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.


Craig Hassed, Mindful In May participant1.What led you to meditation?

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.

2. What value has practising meditation brought to your life?

I feel healthier, happier and calmer and am more creative and productive. I seem to have plenty of sustainable energy to meet the demands of personal and professional life and maintain well-being at the same time.

3. How has meditation supported you in your professional life?

As above. Also, teaching meditation and mindfulness in particular has become the central focus of my professional life. There are so many reasons that people need it that the demand seems to keep on growing. I have had much to learn about how to communicate it in ways that are engaging, relevant and practical for people.

4. What are the biggest obstacles to your practice?

I never miss practicing for my 2 sessions of half an hour each day. One has to prioritise it so that it doesn’t get squeezed out. Therefore one has to be creative in where and when you do it, but even in a full life there is always time if we make it. Having said that, it is not easy to remain mindful throughout one’s day-to-day life. Old habits, busyness and a distracted world pull in one direction while mindfulness pulls in the other.

5. What is a quote that most inspires you and why?

“To be, or not to be: that is the question.” Shakespeare. That pretty much sums it up. I love simplicity. Are we going to choose mindfulness or not? Hamlet chose not to be mindful; that’s why it ended up being a tragedy and not a comedy.

6. What is a book that has opened you to new ideas and inspired your growth and why?

Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. They’re full of wisdom, philosophy and insight into the human condition. They weren’t so much new ideas to me but a confirmation of things that were already intuitive. The thing that Shakespeare can do like no other is to express them with such brevity, clarity and beauty that just makes the jaw drop.

7. What Mindful Music do you listen to (ie. music that grabs your full attention and brings you into the moment.)

I mostly prefer old music and anything after 1791 is modern music to me. I particularly love ancient chants and polyphony.

8. Why are you being Mindful in May ?

For the same reason I’m trying to be mindful from January to December. If we’re not living mindfully then collectively and individually we’re living in the dark: now that’s scary.
Inspired by Craig Hassed and his story? Click here to join us for the next round of Mindful In May.
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"If we wish to be healthy, happy and clear-minded, we need to upgrade our “inner technology”of attention to meet the demands of our increasingly complex world. That's where mindfulness comes in.."




Elise Bialylew is the author of the bestselling book, The Happiness Plan, and founder of Mindful in May, the world’s largest online global mindfulness fundraising campaign.

A doctor trained in psychiatry, turned social entrepreneur and mindfulness expert, she’s passionate about supporting individuals and organisations to develop inner tools for greater wellbeing and flourishing, and offers workshops and training at The Mind Life Project.

Her work has been featured in the Huffington Post, New York Times and on Australian Television. She was recently recognised by the Australian Financial Review as a 2019 AFR Women of Influence.

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