Tag Archives: UCSD Center for Mindfulness

Compassion Cultivation Training: Read How One Teacher Is Creating A More Compassionate World

by Sara Schairer

SaraCompassion Cultivation Training (CCT) helped me create more ‘space’ with myself and when dealing with others. Space = patience, acceptance, better listening and more awareness.” -Recent CCT student

What is CCT? According to the course creators at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education:

Compassion 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.”

Becoming a certified teacher of CCT was not a walk in the park. It took well over a year for me to complete the teacher-training program. My classmates and I attended retreats each quarter, and on top of that we learned about compassion through quarter-long classes at Stanford (Science of Compassion, Philosophical Perspectives of Compassion and Perspectives on the Practice of Teaching).  I taught the full eight-week CCT course under supervision as my final task this past fall.

My heart swells with joy as I reflect back on leading my first group of students through the CCT journey. Individuals from all walks of life came together, because they were curious about cultivating compassion for themselves and for others. We explored how to view the world through a compassionate lens that doesn’t discriminate or judge, and we talked about why sometimes that seems like an impossible feat.

At the end of the eight weeks, I truly felt like my students learned valuable tools that helped them to be present with suffering. Because we’re human, we often run away when see someone suffering, or we put up imaginary walls and pretend it doesn’t exist. This is especially the case when we, personally, experience suffering. Thanks to CCT, my students and I are better-equipped to stay put with suffering and offer compassion to ourselves and others.

Below are two of the many positive comments I received from my Compassion Cultivation Training students.

“The common humanity experience helped me so much. I’m changing the way I see my life, the world and all people – they are ‘just like me.’”

“The bottom line is that when I feel irritated or judgmental of myself or another, I invite myself to practice lovingkindness toward myself and then the other. Powerful!”

self-compassion-smNeedless to say, I’m chomping at the bit to teach my next class in January at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.

Because compassion is my passion, I try my best to lead my classes with energy, warmth and compassion (with some humor thrown in there, too). I truly hope to teach CCT to as many people as possible, because I believe my students are able to lead by example and share their own compassionate wisdom with others. This ripple effect could be tremendous for our world.

Sara 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

Experiencing a Mindful Childbirth: An MBCP Graduate’s Observations on “Being With What Is”

Nancy Bardacke Head Shot_MindfulNancy Bardacke, is a nurse-midwife, mindfulness teacher, and founding director of the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) program which she leads at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine.

Since the founding of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center over 30 years ago, mindfulness courses and programs intended to teach people practical skills for working with all kinds of physical and mental health challenges have increased exponentially.  Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) is one of these programs. 

“As would be expected, many expectant parents enter the MBCP program with a myriad of hopes and fears about childbirth and parenting. They may worry about the pain of childbirth, the health of their baby or themselves, where to deliver, what provider to choose, whether that particular provider will be on-call when they are in labor, and what life will be like as a new parent. Sometimes very tangible, real life concerns, such as their financial situation or relationship tensions can overshadow the joy and excitement of this momentous change. Key to the MBCP program is to offer expectant parents the opportunity to train in mindfulness so that they may have some skills to navigate this new terrain of birthing and parenting—working with kindness and compassion for whatever arises in this profound journey into the unknown.”

Nancy Bardacke, RN, CNM, MA

Being With What Is  by Jenna Leta

New mom and MBCP graduate, Jenna Leta, recently shared with us how she used her mindfulness practice during her pregnancy, childbirth and life after birth.

“I took two classes to prepare for childbirth: yoga and the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting course. In our yoga class, the teacher would encourage us to do just a few arm and shoulder workouts for “all those women having 9lb babies” and I would think, ‘Those poor women.  I’m so glad I’m average-sized with an average baby.’  And then, in our MBCP class, Nancy mentioned a few times how birthing a baby who is in a posterior position could result in back labor and make the strategies that we were learning to cope with pain more challenging. Mentally, I responded, “Thank god MY baby is in the correct position so I will have those perfect little pain waves.” (The ones with the big contraction wave with the smaller wavy breath wave on top of it. The one with total euphoria and the 1960s drugged-out ecstasy in between the gut-wrenching pain.)

Well, my little man arrived in our lives promptly on his due date, November 21.  He was posterior and 9lbs 4 oz.  Even though I can’t imagine worse pain, I have a few good things to say about the experience.  It was liberating.  There is something primal about lying in the dark completely naked and screaming louder than you knew you could. I felt fierce.

