Practically Minded

A local doc’s book about meditation promises straight language and real-life tips.
Greg Sazima, M.D., with his meditation book practical mindfulness
Photo by Aniko Kiezel

Meditation has become much more mainstream in recent years, but Greg Sazima, M.D., found many books on the subject to be full of new age psychology and jargon.

“Meditation doesn’t require prayer bowls and sitting in caves for 10 years,” says Sazima, a board-certified psychiatrist and psychotherapist based in Roseville who’s been practicing meditation himself for 20 years. “I wanted to write a book that was much more secular and practical and accessible.”

So he did. “Practical Mindfulness: A Physician’s No-Nonsense Guide to Meditation for Beginners” (Mango Press, 2021) is written in narrative form and offers practice exercises with steps as well as troubleshooting tips. There’s even a bit of snark thrown in. “Books on meditation and consciousness don’t have to be deadly serious or dry,” Sazima says. “The point was to make it an entertaining book.”

The book’s appendix targets other doctors, teaching them how to use meditation to treat their own patients. “It’s a teaching-the-teacher thing,” says Sazima, who developed meditation programs for kids in the Eureka Union School District as well as for people dealing with chronic illness, something Sazima can relate to personally as he deals with the latest of multiple bouts of bone cancer. “I definitely use my tactics in lots of ways,” he says.

However people find their way to the art of meditation, Sazima just hopes they find it.

“If you have sat in self-awareness before in time of crisis, you feel it (the crisis or event), but you don’t actually overreact to it,” he says. “There’s lots of evidence that when people attend to their experience, even if it is painful, they have better outcomes in both tolerance and adaptation of those states and are more likely to be compliant to the treatments that might make them better.”

Wandering mind? Don’t worry.

“The loss of attention and regaining it is actually a really cool thing. It’s a feature, not a bug. You start building a curiosity of what you keep going back to,” Sazima says. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years. Sometimes it’s pea soup upstairs and maybe I gain some insight on that. Maybe.”