My First Million

Meditation is my medication. I added Muse, the brain-sensing headband, to my meditation practice in July. I hit the 1,000,000 mark yesterday for “calm points.”

“Thanks a Million” is the alternate title for this post—as in, many thanks to InteraXon, the company that developed Muse and brought it to market. My quality of life so much better because of it.

Tech specs: I use Muse S in the constructive rest position with an iPhone 11 Pro, AirPods Pro and sleep mask. What’s going on inside my head is a little harder to describe, however, this post provides a general sense. ✸

Who Am I?

I’m finally getting around to memorializing some of the “self-help” books that have helped me over the years. The thread that runs through this grouping is the difference between “I” and “me” (or “true self” vs. “false self” or “observing self” vs. “observed self”—this has been described in various ways).

David A. Frenz, M.D.

“Me,” the conceptual self, can suffer; “I,” which is pure awareness or consciousness, never can. The end of suffering involves withdrawing your attention from “me” and resting in “I.”

This can be a little difficult to understand, let alone practice, which is why I seldom use it psychotherapeutically. But for those who are ready, it can be liberating.

Anthony de Mello’s Stripping Down to the “I” (starts on Page 46) is a great place to start. If it seems like nonsense, don’t be troubled and simply ignore this post. If, however, you’re intrigued, consider reading on.

Self-Care During a Pandemic

Update [10/12/2020]: Here’s the recording of the session. Enjoy!

Remember airplanes? In the event of an emergency, flight attendants advise us to adjust our own oxygen masks before helping others. I’ve always found that an apt metaphor for anyone in the healing arts.

Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Tomorrow I’m presenting on self-care during a pandemic (but it could be any personal or shared crisis really). Not self-care for our patients and clients—but self-care for ourselves. The main message concerns the relationship that we have toward time and the present, although there will some other stuff sprinkled in as well.

Many thanks to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Practice Transformation for hosting the event. It’s not too late to sign up and the price is right (free)! ✸

Doubleheader

The Twins were eliminated by the Astros yesterday, however, it’s still baseball season! In that spirit, I’m “pitching” a split doubleheader today in two different ballparks through the wonders of Zoom.

The first presentation is for the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association at its Correction Care Division’s Annual Conference. The subject is identification and management of substance withdrawal syndromes (I’m the medical director for two county jails).

CentraCare Health; St. Cloud, Minn.

The second outing is for CentraCare Health at its Opioid and Controlled Substances Prescribing Training. I’m the middle reliever in a line-up that includes Drs. Michael Massey (pain medicine) and Lynn McFarling (medical informatics). The two-hour event is designed to fulfill Minnesota’s new(ish) legislative mandate for provider education. My contribution deals with unhealthy substance use with special attention to patients with chronic pain syndromes.

CentraCare Health; St. Cloud, Minn.

Just click on the above images or hyperlinked text to access my PowerPoints. ✸

Heal the Sick

Downtown Minneapolis is bleak right now. The towers have been empty since the shelter-in-place order was issued last winter. Many buildings are boarded up due to property damage from rioting. Sirens are constantly going off because of the sharp increase in crime. Street vagrancy is prevalent outside of my office building.

The world is upside down, however, this abandoned church reminds me every morning to continue healing the sick. ✸

Former Second Church of Christ Scientist
228 South 12th Street; Minneapolis, Minnesota

Telehealth Addiction Care

There is currently considerable interest in telehealth addiction care. Allina Health began offering it in February 2019 to address geographic voids in greater Minnesota. We were thus well-positioned for virtual care when the Covid-19 pandemic occurred about a year later.

Jeff Wagner interviewed me on WCCO Television on September 12th about our work at Allina. Please see here and here for previous media appearances.

WCCO Television

Many thanks to Sarah Jackson with Media Minefield for her partnership on this timely and important subject! ✸

Happy Hour

Well, about 48 minutes.

Janet Lewis Muth, Director of Health Promotion at Carleton College, and I were guests today on MPR News with Angela Davis. We discussed happiness. Please see my earlier posts (and here, here and here) for more context.

Many thanks to Tim Burke, External Communications Advisor at Allina Health, for his partnership on this timely and important subject! ✸

Meditation Challenge

Stress, anxiety, depression and substance use have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. This has a lot people thinking about better self-care.

I’m helping one of my employers with a four-week “meditation challenge.” It grew out of a recent lunch and learn for employees that included some material on mindfulness. The more the merrier, so I’m sharing this with my entire social network.

Here’s the challenge: Meditate three times per day, generally in the morning when you wake up; sometime in the afternoon; and again in the evening right before you go to bed. Start with 5-minute sessions, increasing the duration week-by-week as follows:

  • Week 1: 5 minutes, 3 times per day
  • Week 2: 10 minutes, 3 times per day
  • Week 3: 15 minutes, 3 times per day
  • Week 4: 20 minutes, 3 times per day

In terms of technique:

  • Assume any comfortable position. I personally like a semi-supine position (see below)
  • Set a timer (e.g., on your phone) with a soft alarm
  • Close your eyes
  • Direct your attention to your breath. This might be your nose, chest or belly
  • Follow your breath in and out. Some people use simple mental mantras for each in-breath and out-breath. Examples are: in-out, deep-slow and calm-ease

Internal and external distractions will occur. Just let thoughts, emotions and sensations pass without judgment. Return to your breath, using a mantra, if needed. On the flip side, don’t worry if you feel sleepy or even doze off. Allow that to pass without judgment, too.

And that’s it!

Please let me know how you feel during and after the challenge.


I’ve greatly benefited from Alexander Technique lessons. One tip/trick is something called constructive rest, which involves the semi-supine position depicted below.

1. Head slightly supported by a softcover book (or two)
2. Arms slightly away from body (abducted), palms down (pronated)
3. Shoes off; feet about hip-width apart

Photo: Ayden Frenz

I’m also a fan of Muse, the brain-sensing headband, but that’s a post for another day. ✸

Acceptance Is the Answer

Linda Picone, the editor of Minnesota Medicine, tapped me for its “Joy of Medicine” feature. The extended interview appears in the September–October issue.

Minnesota Medicine

I’ll let Linda’s work speak for itself—it’s an absolute gem—but offer the following references for those who might want to go deeper: