Category Archives: Books

Mindfulness Shines A Light on Anger

by Margaret Cullen and Gonzalo Brito Pons

margaretMargaret Cullen and Gonzalo Brito retrato-gonzalo-argentinaPons, co-authored “The Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance Workbook. Join them for the Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance (MBEB) Teacher Training Intensive, April 9-15, 2017 at EarthRise Retreat Center, Petaluma, CA. Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance is an empirically-supported 9-week psycho-educational group intervention that teaches mindfulness meditation and emotion training.

It’s such a shame to think of how often we deride ourselves, and each other, for being “emotional.” It’s like jumping on someone for breathing. Emotion is a process that is a vital part of being alive. As the pioneering psychologist of emotions Paul Ekman has said, emotion is a kind of rapid, automatic appraisal of what’s going on. It’s influenced by our evolutionary past as well as our personal past, such that when “we sense that something important to our welfare is occurring…a set of physiological changes and emotional behaviors begins to deal with the situation.”

You’ve been endowed with a nervous system that has evolved over thousands of generations in a way that you didn’t choose. By the time you actually realize that you have a mind and a brain, the basic rules of how they work are already in place. The events that trigger our emotional responses are sometimes universal and sometimes personal. Almost anyone would feel fear at the sight of an oncoming car, but only some of us are afraid of hiking down steep trails while others happily scramble down them like a mountain goat. The triggers that each of us carries with us often come from early childhood and can continue quite unconsciously into adulthood.

And opportunities for emotion abound. Remembering, talking about, or imagining a past emotional scene or thinking of future scenarios can trigger emotions. Observing another person’s emotions (even on a TV screen) can elicit an emotional response. Role playing or theater can elicit emotion; and so can seeing an event that offends our sensibilities, like someone talking on a cell phone at the symphony or throwing trash into the street.

One of our most potent emotions—whose inward and outward effects can have disastrous consequences—is anger. In evolutionary terms, its main adaptive function is to remove obstacles that thwart us. When we feel anger, it’s because the primitive brain is trying to tell us something needs to change. We share this emotion with other mammals and even with reptiles. Baby humans come already well equipped with the capacity to get angry. If you hold a baby by her arms from behind, preventing her from grabbing a toy, she will get pretty angry, furrowing her brow, tightening her muscles, trying to move forcefully to get the toy, and perhaps shouting with a squeaky voice. When the baby grows up, she can have an analogous reaction when someone cuts her off on the road, especially if she’s already late for an important meeting! Anger also shows up when you—or others you feel connected to—are treated unjustly, or when someone or something prevents you from meeting your goals and needs.

Regardless of what triggers them, emotional responses can be either functional or dysfunctional. If we automatically swerve from an oncoming car, the fear response is extremely functional. If we’re afraid to leave the house for fear something terrible will happen, we are now in a disorder that is on the very dysfunctional side of fear, a disorder that no doubt is being triggered by an imported script from past trauma.

Until around the 1970s, it was commonly believed that the nervous system was essentially fixed throughout adulthood; that brain functions remained constant and that it was impossible for new neurons to develop after birth. If you were born with a “glass half-empty” attitude, it would be a life-sentence of unhappiness. Neuroscience has changed all that with the concept of neuroplasticity, which suggests that, in reality, human brains are flexible and change through experience. Although there are some fixed rules about what minds and brains can do, it’s also true that there is a space of freedom to respond rather than react that can be cultivated through mindful observation and practice. And in that space, we have an opportunity to work creatively with the dysfunctional aspects and enhance the more functional aspects of our emotional life.

Consciously or not, we’re constantly training our minds and brains to respond to circumstances. By virtue of repetition, our reactions crystallize into emotional patterns and neural pathways, which, in turn, influence the way we perceive reality. This is particularly true when we’re in the grips of a strong emotion, which is sometimes called the refractory period, a period of time when we’re only able to take in information and evoke memories that confirm, maintain, or justify the emotion we are feeling. This same mechanism that guides and focuses our attention can also distort our ability to deal with both new information and knowledge already stored that does not match the current emotion. We can all think of countless examples when we have missed obvious cues or forgotten historical data when we were “blinded” by a strong emotion. It’s not called “blind rage” for nothing.

Blind and Blaming

MindfulnessBasedEmoBalanceWB-CF.inddAlthough it’s quite possible to get mad at ourselves, the energy of anger is generally directed outward and it’s often linked with blame. This tendency to blame, strike out, punish, and retaliate makes anger especially challenging to sit with, and a big source of interpersonal suffering. When we feel anger toward someone, our sense of “self” and “other” gets very solid. In this state, we exaggerate all the negative qualities of the other person and become blind to positive attributes, which in turn feeds the aversion. The complexity and nuance of the other is reduced to a monolithic negative cartoon called “the enemy.”

