Tag Archives: Amy Saltzman

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.

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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.

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.

Mindfulness, Children and Parenting: An Interview with Amy Saltzman, MD

Elisha Goldstein’s, Ph.D. Psych Central, Mindfulness & Psychotherapy blog interview with Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth conference workshop leader Amy Saltzman,MD about her work and research with children and teens.

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

The theory and practice of mindfulness as a way for children to calm their busy minds, self regulate, become more hopeful and happy has been an area of increasing interest. The potential impact on our culture is great as it affects future generations.

It’s my pleasure to bring you this interview with Amy Saltzman, MD a holistic physician in Northern California who has been integrating mindfulness with children and teens for many years. Her current research has found significant impacts on children in the areas of attention, anxiety and compassion. I’ll be watching Amy speak at Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference in San Diego on February 4 -5.

Today Amy talks to us about what the still quiet place is for children and teenagers, the impact of her research with children, and a little practice and advice to help us parents, caregivers and teachers along the way.

Elisha: What is the “Still Quiet Place” within for children and teenagers?

Amy: The Still Quiet Place is a way for children and teens to experience pure awareness. Awareness is a concept that may not make sense to young children. However, with guidance most children can discover that stillness and quietness (aka awareness) is alive inside of them. When I introduce mindfulness to children I begin by inviting them to attend to the breath– the feeling of the expansion of the in-breath, the stillness between the in-breath and the out-breath, the release of the out-breath, and the stillness between the out-breath and the in-breath.

They are encouraged to rest in the stillness, and to realize that this stillness and quietness is always with them—when they are breathing in, when the breath is still, when they are breathing out, when the breath is still, when they are frustrated with a math problem, or angry with someone, when they are doing sports, playing an instrument, or hanging out with friends. This stillness and quietness is always with them. They can rest in this stillness and quietness whenever they want. And when they rest in their Still Quiet Place they can observe their thoughts and feelings and then choose their behavior.

Elisha: Give us an overview of your research that originally started with Philippe Goldin, PhD at Stanford and now with renowned neuroscientist Amishi Jha PhD in working with young children and mindfulness.

Amy: This research, which will be published soon, looked at the benefits of offering mindfulness to children in 4th-6th grade and their parents. The children and parents participated in the Still Quiet Place course, an 8-week age-adapted mindfulness training. After becoming familiar with the Still Quiet Place they are supported in learning to rest in the stillness and quietness and observe their thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and impulses. Through home practice and group discussion we explore how these observations allow us to choose our behavior, especially in difficult circumstances.

For example, say a student is really struggling with math. When he becomes aware of his struggle he could take a few deep breaths, settle into his Still Quiet Place, and observe his experience- a feeling of frustration, showing up in his body as a headache, and tight shoulders, and showing up in his thinking as what I call Unkind Mind- “I am stupid. I can’t do this. I am never going to get this….” Resting in his Still Quiet Place he can remember that “thoughts are just thoughts, and I don’t have believe them or take them personally” and then he can choose what he wants to do next. Take a quick break and get a snack, go for a run, call a classmate, check-in with his teacher in the morning, etc…

As for the results of our research, we showed that after 8 weeks of learning these skills the children had documented decreases in anxiety, and improvements in attention on an objective, computerized attention assessment called the Attention Network Task (ANT). In their own words the students reported decreased emotional reactivity, and increased ability to deal with day- to-day life challenges. Interestingly, the parents demonstrated similar improvements even though the “dose” of mindfulness was lower than that of a typical adult course. And most importantly for parents they experienced increased parenting self-efficacy; this means they felt they were more effective parents.

Elisha: What is an example you have that can show us how mindfulness has helped a child you’ve worked with to handle unhealthy stress?

Amy: This story demonstrates that mindfulness is a practice lived moment by moment. When we met, Malia was a lovely, very bright 4th grader and a competitive gymnast. She felt pressure, mostly self-induced, to perform well both in school, and in the gym. Her stress was so severe that she was suffering from migraines. After 4-6 sessions of learning to rest in her Still Quiet Place, attend to her breath, her thoughts, her feelings and her physical sensations she was able to happily participate in both school and gymnastics for about a year.

