Category Archives: MBCP: Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting

THANKFUL: Appreciating Beautiful Gifts from Children and Youth

By LeesaMaree Bleicher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thankful

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

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

Join February’s Unconference: Sitting in a circle and talking about what’s really alive for people

by  Susan Kaiser Greenland

kaisergreenlandsusanSusan Kaiser Greenland, JD, Author, Educator, is the developer and co-founder of the Inner Kids mindful awareness program for children, teens and their families. She is author of The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate (Free Press, 2010).

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Have you heard that 2014 will usher in an era of mindful living? It must be true because J. Walter Thompson, a giant advertising agency with considerable qualitative, quantitative and desk research prowess, has identified the top 10 trends for 2014 and mindful living is tenth on the list. What’s more, mindfulness is implicit in several of the top 10 trends. In keeping with this year’s second trend “Do You Speak Visual?” here’s a video teaser:

It’s a funny video and so is characterizing mindfulness as a new trend given its ancient roots in the East and, through Pop icons like Alan Watts, the Beat poets, John Lennon and George Harrison, its decades old roots in the Western zeitgeist. But there’s no denying that mindfulness has become trendy and with popularization insiders are both happy and concerned. If you’re curious about the positive aspects of the growing mindfulness movement check out Mindful Magazine published by seasoned veterans in the field and, if you’re interested in insiders’ concerns, read Ron Purser and David Loy’s Huffington Post article Beyond McMindfulness.

The trendiness of mindfulness has created an explosion of interest in sharing it with children, teens and families and not unlike popularization itself, growing interest in kids’ mindfulness has created it’s own set of plusses and minuses. Last year, Amy Saltzman and Steve Hickman reached out to Mark Greenberg and me to ask if we’d join them in hosting a symposium connected with this year’s Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference at UCSD. Together we polled a handful of our colleagues and were especially struck by the following three responses:

* From Chris McKenna with Mindful Schools: “We are looking for issues that are really alive for people and not just theoretical.”

* From Lisa Flook a scientist with The University of Wisconsin, Madison: “How do we engage mindfully (with heartfulness and skillfulness) together and what are mechanisms for explicitly addressing this ongoing group process?”

* From Wynn Kinder with Wellness Works: “ Collaboration and cooperation are messy.”

bridging2014badgeWe went back to the drawing board and the symposium morphed into an Unconference with this Native American adage in mind: “In the circle, we are all equal. When in the circle, no one is in front of you. No one is behind you. No one is above you. No one is below you”.  Steve carved out a morning for mindfulness veterans, newcomers, and those in-between to sit in a circle and (borrowing from Chris) talk about what’s “really alive for them.” We chose this format with professional group facilitators to ensure the “mindful, heartful and skillful process” that Lisa highlights in her comments above. And, we promise to remember Wynn’s prompt that “collaboration and cooperation are messy”.

Here how the Unconference morning will break down:

* The 1440 Foundation has generously underwritten a significant portion of the event including breakfast starting at 7am.

* We’re honored that Sharon Salzberg will lead a meditation at 8:30am.

* Small, facilitated groups will meet for an hour and a half.

* We’ll conclude with a panel discussion moderated by Mark Greenberg.

Like much of the cutting-edge and field development work that’s happening in the mindfulness world, the Bridging the Hearts and Minds Unconference wouldn’t be possible without a generous grant from the 1440 Foundation.

Veterans slated to join our working circles include Sharon Salzberg from IMS, Mark Greenberg and Christa Turksma from CARE, Jim Gimian and Barry Boyce from Mindful Magazine, Vinny Ferraro and Megan Cowan from Mindful Schools, Lisa Flook from University of Wisconsin, Madison, Randye Semple with USC and UCLA, Lidia Zylowska co-founder UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, Wynne Kinder from Wellness Works, Chris Willard who wrote A Child’s Mind, Rona Wilensky, Lesley Grant with Marin Mindfulness, Amy Saltzman from Still Quiet Place, Steve Hickman with UCSD and me.

We hope you’ll join us.

The Unconference will be held on the morning of February 7, 2014.  For more information and to register visit the UCSD website.

