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.

Mindfulness Training Makes for Better Leadership, Better Companies, and Better People

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By Christy Cassisa, Esq.
Director of WorkLife Integration
UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness

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“Leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them towards shared goals. Hence, they become more effective in leadership roles.”

~ William W. George, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, former chairman and chief executive officer of Medtronic, author of four best-selling books.

Mindfulness in Leadership

In the past few years, we have seen a veritable explosion of research into the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Many researchers have been surprised by the depth and breadth of positive changes seen in individuals who have learned and practiced these skills. As many of us know, the data are showing that those who practice meditation experience improvements not only in measures of health, such as stress levels, blood pressure and chronic pain, but also in aspects of job performance, such as focus, emotional regulation, creativity and working memory capacity. And additional studies show links to improved overall life satisfaction through increased social connectedness, decreased anxiety and depression and increased empathy and compassion.

Mindfulness, the practice of simply being aware of what is happening right now, in this moment, and exploring that awareness with a non-judgmental attitude, is a skill that, despite its simplicity, takes effort and repetition. In our 24/7, on-call culture, we have seemingly forgotten what it means to “pay attention” to our lives, and both our personal and work lives can suffer for it. We are seeing more and more how an individual who practices mindfulness naturally brings the benefits to work, often improving both the experience of work, related job performance and even organizational culture as a whole.

As I noted in my 2012 blog post, businesses of all types have embraced the fact that the wellbeing of their employees improves the health of the company, and mindfulness has become an accepted component of wellness programs, joining such mainstays as yoga and exercise. We are hearing more about the well-known leaders who practice mindfulness, such as Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh, just to name a few, and we are learning more about companies that are integrating and expanding these offerings. Intel, for example, has had such success with their Awake@Intel program that they are expanding it worldwide through an internal train the illuminatrainer program. And we are proud to have been chosen as a partner to bring mindfulness programs to Illumina beginning this summer.

Executives and leaders can benefit from practicing mindfulness in a particular way. Although the health and work performance improvements alone would likely convince most skeptics, management-related benefits are becoming increasingly apparent as well. Leaders at work influence not only their own careers, but also the direction of the entire organization, and with it the livelihoods and wellbeing of all of their employees. The consequences of a poor decision made by an executive in reactive, auto-pilot mode, are felt more broadly than most as effects spread throughout the organizational strategy and culture. Even the products produced and services provided bear the imprint of choices made at the top.

Awareness & Intention: For executives, learning to do nothing to achieve more is counter-intuitive. But what is often found once one begins to pay attention is that the very drive that has brought success thus far may in fact be blocking future success. Mindfulness allows the mind to begin to recognize the patterns and habits, the stories and tape-loops that run a constant commentary on the happenings of the day. Once that awareness is developed, the commentary can be challenged and resulting behaviors can be shifted towards wisdom and intentional choice.

Focus & Clarity: Mindfulness helps improve strategizing, the decision-making process and the resulting decisions because the brain is able to be present and focused on what is actually on the table. As a result, a leader is able to see more clearly the factors at play and respond more appropriately. Rather than reactive interpretations or pre-conceived expectations, perspectives are widened and calmed. Much like “mental hygiene”, mindfulness clears out the clutter and stories so that the workday can be managed with more clarity and creativity, and decisions are made more consciously, with clear awareness of both their the roots and results.

Communication: Connection between human beings is at the core of much of the business world. Mindfulness can facilitate interpersonal communications by increasing openness and improving listening skills. When we are more available to hear the message being communicated, we can see opportunity rather than obstacle and connection instead of just conflict. We have all likely encountered the experience of talking without being heard, and the feeling of being misunderstood or even neglected. The practice of mindful listening builds the skill of real communication, on both the individual level and on a more global scale. The leader who hears the customer or client is more likely to provide a better service or product and the executive who can clearly articulate the vision is more likely to gain support with employees.
We are pleased to be partnering with the UC San Diego Rady School of Management, Center for Executive Development in offering our first Mindful Leadership course. This one-day course is highly experiential and will introduce mindfulness and explore how it can be integrated into leadership roles and organizational culture. Participants will learn about the scientific foundations of mindfulness, why meditation is such a powerful technique and will begin practicing mindfulness exercises. The class will provide a unique supportive structure to discuss experiences and build a framework for bringing this new awareness to work, leadership and life.  We hope to meet you there!

For more information about our workplace mindfulness programs, please visit our WorkLife Integration program page or email Christy Cassisa at mindfulness@ucsd.edu.

________

Christy Cassisa is a former attorney, who is the Director of WorkLife Integration for the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. As she notes, “With all of the excitement surrounding mindfulness in the business community, we are thrilled to offer our WorkLife Integration Programs and our new  Mindful Leadership course in partnership with UC San Diego Rady School of Management, Center for Executive Development. Now you can bring the Center’s expertise to your office with a program or workshop tailored for your business or group.” If you have an interest in learning more, contact Christy via the Center for Mindfulness at cfmworklife.ucsd,edu. 

http://mindfulness.ucsd.edu

A Few Mindful Leadership Articles

Developing Mindful Leaders- Harvard Business Review, Dec 2011

The Mind Business- Financial Times Magazine, Aug 2012

Mindfulness Helps You Become a Better Leader –Harvard Business Review Oct 2012

Practicing Mindful Leadership- T & D by ASTD, March 2013

Is Mindfulness Good for Business?- Mindful, April 2013

Meditate for More Profitable Decisions- Insead, Sept 2013

The Mindfulness Business- The Economist, Nov 2013

Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity- Harvard Business Review, March 2014

Become a Mindful Leader: Slow Down to Move Faster- Forbes, March 2014

There’s no price tag on a clear mind: Intel to launch mindfulness program- The Guardian, April 2014

 

Introducing Mindful Eating Within a Family

By Jan Chozen Bays, MD

baysjanJan Chozen Bays, MD, is a pediatrician and Zen teacher from Oregon. She is the author of Mindful Eating: Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food and How to Train a Wild Elephant, a collection of 53 mindfulness exercises. Jan and her colleague Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW continue to offer a 5-day Professional Training through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness entitled  ”Mindful Eating, Conscious Living” based upon their work in this field and Jan’s book.

