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Mind-body dualism is a very Western mode of thinking. Why do so many medical doctors overlook the connection between mind and body?
I think it's because Western medicine is so young; as you grow older, you have a broader view. In Eastern medicine you learn to see everything as a whole, interconnected. We have psychosomatic illnesses and they're very real. I talked in [my new] book about women in Cambodia [in the time of the Khmer Rouge] who went blind because they watched their children and husbands being torn, being killed right in front of them. There was nothing wrong with their eyes or their optic nerves, but they couldn't see. More or less all of our illnesses can be worsened by psychological factors; and if you have a mental illness, a physical illness can worsen it. The body and mind are very connected. I think Western medicine has begun to be more aware of that. I talk a lot in the book about interbeing, which is a practice of acknowledging the interconnectedness of our body and mind, and of how we affect each other. We think of ourselves as separate, but we're not. We "inter-are."
Are we moving toward a better place with modern medicine?
Mindfulness is now implemented more and more in medicine, and offers concrete practices that professionals can use to help their patients. Many doctors have come to practice with us. In 2013 we went to Harvard Medical School and there were 1,000 people [in attendance]; we did walking meditation on the street, we had mindful meals. We have retreats for health-care professionals in our home monastery. More and more doctors and health-care professionals are becoming aware of the practice and doing their best to implement it in their lives and share it with their patients. I'm very optimistic about it.