My biggest fears were giving birth in a hospital and being forced to lie on my back. In the end, after 3 hours of pushing, and with a frenzied plea of encouragement from my husband, I found my last ounce of resolution and energy and pushed our big baby into the world while in trendelenberg (on my back with the bed tilted so my head was lower than my pelvis).  It just goes to show, just like we learned in class, you never know what will happen and anything is possible.  I am convinced that without my brilliant midwife, I would have had a C-section.

Maceo is now 6 months old and AWESOME!!!  Everything is the exact opposite of how I planned and imagined it.

He sleeps in our bed.

I am still on maternity leave.

He had a mango, right off the pit, as his first food and now slurps away black beans.

But, I am happy to report that even though I wasn’t the Zen person I imagined I would be during labor, I have managed to develop a regular mediation routine postpartum.  The biggest challenge was finding time.  What I have found works for me is to immediately stop whatever I am doing when he falls asleep for his first nap (usually leaving dishes or laundry undone) and do a sitting mediation.  I use Nancy’s APP on my iPhone; it is only 20 minutes, but it is working miracles on my life.

I am learning how to accept things as they are and spend less time worrying about the past or the future.  I am less reactive and in general, happier.  I feel I am more in control of my mood/emotions and at the same time, I am very at peace with how much I cannot control. My relationships, both at home and with my close friends and family, are stronger.  My hair has been falling out, I haven’t slept for 3 consecutive hours in half of a year, my jeans will probably never fit me again, and I’m ok with it.  Meditation is becoming my religion, of sorts. I can see now how accurate and important Nancy’s instruction about practice was (which we were told over and over again): “Just do it.”

The research on the underlying physiological and psychological mechanisms of mindfulness practice continues to demonstrate the effectiveness of mindfulness-based programs.  Because of this a growing number of health professionals from a variety of fields are interested in using mindfulness-based interventions to decrease stress and enhance the wellbeing of the populations they serve.  This includes professionals who provide care for expectant parents and young families, some of whom are finding their way to the MBCP program. 

Nancy will be co-leading the  Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) Professional Retreat, held at EarthRise Retreat Center, Petaluma, CA, January 19-25, 2014.

WorkLife Changing Tools: Key Wellness Tips for Busy Executives

By Jennifer Martella

Worklife Integration Program Photo Jennifer Martella recently participated in our MBSR program and is Owner and Founder of Strategic Wellness Concepts. Contact her at info@strategicwellnessconcepts.com for  more information about sustainable wellness and personal/professional balance.

To inquire about our UCSD Center for Mindfulness WorkLife Integration Programs please contact Program Director, Ellyn Wolfe at ehwolfe@ucsd.edu. 858-737-4341 

After spending over fifteen years in corporate America, I understand the challenges that face busy, success-motivated executives.  I spent many years on the corporate treadmill trying to “make it all work,” only to find that my personal health and wellness suffered as a result.  Determined to find a better way, I finally turned the corner by discovering a few simple tools that changed my life – both personally and professionally – and helped me find balance.    The solution is easier than you might think.

 Overall wellness

·      Invest your time wisely.  One of the biggest hurdles we face on the path towards improving health and wellness in our lives is time.  There is never enough at the end of the day, and ironically, the one item that typically suffers is our personal well-being.  The solution?  Time management and prioritization.  Carve time into your daily schedule just for you.  Whether you use this time for exercise, spending time with a friend, reading a chapter out of your favorite book or enjoying a carefree walk, calendar it, prioritize it and make it happen!

·      Mindfulness.  Learning to live in the moment is key.  Corporate America thrives on multitasking.  Although at times it may be necessary, too much can lead to inefficiency, decreased productivity, frustration and exhaustion.  As often as possible, focus on the “now.”  That is, the task at hand or the person you are with, and particularly when exercising or spending time with family and friends.  The benefits are far reaching!

·      Unplugand lose the iPhone.  Ok, not literally, but take time each day to “let go,” unplug and unwind.  Our brains need a vacation – especially from the Smartphone!

·      Do at least one “selfless” thing each day.   Each day, do something for someone else – even a complete stranger.  For example, thank someone for their patience, buy lunch for someone, or tell someone they made your day.  Random acts of kindness and generosity are the moments when you are truly living!

A few words about exercise

·      Keep it simple.  No time for the gym or a run outdoors?  How about a fifteen minute walk around the block?  Take the stairs back to your building?  Walk to your lunch meeting instead of opting for a cab?  While you are at it, think about your surroundings – how your muscles feel – it may sound odd, but this practice of mindfulness will actually give your brain the ability to refuel, recharge and refresh!

·      Have fun.  If the treadmill isn’t your thing, that makes two of us.  Find out what is, and enjoy it.

·      Exercise that pays the most dividends.  Less is often more, and variety is key.  It’s the quality, not necessarily the quantity that counts.