A year later, as she approached the state meet, her stress and headaches returned; she wanted to quit gymnastics. She let her family know and they called me. As we explored this it became clear that she was afraid of letting herself, her parents, and her coach down. She thought they would be angry if she didn’t perform well. Interestingly, given her level of distress, I initially considered that her assessment of her parents’ and her coach’s expectations was correct, and my basis was that if she were simply competing to fulfill others expectations, it would be healthier for her to quit.

However in discussing it with her parents they felt strongly that they wanted her to see the season through, not to perform at a certain level, rather to learn that she could move forward in the face of fear and distress. With my support her parents were able to hear her distress, minimize mixed messages, clarify why they wanted her to finish the season, and most importantly clearly express that that they loved her no matter what.

That reassurance, along with a funny tailored ritual, allowed to her compete in the state meet with both joy and success The ritual developed out my asking what pre-meet routine would help her remember that her parents loved her regardless of her performance. She said she wanted her dad to make her bacon before the meet. So their code word was “bacon”. As she approached each event she would look at her parents and they would mouth “bacon” to her. This of course made her smile and relax, and reminded her that they did love her not matter what.

When I wrote Malia to ask if I could use her story she wrote back

Dr. Amy,

Yes, you can use my Bacon Story and you can also use my name or I like the name Molly instead of Lilly.

By the way, I have quit gymnastics. I think I might like to try ‘excel’ gymnastics which is less hours a week and a more fun and relaxed competitive program. But right now I’m not doing anything so I can rest my foot and do physical therapy. I miss gymnastics but I don’t miss the practices. I miss bouncing on the trampoline and doing cartwheels.

Malia

This is a beautiful example of family mindfulness. Malia was aware of and expressed her feelings. Her parents heard her, and expressed their values, and their love. They created a joyful, humorous mindfulness ritual which will serve them well for a long time to come. Together they are practicing choosing freshly in each new moment.

Elisha: What is the message you give to parents who seem to be struggling with managing the children and stress?

Amy: As parents we need to recognize that our children’s lives are stressful, and that we contribute significantly to that stress. In fact research from Dr. Georgia Witkin at Mt. Sinai hospital in New York showed that the greatest source of childhood and adolescent stress is not school work, extracurricular activities, or peer pressure, but parental stress. So as parents one of the best things we can do to decrease our children’s stress is to decrease our stress. And of course one the best ways to do that is to take a mindfulness based stress reduction course, or perhaps use the excellent Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook you co-wrote with Bob Stahl.

When we as adults learn mindfulness—paying attention here and now with kindness and curiosity and then choosing our behavior, we can support our children and teenagers in bringing these skills into their lives. If we are in the present, we aren’t worrying about our third grader getting into college and we aren’t passing this stress onto them in our day-to-day interactions. If we learn to witness our anger, fear and sadness with kindness and compassion we show our children that this way of working with intense emotion is possible. If we slow down and choose how to respond to a difficult situation in daily life, and especially if we do it during challenges with our children and “out loud,” “Honey I am really frustrated, that you did X again, I am going to take a few minutes and then we can discuss this.” Then they see that they can do the same with various difficulties. Children learn what they live; the best way to support them in practicing mindfulness is to practice ourselves.

Thank you so much Amy for your important work and what a wonderful message.

To learn more about Dr. Amy’s work visit her at The Still Quiet Place.

NEWLY ANNOUNCED FROM THE UCSD CFM

A Course in Mindful Parenting

UCSD Mindful Parenting Program
A 2-hour workshop in mindful parenting for those who are interested in learning about mindfulness or for those who have participated in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions at Work App, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join Elisha Goldstein’s Facebook Community to keep up with important information, tips and events.

Mindfulness for Children No Fad Either- Response to LA Times Article

Amy Saltzman, MD
Mindfulness Teacher & Holistic Physician
Creator and Director: Still Quiet Place Co-founder and Director: Association for Mindfulness in Education She 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.

Amy will be co-presenting, along with Margaret Cullen the workshop entitled SMART in Education: Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance for Educators at the upcoming Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Education and Research conference, February 4-5, 2012 at the Catamaran Hotel in San Diego.

Experts Say, Mindfulness For Children is “No Fad” Either.

