From East to West – How My Life Changed

Dr Naras Bhat, USA
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Wednesday, 6 March 2013 16:13:42

As a young physician, born and trained in India, I migrated to the United States thirty years ago in pursuit of higher education. My move from East to West had major cultural consequences. One key factor I found different was the pace of life and the perception of “time as a commodity.” In the East, time is externalized, which means that one’s personal agenda doesn’t clash with family or societal needs—it interlaces with them. However, in the West I experienced time as being internalized and the focus being on the task and on individual productivity.



For the first ten years this Western shift made me more productive and knowledgeable. This led me to achieve some of the highest honors a physician can attain in the most medically advanced country in the world, The United States of America. But, as my daily life became increasingly westernized, my physiology sped up and the natural rhythms of my mind, body, and emotions, moved out of sync. I became “head centered” or intellectually driven and often ignored my body and emotions. This left me feeling mechanical and robotic when interacting with people— even my family members. For example, when my three-year-old daughter would come crying from the playground with a bruise on her leg, I would “medicalize” the situation saying, “It’s just an echymosis (bruise).” In addition to my family challenges, I watched the medical profession change from the noble work of caring and healing to a “business for profit” model. Yes, I did experience the “American dream”—but it was interrupted with a wake-up call from the “alarm clock” warning of stress and burnout. My helplessness and burnout experiences eventually left me with an empty feeling and a sense that my life had lost its meaning.


Finally I faced my predicament and frantically sought tools to bring myself back home to a balanced mind-body state. Some of the early tools I acquired included meditation, mindfulness, and biofeedback. Fortunately, working with these tools reversed my burnout and helped me emotionally reconnect to my family and loved ones. Once my personal life was back on track, I began looking closely at the frustrations of my professional life.


I realized that my core training in modern medicine could only heal 10% of the diseases and that the remaining 90% need to be “managed.” That’s when I began studying the wisdom of renowned physician William Osler. His philosophy encouraged paying attention to what kind of patient has the disease— rather than what kind of disease the patient has. This was a turning point that helped me to begin reuniting the mind-body split in my daily medical practice.


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 6 March 2013 16:13:42 )
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