On Episode 226, host Jen Barna MD welcomes Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber to discuss how to connect heart, mind, body, spirit for healing, wellness and well-being, using Mind-Body Medicine and Mindfulness Meditation. Dr. Mirza-Gruber is a licensed board Certified Psychiatrist, Certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher, Certified Yoga teacher, and Certified Mind-Body Medicine Skills Facilitator. She describes herself as an individual, parent, and psychiatrist, and follows a holistic approach to life. She believes in connecting heart, mind, body and spirit for healing and wellness. She’s been facilitating mind-body skills workshops and groups since January 2018 to bring healing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and through the coronavirus pandemic. Manizeh leads meditation groups and teaches mindfulness classes and workshops, and she leads a free weekly virtual guided meditation called Mindful Mondays.
Please join Manizeh Mirza-Gruber, M.D. for her annual “Gather in Gratitude” virtual workshop on Sunday, November 19th from 10am – 11am CT to share space and gratitude practices together before the holidays. This year, in addition to donating 25% of the registration fee to the Houston Food Bank as is the tradition, Manizeh will also be donating 25% of the registration fee to the Houston SPCA so she can contribute to meals and shelter for animals in need.
Please reach out to Manizeh at [email protected] for more information. The link to register is in the flyer on her website www.mindfulinpractice.com and Instagram page @mindfulinpractice and this is the direct link to the payment page: https://www.mindfulinpractice.com/paymentportal
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Below is a transcript of this episode:
Jen Barna MD: Welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast, where physicians share their stories of life outside of work, top Life Coaches share expert tips on how to accelerate your path toward what matters most to you, and financial experts and side gig experts can help you on the trajectory toward financial security. Thank you for joining us. And let’s get started with today’s episode.
Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber: I use that as a way to be and become a better version of myself and really touch into the part of me that knows this is who I am, this is real, this is true. I can ask myself those questions and feel comfortable in my own skin.
Jen Barna MD: I’m so excited to have you here with me today, and I’m thrilled to bring you this conversation with our esteemed guest, Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber. She’s a licensed board Certified Psychiatrist, Certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher, Certified Yoga teacher, and Certified mind-body Medicine Skills facilitator. Dr. Mirza-Gruber is an individual, a parent and a psychiatrist, and follows a holistic approach to life. She believes in connecting heart, mind, body and spirit for healing and wellness. She’s been facilitating mind-body skills workshops and groups since January 2018 to bring healing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and through the coronavirus pandemic. Manizeh leads meditation groups and teaches mindfulness classes and workshops, and she leads a free weekly virtual guided meditation called Mindful Mondays. We’ll include the link to her website and the link to her Mindful Mondays in the show notes, so please enjoy the conversation. Please check out the show notes and you can find how to reach Dr. Manizeh Merza Gruber directly. And let’s get started.
Jen Barna MD: Dr. Manizeh Merza Gruber, welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast!
Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber: Hello, Jen. Lovely to be back again with you.
Jen Barna MD: It’s wonderful to be here with you. It’s such a privilege to speak with you always, and I’m so curious about how things are going. I know you’ve got a lot going on, and one thing that I’m really interested in is how you’re balancing it all. You have private practice, community practice. You are a mindfulness coach. You have your work as a psychiatrist and your work as a mind-body coach. How are you balancing it all at this point?
Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber: What a lovely question. I have to walk my talk. I’m learning that this balance is not necessarily the easiest thing to do. And so for me, I’ve recently made the shift back into community mental health, where I’m working three days a week and pivoting my clinical psychiatric private practice to a mindfulness based mind-body educational teaching practice. I do have a few patients that I’m still seeing but not taking on anyone new. And one of the reminders for me is oftentimes the themes that become my newsletter or the themes of my workshops are based on I’m realizing what I am needing. And so, for instance, if I just finished teaching a mini retreat this past weekend in New Orleans at the mind-body collective, it was resting in mindful presence because I realized that is what I need to do. Prior to that, I did rest play stretch, because I’m realizing these are the things that I am needing in order to be able to be my best self and to be with everyone else. So it’s a juggle. It’s definitely a juggle. And there are days where I feel rest is needed, and there are days where I feel waking up and asking myself, ‘What is most alive for you today, Manizeh?’ and feeling into that and following that. Wow.
Jen Barna MD: Can you tell me more about how that works? Do you change what you had planned for the day when you wake up and feel motivated in a certain direction? How does that play out for you?
Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber: Well, I’ve become very used to all the practice has allowed me. So I have my meditation practice, my running, walking practice, and yoga. But separate of that, I’ve become very aware of how my body is and how my body is feeling. And I make these very mindful inquiries, curious inquiries where I touch base with my heart mind and my heart body. So where I’m trying to, in my own practices, not sitting in the mind intelligence all the time, because that will take me in a different direction. So just this week, I’ve started, well, a couple of weeks ago, training for a fall marathon. And this Wednesday was supposed to be a five mile run. Well, I woke up, and it didn’t seem the day that my body felt it could do the 5 miles. So I shifted gears, did a two mile, and said, let’s wait and see. And then today, which was supposed to be the rest day, felt great and did the five mile. So it’s a lot of listening. It’s a lot of listening. And that’s part of the mind-body practices. Right. The mindfulness practices, which is a mind-body practice, is listening, and it’s listening to what is arising. I may have an intention for the day. As I wake up, I connect with it, and I always check in with myself because I know today I’m a little off. The other day, it’s like, this feels great. Okay, let’s take it on. That’s become a practice for me, like.
Jen Barna MD: What you’re saying and I’ve recently heard that if you’re listening, your body is talking to you. But we often train ourselves away from listening to our bodies. And so I’m very curious about the mind-body connection and what it is that you mean by that. When you have the mind-body skills workshops, for example.
Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber: Well, the mind and the body are connected. They are one unit. And for me, it’s mind, body, heart, spirit that becomes my guide. And I usually put it as body, heart, spirit, mind, sometimes. But in essence, we haven’t been trained with the idea that our mind and our body are very intimately connected. What happens in the body affects the mind, what happens in the mind affects the body. And I have known that since I was very young, but I never could put a name to it. But I would feel it. If I felt nervous or something like that. I knew what was arising, but I didn’t know, oh, could I be anxious. I hadn’t quite figured that out till I started listening and paying attention. And all of that came from being in the not knowing. It became a very curious mind where there was a shift almost a decade ago, a little bit longer, where I was feeling that there was something that was missing. And what the missing piece that I have been curiously discovering is the connection between my mind and body. And part of these practices are when you listen, is when you can begin the process of self awareness and self care and reflection. One of the things that allows me to feel all right is resting in the wisdom of uncertainty, where I’ve become comfortable in the not knowing. We spend so much time in the mind, like neck up. It’s like the attic of the House. I’ve learned to come down to the kitchen, the den, the breakfast room, and all the other rooms of the house, and that they are all connected.
Jen Barna MD: Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to that discovery? And how did you get from not quite understanding to feeling that you have the connection and you understand how to listen (to your body)?
Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber: I’ve been a very intuitive person. Oftentimes I got into trouble because of that, because the heart would lead first. I did get into trouble a few times, but we all know about our gut health and the gut-brain connection. And for me, it began with my gut. So call it where everything was felt a little uneasy. I felt it literally in my gut. Also had a very gut Feeling about things, and have always had a very Curious, questioning mind, not wanting to settle. But it was my own discomfort, my own unsettledness, where I realized I’m really just overthinking things. I’m staying too much in my mind. Something was not right. And I was in a yoga retreat where we had a practice, and it was in that practice where I connected with another person. And something shifted. Something shifted before that, years before that, something shifted during prayer where I don’t know whether it was an Awakening of Sorts, but something shifted. And I decided to pursue a yoga teaching certificate. And I became very involved in yogA, even though I practiced it as a teenager. And as that went on, I realized I needed to be more connected with my body rather than sit just in my mind. I needed that for myself because my body informs me. It always knows. It just seems to know what I’m needing, and I was not attending to it. And then through Hurricane Harvey, and then connecting with the center for mind-body Medicine, getting my training, the certification program, leading the mind-body skill groups, being with people, the teaching, the facilitation, I know the impact it makes. I know the transformation that happens and the transformation happened within me. And then through the Mindfulness certification program and other teachings that I’ve learned through my mentors, my other teachers, my children, my dogs, I realized that I am at peace. A When I’m with my breath and when I listen to my body, I have to take the hat off the thinking mind. I need to do that. And running is another way that I connect completely with my body. It always knows what I’m supposed to do, even when I shouldn’t run. And I run. It informs me, you injured yourself. Now you have to stop. It’s a knowing, and it’s hard to really find a way to describe it. But when the self awareness settles and it’s not uncomfortable anymore to even be with discomfort, for me, there’s unknowing, and I follow that. I let that be my guide.
Jen Barna MD: And from the experience that you have teaching the workshops, you said that you also have seen what a huge impact that understanding these concepts can have. Can you share with us some stories of how you’ve witnessed that in other people as well?
Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber: Yeah, well, I don’t want to share their confidence, so I can share mine. Where? The first mind-body workshop that I was in training in, and I felt that it was after Hurricane Harvey, I was going through the motions. I had it all together. And we had done a movement practice. And in that movement practice, which is to connect with what is within, what is stuck, what is not evident, I was just bawling like a baby. It was suddenly something just opened and I was very connected to the suffering and the pain within. And there are other practices, even in my mindfulness practices, my own meditation practices, when I’m sitting and I can feel just today in a meditation practice, there’s an intense heat that was like, even today that was experienced in the body that then I had to connect with. I had to ask myself with kindness, with compassion, with gentleness, what is arising for you in this moment and to be with that and to allow it and to hold it. And for others, it’s anything from people joyful. Some are crying. For some it can actually. There’s that one downside of it can activate a trauma response as well. So we have to really be gentle with the process. And there’s a prescreening. So that’s just another topic in itself. But there is a joy, there is a connection that even in the retreat that I just did, where for so many people we were doing a mindful eating practice, where for them it was. I’ve never ever looked at a mandarin this way. And just how their own feelings were to connect this practice with what arose for them, whether it was from their childhood or for the present moment, it was a shift. And at the end of it, of course, we were joking. You’re never going to look at a banana or a mandarin the same way. Right. But it’s very transforming. I have found that the mind-body skills practices have been, as I’ve called, an island of support for me. And how you find an oasis in the desert.
Jen Barna MD: Yeah. All of your examples are really so meaningful because I think people can listen and identify with that experience. And if they haven’t experienced it themselves, they can imagine how impactful that could be. And one thing that I hear a lot from people in our community is that they want to take on these type of practices. They want to take care of themselves in this kind of way, but they have difficulty managing the time. And one thing that you and I were talking about earlier, looking out for each other and trying to watch out for each other, taking on potentially more than we should, maybe in still leaving time to do these self care practices. One thing that we were talking about is that even if you don’t realize that you are choosing, you’re always making a choice. And so you can make a choice to prioritize this well-being, your own well-being. and it really has to be a first priority because everything else you do depends on your well-being. but it’s so easy to overlook it and to think that you don’t have the ability to control your time. and i know that you have been really mindful of avoiding that specific problem, and you’ve been successful at that. So I’m wondering if you have any advice for someone who’s listening, who may really know deep in their heart and spirit that they need to take these steps, but they’re not sure how to get started and how to make the time on a day to day basis.
Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber: for those who are listening, i would begin with being kind to yourselves. even if you feel you don’t have the time, there is always 30 seconds to take a few cycles of breath. you don’t need more than that. one of my practices is, i don’t even get out of bed without the intention of, without setting the intention. so my morning, no matter what time it is, four or 430 or five, begins with both hands on my heart and i take six cycles of breath, which for me is 1 minute, and i set my intention for the day. that’s a practice. 1 minute. that’s a practice. you can put your feet on the ground as you get out of bed and sit there for 30 seconds and take few more cycles of breath. and as you stand before you walk, three more cycles of breath. you’ve already had like a two minute practice. and if that’s the only practice you have, that’s the only practice you have. you could be at the red light, at a traffic light, and with eyes open, take a few more cycles of breath. if those are the first conscious breaths that you’ve taken all day, that’s enough. even as you’re heading to your car before, when you put your hand on the handle to open, let it sit there. three cycles of breath. that’s a practice. practice does not necessarily mean you have to take out a yoga mat or a zafu or a meditation cushion, and you have to sit or stand or walk for extended periods of time because they’re all lay down. the practices are mostly what we do in life. life is a practice. it’s the informal practices. it’s the informal practices.
Jen Barna MD: You are so right. And it’s really interesting, if you stop and notice it, that even no matter how busy you are throughout the day, you are taking steps to take care of yourself. You are showering, you are putting lotion on, putting sunscreen on, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, and every one of those steps, drinking a glass of water, drinking a cup of coffee, every single step you take throughout the whole day, which I think it’s very easy to not notice. But if you stop and notice and just feel that sensation that you’re taking care of yourself with this small thing that in and of itself can also be a way to practice mindfulness and incorporate self care without adding any time to your schedule at all. And then the simple ways to add breathing. I think that’s brilliant.
Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber: Yeah. Mindfulness practices are very kind practices. Even the word mindfulness, from the root word means to remember. And what you’re remembering is to come back again and again to when your mind wandered, to come back to an anchor. It’s returning. It’s remembering. It’s remembering to return. So it’s a very kind practice. There’s no judgment. So for those who feel, I can’t do this, yes, you can. I have so many people who say I can’t sit, that my thoughts are coming, this, that the idea is not to make anything go away. The idea is to sit with it and to be with what is arising. And it’s really with that acceptance, with the kindness, with the compassion. It’s a simple. Not trying to multitask, to be mindful rather than mindless. Right. You’re brushing your teeth. You’re brushing your teeth. You’re sipping your tea. You’re sipping your tea. If you’re driving, just drive. When Lani, our dog, and I go for a walk, we have one rule. It’s Lani and me. It’s the walk. I speak to her like the squirrels, the butterflies, the birds. Look at this. Look at that. No phone calls, no phone, nothing. It’s her time with me and my time with her. She’s such a great teacher. She’s resting right now under my feet, and she’s a great teacher. She teaches me to be present. She’ll bark if I’m not. It’s a practice. It doesn’t come easy all the time. But like anything else, it’s a practice. I didn’t learn to run a marathon without training. So it’s one step at a time. And part of that closure that I do with my day is there’s a term called book ending the day. And so I end my day the way I begin it. Which is once I’m back in bed, hands again on my heart, being aware of my breath, seeing how I met my intention. If I did wonderful, seeing how I can meet it in a different way. And if I didn’t, then no judgment. What can I do differently? What didn’t I do? And then letting it just settle. It’s just simple practices. Simple practices. I’ve taught teenagers how to attend to text messages mindfully. I did a practice with them. I had them all put their phones in front of them. And then they had to take a couple of cycles of breath whilst they just looked at their phone, buzing away. And then I said, all right, how about you intentionally reach for the phone, know that you’re reaching for the phone and place it in your hand. And when it’s in your hand, notice what it feels like. Feel the phone. Notice the touch, the texture, the heaviness. What are the sensations in your hand? And then, as those text messages were coming, notice what’s on the screen. And notice what’s arising for you as you’re looking at it. And now turn your phone on to how you would respond. Take a moment to read the text. Take a couple of breaths. You have a moment to not react, but to know. As it said, as Jack Cornfield and Tara Brach talk about the sacred pause. And Viktor Frankl, in his book the Man’s Search for Meaning, has said that between the stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space you have your freedom. You have a chance to choose. And that choice is your gateway to liberation and freedom. So I ask them, take a moment, take a couple of conscious breaths. And now choose how you want to respond or don’t want to respond. And text. They texted. And then I said, before you send, read it again. Take a moment. Take a couple of breaths. That was their practice before they sent it.
Jen Barna MD: I mean, that is a beautiful way to lead someone through something that they’re doing and a way for them to connect and make that mind-body connection as they’re doing something that they’re going to repeat multiple times in the course of the day. Dr. Manizeh, Merza Gruber. It’s such a pleasure to talk with you. I learned something in every conversation that we have. Thank you so much.
Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber: Thank you so much. I so appreciate our friendship and our learning and growing and discovering and always staying curious with the beginner’s mind. And when you’re able to, in the moments that you are able to, it is magical. And I think that’s the beauty of it, is that you never stop learning. And I think that’s just beautiful. You never stop. You know, the poet Rumi says, let the beauty of what you love be what you do. And I have followed that. The way I look at it, the only time I’m going to stop learning is when I’m not able to. Until then, you’re my teacher. Everyone I encounter is my teacher. And it’s a privilege. It’s a privilege. And it’s an honor to learn from people. I use that as a way to be and become a better version of myself and really touch into the part of me that knows this is who I am. This is real, this is true. I can ask myself those questions and feel comfortable in my own skin. I think that is, if I have to say these are the gifts that I have been blessed with, is that this journey has allowed me to sit here today to just say I’m all right being Manizeh, I’m all right being this person and there’s more to come. But in this moment, this is just great. It’s all good.
Jen Barna MD: Someone listening is interested in finding you and coming to your mindfulness Mondays or your mind-body skills workshops. How can they reach out to you to join those groups?
Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber: They just go to the website which is www.mindfulandpractice.com. I have a free newsletter. Feel free to subscribe to it. It’s something I write and it comes out on the 1st and 15th of the month, personal reflections, mindfulness tips, information of upcoming workshops and classes. It has the Zoom link to Mindful Mondays which is a free guided meditation every Monday from 12-12:30 Central Time. They can contact me through Instagram at Mindfulinpractice and by email (the contact information is on the website). So yeah, happy to have everyone join. Feel free to! Let’s just learn and grow together because we need to continue to make this beautiful earth an easier, more restful place to live together.
Jen Barna MD: It’s all about helping each other in community, and I’m so grateful to have you here, and thank YOU for listening! and we will look forward to our next conversation. And thanks again! Dr. Manizeh Mirza-Gruber, Lovely to be with you!
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