Chew on this

·      Eat mindfully.  Have you ever finished a meal or snack and moments later not even realized what you were eating, let alone that you were eating?  I spent years eating most meals at my desk while multitasking (reading the WSJ, scanning emails, preparing for the next deadline) and never even tasting my food.  Each day, try to eat at least one meal mindfully – that means doing nothing else but enjoying the meal, thinking about what you are eating and taking the time to chew.  You just might find yourself satiated sooner and in a much more positive frame of mind! 

·      Plan ahead.  No time for lunch?  Another vending machine or coffee day?  Bring almonds, walnuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, even a protein powder or shake to sustain you until you can actually sit down for a meal.

·      There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.  Do the research, listen to your body and find out what works best for you!


Surfing A Global Wave

By Chris Gauthier

Global Wave            You know something’s working when it makes it to the big time “for Dummies” book publishing. Today a person can Google “Mindfulness” and will find almost 12 million global links for the word/practice/healing revolution in less than a second. What we find on the internet today and in the contemporary programs of our time is historically linked to practices in other parts of the world about 1500 years before our common era (Alidina, 2011). The folks at UCSD’s Center for Mindfulness work to train professionals, empower those who come to learn the skills, and research this nebulous field to better understand why what they do is successful.

            Variations of this practice of mindfulness, some with traditions hundreds of generations long, are compacted, packaged and exported around the globe. The methodology and application remains in essence, however newly formulated semantics, developed contemporarily by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others describe these activities and practices for this generation. With the success that he has had (Zinn, 2003) along with others, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs are popping up like Starbucks all over the place. Recently interviewed, Steven Hickman, Psy.D, the founder and current Director of the growing UCSD Center for Mindfulness discusses the continual development of their program.

            Generally, these programs educate people with scientific explanations and evidence for many data-driven and evidence-based consumers today. Hickman knows that mindfulness is somatically located, based on this research and his own practice, so the Center’s programs provide “a way in for people to then let that go and to experience what that is for real” paired with discussions of research, art, and sharing experiences. Researched, tried, and tested, this methodology seems to ‘click’ with human minds and brains to institute real, long-lasting change on a neuronal level (Baer, 2003). UCSD CFM has come a long way from its conception, more than a decade ago.

           steve-hickman Hickman’s vision was and is still: not a business plan, not any sort of “strategic plan” at all. Confident in this work, the practice itself akin to the roots of kelp that meld with the ocean floor, swaying with the change of tide, but never adrift and disconnected. This is what makes UCSD’s program unique: “All of these interventions, even though each one’s different, they all share a core of mindfulness practice, and needing to be grounded in a practice if you are going to teach.” Still, designing an authentic and effective mindfulness program for a large range of participants from chronic pain patients to lawyers is challenging. UCSD’s success is a teaching framework whereby these skills are taught, experienced and made into habits is reflected in the center’s growth. Steve explains that, “people are coming in because they are suffering over something…We help people identify that they have stressors, then set that aside and give people the experience of watching their mind.” This is not where influence of the center stops for long, however.

               The Neuroscience behind Professional Training Institute BannerMindfulness is of increasing interest to healthcare professionals and they are pursuing mindfulness training through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness’s Professional Training Institute. When the center was founded, it quickly became a hub. Hickman describes the experience, “I was just standing on the beach when the global wave of interest hit.” Currently, the CFM is creating programs, training and research opportunities that will help to spread the practice far beyond the center’s current reach. With the instructors here also continually practicing and growing, it is only natural that what the center teaches “can take care of itself.”

              

     Keeping with the pace of the global wave of interest mindfulness brings, Steve is heartened by knowing, “the nice thing is that you can do life and mindfulness at the same time.”


Work Cited

 Baer, Ruth. “Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review.” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 10 (2003): 125-43. Print.

Bishop, S. R. “What Do We Really Know about Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?” Psychosomatic Medicine 64 (n.d.): 71-84. Print.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. “Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future.” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 10.2 (2006): 144-56. Print.

“A Tidal Wave of Mindfulness: An Interview with Dr. Hickman.” Interview by Sara Kimmich. May 2013.

Alidina, Shamash, MA. “History of Mindfulness.” Learn Mindfulness. Learn Mindfulness, 2011. Web. 1 June 2013.

