In conversation with

Dr Ben Dolittle

Dr Ben Dolittle

13 Questions


Dr. Ben Doolittle is the Program Director - Combined Internal Medicine & Pediatrics Residency at Yale University School of Medicine. His research interest include Spirituality, Medicine, Primary Care, and Religion. In this 'in conversation with the mystic', Dr. Ben asks Sadhguru about physician burnout, coping with stress and bringing meaning and ...


11:38 min

What would you say to healthcare professionals facing a burnout?


I would love to hear your thoughts on a number of topics. The one that is near and dear to my heart, as an educator, and as a position, and a pastor, is this area of wellness and burnout. Physicians today, a big study came out, 54% of physicians in America meet criteria for burnout. And nurses are in the same boat. And you’re here at a medical school, and we’re looking for answers. And we’re looking for hope. And so, to those 54% of physicians who are burned out, nurses and PAs and nurse practitioners, all of us in healthcare. What would you say to them?  

10:12 min

How should healthcare professionals deal with giving bad news to families?


So let’s talk about making soup. So this soup of life, if you will. You know, tonight, there is a nurse, or a physician, who has come home. And they told a family member that their loved one just died. Or they treated a child who’s undergoing chemotherapy. Or they’re in a clinic where they’re taking care of someone who doesn’t have enough insurance to cover that medication. And so those good folks have come home and their spirits are broken. And they love what they do. I think burned out physicians love what they do. And I like that metaphor of soup. What can we do? What can that nurse, that physician assistant, that doctor. Saturday morning comes around, they wake up, what should they do?  

6:08 min

What does ‘Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy’ mean?


So, I was really interested in the title of your book. ‘Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy’. And, those are some words that you don’t usually see often so close together. I’m thinking about engineering and joy. And a yogi. Right. Engineering, yogi. And I like that word, engineering. You need to know there are some of the top engineers at the university, who are in the audience today. So what’s the theme of this? What would you say is the message of this? I mean I think you’re getting at that, ‘Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy’. What does that mean?  

4:26 min

The inner life and the outer life


Let’s talk about the inner life and the outer life. One thing that strikes me as so powerful about your mission in the world is that you seem to successfully broker both of those worlds. You successfully pursue both of those worlds, if you will. The Isha Foundation educates the young and plants trees. And then you also teach people about inner engineering. And I think that could be a challenge for us in the West. We in the West, perhaps, love the outer world and maybe at the expense of the inner world. But I’d love to hear your perspective of that.  

14:40 min

Is anger good if it’s at the injustice of the world?


I actually want to talk about being a prophet. Let’s go there. Because one of the things about being mindful of the inner life. So, I wouldn’t say you’re a prophet. I’m talking about the Judail Christian tradition of prophecy. So, in the Hebrew bible, in the old testament, there is the role of those who speak truth to power. Who speak out against injustice. Who sacrifice themselves for a cause because of injustice. And in that narrative, there is anger. There is rage. And there are significant groups of people in the world, in our country, who have due cause to be angry about the world. The refugee, the ethnic minority, the poor. And one thing about inner engineering and, sort of, finding peace within oneself. The other side of that coin is, you know what? Is there ever a time to be angry? To march. To be in rage at the injustice of the world. What would you say to that?  

5:23 min

Is there a positive role of our traditions?


Can I ask your thoughts on this? In many ways we are the inheritors of our traditions. And they do influence us and shape us. Is there a positive role for the traditions from when we come? For example, if I’m going to try to inner engineer my inner life and try to get some direction, and meaning, and faith, and hope, and values, I can’t do it alone. And there are rich traditions, Hindu traditions, Judail Christian traditions, Muslim traditions, that give some context, some meaning, some structure, upon which to anchor my life. What do you think about that? Do we throw away all the traditions and inner engineer our lives? Do we use these traditions?  

10:22 min

Science and religion


So one of the traditions here, in a medical school, in a Western medical school, is the tradition of evidence. Show me. And this tradition, which is only 200-300 years old. The randomized control trial, the cohort study, all of that. And it’s good. That’s how we’ve gotten cures for pneumonia, and drugs to help alleviate pain. It’s all been done through this pursuit of the evidence. And also I’m a pastor. And I fully embrace the life of a spirit and the truth that we find in our faith traditions. And I love that in tradition. But I do recognize a tension between the truth that we discover in the lab and the truth that we discover in our spirit. And I love that tension. I think that’s a great way to live. In a way that’s sort of loving and a joyful pursuit that is both, the truth that I see around me and the love that grows in my heart. But I do recognize the tension. What is your perception of that?  

6:03 min

How do we bring a spirit of healing into the spirit of medicine?


I’d like to get back to the practice of medicine just for a question. I tell my gang, whom I adore, my resonance with my students is close to my heart. I adore them. I say, “Medicine is easy. Medicine is easy, but healing is hard.” Because in medicine, you know we have our portions. And if we don’t know an answer, we do a test. And if we don’t know what the test means, we consult somebody. So, medicine, in some ways we can distill it down, we can make it easy. But, with healing. Healing is really where the art of medicine lies. And healing is where the spirit and love and suffering and treatments and surgeries, that’s where it all comes in. How would you propose that we adopt a healing attitude? How do we bring a spirit of healing into the spirit of medicine?  

20:16 min

The critique of modern medicine


So when I was a medical student, I was a pastor of a church here at the time. And I would write my sermons on a hospital note paper. This was before EMRs. So I’m writing my sermon at the nurse’s station, and my attending physician came to me. And he said, “Dolittle, physicians are the priests of today.” And I said, “What? What do you mean?” I was offended. I wasn’t sure, was he joking, was he serious. He was serious. In the sense that people come to their doctor and they have pain. And maybe it’s back pain, maybe it’s pain in their heart. And I think people come to their physician and they look for absolution, acceptance, forgiveness. They look to be well again. And, perhaps, the critic of modern medicine is that we are trained to give a pill. But people want more. And it’s interesting that you bring this up that in modern medicine the expectation should be, efficient care, safe care. And that’s what we’re trying to do too. But I do think that maybe the world is becoming more secular and they don’t know where to turn. And so people look to their healthcare provider for all of it. What do you think?  

8:19 min

What’s the difference between belief and faith?


My question is touching back to the point which you brought up about the belief. Can you tell a little bit more about what’s the difference between belief and faith?  

5:07 min

Are Isha volunteers driven by clarity?


My question is that you mentioned before that just the belief without clarity is not a good thing. And I’m absolutely impressed by the amount of volunteers, like millions of volunteers. I cannot even imagine how many people come to learn and volunteer. It’s a lot. Do you think they are all driven by clarity? And the search for clarity? Or they believe that once they will do inner engineering, they will work around the process of gaining joy. And eventually they will have a positive aura as yours. The positive storage as you mentioned before.  

7:19 min

Are physical ailments cured by yoga?


I was wondering if physical ailments are cured, or at least helped by yoga?  

7:06 min

How to seek internal peace?


How to seek internal peace?