Linking Mindfulness and Peak Performance

by Pete Kirchmer

mPEAK Flow

“Performance Enhancement” is a popular goal in my line of work that is typically associated with the supplement industry or return on investment (ROI) business strategies. Images are conjured up of competitive athletes in bright lycra crossing finish lines, a lone climber sumiting a mountain with ice picks or people in suits shaking hands on big business deals. This is in stark contrast to images that come to mind when thinking about “mindfulness”. This ancient wisdom tradition inspires peaceful images of stacked stones, Zen gardens and people sitting with serene posture on beaches at sunset. So how exactly does Mindfulness fit with Performance Enhancement? Although seemingly opposites, research with the US Olympic BMX Cycling Team suggests that mindfulness practice actually has a lot to contribute to those aspiring to enhance their performance; and it’s not all beaches and sunsets.

logo-mpeakCorporate leaders, extreme sports enthusiasts and everyday people who are looking for a competitive edge have been flocking to mindfulness training programs such as mPEAK, to help them cultivate presence, resilience and emotional regulation for greater success in work, sport and life. As a Mindfulness Based Health Coach I’ve been exploring this link between mindfulness and performance with my clients for the last decade. The path to improving performance is not always a straight one but there are several consistent themes that have emerged in my work.

Presence & Flow

When all of life’s circumstances align and conditions are just right; meaning you’re engaged in an inspiring and novel activity, you’re being challenged but feel competent and there is a degree of risk involved, you’re granted access to a deep state of presence called “flow”. According to positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow, also known as “The Zone”, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. But how often does life offer us this perfect set of circumstances? When was the last time you found yourself in a state of flow? Occasionally you might find yourself naturally engaged in conversation, attentive to a project, deeply immersed in a book, hobby or sport. But what I’ve found in my practice is that people more often default into a state of distraction; they’re lost in thought, zoned out, ruminating, and mindless. In this state, peak performance and enjoyment are unavailable.

Luckily, it’s not necessary to passively wait for the perfect storm of conditions before you find yourself in flow. The specific mindfulness practices I teach my clients offers access to the present moment no matter what the external circumstances. With a blend of focused concentration, physical embodiment and a sense of allowing things to be as they are, mindfulness is a necessary and powerful precursor to experiencing flow. My clients and the participants of the mPEAK program are challenged to bring a sense of curiosity and a “beginners mind” to every moment, expanding the possibilities of experiencing flow in the high performance activities they’re involved in as well as in every day situations.

Emotional Regulation & Resilience

mPEAK Tour BikersMost of the people who seek my coaching are already pretty good at what they do and have had there fair share of successes. Their strengths and skills have gotten them far, but still they have a sense that something is holding them back from performing at there peak potential. Does this sound like you? There are times when it’s all coming together; you’re making consistent progress and seeing gains but then all of a sudden…SMACK! Life happens, right? You fumble the ball, pull a hamstring, miss a deadline, blow a deal, or worse. To add insult to injury, perhaps your temper flares and you say the wrong thing to the wrong person. Or maybe your pattern is to shut down and spiral into self-defeating thoughts. If so, you’re hardly alone; this happens to everyone at some point whether you’re a pro athlete or even a mindfulness professional! The reason we react to challenges this way is that our brain interprets these setbacks as a threat to our survival, which triggers the sympathetic nervous system’s fight/ flight reaction. With adrenaline and cortisol running through the veins; anger, blame, self-criticism and escapism are automatic, habitual reactions. These unconscious stress-driven reactions make the initial problem exponentially worse and lead to lower self confidence and higher stress levels.

What I’ve found is that life, work and sport will all offer consistent challenges but what separates the high performers from the rest, is how we respond to these challenges. For instance the best thing that ever happened for my sport and life was to rupture a disc in my lower back. You see, before facing the possibility of never running again, I took this body for granted. It wasn’t until I was faced with the pain of losing my identity as an athlete that I really began to understand what a gift it is to freely move and lift and play. Rather than let it stop me, this challenge eventually inspired me to levels of performance that far exceeded my original state. I’ve had clients with similar experiences of transformation after big evens such as facing the loss of a business or a marriage. With a perspective based in mindfulness and self-compassion, these challenges can serve as the bell to finally awaken to our lives and our purpose.

In my practice, I’ve seen time and time again how mindfulness practice can lead to greater awareness of potential obstacles as well as more skillful decision-making; so the frequency of life smacking you down becomes less. And when life does inevitably deal you a rough hand, these practices can help you respond more skillfully, get up faster, turn challenges into practice opportunities and ultimately do less harm to yourself and others.

As the lead trainer of the upcoming 3-Day mPEAK Intensive this March, I’ll be teaching high performers from around the country how to pause and maintain a centered, balanced perspective and find resilience even in the face of challenges. With these new capacities for resilience and access to flow states, participants can begin to perform more consistently at their peak potential.

If you’re ready to sign up for the 3-Day mPEAK Intensive this March please click here. If you have any questions regarding the mPEAK program, please contact me at mpeak@ucsd.edu.

Perhaps someday in the future, when we think of mindfulness we’ll imagine athletes in uniform sitting with serene posture on playing fields and people in suits pausing silently before meetings. The more research that emerges, the more obvious it becomes that Mindfulness and Performance are truly on the same team.

peter_kirchmerPete Kirchmer is a lead trainer in the the mPEAK program designed and developed at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. He is founder of Mindfulness Based Health and specializes in coaching his clients in applying the practice of mindfulness to making healthy lifestyle changes as well as improving performance in life, work and sport. Pete has completed training as a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher through the UMass Oasis Inst., holds a BS in Exercise Physiology, and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through the Coaches Training institute, Center for Applied Positive Psychology and Wellcoaches. Currently Pete has a private coaching practice with clients around the country.  He is a regular presenter at Rancho La Puerta, a world-class wellness resort in Tecate, Mexico, is an active member of the Harvard Institute for Coaching and is on the Board of Directors for the Encinitas Mindfulness Community. For more information about Pete Kirchmer please visit his Mindfulness Based Health Coaching website.