We often wonder why we’re angriest at those we’re closest to. For one thing, people who know us intimately also know what can hurt us the most. Someone said, “Your family knows how to push your buttons because they actually installed them.” But a less glib reason is that it tends to be safer to show anger to an intimate than to a stranger. You can express aggression to your partner when you’re actually mad at your boss, probably because it’s less likely your partner will fire you. We can be frustrated about ourselves but direct our anger outside. It’s uncanny that we can even get quite angry at inanimate objects—a door, a table, a wall, or a shoe.

And that very fact reveals something that illuminates what’s really happening: although it feels as if the source of anger is out there, the anger comes from within. Other people are just pretending to be the real enemies. In fact, it’s possible to see them as our “patience coaches,” offering us opportunities to explore and tame the anger habit. If everyone was nice and considerate, how could we train in patience, how could we learn to tame our anger?

There’s an old story about a man who was sailing his boat on clear and sunny day, when a dense fog rolled in. Just as he had decided to return to shore, he noticed the profile of another boat coming in his direction. “Keep your distance!” the boatman shouted, concerned about a possible collision. But the other boat just kept approaching. The boatman used all his skills to swiftly shift direction, so there was more room for the other boat. He got really upset when he saw that the other boat changed its own course, now coming directly to him. “Stay out of my way!” he shouted again, but the other boat just kept coming closer, until it finally crashed into his boat.

The man was enraged: “You idiot! What the hell are you doing?!” He got totally worked up and continued his rampage until the fog lifted enough so that he was able to see that the other boat was empty—it was just an old abandoned boat floating downstream. Now he was perplexed and frustrated: To whom could he express his anger? Could he project his anger onto an empty boat? Without a person to blame, it was impossible to keep the story of anger going.

Ask yourself: Do I ever get mad at “empty boats”? If so, where does this anger come from? Where does it go?

Becoming aware of the inner terrain of anger can be helpful in catching it sooner and sparing ourselves and others the hurt and regret that often ensue from acting out anger. To work with anger, we need to see the space between trigger and reaction in order to mindfully look within.

Door Number Four

Anger is tricky because there’s a cost both to showing anger and to suppressing it. Suppressing doesn’t actually solve anything. It only postpones having to deal with anger while it keeps quietly simmering under the surface, wreaking havoc with our bodies. But if we show it, almost invariably we either hurt others or provoke retaliation. Another common habit is unconsciously “feeding” the mind states of anger with our stories of blame and victimization, thereby reinforcing the anger habit.

It’s rare that therapists nowadays advise their clients to act out their anger with real or symbolic others (punching pillows, shouting loudly in an empty room, and so on), partially because brain science has demonstrated that each time anger is expressed it gets rehearsed and strengthened. The idea that if you let your anger out you will reach peace and calm is simply not true—the satisfaction of the discharge will invariably be transient relief. And the anger will be saying, “I’ll be back.”

Most of us know we can get a certain satisfaction or relief when we express aggression. There can be a seductive quality to the anger, and an adrenaline rush, and that’s why it can become a habit, even an addiction. Anger is like a fuel. When we get angry we can feel energized, stronger, bigger—picture an angry cat with a curved spine and raised hair, pretending to be bigger than it is to scare away what it’s actually scared of. However, anger isn’t a very efficient fuel, because it burns hot and costly. It can be quite polluting on the inside and outside, and it’s heavy and corrosive in the system.

Fortunately, there are other options besides the “three doors” of suppression, expression, and unconscious fueling. When insults or obstacles are perceived, it’s normal for an anger response to arise. It’s just our nature and evolutionary history at work. Though we may succeed in becoming angry less often, it will always be a part of our emotional lives and it is therefore critical to learn how to relate skillfully with this challenging energy. As soon as you remember that you’re not just a victim of your anger, that you can actually use it as a path of self-discovery, you can practice being present with the feeling of anger, connecting with it, and allowing its energy to arise and pass away without acting on it or suppressing it.

This is “door number four.”

Don’t underestimate the power of this simple method. As with mindfulness generally, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.

The capacity to work with anger mindfully is not a binary, either-you-have-it-or-you-don’t proposition. It’s a practice that builds gradually, strengthening the muscle of mindfulness in the face of pleasant and unpleasant experiences. Instead of identifying with, rejecting, or being unaware of anger, we can learn to approach it with openness and curiosity, trusting that anger has something to teach us, and that this can be a very productive part of practice.

Anger is not a special problem getting in the way of mindfulness practice. It actually provides you with an exceptional opportunity to practice mindfulness, to open up when habit tells you to shut down, to connect with experience when habit makes you disconnect, and to question if the image you’ve constructed of yourself and others is as solid as it appears.

