John Boockvar, MD, is one of the stars of the Netflix docuseries Lenox Hill, the show named for the historic hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side where he cares for patients suffering from glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive form of brain cancer. It’s why Dr. Boockvar’s career has been filled with moments of profound gratitude from having the opportunity to save lives and dark moments in dealing with inevitable death.
“Every surgeon, the saying goes, has their own graveyard they visit on occasion,” he says. “But it’s all part of my job. And when I’m not sure if I can go on anymore, I remember one simple thing: Inhale. Exhale.”
Dr. Boockvar fully embraced the potential of mindfulness in medical school — long before the concept was mainstream. He created the term “Gritflowness” to describe the combination of grit, flow and mindfulness needed to reach his desired state of mind.
Grit involves deliberate practice and single-minded drive to master a skill. For example, Dr. Boockvar spent endless hours in cadaver labs during medical school practicing new surgical techniques on his way to becoming one of the best neurosurgeons in the world. Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment, without worry of past events or future possibilities. It’s an essential skill for managing the inevitable stress of everyday life inside and outside of the OR. Flow state is the culmination of grit and mindfulness.
“At its core is finding my flow state, which is the place where I think without thinking, operating on autopilot, and trusting my training and my instincts,” says Dr. Boockvar. “It’s where I do my best work, and where I need to be if I want to save lives without my mind and my anxiety getting in the way.”