 

THANKFUL: Appreciating Beautiful Gifts from Children and Youth

By LeesaMaree Bleicher

LiseeMaree-Bleicher-300x168-2Visit LeesaMaree Bleicher, along with M. Mick Gardener, at the 2015 Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth Conference in their 90-minute breakout session called enlighten: a Trauma Informed Mindfulness Based Therapeutic approach combining Restorative Justice as an answer to youth involved in the criminal justice system. Promoting the concept of: Survivor Empowerment not Victimization of Recovery not Incarceration.

LiseeMaree BleicherAlbert Schweitzer said, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

Nowhere is this spark as bright than in the heart of a youth. Nowhere does there lay a stronger elixir to waken your purpose than in the sparkling enthusiasm of a child’s spirit. And nowhere is there a grander purpose than the need to ease the suffering of a child.

The beautiful thing about helping children is that buried beneath the armor and attitude is this snow-white innocence, this flawless foundation, this feral potential still connected to God, or source, or that which is greater than us individually. This goodness remains steadfast despite the harm adults have done.

Our mission is to guide them back to this place of bliss, if only momentarily. In the shift to recovery, not treatment, we have come to understand “recovery” as recovering that which was lost from us: innocence, joy, light, that feral potential. Discovering the road back to that place of purity and reclaiming our power is the key to freedom from suffering.

Our mission, should we choose to realize it, is to be the guides whose purpose is to steer youth back to reclaim their potential. We do this each time we teach that even in the unbearable moments in life and in the dark of a night of unimaginable pain, there shines a dim but powerful light that will one day illuminate the darkness. And within this light, there shines their power and their way out of suffering.

Ideally we strive to plant the seeds of patience, tolerance and acceptance in our youth.

We affirm: “Life is not fair 8359890249_ed085986b0_b-360x200-1and no you did nothing wrong. No it is not your fault. No you do not deserve what happened to you. No one can make it better, but one day if you just hang on — have faith — one day, I promise you will be OK. One day you will emerge from this stronger and more powerful than you can ever imagine.”

When the testimony of sharing lived experience trumps our cool “professional boundaries,” we make a true and lasting difference. Speaking from the heart and sharing our human experience plants seeds of hope, inspiration, and resilience in youth. Nowhere can we feel the way of freedom from suffering than knowing someone who has walked down a similar path of torment, come out standing steady despite someone else’s best effort to make them fall, and still has enough fierce courage left to tell their story.

Speaking candidly, most youth who like myself come to be in jail, in foster care, or other programs do so by force of their external circumstances. Many come from fragmented, broken homes where they witness and endure unspeakable acts of cruelty from the adults who should be protecting them. Rarely do youth land in these places by their own choice.

Emotional, physical, spiritual, and sexual abuse manifest in the blueprint of our souls and spirits. Such abuse might express itself as a 4th grader bullying his classmate, a youth stealing, a youth who yells obscenities at authority figures, who refuses to eat, who is promiscuous, who skips school, who takes drugs, who cuts their flesh in an effort to feel or not feel pain. It’s the days of silence before an attempted (or successful) suicide where we often mistake the symptom for the cause and fail in our attempts to “treat” them. It’s that approach which undermines the very core of their suffering. And it’s where we as adults fail them yet again.

It was in the vacant blue eyes of an 8-year-old boy named Travis who came to live in my home when I first realized how futile, how misguided, and how inhumane this system to care for children was. It is still raw, and I am not sure yet if I can fully capture how profoundly my time with him altered my heart. This experience both expanded my heart beyond what I thought was possible and then reduced it to nothing when he was gone.

One day while we were together, Travis “disconnected.” Fell silent, withdrawn. And I asked him, “What are thinking about? What makes you so sad? You can tell me anything, and I will believe you. And there’s nothing you tell me I won’t think is important.” After awhile, he came to me and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know why sometimes I can be happy, and all of the sudden I feel sad. It comes out of nowhere.” I looked at him, cupped his tiny perfect chin in my hand, peered into his blue eyes and wrapped my arms around him. I hugged him tightly and said “I know. And it’s OK. I feel like that sometimes too. And you know what? One day you won’t feel like that all the time. One day you’ll take that sadness and turn it into happy.”

All he was unable to say was conveyed in the way he hugged me back. And in that precious moment when he mumbled “Thank you.” I thought my heart would break.

There was nothing I learned from a text book, nothing from evidence-based practice, and nothing in the foster parent orientation that prepared me for that moment. I reacted from my heart.

My only desire was to ease his suffering and instill within him the tiniest notion that no matter what he felt, it was OK and that it was only temporary.

The reality is that when we come into a child’s life to aid them, they are held in a punitive, restrictive, inflexible system. We don’t always look past that to what brought them into that system to begin with. If we increased our awareness, we would see that few children are delinquent, homeless, end up in jail, or in foster care by their own volition. They come to these places battered, bruised, and sad, having been victimized by adults.

In the months that passed with Travis, after my heart ran ahead of any reason, I watched a sad little boy turn into a bright, happy, fun-loving child who didn’t need medication or to be bounced around from foster home to foster home. What he needed was to be loved.

Now, there was nothing I could have offered Travis that ever could have replaced what his parents failed to give him. My love was a Band-Aid to soothe him until he could grow enough to care for himself. But far more miraculous than anything that I gave him was what he gave to me.

One of my tendencies was to over-explain myself; to offer excuses and/or apologies for nearly everything to everyone. One day, I was going on and on to a friend about why I didn’t do something when from the top of the stairs I heard this little voice say, “LeesaMaree, stop that. You don’t have to explain yourself. It’s OK whatever you do.” I froze at his wisdom and the fact that he cared to try to ease my suffering. Wow.