There’s a Cherokee story that captures the nature of anger beautifully. A boy tells his grandfather about his anger at a friend who had done him an injustice. His grandfather replies: “Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt great hate for those who have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It’s like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times. My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One wolf brings happiness. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. But the other wolf…ah! The littlest thing will send him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all of the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”

Training in mindfulness is remembering that every moment is an opportunity to practice peace, no matter the circumstances. Our thoughts, words, and actions are food for the wolves we all have inside. There’s no need for guilt when you notice you’re feeding the angry wolf (we all do this, and guilt won’t help). Instead, know that you have the freedom to learn from your experience and keep practicing with patience. Trust that it’s the small—often invisible—steps that take you forward.

MindfulnessBasedEmoBalanceWB-CF.inddMargaret Cullen and Gonzalo Brito Pons, co-authored “The Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance Workbook. Join them for the Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance (MBEB) Teacher Training Intensive, April 9-15, 2017 at EarthRise Retreat Center, Petaluma, CA. Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance is an empirically-supported 9-week psycho-educational group intervention that teaches mindfulness meditation and emotion training.

 

 

Free Gift Offered to Students and Lifelong Learners: “A Mindful Way to Study: Dancing With Your Books”

by Jake J. Gibbs and Roddy O. Gibbs

The Mindful Way to StudyAs a way of expressing gratitude to the mindfulness in education community and in preparation for the upcoming Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference, Jake and Roddy Gibbs are offering The Mindful Way to Study: Dancing With Your Books FREE on January 16, 17, and 18 as part of an Amazon Kindle Promotion.

“The ability to pay attention is a key component of effective learning. Just think of all the times in your life when parents, teachers, bosses, and coaches have told you to pay attention to what you are doing. You would think that with all of the attention paid to paying attention, we would be pretty good at it. The problem is we’re not, because most of us have never been taught how.

Commonly adopted methods like forced concentration are actually counterproductive to learning and achieving our goals. In addition, too much focus on future goals and rewards takes our attention away from what we need to be doing in order to achieve them. Luckily, there is another way, a better way: the mindful way.

The Mindful Way To Study: Dancing With Your Books is a guide to help students, professionals, and other lifelong learners develop a better approach to their educational and career pursuits. By using mindfulness, or the practice of bringing full awareness to the present moment, the authors blend the latest research with entertaining stories and specific techniques to teach readers how to truly pay attention, and even learn to enjoy it.”

More from Jake and Roddy can be found at:
Website: http://www.mindfulwaytostudy.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mindfulwaytostudy
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mindfulstudy

Roddy Gibbs may be contacted directly at 724-422-6237

Conference Keynote Speaker Daniel J. Siegel, Neuropsychiatrist, on Why Our Teenagers Feel Compelled to Connect on Social Media

by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. republished from The Huffington Post , Dec. 30, 2013

n-TEENS-TEXTING-large570

bridgingTile_forUCSDWe are inviting you to start the new year by reading this insightful post on the effects of social media from Dr. Daniel Siegel  (author of the forthcoming book (Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain). Hear, see, and meet him at this year’s Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth Conference! Dan will offer a keynote talk on Saturday afternoon following the regular sessions. The general public will be able to purchase tickets to hear his talk, and attendance will be free for conference registrants.

In these fast and furious days of digital overload, we parents often worry about our teenagers’ interactions with one another on social media. Who hasn’t seen a teenager deeply absorbed with a smartphone or breaking off a face-to-face conversation to take a picture for their friends on Snapchat? With heads down and screens lit up, watching our teens plug in can feel confusing, disappointing and even like rejection to us.

It can, however, be helpful to realize that the teen years are a time of incredibly important brain changes. Changes that drive an adolescent to turn toward peers rather than to the parents they leaned on for support during their childhood years.

In one way, it’s simply evolution: Throughout history, adolescents banded together to find safety in numbers as they moved out into the world, a world that was unfamiliar, uncertain and unsafe.

That world remains risky, even with all the advantages that modern gadgets provide us to map out our routes and pinpoint our coordinates. But to leave home and feel safe, we need to belong to other teens on the same journey. As teenagers, we are compelled to turn towards one another.

In order to get ready to leave the home nest, adolescents seek out membership in groups of other adolescents in order not only to feel good, but to survive. And feeling connected to others doesn’t just seem crucial to contemporary teenagers. In fact, the very engrained genetic programming of our brains gives us a feeling that connection is a matter of life and death.

Understandably then, social media can become a modern medium of connection that is deeply compelling for adolescents.

Here’s the great news: Social media provides a way for our evolved (and evolving) teenagers to find that connection in one another. That’s because social media actually provides the opportunity for creating relationships, and even can promote more face-to-face time.

Our traveling son, headed out to a new country without any contacts, checked on Facebook and found some college classmates headed to exactly the same town — with a spare room in their rented apartment! Years ago, when we traveled, such a connection would have been impossible to create.