 

Image credit: http://apogeepoet.blogspot.com/2012_07_01_archive.html

About the Author:

Chris Gauthier is an alumnus of the University of California, San Diego with a degree in Cognitive Science and a focus in Neuroscience. He has many passions revolving around skills of wholeness, health, and self-discovery. Chris is affiliated with the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. He also travels and presents a variety of topics in a workshop style, mostly to college-level minds. Mr. Chris Gauthier can be reached at: chris.a.gauthier@gmail.com

Help Support Local Mindfulness in Action by Contributing to a Global Vision: mindfulTV

by Barry Boyce

Barry BoyceBarry Boyce
Editor-in-Chief-Mindful Magazine

A longtime professional writer, editor, and trainer specializing in applications of mindfulness and awareness to everyday life, Barry is editor of The Mindfulness Revolution and served as developmental editor for Congressman Tim Ryan’s book, A Mindful Nation. Barry is a member of the Formative Board of Directors for the UCSD Center for Mindfulness Professional Training Institute.

Friends of mine from Baltimore were presenting a program on mindfulness and yoga for at-risk youth a few weeks ago, and I attended for several days. What struck me most was the sharpness and the dedication of the school teachers (K-12), social workers, and caregivers who took part. One of them was from humble Hagerstown, Maryland. (You know the sort of place: people say, “I think I’ve heard of that” or “I drove through there once.”) I know Hagerstown. I grew up in an even smaller town nearby. There are plenty of at-risk youth there, to be sure.

         Meeting the teacher from Hagerstown, and others like her, told me that mindfulness is reaching beyond the big cities now and into the towns and villages, and it’s being delivered by people who care a lot about the health and well-being of our communities—in every dimension: bodily health, mental health, education, social cohesion, and more.

         At Mindful magazine and in mindful.org, it’s our mission to present mindfulness, awareness, kindness, and compassion to a wider audience, and we’ve been hard at work doing that. So, I’ve been so delighted that we’re able to search out stories of people bringing mindfulness into every corner of society, and share them with a wider world. When I hear from a would-be-father who saw our piece on Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting and gained a new appreciation for the significant event he’s about to enter into, I know we’re having an impact. The fact that we can tell the story of the first police department in America to systematically introduce mindfulness into their training means we are breaking new ground. On mindful.org, users can get a window into all the help that’s available for someone who wants to work more effectively with the overwhelming stressors in their personal lives and in their organizations.

         We would like to go one step further, though, in sharing the stories and the work going on in the world of mindfulness and related practices. We want to add sound and moving pictures. I want our growing audience—community really—to make face-to-face contact on their computers and smartphones with people just like them (You are not alone!) and people who are role models for making a little bit go a long way.

         When I look at the little video of my friends Ali and Atman in Baltimore, the mindfulness and yoga folks I mentioned above, I’m struck by how much of a difference it can make when I’m able to see someone and hear what they have to say—with all the intonations and facial expressions (and sometimes animated graphics) that go along with that. Likewise, I’m struck with how powerful four minutes with Frank Ostaseski talking about Finding a Place to Rest in the Middle of Things can be, or Jon Kabat-Zinn on the Benefits of Meditation.Mindful-TV-CROP-logo

         Doing a lot more of this kind of storytelling is a key part of our business plan. Internet TV is powerful. It’s arresting. And it reaches more people because, for one thing, you can get a whole lot in a short time and you can access it anywhere. Adding another channel for these important stories, advice, and instruction is a way to leverage more change. It also creates a rich archive of the pioneers of this movement. We need to record in moving (in both senses of the term) images more of what the people in the mindfulness world have to offer and deliver it to an ever-widening audience. That’s why we’re starting mindfulTV.

         Your support for mindfulTV not only helps us innovate, it also supports Mindful’s ongoing work and helps us reach sustainability. For more information on our mindfulTV initiative, and to learn about our crowdfunding campaign that’s taking Mindful to the next level, go here.

The UCSD Center for Mindfulness and Professional Training Institute fully support Barry’s vision and mindfulTV. We encourage you to donate now to help mindfulTV take advantage of the 1440 Foundation’s matching funds.

Mindful Matters: Nourishing Our Wellbeing in Clinical Practice

by Chris Gauthier

There are lots of people, many of them healthcare professionals, who are serving this world by caring for others. Something within some of them is so completely synchronous with the desire to heal others that there is nothing in this life they would rather do. The fact that there are people so committed to helping others become whole is awe-inspiring. However, too many times the basic premise of healing is forgotten: we must heal ourselves if we have intentions of healing others, so we can better serve all.

stethoscopeWith the world of medicine constantly changing, areas of improvement in patient care are abound while its practitioners continue to meekly manage mindful self-care rather haphazardly. In America, this recent structural revolution in the medical industry, regardless of personal opinions and politics on the subject, is significant. The demand for physicians, psychologists, and other medical practitioners is exponentially growing. Medical professionals that do well in their care – because let’s face it, we have or know someone who has had a needlessly negative experience seeking quality care, can be likened to an oasis in this increasingly desert-esque landscape. How do we as practitioners, continue to offer the top care that we do, while combating increasing instances of burn-out, fatigue, and a general lack luster experience where on occasion we may dip our toes into the depths of existential darkness? With greater work loads and less time that we do not have, it is imperative for us to find ways to care for ourselves. These sharp changes in the field require equally acute transformations of focus.