Then, I came to deeply understand the bigger context of this whole boundary thing. And I came to know that anytime we seek to engage in the helping of another being, it is not so simply a gift we give. It is not one sided.

The moment we think this, we have already failed. We as the perceived “givers” are really part of a mutually beneficial healing exchange connected to a greater energy. Once we come to understand and seek to increase our sensitivity and re-establish the heart in recovery and treatment, once we incorporate living testimony in our practice, only then will we make a true and lasting impact.

This time of year we celebrate thanks for Bridging Badgemany blessings. But as a “profession,” we overlook the rich and beautiful gifts that the children we encounter give us: the opportunity to care, to express our warmest compassion, and to ease suffering. All these things alter us. They allow us to ascend toward the deeper meaning of our shared human experience. The next time a child or a parent or someone else says thank you for the work you do, with humility and honor defer him or her and say, “No, thank you.”

Thankful

(a poem inspired the youth who have walked into my life and left imprints upon my heart)

The leaves fall…fluttering to the ground…landing like a thrush
Awaiting winter’s rush from summer’s dream
I remember summer… bright green and sparkling
and I remember you…your hand extended towards mine…offering me your heart
Giving me that moment…your time…yourself
You said, “Come this way. Here, let me show you… See the sun how it shines?”
Your smile confused the sun and stole starlight’s sparkle
“Listen. You can hear the grass tell its secrets …follow the burrowing bunny, he knows the way…see the Stellar Jay…as he chats up dawn…urging the flowers to wake up…he knows what I am talking about. His blue wings touch heaven”
I ran away from you…but never far… You were everywhere…in everyone
You tied me with a fragile cord of compassion…bound me to the fertile ground…tied me to heaven…left seeds in my hand
You allowed me to fall but not be crushed
Like the leaves, I too have been pink, russet, pumpkin and golden
It was the seeds you left… clutched tight in my hand
One day I remembered…it all came back in one fell whoosh
You cared …You took the time…You forgave me
You gave me another chance and a million more
You listened to me…You reignited the spark
Oh I am so thankful for You
Oh those seeds you left… I planted them under the moonlight…and when they blossomed…I crushed them and stuffed them in my heart
I knew what to do ’cause you said “the best way to show someone how much you appreciate them is to pass on what they gave to you.”
So…I watered the seeds with tears…transformed my fears…infused them with love
Oh I didn’t have it for myself…that care and concern
But I do for them…the ones that come behind me
So I scattered the seeds in the wind of each encounter
Oh, and I did exactly as you taught me …I gave my heart generously and… I fertilized the seeds with glitter…so that those who come behind me will sparkle brighter…than I ever did

Why go on retreat?

by Beth Mulligan

Beth Mulligan is a co-founder of Mindful-Way Stress beth mulligan headshopReduction Programs, which offers MBSR and other mindfulness based interventions and retreats through out Southern California, nationally and internationally. Beth has a background in primary care medicine as a Board Certified Physician Assistant and has practiced medicine for over 25 years. She is a long time student of Roshi Charles Tenshin Fletcher at Yokoji Zen Center where she has lived in residence, is a Vipassana Dharma teacher at Insight Community of the Desert, and a certified yoga instructor.

Why go on Retreat?
Great question! As a certified MBSR teacher and teacher trainer – for the UMass Center for Mindfulness and a mentor for the UCSD Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute (MBTI), I get asked this question more and more. If you look at the prerequisites for teaching MBSR or other MBI’s all over the world, the recommendation for personal retreat practice is consistent. To answer the question, I may start by quoting the originator of MBSR; Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (from his article “Some Reflections on the Origins of MBSR, Skillful Means, and the Trouble with Maps.”
“ I personally consider the sitting of relatively long…teacher led, silent retreats to be an absolute necessity in the developing of one’s own meditation practice, understanding and effectiveness as a teacher… it is a laboratory requirement.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

Regarding information on Mindfulness Meditation retreats, I might also refer them to the UMass CFM website and Spirit Rock Meditation Center.

But really I have to answer this question for myself, just as the heart of Mindfulness Based Interventions are an invitation to access one’s own wisdom, I need to turn within to answer it. In order to ask people to face the difficulties of their lives, chronic pain, sick family members, financial stressors, “The Full Catastrophe”, I need to know and have the confidence that I can do this myself. With the help of a good teachers in a supportive environment. I have found this capacity on the many retreats that I have attended. Mindfulness and the teaching of mindfulness are “inside out” learning and teaching. So while we hold the written curriculum with great integrity, and educate ourselves about the research, and understand the foundations of experiential learning, ultimately we have to know the interior landscape of our own hearts, minds and bodies. This is where the real curriculum lies. If we are asking people to go inside to find their own wisdom, to face pain and loss with openness, curiosity and kindness (a very tall order) then it is important that we do this ourselves. Not just to be good teachers- of what has been described as “Intensive training in meditative practices”, but to really know and live our lives fully. For thousands of years people have found the silent container of retreat, held by strong teachers – who have sat on their own cushions for many hours, to be an effective way to see into the changing nature of things and to build resilience to face whatever comes in our lives with some degree of equanimity. In the age of technology and heightened busyness and distraction, it feels more important than ever, to find this silence and stillness where we can study the real curriculum that lies within.

If this has inspired you, I hope you’ll join us in January 2015 at a 5 night silent retreat designed with you in mind. We’ll meet at the beautiful historic Joshua Tree Retreat Center January 13-18th. Please go to www.mindful-way.com/retreats for more information.

Beth Mulligan, PA-C is a certified MBSR teacher and teacher trainer through UMass Center for Mindfulness. She has been teaching MBSR for over a decade to diverse populations; from the critically ill, to non-profit organizations, the underserved, educators, and corporate leaders. She currently teaches at the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine at UCI and Insight LA. Beth teaches the 10 week and 9 day practicum for teachers in training nationally and internationally through the UMass CFM. She is also trained in and teaches Mindful Eating and Mindful Self Compassion

How About Making an “Old Year’s Resolution” to Be More Compassionate to Yourself in the New Year?

steve-hickmanBy Steven Hickman, Psy.D.
Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher and Teacher Trainer
Executive Director, UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness

Perhaps you have seen the clever t-shirt depicting a pirate on his ship exclaiming “The beatings will continue until morale improves!” We tend to laugh at that sentiment because at some point in our lives we have probably found ourselves on the receiving end of that sort of “logic”. And we also laugh because we know it is a ridiculous notion that pummeling someone with negativity will bring about more positivity. It’s like continuing to put your car in reverse in order to move forward.

But consider for a moment where your New Year’s Resolutions come from and see if there are some seeds of this approach in how you treat yourself. Do you look into the mirror and think, “Listen Big Guy, I know you want to lose a few pounds because it’s important to you to stay healthy for your wife and kids. Can you commit to working on this in the New Year”? Or is the tone a bit more like “What’s wrong with you? How could you let yourself go like this? This is so typical of you. You’re such a lazy bum. You need to get off your butt and exercise. This year’s New Year’s resolution will be lose that ugly gut!”

For many of us these days, the latter judgmental tone is much more familiar than the former, more kind and encouraging tone. And we actually know from the research on self-compassion, done by Dr. Kristin Neff and others, that we are significantly more effective at motivating ourselves to change if that motivation involves a self-compassionate, rather than punitive and critical, approach.

In the Mindful Self-Compassion program created by Christopher Germer, Ph.D. and Kristin Neff, Ph.D., there is a key exercise called Finding Your Core Values (drawn from Steven Hayes’ Acceptance and Commitment) where we guide people to consider what is most deeply important in their lives, and where they are not living in accord with those values. Perhaps you value ease and equanimity in your personal life, and you find that meditation supports you in that, but lately you haven’t been meditating as much as you would like. This is a place where you are out of alignment with your core values. How helpful have you found it to berate yourself for not meditating enough? That’s what I thought!

What if you could connect more deeply with what really moves you and be guided by that in difficult or stressful times so that you make better choices that are more in alignment with what is profoundly important to you? Research suggests that one way to do this would be to let go of the self-critical voice that is desperately trying to take care of you and keep you from harm, but doing it in dysfunctional and counter-productive ways like that pirate above!

When you ponder something you would like to change about yourself or your behavior (things that you can actually change) as part of a New Year’s resolution, consider how you normally talk to yourself about that behavior and how successful that approach has been so far (given that it is still on your list of things you want to change!). And then consider the possibility of speaking to yourself in a more loving and supportive way, the way you would want to be motivated by a mentor or coach or supportive friend. Could the more self-compassionate approach actually touch the part of you that wants very much for this change to happen? What would it be like to motivate yourself out of love and positive regard for yourself rather than criticism, judgment and shaming?

All evidence points to this self-compassion approach being far more effective and sustainable than the self-critical approach and it actually feels better too!

If you find yourself struggling with being kind to yourself, or want to be able to meet your own struggle and suffering with tolerance, warmth and acceptance, you might want consider taking the Mindful Self-Compassion program, either in an 8-week version if one is near you, or in a 5-day intensive format. Check the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion website for more information on programs near you.

Steven D. Hickman, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and Executive Director of the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. He is a Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) teacher as well as being co-developer of the MSC Teacher Training. Dr. Hickman and Kristy Arbon will be offering a 5-day intensive version of MSC in Barre, Massachusetts on January 18-23, 2015. Check Kristy Arbon’s Mindful Self-Compassion Training website for more information and to register. If you are in San Diego, consider taking the 8-week MSC course in January.

 

Learning to Teach MBCT Practices Via the Web: Technology Supporting Teacher Development

By Zindel Segal, PhD and Sona Dimidjian, PhD

Online Training for Teaching Mindfulness In Your Clinical Practice

Z MindfulNoggin_email_adIt was February in 2010, Sona and I were at the end of the fourth day of teaching together a five-day intensive training in MBCT. We were sitting in the lodge of the meditation retreat center in Joshua Tree, California enjoying the beauty, silence, and spaciousness of our surroundings and beginning to engage a question raised by participants in that workshop, like many before them and many to come: how do I carry all that I have learned back into my daily life and work setting? It is a common reaction among participants who have taken MBCT clinical workshops. It usually surfaces towards the end of the training and is expressed in questions such as ‘what comes next?’ or ‘how can I support my learning?’. As we reflected on these questions, we realized that some of the searching arose from the very natural apprehension about returning to solo practice after days of instructed group learning and returning to the hustle and bustle of daily life after engaging deeply the practices of MBCT in a retreat setting. At the same time, however, we also heard in these questions a desire for more support, guidance and community in their intention to integrate the skills and practices they had learned over the week. We began to wonder about ways in which we could support such intentions, building on what we could provide during in person workshops. How could we best support practitioners as they worked to strengthen the experiential and content learning that comes with personal practice and clinical implementation?

mmb-enroll-imgThe issue resurfaced in an interesting way, during our collaboration to develop an online version of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. We evaluated this digital version of MBCT – called Mindful Mood Balance – in a quasi-experimental open trial with 100 recovered depressed patients at Kaiser-Permanente Colorado and got promising results, Sona MMB Final BRAT (Dimidjian, S. Beck, A. Felder, J. Boggs, J. Gallop, R. & Segal. Z. (in press). Web-based Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for reducing residual depressive symptoms: An open trial and quasi-experimental comparison to propensity score matched controls. Behaviour Research and Therapy. We are continuing this work on extending MBCT for patients with a recently funded, larger definitive, randomized trial that we will conduct with recovered depressed patients reporting residual depressive symptoms (R01 – MH102229). As we developed Mindful Mood Balance, we began to realize that it was one way we might respond to the questions that were raised at the Joshua Tree retreat center in 2010. Mindful Mood Balance was built to teach patients explicitly some of the core skills of MBCT, but it also might be a valuable resource for clinicians who want to get the “feel” of the MBCT curriculum as it unfolds over time and who might benefit from the structure of an 8-week program in supporting their own practice of the core elements of MBCT. With this knowledge in mind, we also began to imagine other ways in which we could offer training to clinicians on some of the more subtle and challenging aspects of delivering MBCT. We built a program that taught therapists the detailed use of one of the core MBCT skills, the three minute breathing space, which they could use with their clients. We didn’t see either of these offerings as a replacement for in person training, but as another option in the array of treatment/ training resources, with distinct advantages of being able to learn from one’s home on one’s own schedule. .