While this medium may not be right for all teens, especially those with social challenges like anxiety, phobia or communication difficulties such as those on the autistic spectrum, some studies suggest that social media actually enhances positive relationships in adolescence — as it did for our son. And these relationships not only influence us, supportive relationships actually create health in our lives. Isn’t that something we all want for our adolescents? (And, yes, for ourselves too!)

Indeed, many of the changes in the remodeling adolescent brain can be seen to support a drive to explore novelty and to take risks, just like it encourages teenagers to make and sustain social connections. These adolescent changes are not signs of immaturity, but signs of preparation.

The emotional spark and social engagement, the novelty seeking, the courage and creativity of adolescence all have downsides and upsides, but the essence of these changes is to prepare for the transition between childhood dependence and adult responsibility. And social media may just be a modern means to make us become more deeply social and even more fulfilled in our lives.

Instead of viewing their behavior as impulsive or irresponsible, we can now see the adolescent period as one of wonderful transformation, of needed exploration of a new and changing world. The key is how to best make these vital means of social connection deeper, more meaningful and more likely to cultivate a sense of well-being in all our lives.

In the Wisdom 2.0 meeting held in Northern California each year, these are the very issues we toss around in our in-person meetings. You should see the pre-meeting buzz on social media channels that gets us all connected and primed to engage with each other face-to-face!

Together, we can cultivate a new conversation in our culture about how to make the most of these channels of communication, our collective effort to create media with meaning.

Brainstorm_Cover_LGLearn more about ways to communicate with your teen in Dan’s new book Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain available on January 7, 2014.

Like Dr. Dan Siegel on Facebook
Follow @DrDanSiegel on Twitter (#Brainstorm)

Calming the Rush of Panic: A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Guide to Freeing Yourself from Panic Attacks and Living a Vital Life

An exclusive excerpt from “calming the rush of panicby Bob Stahl, PhD and Wendy Millstine, NC

Frank’s Story

calming the rush of panic cover photoFrank, an inventor, had come up with some new medical devices for use in lifesaving heart surgery. When he started a business to get these inventions in the hands of doctors, he had to deal with experiencing panic at times. When he was at the office—on his own turf and in control of his environment—he was fine and things went fairly well, but when he had to travel to sell and support the use of his devices it was another story.
Frank would have liked to have someone else in charge of sales for his business since he had so much panic, but he couldn’t afford to hire the right professional just yet, and those who might be interested in helping him didn’t have enough of a technological background. As a result, Frank needed to make sales presentations himself as well as thoroughly explain to the surgeons how to use his devices, which often meant accompanying them into surgery to consult with them on how best to implant and use them.
Just the thought of walking into the surgery was enough to make Frank’s hands sweaty and his breathing rapid and irregular. He knew that he desperately needed to learn to calm down his panic so that he could successfully market his devices and see them put to good use. The last thing he wanted was to have a full-blown panic attack in the operating room.
Frank became proactive and took a mindfulness class, where he learned various formal meditations and informal practices that helped him a lot. Mindful belly breathing was one of his favorites since it helped him regulate his breath and come back into balance. Frank also related with the notion from sitting meditation that you are not your thoughts, but most of all he connected with “Pause, Observe/Experience, and Allow.” This was incredibly helpful for him, in conjunction with mindful breathing that he could bring into everyday situations.
Whenever he thought about going out to see the surgeon or when he was about to go into the operating room, Frank would pause and take some mindful breaths in and out. This opened up a space for him to observe in a matter-of-fact way just what he was experiencing physically, mentally, and emotionally. Frank then began to allow and acknowledge what he was feeling and began to let things be. In time, those panicky feelings subsided and dissipated and Frank felt great relief, release, and happiness by learning how to face and transform his panic.

A helpful way to work mindfully with panic is called “Pause, Observe/Experience, and Allow.” This informal daily practice can help you work through panicky thoughts and events so that you don’t get so caught up in them.

So wherever you are—at the post office, at the bank, at the office, or at home, if you feel an activation of panic rushing within you — you can practice:

“Pause, Observe/Experience, and Allow.”

Here’s how it works:

1) When you notice the rush of panic emerging within, take a moment to breathe from your belly and pause to become present.
2) Observe and experience your body sensations, thoughts, and emotions.
3) Then allow them to be, giving space for them to go wherever they need to go.

See what happens when you bring the practice of “Pause, Observe/Experience, and Allow” into a panicky moment. Reflect upon the fact that life is indeed made of moments and although a moment of panic may seem like a thousand years, in actuality it’s not very long. Like all events in the body and mind, whatever arises, passes—for all things are certain to change.

