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For Ten Seconds: Transitions in Training

Mackarey, Amelia, M.

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002214
Trainee-Authored Letters to the Editor

Medical student, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, Scranton, Pennsylvania;

Disclosures: None reported.

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To the Editor:

“Hold this pose, just for ten seconds, everyone. You can do anything for ten seconds.”

My friends and I cast exasperated glances at each other, beads of sweat dripping down our bodies. The yoga instructor calmly surveys the room, observing our shaking quads and quivering biceps as we struggle to execute one of the more challenging balancing postures in the standing series. But she is right; we can hold the pose for ten seconds. And as we switch to balance on the other side, we are able to last for ten seconds there, too.

Usually, we feel irritated by this “you can do anything for ten seconds” mantra, mostly because the countdown always ends up being longer than ten seconds! At first, I thought about the words only in the context of mastering yoga poses. But, I have started to understand the meaning in those words, the motivating message hidden in their simplicity, and their relationship to my transitions, both into and throughout medical school. I can do anything for ten seconds, and even a little bit longer.

In the years leading up to medical school, warnings about the perils of falling behind and the futility of cramming for exams were abundant. My friends and I faced the mental transition by organizing flashcards, subscribing to online medical education sites, memorizing mnemonics, and quizzing one another. One of the transitions for which my friends and I were most unprepared was the physical transition. Going from college, where we were able to schedule daily workouts and weekend relaxation, to medical school, where we spend our days standing in the operating room observing surgeries, running around the clinic taking histories, and sitting in the uncomfortable seats of the lecture hall, has been jarring—mentally as much as physically. Addressing these transitions has been a transition in and of itself, but my friends and I have experienced success through the physical and spiritual practice of yoga.

Through both my yoga practice and my medical education, I have learned that part of this physical and mental transition is accepting that each day brings a unique challenge: challenges that I try to meet with resilience and grace. Some days, I ace my quizzes and I stick every pose. Other days, I cannot seem to understand any new concept, and I fall out of every posture. Accepting these ups and downs, breathing through each success and failure, remembering that I am strong helps me on the good days and the bad.

At the end of practice, we rest on our backs with our arms and legs stretched limply in Savasana, corpse pose. I focus my mind and feel the gentle hum of my body, appreciative of the grueling workout and calming conclusion. I breathe deeply, thinking about my schedule tomorrow, and murmuring, “I can do anything for ten seconds.”

And ten more seconds after that.

And after that.

And after that.

Amelia M. Mackarey

Medical student, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, Scranton, Pennsylvania;

© 2018 by the Association of American Medical Colleges