“Bridging” Conference Keynote Speaker Daniel J. Siegel, Neuropsychiatrist, on the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain

by Molly Petrilla republished from Smart Planet, Dec.7, 2013

Photo: Son of Groucho/Flickr

Group of Teens

Siegel unravels the courage and creativity of adolescents — and reveals that teens are both impulsive and hyper-rational.

Teenagers don’t have the best reputation. They’re often called reckless and immature or written off as self-obsessed adult-haters. But as neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel watched his own kids make their way through adolescence, something occurred to him: This was nothing like all those pop-culture stereotypes.

When he couldn’t find a book written for adolescents about the changes happening in their brains, Siegel decided to write his own. He began looking into the science behind the teenage brain and “I was shocked to find the disparity between what science was saying and what popular views of adolescence are,” he says. “Then I thought, maybe this book should be for adults, too.”

The result was Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, which will be released later this month and is aimed at both teenage and adult readers. Several weeks before its publication date, the book was already ranked the second highest-selling book in Amazon’s parenting-of-teenagers subcategory — but Siegel is no stranger to bestsellers. A psychiatry professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, he has already written several of them, including The Developing Mind and The Whole-Brain Child.

He recently spoke with us about the brain during adolescence — a period that spans ages 12 to 24 — and explained why he says, with complete confidence, that “the reason we’ve populated every aspect of the planet is because of the courage of adolescents.”

Taking the second half of your subtitle first: What is the purpose of the teenage brain?

DrDanSiegelDr. Dan Siegel (James Reese)

Going from the dependency of childhood to the responsibility of adulthood requires not just a leap, but a transformation. The brain needs a transformative time to prepare for that. At a species level, for us to adapt to everyone on the planet, you can’t just accept what the current adult population has learned and transmitted to you in your childhood. You’ve got to push away from that and start thinking in new ways. For the individual, at a very basic level, there need to be changes in the brain that allow you to leave home and start changing out the combinations of genes so we diversify the gene pool. If you remain in the role of dependent child, you’ll never figure out how to approach dangers and challenges while you’re doing all this. It’s a time where you have to court danger and take risks so you’re ready for adulthood.

In Brainstorm you talk about four major aspects of the teenage brain, all of which seem geared toward those broader purposes. What are those aspects?

I love acronyms, and I call this one ESSENCE. ES is emotional spark. The lower parts of the nervous system rise up and affect the higher part of the brain — the cortex — which gives us this passion and vitality. The SE is social engagement. The brain is literally programmed to start having you turn to your peers rather than your parents and engage socially with your peer group. The brain’s change in dopamine drives you to experience novelty [N] as very rewarding, and that allows you to go out and take risks. And CE is creative expression. The brain is achieving new levels of complexity that open the mind up to creatively exploring the nature of reality in a new way.

Digging into that last one, you write that adolescence is “a golden age for innovation” and “the gateway to creative thinking.” Why is that?

When adolescence comes, we’re programmed from an evolutionary point of view to push away from the status quo. In concrete terms, we push away from our parents and parent figures. But from a more abstract sense, we start imagining the worlds that don’t quite exist yet. Those are the sources of creativity: this push against what exists to not only think out of the box but to actually re-imagine the world. If you look at the data even in science, which is a hard field, a lot of the new ideas come from people in their adolescence. That’s true in art and music, too, and obviously in technology.

How does ESSENCE apply to adults? Is it something we can hold on to through life, or at least reclaim now that we know about it?

The ESSENCE of adolescence is something you don’t ever have to let go of, but if you have and now you need to reclaim it, there are things you can do. To get your emotional spark back, I would suggest using mind-training practices to enhance your awareness of non-verbal signals that arise from your body. You also get used to the familiar and the routine as an adult. To bring back novelty, simply try new things; introduce new things into your life on purpose.

You also write that it’s inaccurate to dismiss adolescents as simply impulsive. In fact, you say that they can actually be too rational when making risky decisions.