By practicing “Pause, Observe/Experience, and Allow” you can begin to be with the storms of panic as they come and go and gradually feel less affected by them. You are learning to give space to the storm of panic by not reacting to it. You are learning to pause, observe/experience, and allow the panicky feelings to go wherever they need to go. When you give space to the storm of panic, eventually the storm dissipates. You will come to see these mind and body states of panic as impersonal formations that are always changing. When you become less reactive and regard these panicky events as transient, you will become not so enslaved by them. In time, you’ll experience deeper levels of freedom and peace.

Just as a mountain is steady and grounded in the midst of changing weather day in and day out, you can learn to sit in more balance with the weather systems of your own body and mind.

Bob StahlBob Stahl, PhD., is the co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Living With Your Heart Wide Open, and Calming The Rush Of Panic.

Bob founded Awareness and Relaxation Training in 1991 as an educational organization based in Santa Cruz, CA. and has founded seven mindfulness-based stress reduction programs in the San Francisco Bay Area and currently directs MBSR programs at Dominican Hospital, El Camino Hospital, and O’Connor Hospital.

Dr. Stahl is a certified MBSR teacher who also serves as an Adjunct Senior Teacher for Oasis – the institute for mindfulness-based professional education and innovation of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Bob conducts numerous mindfulness meditation retreats and workshops for health care professionals, corporations, and educational institutions and has extensive experience working with individuals facing physical disabilities, chronic pain, life-threatening illnesses, and stress-related conditions.

Wendy Millstine Photo

Wendy Millstine, NC, is a freelance writer and certified holistic nutrition consultant who specializes in diet and stress reduction. With Jeffrey Brantley, she is coauthor of the “Five Good Minutes®” series and “Daily Meditations for Calming Your Anxious Mind.” She lives in Sonoma County.

Hurrying up so we can slow down!

CharWilkinsBy Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW
Mindfulness Teacher and Trainer

Well of course that makes sense! We leave work and drive too fast to get home so we can finally relax.  Between patients we scribble notes in the file, run to the bathroom, and make a phone call while slurping caffeine so that after the next patient we can catch our breath. We inhale lunch without looking at it while we order holiday gifts on online because we don’t want to waste time just eating.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
tis the season of endless folly.”

It’s high season for too much and not enough, and Heart Hunger moves to the number one spot on Jan Chozen Bays’ list of Seven Hungers. As the holiday hype heightens and family drama, anxiety, depression and distress eating increase, we may feel anxious about our ability to respond to our patients’ escalating worries and fears about out of control holiday eating.  As clinicians, may find ourselves thinking that the problems that come with the season are just too much and that we don’t have what it takes to help those in our care with their overwhelming concerns.

holiday-foodDuring this holiday season of “food fests” at the office, with family and friends, in the media, schools and stores, we often suggest to our patients that they slow down when eating and savor the smells, tastes, textures and visual aspects of their food. But sniffing platters of food at the holiday office party isn’t going to happen. And slowing down with the very object that is their biggest “problem” can be daunting especially at this time of year.

We’re now in the throes of holiday madness sales, unrealistic expectations and personal history- a perfect recipe for reverting to the entrenched coping habit of eating foods that comfort or numb.  So even though it’s a season of huge over-indulgence, it can be a time during which small steps count.

Pausing can be one of those small steps. Rather than suggesting pausing before taking the first bite, suggest they pause before entering the room or building where the office party spread is on display.  Offer the idea of taking one minute to stay seated at their desk and feel the sensations in their feet in contact with the floor, or as they walk down the hall. Suggest sitting quietly for 60 seconds before getting out of the car to enter the house of a friend’s holiday brunch, aware of the feel of the steering wheel, or sounds inside or outside of the car, or the coming and going of the breath at the belly.  I call this “backing the movie up” far enough so that we can find a reasonable spot in which they might pause instead of hoping we can do it amidst the noise and pressure of the festive event. This way they begin building a slowing-down habit where and when it’s possible, rather than in the fray of things.

I try to take my own suggestion and see where in my day and my thinking I can slow down and pause. I try to “walk my talk” so that my practice becomes a skillful way of being with myself and others. I’d be interested to hear how you navigate the holiday food landscape mindfully (or not so mindfully!). Please share below your own observations and experiences, or perhaps the kinds of exercises of mindfulness practices you suggest to others.

(Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW and her colleague Jan Chozen Bays, MD, author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food  are co-leading an intensive 5-day Professional Training in a program called Mindful Eating, Conscious Living at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center in the high desert of Southern California March 10-15. See the website for more information.)

Educating from the Heart, Transforming Education

by Marilyn Webb Neagley

My role as director of the Talk About Wellness initiative since 2004 had focused on  inspiring contemplative and inner life programs in public schools.   This year the new goal has been to bring the message of our book, Educating from the Heart, and the lessons of mindfulness-based meditation to wider audiences.

