Interview: Rob Moodie, mindful professor of public health
Rob Moodie is the inaugural Chair of Global Health at the Nossal Institute at the University of Melbourne. Rob first worked in refugee health care in Sudan and later for Congress, and the Aboriginal community-controlled health service in Central Australia. From 1995 until 1998, he was the inaugural Director of Country Support for UNAIDS in Geneva, following this up with a 10-year stint as CEO of VicHealth from 1998-2007.
He chaired the National Preventative Health Taskforce from 2008-2011 and was a member of the Commission on AIDS in the Pacific. He chairs the technical advisory panel of Avahan, the Gates Foundation’s HIV prevention program in India.
Rob Moodie has particular interests in non–communicable diseases and HIV/AIDS and teaches a number of courses here and in Mozambique on public health leadership and health promotion. He has co-edited and co-authored 4 books including Promoting Mental Health, Hands-on Health Promotion, and his latest, Recipes for a Great Life written with Gabriel Gate.
1. What led you to meditation?
During my fourth year of medicine I had a potentially disastrous combination of a Lou Reed concert and very strong hash-oil joint which led to a period of anxiety lasting several months. I then travelled through India and met up with people who had just finished one of the early 10 day courses of Vipassana outside Burma, and I was really impressed with peaceful and generous they were.
2. What value has practising meditation brought to your life?
I can’t overestimate the value of meditation to me – it provides me with much more balance, peace, energy, and generosity than I would otherwise have without it. I “up the dose” during tough times or times when I am under stress and it definitely helps me sleep better. It helps me deal with my ever-demanding ego!
3. How has meditation supported you in your professional life?
Meditation is very time and energy-efficient – the less time and energy I spend being worried about the future or guilty about the past the more I can use to focus on working on the present. It also gives me a much more strategic view of my work than I would otherwise have.
4. What are the biggest obstacles to your practice?
Other demands on my time, tiredness and the fact that I need to be disciplined to do it twice a day, all get in my way, as does drinking any alcohol.
5. What is a quote that most inspires you and why?
Although it might appear in anthologies of bad poetry it is Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s:
It is easy enough to be pleasant,
When life flows by like a song,
But the man worthwhile, is one who will smile,
When everything goes dead wrong
This is all about acknowledging the world as it is rather than as you would want it to be, about surviving and thriving with the hand that life deals you – it is about equanimity and balance – which are essentials to good living.
6. What Mindful Music do you listen to (i.e. music that grabs your full attention and brings you into the moment)?
Deep Peace by Bill Douglas