The Three Minute Breathing Space Course, for example, teaches therapists how to deliver this practice, how to perform inquiry, how to make one’s own recordings and how to integrate the practice into daily life.

Therapists can also participate in a community of learners who are taking the course at the same time. Provided there is interest and benefit, our vision would be to build more contexts for learning responsive to what clinicians find challenging in delivering MBCT.

We have partnered with eLearning experts Brian and Traci Knudson in order to integrate clinical science and leading e-Learning technology, in courseware for health care professionals who want to enhance and enrich their clinical practice through delivering compassionate and effective mindfulness-based interventions. While it is still early days, we are curious to find out whether such modern / technological means can help support others in their use of these ancient / simple practices.

zindel_segal_120x1561Zindel Segal is one of the co-founders and developers (along with John Teasdale and Mark William) of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Dr. Segal, along with Sarah Bowen and Steven Hickman, will be leading a 5-Day Professional Training Retreat in MBCT on February 15-20, 2015 at the EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, California. Registration is now open for this experiential training event.

 

 

Read About Insights Into Mindfulness at Work From: A Career Professional’s Perspective

By Roxanne Farkas, original post National Career Development Association

Roxanne FarkasRoxanne Farkas, M.A., is a Career Advisor and professional career coach at the University of California, San Diego. She’s a Certified MBTI Practitioner and future Yoga Instructor who loves helping her clients and colleagues create clear, compelling visions of their amazing futures through a creative holistic and integrated approach to career advising. Roxanne may be contacted at rfarkas@ucsd.edu

Mindfulness: What is it?

Within the world of work, we face multiple demands and pressures on a regular–even constant–basis. We’re juggling multiple (and changing!) priorities, balancing competing demands for our personal and professional goals, and handling routine conflict and chaos.

More than meditation or simply paying more attention to our lives, mindfulness is “the intention to pay attention to each and every moment of our life, non-judgmentally,” through the focused development of awareness (Center for Mindfulness Stress Reduction FAQs, 2014). Mindfulness includes “purposeful action, focused attention, grounded in the current experience, and held with a sense of curiosity” (Center for Mindfulness Stress Reduction FAQs, 2014).

My Connection to Mindfulness at Work

Participants in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs enter with stress, low motivation, bad health habits, and a deep desire for change. Eight weeks later, through workshops, practical exercises and practice, participants experience deep and profound change. I know, because I participated in the University of California, San Diego MBSR and experienced these transformations myself. I have incorporated mindfulness in my own career coaching and advising, helping my clients to practice and enjoy the positive benefits of mindfulness for themselves. As a result, I feel I like I am helping to create a more mindful world of work through the individual clients I help.

Connecting Mindfulness to my Practice

In my career development practice, I have engaged clients in journal writing, career mapping, and imagery meditation activities to focus on goal setting and career action planning. Activities like these and the following help my clients think more creatively, experience more hope, and feel more confident in their career discovery and development, and ultimately, the work world.

  • Journaling. If something has meaning, write it down. I draw futuristic images of what goals I would like to accomplish someday. I love to brainstorm ideas and personal goals. Writing helps me focus on what matters to me most.
  • Meditate at Lunch. Sit in stillness like a mountain. Life can be so chaotic at times that sometimes just to to be grounded in a relaxing pose will allow me to regain my energy. Use mini meditations to tune into the present and just be.
  • Charting Ideas and Interest. Draw a mapping chart of all the things you like to do, and create a powerful vision for planning the future. Look over your map. What are some themes, hobbies, music, and books you enjoy? Share your map with someone you trust, or who believes in you.
  • Practice Yoga/Running/Movement. Exercise reduces tension and clears the mind. If you have the opportunity to exercise at work – take it!
  • Breathe. Drink lots of water and breathe deeply. Try to stop for one minute every hour and become aware of your breathing.

Mindful Mindset Activities in Career Counseling

In a Discover Your Dream Workshop” I teach, I have students go through an image gathering exercise where I have them draw and predict a future seven years from now. As the facilitator, I offer guided prompts and create a peaceful atmosphere with my calm voice, appropriate music, and lowered lighting.

In my Career Peer Educator Program, we take a guided walking tour of the school campus. I help them draw attention to different aspects of our campus, and ask them to pay special attention to the moment-to-moment aspects of our walk. For example, the way the wind feels right now, or the many different sounds they can hear, right down to the sounds of their own footsteps on the paths.

A quick assignment I often give is writing a “gratitude email” to influential or inspirational staff, faculty, friends, family, or mentors.

In advising, I ask clients to share one favorite quote and explain what the meaning or value may be. In this way, I am encouraging deeper exploration and reflection than they might normally do.

During advising sessions, I will use focused breathing activities to help students focus their attention, relax, and create a more powerful state for reflection and action.

I frequently conduct advising outdoors or at one of the many community centers on campus to encourage students to notice and possibly connect with the many different resources available to them.

My office setting includes artwork, meaningful objects, and inspirational quotes which I refer to during advising sessions to inspire creativity and motivation.

Another favorite activity is creating workshops and panel presentations that focus on careers in wellness, public health, and alternative medicine. Special career panels include Careers in Wellness, Public Health, Alternative Medicine and Wellness Careers.