There is another movement germinating in this field z krasner9258-1within the western context that proffers a way for us to take care of ourselves so that we can do what we love: take care of others. This movement is towards mindfulness. Mindfulness in clinical practice is essential to thriving long-term in the duty of serving our patients to the best of our abilities. Mick Krasner, MD FACP practices primary care internal medicine in Rochester NY and teaches that the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Going strong after 12 years of integrating Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction into the lives of his patients, medical students and various health professionals, Mick might be on to something. A plethora of research on this topic shows an improvement in quality of care of patients, and an increase in well being for the health professionals who practice it. An example of one of the aspects whereby we can incorporate mindfulness is within the context of communication education with our colleagues.

Howard B. Beckman et. al. published a fascinating study exploring mindfulness-based interventions with practitioners, finding that these kinds of mindful communications skills when learned and practiced, promote a sense of community and an increase in time devoted to personal growth. In the paper, “The Impact of a Program in Mindful Communication on Primary Care Physicians,” they conduct in-depth interviews with physicians who had completed a specific 52-hour mindful communication course, which had known effects of reducing distress and burnout as well as increasing empathetic capacities. Generally there were three main themes that surfaced through the randomized qualitative data: 1) sharing personally the experiences from medical practice with other colleagues in the class setting reduced professional isolation, 2) increased skill sets to listen attentively to patients, 3) developing a greater sense of self-awareness is a positive experience. It is clear here as is true in other studies, that learning how to engage in mindfulness practice (and practicing!) does tremendous good for the individual and by proxy, for the community as a whole.

This education in mindfulness has ineffable multi-facetted value, but we already don’t have enough time as it is! So what do we do? Well, one way is by looking for those CE’s that will offer us this kind of education that will teach us to nourish ourselves so we can continue to do the important work that we do. Being aware of the consequences, good and bad, of our decisions we make for ourselves and about ourselves is one of the pillars of this mindfulness journey to creating the life we want to live. We can seek out continuing education courses that we have to do anyway, that will also aid us in this journey towards taking care of ourselves therefore enabling us to sustainably care for others.

We are delighted Dr. Krasner is coming to San Diego on May 11, 2013 to present a daylong workshop on mindful practice entitled “Mindfulness in Clinical Practice: Our Patients, Ourselves.” This event will include an hour-long presentation on the Neuroscience of Mindfulness by Tom Chippendale, MD, Director of Neuroscience at Scripps Health and longtime MBSR teacher. The day-long training has been approved by the AMA PRA for Category 1 Credit.

Work Cited:

Beckman, Howard B., MD, Melissa Wendland, Christopher Mooney, MA, Michael S. Krasner, MD, Timothy E. Quill, MD, Anthony L. Suchman, and Ronald M. Epstein, MD. “The Impact of a Program in Mindful Communication on Primary Care Physicians.” Academic Medicine 87.6 (2012): 1-5. Print.

Krasner, M. S., R. M. Epstein, H. Beckman, A. L. Suchman, B. Chapman, C. J. Mooney, and T. E. Quill. “Association of an Educational Program in Mindful Communication With Burnout, Empathy, and Attitudes Among Primary Care Physicians.” JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 302.12 (2009): 1284-293. Print.

About the Author:

Chris Gauthier is an alumnus of the University of California, San Diego with a degree in Cognitive Science and a focus in Neuroscience. He has many passions, most revolving around skills of wholeness, health, and self-discovery. Chris is affiliated with the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. He also travels and presents a variety of topics in a workshop style, mostly to college-level minds. Mr. Chris Gauthier can be reached at: chris.a.gauthier@gmail.com.

Take This Job and….

By Vicki Zakrzewski, Ph.D.
Education Director, Greater Good Science Center

Wait! Here are some research-based ways teachers and
principals can rejuvenate their passion for their jobs in the new
year.

I’ve always thought that educators are some of the luckiest people in
the world. No really, just hear me out: Yes, the work is harder than
many people understand and so many of them are underpaid, but it’s
also one of the most inherently meaningful jobs a person can do.
And that’s no small thing.

Reflecting_over_the_ocean_1

(Photo Credit Isaac L Koval)

Researchers have found that people who see their work as meaningful, or having some special significance, experience lower levels of job
stress and higher levels of job satisfaction, motivation, and performance. Finding meaning in our work also protects us against burnout—a serious issue for teachers.

