Interview: Craig Hassed, Mindful doctor
Dr. Craig Hassed is a general practitioner and senior lecturer in the Monash University Department of General Practice where he has been teaching at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels since 1989. He has been instrumental in introducing a variety of innovations into medical education and practice with an emphasis on the application of holistic, integrative and mind-body medicine in medical practice, and reconnecting different knowledge systems, in a way which is grounded, balanced, scientifically valid and clinically effective. He is a regular speaker in Australia and internationally on these topics and is regularly invited to contribute to a variety of community and professional groups.
For me, wishing to understand myself and the human condition better, I had a long-standing interest in the mind. The intention in going into medicine was to study psychiatry but I discovered that most of the focus in psychiatry was on psychoactive drugs and not the mind.
My personal interest in the mind was given a significant impetus through an important formative experience at the age of 19. At the time I was experiencing much of the angst that comes with being a teenager and a medical student, especially one who was feeling somewhat disillusioned with university studies and had no clear sense of direction in life. Wishing to be free of this burden, for some reason, the thought of meditation came to mind. Not knowing what it was, nor having read any books on the subject, the simplest thing I could think of was that meditation had something to do with sitting still and just observing without getting involved in what was under observation. So, with a beginner’s mind, I sat and observed for quite some time.
Perhaps this was a practice in choiceless awareness, or just being the unattached observer, but whatever it was, I was a different person when I got out of the chair, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I had a different perspective on the mind and body and my relationship to them as the impartial witness – which was no particular relationship. Underneath all that angst it was self-evidently true that I was completely whole and unaffected. That experience deeply sowed a seed for future life and work. What I learned in the chair that day, although I did not fully understand it, seemed to be the single most important and direct path one could take to self-understanding, health, and happiness. That seed germinated and I have dedicated my career to promoting to others what was so valuable to me.