Mindfulness at Work in Organizations

With the rising costs of healthcare and a stronger emphasis on wellness, it’s easier than ever to participate in a mindfulness program through work. You can find mindfulness programs in Fortune 500 companies like Monsanto and Google, magazine publishers like Marie Claire (Klein, 2013), and as programs offered through company wellness programs.

Searching for mindfulness in your favorite internet search engine will produce a wide variety of results for further research. Likewise, several great books are available, and you’ll find several mindfulness apps available as well.

Now, as you finish reading this article, take a moment to pause, reflect, and notice your surroundings. Take a deep breath, slowly exhale, and allow your mind to wander…and when you’re ready, take one final, refreshing deep breath, stretch, and feel yourself re-energize for what’s next!

References

Center for Mindfulness Stress Reduction FAQs. (2014). Retrieved July 23, 2014 from: http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/Stress-Reduction/Faqs/

Klein, K. (2013). Why mindfulness and meditation are good for business. Retrieved from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-mindfulness-and-meditation-are-good-for-business/

flower2For more information about the UCSD Center for Mindfulness Worklife Integration programs please visit our website. “Our WorkLife Integration programs address the stress and pressures that work and life have on our minds and bodies, our work performance and our personal lives.”

Opening To The Beauty Of The World: An iBme Teen Retreat Alumni’s Experience

Adolescence is an extraordinary and vulnerable time- teens face so many possibilities and opportunities and also pitfalls. The sad statistics point to the high incidence of depression onset during the teenage years, of bullying and stress. Despite being the healthiest time of life, adolescence is also the riskiest- with the highest risk of death from accidents and suicide.

As someone who works with teens, it feels cliché to say “teens today have it worse than past generations” – but I also remember quite well my teen years before the internet and cell phones- it did seem a lot easier. Challenges and distractions multiply every day for teens who face with ubiquitous technology, social media, school and social pressures.

For these reasons, learning mindfulness in adolescence can have a lifelong positive impact. Particularly learning “relational mindfulness” – empathy, compassion, deep listening and heartfelt communication – in the context of an immersive retreat has the power to change the trajectory of a life. I’ve witnessed this in my own life- as a teen retreatant 20 years ago- and in the feedback from hundreds of teens and their parents that I’ve worked with over the past five years.

One Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme) retreat alumni, Emily Yuen, wrote eloquently about her experience on retreat:

“My father had pushed me to meditate with him in the past, but I had always been doubtful about its effectiveness. It had seemed too abstract to be applicable to my life. When he enrolled me in the iBme teen meditation retreat, I immediately wanted to cancel. But because I was in such an exceptionally fragile state, I decided I would try it.

Upon arrival at the retreat center, I felt pleasantly welcomed. The warm air kissed my cheeks, and open smiles greeted my every turn. Although frightened, I was open to change. But the first day was still a bit of a jolt. I wasn’t expecting the kids on the retreat to be so friendly, the leaders to be so empathetic, or the weather to be so beautiful.

Most of all, I wasn’t expecting the exercises to be so challenging. It was difficult to sit with myself and brew over lifetime repressions, to face things I’ve never wanted to face. The lack of cellphones, email, and social media, as well as the absence of traffic, crowds, and obligations led me to a state of puzzlement. Who was I without all these references?

Through the intensity of tai chi, a healthy diet, meditation exercises, and sharing personal stories in a supportive group setting, my eyes slowly started to open to the world. I had a moment alone in the wilderness where tears trickled down my awe-stricken face. The spider webs reflected infinite rainbows; the weeds emitted a fragrance worthy of royalty; the sun warmed my inner soul; and the breeze whispered words of love. The earth no longer seemed a bitter place I needed to escape but rather a tender setting I wanted to embrace. My body quivered at all the time I had been wasting in my dark, heartless, and blind state.

Since then, there are of course still times I feel bleak and overwhelmed with the business of life; times I feel my mind will explode from the amount of information I have to retain; and times I swear the day does not contain enough hours to complete my dulling tasks. But I remember what I have learned… For the first time in my life, I am able to remember to be mindful of my cluttered conscious and to see the constant beauty of the world. I continue to remember those pesky, eight-legged critters that produce masterpieces and the persistent weeds I liken to blooming roses. I also look for the sun to send rays of light that peacefully wake me, and the chilling winds that blow tunes of harmony throughout the land.”

This summer iBme is offering four retreats in California – including a Young Adult Wilderness Retreat for Teens and a Teen Retreat in Wrightwood, 90 minutes outside of L.A. Please be in touch with any questions- jessica@ibme.info.

Making Mindfulness Part of Your Life: Insights from an Adult with ADHD

By Lidia Zylowska MD

ZylowskaLidia Zylowska, MD is psychiatrist specializing in adult ADD/ADHD, mindfulness-based approaches and integrative psychiatry. Co-founding member of UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, Dr. Zylowska led the development of the MAPs for ADHD program and authored The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD book.

UCSD Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute is Book_zylowska_100pxnow offering Mindfulness for ADHD: Training for Adults, Parents and Professionals. The training will take place August 7-10, 2014 at Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. The training is a retreat-version of the 8-week MAPs for ADHD that my colleagues and I originally developed at UCLA. The training is open to all touched by ADHD: adults with ADHD and their spouses, parents of ADHD children, therapist or teachers that work with ADHD individuals. If that’s you, we hope you’ll join us for this gradual, ADD-friendly introduction to mindfulness. Please click here for more information or to register.

Preparing for the training, I recently posed several questions about mindfulness to Jon Krop, an adult living with ADHD. Jon has been practicing mindfulness for a long time and I wanted him to share his experience. Here are his answers which also highlight the fact that we each have to find ‘what works’ in keeping mindfulness in our lives.

Q: How do you think mindfulness (or meditation) helps with ADHD?

Distraction used to carry me off before I could even acknowledge what was happening. I’d be working on a project, and then before I knew it I’d be fifteen minutes deep in a Wikipedia black hole or surfing through random blogs. The process of distraction seemed to move too fast, with too much momentum, for me to intervene. Meditation has helped me with that. Not always, but decently often, I can spot the impulse to indulge in a distraction the moment it arises and before I reflexively act on it. It feels as if I have an extra second to decide what to do. Even when I don’t catch it that early, I catch myself earlier than I would have before I started my meditation practice.