Yet, in all the crazy busyness of managing a classroom and leading
schools (this applies to administrators as well!), it’s very easy to forget
why you’re doing this job in the first place; the meaning might have
slowly leaked out over the years. But it’s possible to get it back. As you move forward with your work in the new year, I encourage you to take some time and reflect on the meaningful aspects of your work. To help, I suggest writing down your reflections, as scientists have found that journaling about positive
experiences can improve our health. Revisiting what you’ve written can also help sustain you during times of intense pressure and challenges.

To guide you in this process, I’ve assembled a list of research-based
thought-prompts—ideas to get you thinking about how you derive a
sense of meaning from your important work. You can use them either
on your own or with your colleagues. Administrators might also
consider sending these exercises home with teachers to share collectively at the next staff meeting—a great way to promote a
positive school culture!

1) Remember why you became a teacher in the first place. Was
it to make a difference in children’s lives or society in general? Or
maybe because you wanted the variety, the creative outlet, or the
daily challenges that teaching offers? Perhaps you were greatly
inspired by a teacher and wanted to give other children the same
experience.
For some people, teaching is a calling, which researchers believe
involves a transcendent summons beyond oneself and a desire to
serve humanity. When people feel “called” to do their jobs or if they
see that their work has a definite purpose that reflects who they are,
the work naturally feels deeply meaningful because it connects them
to their personal values.

2) Recall those moments when teaching made you feel ALIVE—
as if you were “running on all cylinders.” Meaning can be derived
from those times when you are personally immersed and intrinsically
motivated by your work. Most likely, this happened because you were
expressing your “authentic self”—the matching of your actions to your
perception of your true self.
When I was teaching, I experienced these moments with project-based
learning. No pedagogical method excited me more than helping
students apply their learning through self-created projects. Here was
an opportunity for students to develop their creativity and innovation
and teamwork skills—things that I highly valued in my work and in
myself. (A childhood spent creating haunted houses and elaborate
plays with friends had to lead somewhere…)

3) Think of a time when you made a difference in a student’s
life. Work becomes meaningful when you believe you have the power
and ability to make a difference. Teachers impact students’ lives all the
time—sometimes to a greater degree then they realize.
I’ll never forget the note I received from the mother of one of my
students who had a serious speech impediment. She thanked me
profusely for helping her son to believe in himself and to once again
love school. I had no idea the difference I had made in her child’s life,
but it deepened my appreciation for the tremendous responsibility that
comes with teaching—and hence, enhanced the meaning of my work.

4) Appreciate your colleagues. Our relationships with others often
create the most meaning in our lives—both at work and at home—
especially if they’re comforting and supportive. Teaching can be very
isolating, so it’s a big deal when teachers come together to share their
knowledge, accomplish a project, or just to ask, “How’s it going?”
As a new educator, I particularly appreciated the teachers who offered
their support and told me that the first year is always the hardest.
When I became an administrator, I worked hard to create caring
relationships among the staff because of the special significance these
relationships held for me as a teacher.

5) Reflect on the contribution you are making to the world.
Work becomes meaningful when we feel connected to something
larger than ourselves. On those days, when it seems like all your
efforts are infinitesimal in their impact, remember that they’re not:
When teachers consider how they can make a profound difference in
each of their students’ lives (see #3 above), it doesn’t take much to
realize how each of these lives adds up to a bigger whole, exerting
tremendous influence over the world in which we live.
In my workshops for teachers and administrators, I like to end with a
quote from Williams James: “Act as if what you do makes a difference.
It does.” If I could post this in every classroom in the world, I would—
just as a gentle reminder to you and everyone around you how
important and meaningful your job is.

Wishing you a very peaceful—and meaningful—new year.

Teachers and administrators who would like to learn more methods for
renewing their passion for their work might be interested in attending
these two upcoming conferences:

bridging2013badgeBridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical
Practice, Education and Research
February 1-3, 2013 Catamaran Hotel, San Diego, CA
Presented by the UCSD School of Medicine and the UCSD Center for
Mindfulness, this conference is for people who want to develop the
skills and competencies to teach mindfulness to today’s youth and
learn what science has to say about this kind of work.

GGSC_Logo-NoText-ForWebsite_99_97Practicing Mindfulness & Compassion
March 8, 2013 Craneway Pavilion Conference Center OR Live Webcast
This day-long conference presented by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and featuring a keynote by Jon Kabat-Zinn, will illuminate the connections between mindfulness and compassion, focusing on how mindfulness can deepen relationships, enhance
caregiving, and build compassion.