While still working in partnership with the South Burlington Wellness and Resilience Program and other school districts we have been offering workshops, lectures and in-service instruction to such organizations as:

The Mindfulness Center Conference in Norwood, MA; Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children; The Vermont Association of School Counselors; Champlain College; The Woodruff Institute Institute and soon Middlebury College, Dickinson College and the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference.  My co-editor, Aostre N. Johnson received a Fullbright Fellowship this year and will be extending the message of the book to schools in Ireland.

Whenever possible, I bring another presenter, usually from the South Burlington program, who has been trained to use mindfulness practices for various grade levels in public school settings.

Talk About Wellness has funded instruction from Linda Lantieri, Daniel Rechtschaffen, Patricia Broderick and has connected to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and Parker Palmer through retreats, lectures and/or workshops.

The goal of Talk About Wellness has been to bring an “inner life” dimension to education through contemplative practices such as mindfulness but still include other elements such as time in nature, reflective writing, art, music, friendship, play, gratitude, and kindness.

Mindfulness-based Education in K-12 Public Schools, “Educating from the Heart” – Marilyn Webb Neagley, Ferris Buck Urbanowski and Sheri Rand

Hear and learn about the outcomes of the district-wide Wellness and Resilience Program held in South Burlington, VT. through attending this conference breakout session. In its third year, 160 educators have participated in the training and implementation. The program has ongoing support in mindfulness skills, has compiled research data, and has developed a “training of trainers” program to
enable greater outreach. Anyone who is interested in bringing mindfulness-based education to public schools would be interested in this session.

Conference Recordings Offer Mindfulness-Based Tools for Educators, Counselors, and Parents

Over the last decade, an increasing number of parents, children, educators, clinicians and researchers have studied and experienced the wide-ranging benefits of bringing mindfulness practice to youth in educational, clinical, and community settings. To help develop best practices within this growing movement, the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine and Center for Mindfulness, along with Stressed Teens, developed the Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth conference, which took place in February 2012.

The first-of-its-kind conference was designed to engage professionals in the ongoing discussion of the field as well as to assist their professional growth, all within the context of a thought-provoking, collegial and collaborative environment.

“We are excited about sharing the conference audio and videos of this dynamic gathering to those who weren’t able to attend, and thereby extend the discussion across the globe to people interested in this work in all its forms,” said Steven D. Hickman, PsyD, Director, UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. “Our deepest hope is that our efforts will support and deepen the important work being done, and foster even more profound impact in years to come.”

Publisher More Than Sound recorded over 20 hours of presentations and workshops with thought leaders from various disciplines (clinicians, educators and researchers), including the following keynote addresses:

Rick Hanson, PhD
Neuropsychologist and Author
Managing the Caveman Brain in the 21st Century


Susan Kaiser-Greenland, JD

Author, Educator, Co-Founder, Inner Kids
The Mindful Child: Teaching the New ABCs of Attention, Balance and Compassion

Amishi Jha, PhD
Psychologist and Researcher
University of Miami
From Dazed and Distracted to Attentive and Calm: What the Neuroscience of Mindfulness Reveals

Pamela Seigle, MS
Executive Director, Courage & Renewal NE

Chip Wood, MSW
Author and Educator, Facilitator
Courage & Renewal Northeast

Courage in Schools: Connecting Hearts and Minds in the Adult Community

The following workshops and breakout sessions are also available:

Gina M. Biegel, MA, LMFT
Psychotherapist and Author, Founder, Stressed Teens Program
Mindfulness for Professionals Working with Adolescents: A Training in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program for Teens (MBSR-T)

Randye Semple, PhD
Clinical Psychologist and Author
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Anxious Children
Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Children (MBCT-C)

Megan Cowan
Co-Founder and Executive Director of Programs, Mindful Schools
Integrating Mindfulness into the K5 Classroom: Lessons Learned From Teaching Over 13,000 Students

Gina M. Biegel, MA, LMFT
Race to Right Here Right Now: An Introduction for Utilizing and Disseminating Mindfulness with Adolescents

M. Lee Freedman, MD

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Co-Founder, Mindfulness Toronto, Founder, Mindful Families and School
Mindful Parents: Resilient Children: Teaching Mindful Parenting Practice through Group and Individual Psychotherapy

Joe Klein, LPC, CSAC
Founder and President Inward Bound Mindfulness Education
Sex, Drugs, Facebook and Ice Cream

Sam Himelstein, PhD
Psychotherapist, Researcher, and Mindfulness Teacher
and
Chris McKenna

Mindfulness Teacher & Executive Director, Mind Body Awareness Project
Teaching Mindfulness to Urban & At-Risk Adolescents