Along those same lines of having an “extra second” to decide how to act, I feel that meditation has helped me think more before I speak. I used to say unintentionally hurtful things, only to regret it an instant after the words were out of my mouth. I didn’t have a filter — or I guess I had one, but it was too slow-acting to do its job. Now it feels like there’s a bit more space between the urge to speak arising and the words pouring out of my mouth, and I actually have a chance to reflect on whether or not I want to say what I’m about to say.

In general, there’s a feeling of increased clarity and control. I see the contents of my mind — impulses, emotions, thoughts, etc — much more distinctly, like they’re laid out neatly on a workspace in front of me instead of being a sort of murk clouding up my head. And where once my thoughts, impulses, etc would immediately grab me and sort of take possession of me, now I have that extra bit of space that lets me decide how I want to act and which emotions, impulses, etc I want to engage with.

Also, I generally just feel happier and more at ease. I didn’t realize how tense and jittery I felt all the time until I started meditating regularly and those feelings began to subside. My moment-to-moment experience is more peaceful and relaxed, with a sense that everything is basically fine.

Q: How do you think having ADHD has influenced your meditation practice?

I may have a harder-than-average time with the discipline of maintaining a daily practice. It took a lot of years to finally lock that down. Also, I’ve experienced doubts and fears about whether my ADHD will limit my ability to meditate, to progress along the path and experience the full benefits, etc. So far these doubts seem totally baseless, but I’ve had to face and overcome those beliefs so that they don’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Q: Any advice for those for those with ADHD who are new to mindfulness/meditation?

1. Sticking to a daily practice is hard for everyone, and it’s probably even harder for us, but it’s really important. Here’s what’s worked for me:

-I wake up at a set time every morning and immediately meditate, before doing anything else. I have to be really strict about this. If I wake up late or do anything else first — breakfast, a workout, checking my phone — I have trouble getting myself to sit. But when I follow this rule, it’s almost effortless. Not sure why, but that’s how it is.

-If I absolutely can’t meditate first thing in the morning, and the resistance to sitting arises, I have a backup strategy: I shrink the length of the session in my head until I hit a level I don’t feel resistance to. Like, “Could I do 15 minutes? No, I feel resistance, I’m not gonna do it. Okay, what about 10? Still too long, the thought puts me off. Okay, 5? Huh, I don’t feel resistance to that. I feel like I can sit for 5.” I’d much rather sit for a short time, and keep the momentum of my meditation habit, than not sit at all.

2. Do a retreat as soon as you can, whether it’s ten days, or a week, or a weekend, or a day, or whatever you feel ready for. With daily practice alone, it might take a little time for the benefits of meditation to really show themselves (for me, it took a couple weeks). It can be a challenge to stay disciplined and put in daily work for a reward you haven’t experienced yet. You can skip that by doing a short period of intense practice and tasting the benefits right away. That should fire you up for the daily practice.

For More Information and to register for Mindfulness for ADHD: earthriseTraining for Adults, Parents and Professionals, August 7-10, 2014 at Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA., please visit the UCSD Professional Training Institute website.

Finding the Magic in Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT): A Participant’s Perspective

by a CCT Participant

self-compassion-smCompassion Cultivation Training is an eight-week educational program designed to help you improve your resilience and feel more connected to others—ultimately providing an overall sense of well-being. CCT combines traditional contemplative practices with contemporary psychology and scientific research to help you lead a more compassionate life. Through instruction, daily meditation, mindfulness, and in-class interaction, you can strengthen the qualities of compassion, empathy, and kindness.”

I would like to share my experience with the Compassion Cultivation Training course (CCT) taught by Sara Schraier in January 2014.

I had a couple of questions up front, but they were only going to be answered after I finished the course. I already practice and teach a meditation technique I love. But I wanted more compassion in my life. Would there be a conflict trying to do both practices daily? My other question was about the guided meditations that the CCT course provides. If I listened to these guided meditations over and over again, would I lose interest in them?

The 8 classes were fun and intriguing. This class was a 130 mile drive round trip for me (because I live in Orange County), but I looked forward to the trip each week. Within fifteen minutes of the first class, Sara created a welcome and safe atmosphere. Made me feel like I was in the right place. Sara’s honesty and authenticity was refreshing as she shared how compassion helped her deal with difficult life circumstances.

In spite of our prior experiences with meditation, compassion cultivation was a new experience for all of us. There was a nice balance to class with a short talk, active group discussions & a guided compassion practice at the end. Each class had a new theme supported by the lecture and guided meditation. Sara did a wonderful job explaining the themes and helping us look at how they apply in our own lives. The CCT guided meditations by Thupten Jinpa are a treasure. He has a mesmerizing voice and cadence and he guides the listener with a humble simplicity and an open heart.

I am writing this review 10 weeks after the last CCT class. Jinpa’s guided meditations don’t get old. As part of the instructions, Jinpa asks you to bring into the meditation people you feel close to and those who you are having difficulties with. What keeps the guided meditations fresh is the substitution of different people in my life as the subjects for Jinpa’s compassion cultivation. There is no conflict adding compassion cultivation to another meditation practice, if you can do them in separate sittings. The CCT guided meditations work great on a CD in my car’s stereo. Waiting in a school parking lot to pick up our son is a great time to listen to Jinpa’s wisdom.

What intrigued me about this CCT course? I learned that compassion is a skill that can be strengthened. It’s not a passive trait that some of us have & some of us don’t. The common humanity theme is a magical component because it helps me pay attention to what I have in common with others. But it will only work its magic if I stick with a compassion practice on a regular basis. This was explained in a discussion about neuroplasticity and how daily meditation creates new brain pathways. In short, the CCT course inspired me to make room for compassion cultivation in my life. I intend to study it further, so I can share it with others.