Exploring the Many Benefits of Mindfulness in Education, Breathing In, Breathing Out

bridging2013badgeby Bill Madigan, Vice Principal, King Chavez High School as originally posted on the Adventures in College & Career Readiness (AVID) blog 12-4-2012.

Bill_Madigan

I speed walked across trolley tracks as I traveled between the two small campuses of King Chavez High School.  I had suddenly been hired as a vice principal, knowing little of what that really meant.  My thoughts danced awkwardly with several new partners: a daunting “to do” list of mentoring new teachers, creating curriculum for an advisory, and a bigger ambition, figuring the best way to introduce AVID to this ripe family of children perfectly suited for AVID magic.

My mind buzzed, really.  As I raced to the “A” street site, homeless people lining my path, my ears began ringing, slowly increasing in volume.  A rather standard sign of stress – not negative stress, actually, for me at that time, but stress all the same.

I purposely began to focus on my breathing: in through the nose, out through the mouth, in through the nose, out through the mouth.  Within about 20 breaths, the ringing had subsided.  This exercise took a little over a minute.  What happened to the excited state of stress?  In terms of neuroscience and psycho-biology, my brain had a new focus, which decreased my heart rate, reduced the adrenaline released into my blood, and lowered the stress hormone from hell: cortisol.  Blood pressure dropped and a deep-brain loop of calm replaced a loop of anxiety.

This is called mindfulness.  Mindfulness is the intentional grounding and focusing of our attention on the current moment.  This can be done in the manner I described, the traditional breathing way, or in other ways like closely observing an object: your hands, a piece of food, or a visual focus point, among others.  We have all heard the command “take a deep breath” especially in education or to “count to 10.”

Years ago, I had an emotionally disturbed young man in an at-risk program who would occasionally start to scream, “The walls is breathin; the walls is breathin!”  He would do this in the middle of class.  I found through trial and error that the best remedy was to ask him to take my big broom and sweep the hall all the way around my building.  This would take him three or four minutes.  Like a miracle, he would come back a different brain.  He had a simple mundane task to re-focus his attention.

Dr. Richard Davidson out of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, is a, if not the, father of research into mindfulness.  He is the neuroscientist who traveled to India to study meditation and its effects on the brain.  Dr. Davidson has also directed the focus in neuroscience away from purely cognitive processes to look at emotions and their role in health, memory, attention, and motivation.  When I first attended his “Symposium on Emotion” five years ago, there were roughly 10 to 20 studies per month focused on meditation.  Now there are several hundred a month.

The findings are universal: continued mindful practice has several effects on brain function and health.  Many studies have also avoided the use of the loaded terminology like “meditation” or “mindfulness,” or “TM” (transcendental meditation), preferring to call the practice “directed focus exercises.”  Their results are the same.

Drum roll! The top effects of mindfulness are:

The reductions of blood pressure, cortisol in our blood, among many other hormonal effects, have obvious positive consequences for our health.  There are also positive findings for anger and even pain management in the raft of literature.

Yet, the ability to “focus on one thing” stands out to me as a holy grail in learning.  Secondly, the ability to reduce stress before high stakes tests also sounds like an AVID “go-to” practice.  And since AVID anchors learning in teams, families and groups of learners, improving relational capacity sounds darn good, too.

Dr. Steven Hickman, director of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness told me he thought the greatest positive result of mindfulness practice is increased compassion and desire for connection.  He said that, “When we clear the decks, what bubbles up are the deepest natural urges of our beings: compassion and connection.”  When we stop fighting, judging or controlling in our environment and relations, we actually have a natural, more effortless capacity for kindness and creativity.  When the primitive brain, especially the amygdala, is on high alert, our most creative and most advanced brain is nearly shut off: “I was so upset I just . . .”  You fill in the blank.  We act most primitively when we are most threatened.  No compassion bubbles up.  The neural pathways are chemically shut off.  We just react.  Mindfulness reduces the feeling of threat, reduces the fear of losing control, and over time gives us the space to be creative, compassionate and connected.

I just can’t forget the immediate relief of that high stress ringing in my ears as I traveled from one part of my new exciting life to another.

Take a deep breath: In through the nose, out through the mouth.

_________

For a great video on the topic, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzitPzNHHV8

The UCSD Center for Mindfulness is pleased to note that along with Bill Madigan (author of this blogpost),  several representatives from AVID will be attending the 2013 Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth Conference: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Education and Research. If this is an area of interest for you, please consider attending too!

Can self-compassion improve through mindfulness?

This post originally appeared on the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) blog, and is written by Ruth Buczynski, PhD

You shouldn’t kick yourself when you’re down . . .