Amy Saltzman, MD
Mindfulness Teacher & Holistic Physician, Creator and Director: Still Quiet Place, Co-founder and Director: Association for Mindfulness in Education
Still Quiet Place: Proven Practices for Teaching Children and Teens the Skills for Peace and Happiness

Amy Garrett, PhD
Research Scientist Stanford University
Brain Abnormalities Associated with Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Adolescents

Nimrod Sheinman, ND
Naturopathic physician and mind-body expert, Founder, Israel Center for Mind-Body Medicine, Founder, The Mindful Language Project
Bringing the Soul Back to School: Lessons Learned from over 15 Years of Teaching Mindfulness and Mind-Body Health in Israeli Schools

The audio recordings and videos are a useful resource for psychologists, counselors, educators, health professionals and parents who are working with children and teens. To purchase the audio or streaming conference videos of individual talks or the full conference, and to learn more about each talk, visit More Than Sound. Presenter biographies are available here. Sample video clips are available on More Than Sound’s YouTube channel.

The UCSD Center for Mindfulness is planning the second annual Bridging Hearts & Minds conference, scheduled for February 1-3, 2013.

The Practices of Mindful Eating & Healthy Living: New 4-Week Workshop Launched at UCSD

Following on the heels of our recent successful 2-day workshop by Jan Chozen Bays and Char Wilkins entitled Mindful Eating, Tasting Satisfaction here at UCSD, we are launching a series of 4-week (90 minute sessions) experiential workshops on mindful eating for the general public. Exploring of the intersection of mindfulness, eating, food and physical health, The Practices of Mindful Eating and Healthy Living emphasizes engagement in formal and informal mindfulness meditation practices and eating awareness exercises as a means of bringing about significant changes in behavior, eating patterns and overall health.

Rochelle Voth, Ph.D.

Rochelle Voth, Ph.D.

Led by clinical psychologist, mindful eating authority and senior UCSD Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher Rochelle Voth, Ph.D., this workshop aims to help those who want to find new ways to relate to food, eating, weight and health through the practice of mindfulness. People with previous meditation experience and those new to the practice are invited to participate. Dr. Voth teaches MBSR at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness and also will offer this workshop in her private practice called New Mindful Life. 

The practice of present moment awareness (mindfulness) is at the heart of all aspects of healthy living, as it allows us to see clearly into the choices we make, the emotional reactions we have and the things that are most important to us. Because of the universal nature of mindfulness, while this workshop is focused upon food, eating and weight, the skills gained will apply to all aspects of life, including relationships, work, and physical health.

Participants will explore the joys and sorrows held in eating and food, the disconnects and communions, and the avoidance and cravings – all of which can be opportunities for more conscious, mindful living and eating. Participants will also explore the accomplishments and challenges held in meeting the body, the acceptance and resistance, and the trust and uncertainty- which are also opportunities for more conscious, mindful well-being and health.

The first workshop begins on July 14 from 6 to 7:30 pm at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness, 5060 Shoreham Place, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92122. For more information and details, peruse our schedule and register at our website or visit New Mindful Life’s site for the schedule at that location.

For healthcare professionals who wish to learn more about teaching mindful eating, you may wish to attend a 5-day Professional Training Retreat entitled “Mindful Eating, Conscious Living” on October 2-7, 2011 at EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, California. This training will also be led by Jan Chozen Bays (author of the book Mindful Eating: A guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food) and experienced mindfulness teacher and trainer Char Wilkins, LCSW.

 

Mindful Eating: The Power of Mindfulness Practice for Client and Clinician

Char Wilkins, M.S.W, L.C.S.W.

Char Wilkins is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist who is trained to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness programs. Char has led several professional training retreats for the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.

By Char Wilkins
I found my way to meditation years ago out of necessity- not unlike how people come into therapy and the mindfulness-based courses I teach. Knowing how useful meditation had been in my own life, I began looking for a way to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into my psychotherapy practice for individuals and in groups. The intersection of abuse, body image and eating/food issues is insidiously woven together for many people. Each year I find myself sitting with an increasing number of women struggling with disordered eating borne out of stress and suffering.

Bringing mindfulness into working with painful and habituated coping mechanisms, whether a situational practice or an entrenched eating disorder, seemed to be an appropriate next step. Through mindful eating exercises and meditation, most of the women I see individually or in  MB-intervention programs report that food cravings lessen, they gain skills in self-regulating not only with regard to food and eating but in all areas of their lives, and they become more aware of what, how and the hunger that drives their eating or non-eating. Mindfulness isn’t a cure and it isn’t for everyone, but it can facilitate change.

