By SARA ARTHURS
After seeing a difference in their own mood and health, Dave Bettenhausen and Carla Bogni-Kidd now teach meditation to others in the hopes it might help them, too.
Bettenhausen is a podiatrist in Fostoria. About five years ago, the transition to electronic medical records was “overwhelming” and required him to spend about four months working 14-hour days.
“Life was stressful,” he said.
Bogni-Kidd, his office manager, suggested he find a way to relax. She’d read a magazine article on the benefits of meditation and told Bettenhausen he had a choice: she could call a counselor for him, or he could meditate. He chose meditation.
The staff took up meditating as a group, with all four employees participating. They shut off all the computers and phones, closed their eyes, and listened to music and relaxed.
“It was just wonderful for that moment to shut everything off,” Bettenhausen said.
He had never tried meditation before, but recalls of that first time, “It was just quiet and relaxing.” While “it’s hard to quiet the mind, to start with,” there was an “immediate relief” in simply shutting off the computer.
Bogni-Kidd saw a difference in her longtime friend: “He was back. He was funny again.”
Bettenhausen said he had been eating when stressed, but found that he lost weight after he started meditating. He said meditation reduces the level of cortisol in the body, a stress hormone which affects metabolism. But the practice also inspired him to begin eating better, walking more and taking better care of himself.
“It suddenly made me much happier,” he said.
Meditation, he said, is somewhere he can go where no one else can get to him.
As a podiatrist, Bettenhausen has researched the medical benefits of meditation, including that it can reduce blood sugar and blood pressure, and produces endorphins similar to running. And studies show it activates the pleasure centers in the brain, he said.
It also improves job performance and, he said, has simply made him and his staff feel better.
“It’s a stressed-out world,” Bogni-Kidd said.
Bettenhausen said they practice metta meditation, which is different than Zen or transcendental meditation. And while some meditators sit on the floor, “We’re too old to do that,” Bogni-Kidd said.
Bettenhausen treats a lot of patients with diabetes. Some changed their own diet and exercise habits in response to Bettenhausen’s weight loss. But he said he also suspects people listened to his advice on their health more, because he was more genuinely interacting with them, not just with the computer.
Meditation, Bettenhausen said, has been present throughout history. He said Catholic monk Thomas Merton spent time in a Buddhist monastery and claimed it made him a better Catholic.
“All religions have used it,” Bogni-Kidd said.
She herself has been a Catholic, Mormon and Methodist. “Now I consider meditation to be my church,” she said.
Bettenhausen said he was raised Catholic, and “I still pray every day.” The difference is that rather than asking for things in his prayers, “I’m thankful now,” and he prays in gratitude.
Bettenhausen said meditation can be contemplation or prayer, or “a vacation for an unruly mind.” It can be used for relaxation, or for a specific purpose. And while it doesn’t replace medical care, it can accompany it to improve a person’s health.
He said MRIs have shown more blood flow in the brain as a result of meditation. A small number of people can get migraines from the practice, and may need to drink water or take a warm shower beforehand. And he said it can be “a form of self-hypnosis,” with reports of some people encountering childhood memories of abuse they weren’t aware of. So, if something disturbing comes up while meditating, talk to someone about it, Bettenhausen said.
There are jokes to be had, too, Bogni-Kidd said: “What did the cupcake say to the bagel and the donut? Find your center.”
The two will teach a class from 6-7:30 p.m. tonight in the Endly Room, Alumni Memorial Union, at the University of Findlay; and will lead a session one Wednesday a month there beginning in July. They can also be found from 5-8 p.m. on the last Wednesday of each month at “The Share,” 9975 Township Road 89. They plan to return to leading sessions at 50 North later this year.