About CCT teacher Sara Schairer

SaraSara Schairer is the founder and CEO of COMPASSION IT, a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions. She invented the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT bracelet that is now creating compassionate actions on six continents, 40+ countries and nearly all 50 states. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives and pursue their passions. Sara teaches Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness

Sara’s next CCT program begins July 16, 2014, Wednesday evenings from 6:00 – 8:00pm. Please visit our Schedule and Registration page (scroll down to CCT) for future program information and registration.

 

 

 

Attention is a Resource—Even With ADD/ADHD, and Mindfulness Training Has Been Shown to Help

By Lidia Zylowska M.D.

ZylowskaLidia Zylowska, MD is psychiatrist specializing in adult ADD/ADHD, mindfulness-based approaches and integrative psychiatry. Co-founding member of UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, Dr. Zylowska led the development of the MAPs for ADHD program and authored The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD book.

Recently the New York Times featured an article titled “Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits” by Daniel Goleman which highlighted the usefulness of mindfulness training for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD). It is exciting to see a publication like NYT and the conventional ADHD researchers starting to see value of mindfulness for ADHD. I hope this will further our public and clinicians’ appreciation of mindfulness as a way to strengthen attention and emotion self-regulation skills in ADHD. My only wish is that the article did better job describing the resources that already exist for those interested in this approach, namely the Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) for ADHD program we developed at UCLA (1) and the Mindful Parenting/MYmind program developed by Dr Susan Bogel’s at U of Netherlands (5).   Such programs can help those struggling with ADHD (or clinicians that work with them) start incorporating mindfulness for ADHD management.

Book_zylowska_100pxAs an integrative psychiatrist specializing in ADHD, I have been working with ADHD since 2003. As a researcher at UCLA, I designed a feasibility study of mindfulness training in adults and teens with ADHD. The study was one of the first efforts to adapt mindfulness trainings to ADHD and my research collaborators and I set out to put together a program that was relevant to ADHD and overall taught in an ADHD-friendly way. Using MBSR and MBCT as models of mindfulness, we developed an 8-week training—Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) for ADHD–that was taught in gradual, ‘chunking way’ often helpful in ADHD. The program introduces new ‘objects of attention’ sequentially, starting with attention itself, then senses, breath, sounds, body, thoughts, feelings and interactions. We weaved ADHD education throughout the training. The formal practice was phased in gradually, starting with 5 min and up to 15-20 min, we emphasized informal practiced in daily life, and included self-compassion training. We anticipated that formal practice may be challenging for those with ADHD and wanted the training to be both flexible and encouraging. We also knew that self-doubt and negative feelings are common in ADHD and that self-compassion was much needed. The approach was well-accepted by teens and adults with ADHD in our study, who also showed reduction in ADHD symptoms, anxiety and depression and improvements on measures of attention and executive functions (1). Follow up studies further support the use of our program with ADHD adults (2) and children (3, 4) while Dr. Bogel’s group has shown that similar mindfulness-based approach can be helpful with families with ADHD children and teens (5-7).

The NYT article shows that combination of ADHD and mindfulness no longer raises eyebrows as it did back when I first started my research work. Then, I often had to respond to a question like this: ‘So you want to have people who have trouble sitting and paying attention sit quietly in meditation and pay attention?’ Now, there is a growing understanding that mindfulness is just the approach for ADHD, especially if taught in a gradual, ADHD-friendly way. So I am excited to say that UCSD Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute is now launching our course Mindfulness for ADHD: Training for Adults, Parents and Professionals, August 7-10, 2014 at Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. The training is a retreat-version of the 8-week MAPs for ADHD, a great introduction for those wanting to learn how to use mindfulness for ADHD. I am joined by Gloria Kamler, a long-time meditation teacher and faculty at UCLA Midful Awareness Center.   For this training, we decided to bring general public and clinicians together to create an accepting, non-judgmental learning environment in which both the unique struggles of ADHD and the struggles of ‘human condition’ can be seen on a spectrum. We hope to empower those with and without ADHD to incorporate a mindful and compassionate perspective into their lives.

I hope that if you or someone you know cares about ADHD, you will consider joining us for this training. The retreat setting will offer a respite and you get a concentrated dose of mindfulness. Why not hyperfocus on mindfulness for a weekend!

For More Information and to register for Mindfulness for ADHD: earthriseTraining for Adults, Parents and Professionals, August 7-10, 2014 at Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA., please visit the UCSD Professional training Institute website.

Ref:

  1. Zylowska, L., Ackerman, D. L., Yang, M. H., Futrell, J. L., Horton, N. L., Hale, T. S., . . . Smalley, S. L. (2008). Mindfulness meditation training in adults and adolescents with ADHD: A feasibility study. J Atten Disord, 11(6), 737-746. doi: 10.1177/1087054707308502
  2. Mitchell, J. T., McIntyre, E. M., English, J. S., Dennis, M. F., Beckham, J. C., & Kollins, S. H. (in press). A pilot trial of mindfulness meditation training for ADHD in adulthood: Impact on core symptoms, executive functioning, and emotion dysregulation. J Atten Disord. doi: 10.1177/1087054713513328
  3. Uliando, A. (2010). Mindfulness training for the management of children with ADHD. Deakin University, http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30033065.
  4. Worth, D (2013) Mindfulness Meditation and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptom Reduction in Middle School Students. Walden University, http://gradworks.umi.com/35/99/3599854.html
  5. Bögels, S., & Restifo, K. (2014). Mindful parenting: A guide for mental health practitioners. New York: Springer.
  6. van de Weijer-Bergsma, E., Formsma, A. R., de Bruin, E. I., & Bogels, S. M. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training on behavioral problems and attentional functioning in adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(5), 775-787.
  7. van der Oord, S., Bogels, S. M., & Peijnenburg, D. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and mindful parenting for their parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(1), 139-147.