Archive: The circle that heals physicians’ hearts

by Cristina Molinar Berumen

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This month's Circle Tale comes to us from Cristina Molinar Berumen, a business consultant who is using circle in her work in Mexico City. Thank you Cristina for sharing this story!

I live in one of the biggest cities in the world. Mexico City is full of bustling people, cars, and often impersonal interactions.

During the last few years, I have had the privilege to work with physicians of various specialties. Pharmaceutical labs hire me to show physicians techniques to present new information. This is done in a speakers forum workshop. 

These workshops are held outside the city, generally in a quiet town. The workshops are like retreats in which the lab shows doctors the latest information on drugs and their new therapeutic uses. This enables these doctors to “spread the word” to other physicians. This is a special time for them because they are momentarily disconnected from their daily chores.

Inspired by Calling the Circle and Storycatcher by Christina Baldwin, I have been able to offer them the circle as a vessel to express their emotions and their deepest feelings.

The workshops usually begin on Friday night, and sometimes we use circle as an icebreaker to help everyone get to know one other. This helps the ambiance to be harmonious for the rest of the weekend. On Saturday, there are different business conferences and I do a talk about the last techniques for presenting information in public.

Sunday is a special day. It is the day when there is a mini-workshop focused on the humanities. Sometimes we focus on face-to-face communication — the marriage between patients and physicians. Sometimes we focus on compassion fatigue or The Spirit of Leonardo Da Vinci. The last thing we do is a guided visualization to help the physicians remember the reasons why they became doctors and the feelings that they had at the beginning of their careers.

After this visualization, we create a circle. This is the closing event, the most touching time of the workshop. This is when they express with words or without them all the things that they have in their hearts.

The calling for medicine is generally revealed very early in life, but medicine in the last 50 to 60 years has become impersonal and unemotional. In our work, we find that doctors have been encouraged to repress certain essential aspects of their own humanity in the belief that this would make them more useful to others. As physicians, they have been trained to value and develop the intellect, but have often sacrificed their heart, emotions, souls, and intuition — basic human strengths — in pursuit of expertise.

Circle is a wonderful vehicle to help doctors open their hearts.

I will never forget the doctor who was burdened with her role as a physician when her mother was dying and all her brothers and sisters leaned on her. She had to be strong because she was the doctor. I remember the man who decided to become a doctor because his grandmother had become sick when he was a child. He was an orphan, and she had provided the only care he had ever known. I also cherished the experience of an influential physician who opened the circle by telling his story of eating earth tacos because his mother couldn’t find work and had no money.

For many of these doctors, circle experiences have been life-changing because they have provided a time and space in which they can recall their humanity and their true mission, which is to be real healers caring for their patients.

Circles are part of the recovery of the soul of medicine that has been lost in the last fifty to sixty years when technology, evidence-based medicine, and specialization has transformed healing into a matter of scientific knowledge rather than a matter of wisdom. Circles recognize that we are always on sacred ground and that the living Bod is dancing on our back. There is no task and no relationship that is not sacred in nature. Life is a spiritual practice; healthcare, which serves life, is a spiritual practice. Circles help recover the sacredness in medicine.