Douglas Baker, LICSW, RYT
My work in the human services started in 1984 as a volunteer in a Boston homeless shelter. It was quickly clear that I could hand out sandwiches but was otherwise unprepared to be of help. That sent me for more training and graduate school. Since then I’ve worked in many settings, but I most loved my time at Cambridge Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry, and especially the psychiatric emergency room. The psych ER was a place where idealism about treating suffering people with dignity and compassion was central to the mission.
Hospital work showed me how people were often both helped and hindered by diagnosis and medication. It naturally raised questions about other, less traditional ways to alleviate mental suffering. When a friend invited me to a meditation retreat, those questions were more personal, as I was shocked to experience chaos in my mind as I sat on a cushion for most of 5 days. It was a mess in there! But the teachings were hopeful, and I persisted, thank heavens. They spoke of clarity and peace of mind, which encouraged me to study yoga, meditation and Buddhist psychology. I have found more common sense and wisdom in the teachings of the contemplative traditions than all of the theory I learned in formal classrooms. I was amazed at the directness of the ideas which essentially teach, “Okay, here’s how your mind works. And here’s how you can work with it.”
I continue to study meditation and yoga, and focus my private practice on integrating these wisdom traditions in counseling. They are not a magic cure, but the most direct route to self-understanding and empowerment I have found. They guide us to be at home in both body and mind.
Recently I’ve had the good fortune to begin to write about mindfulness and yoga. My first book, a practical, portable guide to walking meditation, was released in January 2017. It’s called Five Minute Mindfulness: Walking, from Quarto Publishing in London and the US.
Most recently I was invited to join the Board of Directors of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, a non-profit educational org that offers training for therapists and other health care providers on using mindfulness in therapeutic settings. To view our offerings, visit www.meditationandpsychotherapy.org I’m grateful to become more involved in this terrific organization.