One of the most common questions we get in our mindful eating events is how to teach mindful eating to children and practice it during family meals. The answer is for everyone to practice mindfulness while cooking and eating together as a family.

Young children have a natural internal nutritionist that tells them what and how much to eat. Little kids who are provided with a variety of foods on the tray of their high chair will eat the appropriate types and amounts of each food. The catch is that they will not eat in a balanced way in one day, but over the course of a week. We can imagine how quickly this intuitive way of eating is disrupted. Parents see that their toddler has eaten only mashed potatoes one day and applesauce the next. Worried that their child is not getting the proper amount of protein, they begin to interfere, cajoling, bribing and trying to force food into the child’s closed mouth. Research shows that by age 5, children will valiantly try to eat all of an inappropriately large helping of macaroni and cheese.

Thus begins our uniquely American habit of trying to clean our plates at “family style” restaurants where huge portions of cheap food are considered “a good deal.” We are even taught to feel guilty if we don’t eat it all and somehow worsen the situation of starving children in Africa.UCSD CFM Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a way to become reacquainted with the guidance of our internal nutritionist. How can parents introduce mindful eating to their children? Here are some suggestions.

(1)   Have at least one congenial family meal a day. If the atmosphere is relaxed and each person shares the events of the day, children learn to eat slowly and to pair eating with enjoyment and connection. Eating and anxiety are not a healthy pair. Eating and a sense of ease are.

(2)   Let children help you prepare the meal. Talk about where each item of food comes from and how the Earth, sun, rain and many people helped bring it to your table.

(3)   Begin family meals with a simple grace. It could be just holding hands briefly and bowing heads around the table in order to stop, remember and thank the many people and creatures who brought the food to the table. Pausing helps teach children not to bolt their food and run.

(4)   Experiment with new foods and drinks. Try fresh apricots, pineapple or dates. Buy something from an ethnic grocery store: persimmon, papaya, mango, kiwi, star fruit or red bananas; tamarind, guava or coconut juice. Encourage curiosity: “This is a fruit that children in (Mexico, Japan, Thailand, etc.) like to eat. Smell it. What does it smell like? Take a little bite or sip and tell me what it tastes like.” Experimentation helps children explore the vast world of different tastes and not collapse into a steady diet of boxed macaroni and canned ravioli.

(5)   Be creative with food. When one boy’s mother told him that broccoli is trees for dinosaurs to eat, he spread the story to his entire elementary school class and every kid began to enjoy eating broccoli.

(6)    Talk about the benefits each food confers. For example, milk, cheese and spinach have calcium that builds strong teeth and bones.

(7)   Play the “how full is my stomach” game. Ask children to check in with their stomachs before, halfway and at the end of a meal. Is it empty, half full, or all the way full? This helps them (and you) stay in touch with body signals of fullness and not overeat.

(8)   Avoid  talking  to kids about calorie counts or diets in restrictive ways. Research shows that girls who begin dieting as preteens have a much higher risk of eating disorders. Don’t be too rigid about junk food. If your kids have been raised on home-cooked organic food and they have a McDonald’s hamburger and cola at a birthday party, it’s not a tragedy. It’s a cross-cultural experience.

(9)    Help children discern the difference between actual physical hunger and emotions such as  boredom, fatigue and anxiety. Help them learn to work with real solutions to these emotions, using activities such as exercising, playing a game, reading a book, doing crafts, and connecting with friends.

(10) Celebrate holidays and special occasions. Let kids help with creating a party. Set the table with a tablecloth, a candle and flowers. They can make simple decorations such as hearts, stars or Easter eggs cut out of paper. When we treat ourselves as guests, we infuse the food with an important ingredient, an extra scoop of love.

(11) Everyone’s deepest hunger is for love and connection. Loving words are vital to our health. Loving words are a way to feed the heart that does not involve food. If you want your family and friends to feel well nourished, give them generous helpings of genuine expressions of gratitude and affectionate words. “I really appreciate your …”  “When I am with you I feel …”

Mindful eating in a family means making a good mixture of these basic ingredients: eating as a family, pausing, slowing down, having fun, experimenting, being curious, exploring new tastes, and bringing the flavors of kindness and love to your meals.

Join Jan Chozen Bays, MD and Char Wilkens for a A 5-day Mindful Eating, Conscious Living (MECL) Professional Training Retreat April 29-May 4, 2014, at Great Vow Monastery, Clatskanie, OR.

Locally in San Diego, we invite you to join Allan Goldstein and Megan Leuchars for our 8-Week Mindful Eating Program beginning Monday, March 17, 2014, 6:30-8:30 p.m, at our University City location.