The research term is hyper-rational thinking. It’s related to the idea that the appraisal centers of your brain highlight and emphasize and amplify the meaning and significance and import of a positive aspect of an experience. If I’m going to drive a car 100 miles an hour, it would be how thrilling that will be. The potential cons — I could crash into a tree, I could kill someone, I could kill myself — are minimized. When you hyper-rationally do your calculation, you say that the chances are very likely everything will be fine. There may be a five percent chance I’ll crash but a 95 percent chance I won’t. Sadly, the hyper-rational thinking accurately assess probabilities, but it de-emphasizes the severity of the negative outcome, simply because there’s only a slight chance it will happen.

What are some of the other major myths you discovered about adolescence?

One is that to grow up, adolescents need to be totally independent of adults. In fact, adolescents need adults in their lives. We don’t have much in the structure of modern society that provides trusted, non-parental adult figures that the adolescent — whose brain is naturally pushing away from parent figures — can turn to during this transformative period of life. We need to rethink that as a society.

I also disagree with the belief that adolescence is this horrible time of life that you just have to get through. I think the courage to creatively explore the world is an untapped resource for humanity. If we don’t work together to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems with the help of adolescent minds, then we’re not going to do so well.

Is there something that still puzzles you about the teenage brain, even after writing a book about it?

So many things! Mostly there are fundamental questions about how we can reach individuals entering the adolescent period to minimize danger to themselves or others. We need to really think deeply about how to develop communities of support for teens.

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The 2014 Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference is pleased to announce the welcome addition of Dr. Daniel Siegel (author of the forthcoming book Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain). 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.

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.

Advancing & Growing the Work We Hold So Dear

(With this post we welcome the subscribers from our former Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth conference blog site.  All future posts regarding the conference will be easily recognized as they will contain the Bridging badge pictured here. We recognize that all the fields our work touches are best served with one unified presence, and this blog is intended to be that place.)

A Message From Allan Goldstein
Associate Director
UCSD Center for Mindfulness

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

When I first read Daniel Goleman’s call in Emotional Intelligence for mindfulness to be taught in schools I could not have imagined that I would be sending a personal message asking for your support for a conference that brings together the wonderful growing community of people now engaged in that work.

For the second year, many of those key people will gather in San Diego, CA at the Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Education and Research conference to learn, collaborate, and move this work forward. I would like to first invite you to join us in sunny San Diego and secondly, if this is not your field of work, to help us spread the word to the clinicians, educators and researchers that you know in the field.

We are thrilled, humbled, and grateful, that among our exemplary panel of presenters that includes keynote presentations by Linda Lantieri, Margaret Cullen and Tish Jennings, Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn will be presenting a workshop on “Mindful Parenting: Nurturing our Children, Growing Ourselves.” Jon will also be giving a special public benefit lecture for the UCSD Center for Mindfulness entitled, “Befriending Your Mind, Befriending Your Life:  Mindfulness and the Endless Adventure of Growing into Yourself.” The conference includes several research symposia, a poster session, and numerous breakout sessions. There are also optional pre-and post- conference workshops to choose from. Please view the full conference agenda on our website. Continuing Education credits for physicians, psychologists, therapists and educators will be available.

By all accounts our inaugural conference last February was an inspiring ground-breaking event. Now is the time to become part of our “Bridging” community for the benefit of all youth, now and for future generations. We hope you can join us and help us spread our reach to your colleagues and friends.

Allan

Cut Yourself Some SLACK!

Re-posted with gracious permission from Amy Saltzman’s The Still Quite Place blog  and website. Amy Saltman, MD, Mindfulness Teacher & Holistic Physician is Creator and Director of Still Quiet Place, Co-founder and Director of the Association for Mindfulness in Education.  Amy is recognized by her peers as a visionary and pioneer in the fields of holistic medicine and mindfulness in K-12 education. She has conducted research studies evaluating the benefits of teaching mindfulness to child-parent pairs, and to children in low-income elementary schools.

One day when my son was three, I walked into my bedroom to find him seated on the floor cutting thin green foam that he had pealed off  some clothing hangers. I asked “J, honey, what are you doing?” He replied “I am cutting slack.”  If a three year old can cut himself some slack then perhaps we mothers can do it too.

