Thursday, December 4th, 2014

How Practicing Bewilderment Helps Medicine

Rumi (a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic,) said, “Sell your cleverness and practice bewilderment.”


I love that.

I feel like he was talking about medicine. Many of you aspire to make medicine a part of your world in the future. I thought it might be interesting to let you know what that could look like.

As a surgeon, I’m always amazed at how children heal so quickly.

And at how patients tell me they felt no pain after a big procedure that would have put me in bed for a week.

And there was a big dose of amazement in anatomy and physiology class when I realized how all the body’s systems work so crazily well together.

To me, it’s kind of shocking that all doctors don’t walk around elbowing each other saying, “Can you believe that?!”

Why don’t we?

I believe it’s the padding. That padding can happen to everyone. Not just to doctors. Maybe you’ve noticed it, too.

The padding of life’s busyness, tediousness, and sleeplessness surrounds us.

It’s as if we’re wrapped up in huge strips of foam that isolate us from the awe and wonder that’s available to us.

We soften our reactions with the padding, too.

As a doctor, I can truly remember all those “firsts” that you will come to know. Like your first kiss or the first time you drove a car, these will be things you’ll never forget.

For me, my firsts are:

I remember the first time I correctly used a stethoscope and heard the murmur of a beating heart.

And the fearful excitement that ignited the air when I helped deliver my first baby.

And the sadness I had to push through when I read a pathology report on an elderly woman with breast cancer.

And the agony of the loss after I put forth my best effort to save a young boy who slipped away after a motor vehicle accident.

Sometimes, we all put on a mask of all knowing cleverness to keep the core behind the padding at bay.

Rather than feel vulnerable and be open to the rawness of our own humanity, we wear a cloak of authority; of professionalism; of “can do.”

Every time we don that cloak, we slip deeper into the padding; we allow it to expand.

Because the truth is, when you cover up your feelings, you also block the wonderment that’s shining around you.

All of us who block that wonderment need to ask ourselves: who does the hiding serve?

Why not try practicing bewilderment?

Wonder is everywhere. You simply have to look for it on your drive in to work, at the dinner table, on your morning run.

In your teacher’s enthusiasm.

In your family’s trust.

Have you allowed yourself to experience the beauty of wonderment lately?

About Dr. Fitch

Starla headshot

Starla Fitch, MD, is a board certified practicing oculoplastic surgeon, international bestselling author, professional speaker and certified life coach. She is also the creator of, an online community for medical professionals who want to connect with their passion for the practice. Her book, Remedy for Burnout, is a #1 Amazon international bestseller. Dr. Fitch is a featured blogger for Huffington Post and Visit her at, where you can receive free weekly action tips and inspiration.

10 thoughts on “How Practicing Bewilderment Helps Medicine

  1. as I prepare for my first med school interview in Jan (at almost 30 years of age) and I think about this incredible calling I am being pulled into…THIS…this is exactly what my heart needed. thank you.

    1. Hi Zari! I’m so glad you found this helpful. I hear from so many pre-med students who are concerned about entering into medicine these days. Please join us at You’ll receive weekly tips to reduce stress (there’s a lot of that in pre-med, I know!) and stories of help and inspiration. We’re all in this together, my friend.

      Take care and be well,
      Starla Fitch, MD

  2. Amazing article! Absolutely loved the quote from Rumi, his poetry is so magical and I love how you connected that to the world of medicine…

    1. Hi there! Happy you liked the article. Rumi was so wise, wasn’t he? Sometimes wisdom that wasn’t meant for medicine speaks right to us.

      Take care and be well,
      Starla Fitch, MD

  3. I’m so happy you shared this with us Dr. Fitch, as I am practicing for my MCAT, your words have encouraged to keep going as with every article I read on here. Thank you so much for your wonderful words.

    1. Dear Amatinas, thank you for your kind words about the article. Believe it or not, I can still remember studying for the MCAT! My secret was a chocolate reward at the end of every study session. 🙂 There is no profession like medicine, my friend. The good and the bad, the delight and the heartache. It’s a wonderful journey.
      Take care and be well,
      Starla Fitch, MD

  4. So true! I think that padding also makes us take a lot of things for granted and belittle the difference we make in people’s lives. You are so right that there is wonderment everywhere. It allows us to appreciate life in perspective.

  5. Great quote from Rumi, a Persian poet. But do you really think he was referring to medicine?!? He never wrote about medicine or related fields. Anyway, yes I have allowed myself to experience the beauty of wonderment lately. It’s an amazing experience!

  6. Love your article Dr. Fitch! I am the founder of a nonprofit organization known as the MediczArmy which aims at providing a free educational platform to healthcare providers as well as the general public via our website. In addition to that we are going to launch a blog/newsletter on our website, the website is due to launch in 1-1.5 weeks. I wish we had somebody with your experience and insight on our writing/core panel.
    Is there anyway I can contact you or would you be interested to help us minions out? 🙂

    Best Wishes

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