There is never just one way to address any behavior that arise out of fear or ignorance, but the integration of mindfulness into a treatment plan can be useful to both therapist and client when difficulty around food/eating and body image are part of the landscape. For the healthcare professional, being fully present to the client through the lens of mindfulness provides an anchor for the clinician and a steadying presence for the client. When the pull to be directive with a client about what to do, eat or not eat arises, it’s valuable for the clinician to skillfully attend to their own feelings of anxiety, inadequacy or fear that could cloud their ability to remain fully present and non-judgmental. For the client, the introduction of mindfulness meditations and exercises offer the possibility of a skillful approach to being with difficult emotions, thoughts and behaviors, and a way to be aware of and with physical sensations in body.  Once learned, mindfulness skills are not dependent on the therapist and this helps to shift the client’s locus of control from external to internal.

When working with habituated eating patterns from a mindful stance, the goal is never weight because weight is only a symptom. Just as in meditation where relaxation is the not the goal although it is often a welcomed by-product, weight gain or loss is not the goal. Rather the focus is bringing eating into balance with other important aspects in the client’s life. Because unhealthy eating habits are often closely linked to depression and anxiety, trustworthy ways in which to develop awareness and tolerance of uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and physical sensations are an important consideration of mindful eating practices. Compassionate acceptance of what is here right now brings with it a different perspective and the possibility of choice.

The idea of “acceptance,” “non-doing” or “non-striving” often elicits feelings of agitation, frustration, inadequacy and fear of passivity from the client.  To someone used to following strict diets, excessive exercise or other regimes, cyclical binges or habituated overeating, the idea of not doing something about it can be frightening for client and clinician, even when both are aware of the merciless cycles these behaviors create. Using the principles of mindfulness and mindful eating encourages self-referral, a reduction in impulsivity and a way to steady one’s self in challenging moments.

Once trained in mindfulness meditation and mindful eating practices, a clinician might begin by introducing the concept of mindfulness through the raisin exercise or a simple breath meditation.  My colleague, Jan Chozen Bays, has simple and short, focused eating exercises in her book, Mindful Eating: a guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food.  And there are more and more books, trainings and workshops that can help and support healthcare professionals in this much needed eating awareness work.

Char Wilkins and Jan Chozen Bays will be co-leading a 5-day Professional Training Retreat entitled “Mindful Eating, Conscious Living” on October 2-7, 2011 in Petaluma, CA sponsored by the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. They will also be conducting a 2-day workshop entitled “Mindful Eating: Tasting Satisfaction” on June 18-19 in San Diego.

 

The Family ADHD Solution

The Family ADHD Solution, by Dr. Mark Bertin is the newest addition to our UCSD CFM Bookstore.

“Mark Bertin has written an insightful guide to help families approach the challenges of attentional difficulties with a mindful approach. Research has suggested that learning to be mindfully aware can help reduce stress, focus the mind, keep emotions balanced, and even improve your immune function. The bottom-line of these studies is that you can learn to approach challenging situations with resilience. So why not take the small amount of time to read this wonderful book and prepare yourself and your family well for the challenges ahead?”
–Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., author of Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation and Parenting from the Inside Out

“The stress on parents raising a child with a developmental disorder such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be intense. It frequently is amplified by all the misinformation about ADHD available in our modern world, which may lead parents to believe they or their child are to blame in some way. This misinformation also can bias family and friends, leading them to be judgmental of parenting skills and to attribute behavioral issues to anything but the actual biological causes of ADHD. The chronic stress of parents has broad implications for all family members.

The Family ADHD Solution addresses parental stress and well-being as well, as that of their children. The foundation of comprehensive ADHD care is compassionate objectivity – in other words, mindfulness. Without any need for formal training, through reading this book parents begin to practice mindfulness as they start to grasp the intricacies of ADHD, better understanding their child and creating appropriate supports at home and school.

In his blog on Psychology Today, Dr. Bertin notes, “ADHD has distinct biological causes, and symptoms extend far beyond inattention and hyperactivity. It’s not a matter of effort for a child; it’s a matter of what skills they have, which ones they don’t yet have, and the care they need to develop them. Complicated decisions are simplified when parents acknowledge the reality of ADHD – including the fact that their kids generally are trying to do the best they can, and struggling because of their ADHD symptoms.”

Likewise, parents of kids with ADHD are trying to do the best they can and often struggling. The amount of effort and consistency required over the years may feel draining. When stress takes over for a parent, it affects their decision making and how they relate to their kids. It also affects how they address problems day-to-day, with old habits more likely to take over, and new possibilities less likely found. And a child’s behavior and well-being may be influenced by how their parents experience stress.

The Family ADHD Solution addresses these challenges through the practice of mindfulness. When parents practice mindfulness, they not only tend to feel calmer and more balanced day-to-day, their children benefit as well. The Family ADHD Solution integrates mindfulness into evidence-based, practical ADHD advice and helps both parents and their children find their way onto a simpler, more balanced path.

For more information, please visit Dr. Bertin’s website.