THE CRAZY PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

Most of us say “ I just want my kids to be happy….” However often, we so desperately want our kids to be happy that we make ourselves and our children a bit crazy in the process.

Loving our children and wanting them to be happy is absolutely natural. Yet somewhere along the way this natural impulse gets distorted.

Our culture tells us that happiness is found through “success”, accomplishment and the accumulation of things. And here is where things get crazy. When we identify as our role of parent, and  measure our “success” as parents on the happiness of our children, we find ourselves frantically pursuing the activities and things we think will make our children happy.

CIRCULAR THINKING

This circular thinking “I’ll be successful when my kids are happy”, and “my kids will be happy when they are successful” has us scurrying around trying to make our kids happier, usually by trying to make them more successful in their endeavors—baseball, bassoon, ballet…. Ironically every time we do this we are teaching our children to calibrate their happiness on external circumstances.

GUILT-FEAR-JUDGMENT

This is where the fear and guilt and judgment come in. Even though we rarely admit it, we are terrified that we are doing it “wrong”, that we have already irrevocably damaged our kids, and that they will need years of therapy to lead even remotely normal lives. This fear fills us with guilt and doubt. We compare ourselves to other mothers, and often assume that they have it more together; what my wise mentor calls comparing their outsides (the stylishly dressed mother we see at the school book faire) to our insides (the more or less incessant chatter of “shoulda, woulda, coulda”). We harshly scrutinize and judge our parenting and theirs. This fear, doubt and judgment fuels the various “mommy wars” (tiger mom, pussycat mom, working mom, stay at home mom, breast feeding mom, bottle feeding mom). As a result, we often parent poorly out of reactivity and paralysis.

DEEP BREATHS

So what’s the alternative? How about cutting yourselves, and other parents, some slack? How do you feel when you read that sentence? Take a slow deep breath, let out a long sigh, allow the corners of your mouth to curve up just slightly and whisper or shout “ I am going to cut myself some slack!”

HOW TO CUT SLACK

While this sounds good in theory, most of us need some slack cutting instructions.

  • Stop when you notice you are stressed out, beating yourself up, critically assessing your pathetic parenting, stop. Take at least 3 and preferably 10 deep breaths. And stop trying so hard to be the perfect parent.
  • Lighten Up With a sense of humor (which is not the same as self deprecation), acknowledge that in this moment despite your best intentions, you are not being the mother you want to be.
  • Accept that you are doing the best you can. Seriously, if you could do better in this moment you would.
  • Cultivate compassion for how extraordinarily challenging it is to be “good” parent even some of the time, much less all the time.
  • Choose what you want to do next—take 5 in the bathroom to recollect yourself, announce a “do over”, apologize to your child for snapping at her when really you were frustrated by a recent phone call with a colleague, set a clearer limit, get support….

And if worse comes to worse go into your closet with your children and several pairs of child-safe scissors, and cut everyone a piece of SLACK.

A Course in Mindful ParentingJoin our own UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness Youth & Family Programs Director Lorraine M. Hobbs M.A., CHom. and Lucas LearnMann in A Course in Mindful Parenting. Please check our schedule and registrations page as this course is presented on an ongoing monthly basis at our UCSD CFM meditation room. Whether you come for one session or on a repeated monthly basis we invite you to join Lorraine and Lucas in learning how to cut yourselves and your children some slack.

Mindfulness in Schools Initiative: An Interview with Lorraine Hobbs

We are pleased to bring you the first in a series of interviews about our UCSD Center for Mindfulness Youth and Family Mindfulness Programs. Through these interviews we hope that you will get to know our teachers and learn about the important work in which they are engaged.

Lorraine M. Hobbs, M.S., CHom., is a senior MBSR teacher and the Director of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness Youth and Family Programs. Lorraine’s passion for working with teens and families has led to a number of programs including a Mindfulness in Education program, a stress reduction program for teens at the Center, a Mindful Parenting program, and a one-day Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshop for Educators. She has taught a number of curricula in several schools in San Diego and recently returned from Wales as a trained Mindfulness in Schools (MiSP) teacher.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Lorraine about .b (the MiSP curriculum) and her work with teens and families.

