clients compassionately and skillfully, and even risk ourselves (as so many colleagues have done during the pandemic) are not simple impulses but result from evolutionarily preserved survival instincts that are as much a part of the human story as fight/flight/freeze, and they represent a collective response, not simply acts of self-preservation.
How does this express itself in our Mindful Practice in Medicine work? Uniquely, we desire to flourish, especially in our chosen professions in healthcare. Collectively, we understand the scourge of burnout and its impact on the resilience of our profession and on the institutions and organizations within which we do our work. Each time we set our intention to “practice” more mindfully, focusing our observational skills, directing our curiosity with discernment, refreshing our viewpoints with a beginner’s mind, and extending our presence to our relationships with people and places, we make a strong creative statement. I use the word creative specifically because it denotes something new that emerges. Kill what’s inside of you allowing something else, perhaps deeper, more resonant, more doable, indeed even more healthy to emerge.
The Mindful Salon, which many of you have experienced at one or several of our times together, can be thought of as just such a Strange Brew experience. Please consider bringing new groups of friends, families, colleagues, and neighbors, together in your lives as acts of strengthening our communities, strengthening our communal glue while celebrating our differences, each creating its own strange brew.