. . . but sometimes it’s hard not to. Even if we’re compassionate toward others, we can still be our own worst critics. Mindfulness meditation really works. And self-compassion is one of its key benefits.

Kristen Neff, PhD, from the University of Texas-Austin, and Christopher Germer, PhD, from Harvard Medical School, wanted to find out whether self-compassion could be developed through training.

Mindfulness meditation and self-compassionDrs. Neff and Germer randomly assigned 54 people to either an 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) program or a waitlist control. The MSC program combined weekly 2-hour meetings with homework and a half-day meditation retreat. The program began with an explanation of what self-compassion is, and incorporated both formal and informal mindfulness practices.

Before the program, participants completed surveys to measure self-compassion, mindfulness, and other internal states. They took the same surveys immediately after the program’s completion, and then 6 months later as a follow-up. And, as it turns out, Dr. Neff and Dr. Germer have good news for people who’d like to develop self-compassion.

After taking the program, participants reported significantly greater gains in self-compassion, along with mindfulness, compassion for others, and life satisfaction when compared with the control group. What’s more, researchers found a large statistical effect size in self-compassion. This is relevant because many previous studies of mindfulness programs have found substantially smaller effect sizes – suggesting that this program might be particularly effective.

Of course, since the research involves only self-report data, we should be cautious about drawing conclusions. When people reply that they’re more compassionate or mindful on a survey, what does that really mean about their mental states? What’s more, this research involves only a waitlist control. That means we can’t be sure what made the difference. People might develop self-compassion just from getting together twice a week. Or maybe doing “mental homework” of any kind helps all sorts of internal states.

So, while I think this is a good foundation, I’d like to see more research that uses objective measures of self-compassion and an active control.

If you’d like to read the whole study, it’s currently in press in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Of course, to see the benefits of self-compassion with your clients, you need to be able to introduce mindfulness effectively. That can be complex, depending on your client, so that’s why we’ve put together our Making Mindfulness Work webinar series. Just click here to sign up for free.

Has mindfulness training ever transformed one of your clients’ capacity for self-compassion? What about your own? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

At the UCSD Center for Mindfulness we offer
two great ways to explore Mindful-Self Compassion

The first is through participating in our 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Program right here at our UCSD CFM Meditation Room. We are the only center currently teaching the 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion program as originated by Drs. Neff and Germer.  The next 8-week MSC program begins in January 2013

The second way to explore self-compassion is by attending our upcoming Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Training Retreat, May 12-17, 2013, at EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA with Dr. Chris Germer and Dr. Kristin Neff.

This program is designed for members of the general public, as well as for professionals who wish to integrate self-compassion into their work. Participating in a MSC program satisfies a prerequisite for becoming a MSC program teacher, and teacher training will begin at the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness in 2014. A modest, regular meditation practice is required to become a MSC teacher but meditation experience is not necessary to participate in this professional training. All are welcome!

Vancouver: Teaching Mindfulness to Adolescents, A Dream Coming True

Reposted from Mindfully Together Tuesday, December 14, 2010, text & photo by Dzung Vo. He will be presenting Mindful Awareness and Resilience Skills for Adolescents (MARS-A): A Hospital-Based Program for Adolescents with Depressive Symptoms, Chronic Illness or Chronic Pain at the conference in February.

Amazing.

Dzung VoI just finished giving my first eight-week “Individual MARS-A (Mindful Awareness and Resilience Skills for Adolescentsfor Adolescents)” cycle. I have long had a dream to teach mindfulness practice to adolescents suffering from chronic illness and chronic stress. With my position at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital–and the luxury of having a more functional health care system with sufficient time to spend with my patients and explore issues deeply–I have finally had a chance to start making this a reality.

My first patient was a courageous young woman suffering from chronic pain as a result of an accident a few years ago.  Today, as a course wrap-up, I asked her to reflect on her experience with learning and practicing mindfulness.

I found myself deeply moved by what she shared:

“I still have the pain, but I’m so happy now because I don’t have to get stressed out by it anymore.”

“I don’t mind having my pain anymore, because I’m not suffering from it like I was.  Now,  I can
even smile to my pain.”

“I have more energy now.  I didn’t realize how tiring it is to be suffering all the time.”

“I’ve learned to see my reactions to situations, and not to hang on to them.”

I Have Arrived. Deer Park Monastery, Escondido, California (9/11/09)

This experience makes me feel a bit like an undercover bodhisattva.  A monk disguised as a doctor, offering ancient dharma practices in the language of modern medicine.

Deep bow to my teachers, spiritual and blood ancestors, and sisters and brothers in practice.  You are all alive in me, here and now.  I hope to continue you beautifully.