How would you describe .b?

.b is a uniquely-designed experientially-based curriculum, which utilizes video and media as a teaching tool in the classroom.  The MiSP website offers a description of the program as, “… 8 lessons, each teaching a distinct mindfulness skill, and each designed to do so in a way which entertains young minds as well as helping them to flourish.” Lessons are 35 to 45 minutes each and teach through a variety of culturally relevant images, wording, and formatting specifically designed to catch the interest and attention of teenagers. The presentation catches interest and attention while the exercises throughout the lesson cultivate awareness.  The program excels in the way that it cultivates awareness and purposeful attention through thought and sensation. It engages multiple senses and teaches using a variety of different learning styles. It really utilizes and incorporates sensory experience: visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic.

Can you give an example of how you have seen mindfulness training affect teens?

I have been leading our teen group here at CFM for four years and through that I have seen lots of very rich experiences.  After just a few weeks of learning the practices, teens will begin connecting the dots.  We will do a meditation, or an exercise, and kids will begin to share their experience of how this “mindfulness stuff” is affecting them at school or at home.  They will often say things like, “I notice how I can get out of the “hole” much easier when I pay attention to what I am experiencing. I am less likely to react and get myself into trouble.” In mindfulness, we teach awareness of thoughts, feelings and sensations and their affect on behavior.  When teens can learn to pay attention to their present moment reality, they have a better chance of identifying their reactive patterns and making better choices.  Teenagers can get “caught up” in the moment and without realizing it, jump on a runaway train of high drama, which can intensify and lead to – as Jon-Kabat Zinn says – catastrophic thinking.  For teens this can be more problematic if they have poor impulse control and under moments of high-stress act-out or act-in.  Helping them connect to themselves and not react to their “story”   is a particularly powerful experience for them.  We often see greater self-regulation as they develop greater awareness.  As a result, there is a shift from a stressful, worrisome or tearful place to a place of awareness, mindful presence and a greater freedom to choose.

How has mindfulness affected your life?

Mindfulness helps me discover the joy in my own life every day.  I find a greater appreciation for the more subtle and quieter parts of my life, which had eluded me before I began my practice.  It is from here that I try to teach, especially with teens.  They are so alert and naturally aware and they demand authenticity from their teachers.  If I can embody presence and a sense of joy, through my own practice, then I think it is a way of reaching others.

Why do you want to teach mindfulness to kids and teens?

It’s inspiring, it’s transformational, and it’s real.  I think mindfulness combats pain and suffering.

Helping kids to change their lives has many rewards.  I started this program because I saw the detrimental effects of stress on my own teenage daughter.  As she and other teens have gone through our program, I have had the privilege of witnessing powerful changes that have been truly inspirational to me.

Lastly, what is next? 

The Youth and Family Programs is currently offering a one day Teacher Training Workshop on stress reduction through mindfulness.  We are interested in expanding this workshop into a curriculum for teachers, who are interested in offering a mindfulness program to their students in the classroom.  There is a good deal of research as well as many anecdotes from students to support the benefits of a mindfulness curriculum in the schools.  However, we are here to support teachers and educators as well.  When teachers come to our workshops, we see the impact of stress on their lives, both personally and professionally.  Mindfulness can provide support and relief to the challenges they face each day in the classroom.  It offers a way of attending to the stressors through a momentary shift in awareness, which offers choice…the freedom to choose in each moment.

Join Lorraine Hobbs, MA, CHom; Amy Holte, PhD, MEd; Livia Walsh LMFT, MS, MA, RN for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshop for Educators November 3, 2012 • 9am-3pm • Francis Parker High School, San Diego, CA

Also, save the date for our Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice Education and Research conference, featuring Jon & Myla Kabat- Zinn, February 1-3 2013,Catamaran Hotel 3999 Mission Boulevard San Diego, CA.

Mindfulness in Schools Initiative: An Interview with Lorraine Hobbs

We are pleased to bring you the first in a series of interviews about our UCSD Center for Mindfulness Youth and Family Mindfulness Programs. Through these interviews we hope that you will get to know our teachers and learn about the important work in which they are engaged.

Lorraine M. Hobbs, M.S., CHom., is a senior MBSR teacher and the Director of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness Youth and Family Programs. Lorraine’s passion for working with teens and families has led to a number of programs including a Mindfulness in Education program, a stress reduction program for teens at the Center, a Mindful Parenting program, and a one-day Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshop for Educators. She has taught a number of curricula in several schools in San Diego and recently returned from Wales as a trained Mindfulness in Schools (MiSP) teacher.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Lorraine about .b (the MiSP curriculum) and her work with teens and families.

How would you describe .b?

.b is a uniquely-designed experientially-based curriculum, which utilizes video and media as a teaching tool in the classroom.  The MiSP website offers a description of the program as, “… 8 lessons, each teaching a distinct mindfulness skill, and each designed to do so in a way which entertains young minds as well as helping them to flourish.” Lessons are 35 to 45 minutes each and teach through a variety of culturally relevant images, wording, and formatting specifically designed to catch the interest and attention of teenagers. The presentation catches interest and attention while the exercises throughout the lesson cultivate awareness.  The program excels in the way that it cultivates awareness and purposeful attention through thought and sensation. It engages multiple senses and teaches using a variety of different learning styles. It really utilizes and incorporates sensory experience: visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic.

Can you give an example of how you have seen mindfulness training affect teens?

I have been leading our teen group here at CFM for four years and through that I have seen lots of very rich experiences.  After just a few weeks of learning the practices, teens will begin connecting the dots.  We will do a meditation, or an exercise, and kids will begin to share their experience of how this “mindfulness stuff” is affecting them at school or at home.  They will often say things like, “I notice how I can get out of the “hole” much easier when I pay attention to what I am experiencing. I am less likely to react and get myself into trouble.” In mindfulness, we teach awareness of thoughts, feelings and sensations and their affect on behavior.  When teens can learn to pay attention to their present moment reality, they have a better chance of identifying their reactive patterns and making better choices.  Teenagers can get “caught up” in the moment and without realizing it, jump on a runaway train of high drama, which can intensify and lead to – as Jon-Kabat Zinn says – catastrophic thinking.  For teens this can be more problematic if they have poor impulse control and under moments of high-stress act-out or act-in.  Helping them connect to themselves and not react to their “story”   is a particularly powerful experience for them.  We often see greater self-regulation as they develop greater awareness.  As a result, there is a shift from a stressful, worrisome or tearful place to a place of awareness, mindful presence and a greater freedom to choose.

How has mindfulness affected your life?

Mindfulness helps me discover the joy in my own life every day.  I find a greater appreciation for the more subtle and quieter parts of my life, which had eluded me before I began my practice.  It is from here that I try to teach, especially with teens.  They are so alert and naturally aware and they demand authenticity from their teachers.  If I can embody presence and a sense of joy, through my own practice, then I think it is a way of reaching others.

Why do you want to teach mindfulness to kids and teens?

It’s inspiring, it’s transformational, and it’s real.  I think mindfulness combats pain and suffering.

Helping kids to change their lives has many rewards.  I started this program because I saw the detrimental effects of stress on my own teenage daughter.  As she and other teens have gone through our program, I have had the privilege of witnessing powerful changes that have been truly inspirational to me.

Lastly, what is next? 

The Youth and Family Programs is currently offering a one day Teacher Training Workshop on stress reduction through mindfulness.  We are interested in expanding this workshop into a curriculum for teachers, who are interested in offering a mindfulness program to their students in the classroom.  There is a good deal of research as well as many anecdotes from students to support the benefits of a mindfulness curriculum in the schools.  However, we are here to support teachers and educators as well.  When teachers come to our workshops, we see the impact of stress on their lives, both personally and professionally.  Mindfulness can provide support and relief to the challenges they face each day in the classroom.  It offers a way of attending to the stressors through a momentary shift in awareness, which offers choice…the freedom to choose in each moment.

Join Lorraine Hobbs, MA, CHom; Amy Holte, PhD, MEd; Livia Walsh LMFT, MS, MA, RN for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshop for Educators November 3, 2012 • 9am-3pm • Francis Parker High School, San Diego, CA

Also, save the date for our Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice Education and Research conference, featuring Jon & Myla Kabat- Zinn, February 1-3 2013,Catamaran Hotel 3999 Mission Boulevard San Diego, CA.

Planting Seeds: The Power of Mindfulness

A film for parents and educators combining comic book animation, documentary footage, and classroom materials.

“Planting Seeds” The Power of Mindfulness, the film’s working title, is based on the book, Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children, by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community
 and draws from Plum Village’s thirty years of mindfulness and compassion work with children, parents and educators. The film offers tried-and-true meaningful, fun, and engaging activities that kids can do in any setting and either self-guided or led by an adult. Key practices
presented include mindful breathing, mindful walking, inviting the bell, pebble meditation, the Two Promises or ethical guidelines for children, eating meditation, and dealing with conflict and strong emotions.

“Planting Seeds” will be shot this July in Plum Village, France, during the month-long Summer Retreat, in which thousands of families from all over the world learn how mindfulness can enrich and heal people of all ages. Throughout the month, parents, teachers, childrens, monks, nuns, and Thich Nhat Hanh let us into their experience and share their stories and practice of mindfulness. The result is that this feature documentary and animated film gives everyone an embodied experience of peace and wellbeing and effective tools for creating peaceful, happy lives long after the film is over.

You can learn more about the project, read updates from the film team, or donate to the project, at http://www.indiegogo.com/plantingseedsfilm.

We invite you to participate in one of our UCSD CFM education-based mindfulness Youth and Family Programs; Stress Reduction Program for Teens or A Course in Mindful Parenting.

If you are an educator please consider joining us for our popular  Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshop for Educators Saturday, November 3, 2012, 9am-3pm.

We are also  happy to keep you up to date on all the exciting developments taking place around our upcoming  Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference February 1-3, 2013, Catamaran Resort Hotel, San Diego, CA. Stay informed about Jon Kabat-Zinn’s benefit lecture and very special 3-hour workshop on Mindful Parenting with his wife Myla Kabat-Zinn on the conference website and through liking the conference Facebook Page.

Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn to Present at 2013 Mindfulness & Youth Conference in San Diego

Jon & Myla Kabat-Zinn

Jon & Myla Kabat-Zinn

Conference organizers announced today that scientist, author and noted mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn will be offering a public lecture in San Diego on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 as part of the 2nd Annual Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Education and Research conference. Jon and his wife Myla, co-authors of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting will also present a 3-hour workshop on Mindful Parenting on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 2 as part of the conference.

“We are so excited to have Jon and Myla with us for the conference to maintain the tremendous momentum we built with last year’s inaugural event,” said Steven Hickman, Director of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness and conference organizer. “And the best news is that this is only the first of several exciting developments in the works for 2013.”

Hickman went on to note that the conference will start a half-day earlier than in 2012, largely to accommodate two research symposia, a poster session and optional pre-conference workshop. The focus will remain on the “three pillars” of clinical practice, education and research, and keynote speakers and sessions will be devoted to each of these areas of interest. “In order to assure a varied and interesting agenda for 2013, the Program Committee has opted to issue a call for submissions to fill much of the conference schedule,” Hickman reported. “We invited the people we knew doing the work we were most familiar with last year, and the result was wonderful. But this year we are casting the net much wider in hopes of involving people and programs from a much broader background and expertise.” Deadline for conference submissions is August 1, 2012, and the final conference agenda will be announced by September 1.

A number of other enhancements to the program are already underway, including a number of mechanisms by which people can be kept abreast of additions to the agenda, the latest work by conference presenters, and other activities planned to coincide with the conference. A separate “Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth” blog has been launched, as has a conference Facebook page as well. Those interested in following the unfolding of this groundbreaking conference are urged to subscribe to the blog and/or “Like” the Facebook page to keep in touch and be notified when registration opens.