The real experts are the children. “Jessica”, a fourth grade student, participated in a Still Quiet Place course, an eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course offered at Henry Ford Elementary School. The school serves a low-income population in Redwood City, California. On the last day of class “Jessica” wrote

When I am sad or kind of in a bad mood I take about 10 breaths and I get relaxed. I also forget about my worries. I learned this from Mindfulness. I enjoy coming here because I forget about my troubles and I forget about all the things in my life that is sad. My sadness just fades.

Jessica’s statement, suggests that perhaps Dr. Hoffman’s perception (reported in the January 8th, 2011 LA Times article by Chris Woolston, Mindfulness is No Fad, Experts Say) that children may have trouble understanding or embracing Mindfulness is in error. Not only do children and adolescents understand and embrace Mindfulness, recent cutting-edge research indicates they can reap benefits from practicing Mindfulness, similar to those documented in adults.

As Mr. Woolston’s article highlighted, over 30 years of scientific research with adults has shown that Mindfulness decreases stress, depression, anxiety, and hostility, and enhances compassion, empathy and executive function; executive function is a term that describes the related processes of goal-directed behavior, planning, organized search and impulse control. As a pioneer in the emerging field of offering Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction to children and teens please allow me to share the ground-breaking work indicating that Mindfulness for children is “no fad” either.

Mindfulness is simply paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity. This ability to pay attention is a natural, innate human capacity. Children as young as three can learn to attend to the breath,the five senses, thoughts, and emotions. Slightly older children can attend to impulses and actions, and their effects on others and the world.

For the last decade, colleagues and I have been offering age-adapted Mindfulness-based curricula to at risk youth. (See side bar) Unfortunately, research by Soniya Luthar Ph. D. from Columbia Teachers College shows that many of our youth are at risk. Her data indicate that affluent teens have rates of depression, anxiety and illicit drug similar to their low-income peers.[1] Daily headlines remind us that our children are being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, ADHD, eating disorders, cutting, addictions, suicidal tendencies and other self-destructive behaviors at epidemic rates; cruelty, bullying and violence are on the rise. Most, if not all of our children could benefit from learning to focus their attention, to become less reactive, and to be more compassionate with themselves and others. Those of us involved in this emerging field are motivated by a shared commitment to offer children and adolescents life long skills that will enhance their well-being. We are rigorously investigating whether children and adolescents can reap benefits from practicing Mindfulness, similar to those extensively documented in adults.

For the last decade we have been working in clinics and schools to scientifically assess whether Mindfulness training can enhance children’s attention, executive function, learning, compassion, empathy and general well-being. The preliminary data are encouraging; below are summaries of four recent studies that demonstrate the benefits of offering Mindfulness children and adolescents.

In a randomized controlled trial conducted by Maria Napoli, Ph.D., first, second, and third graders participated in a bi-weekly, 12-session integrative program of Mindfulness and relaxation. The students showed significant increases in attention and social skills, and decreases in test anxiety and ADHD behaviors.[2]

Lisa Flook, Ph.D. and her colleagues at the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA studied second and third graders who did Mindfulness Awareness Practices for 30 minutes twice a week for 8 weeks. Children who began the study with poor executive function had gains in behavioral regulation, meta-cognition, and overall global executive control. These results indicate training in Mindfulness benefits children with executive function difficulties (the children most likely to have difficulties and cause disruptions in the classroom) .[3]

In a study with 4th-7th graders and their parents, that I conducted in collaboration with the Department of Psychology at Stanford, the children participated in 75 minutes of Mindfulness training for 8 consecutive weeks. At the conclusion of the study the children demonstrated increased ability to orient their attention, as measured by an objective computerized Attention Network Task, and decreased anxiety. In written narrative the children also reported decreased emotional reactivity, and increased impulse control.[4]

In research on teaching Mindfulness to adolescents conducted by Gina Biegel, MA, MFT, the teens reported reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression and somatic (physical) distress, and increased self-esteem and sleep quality. Independent clinicians documented a higher percentage of diagnostic improvement in the Mindfulness group (vs. the control group). In layperson’s terms, this means that adolescents who were initially diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety were no longer depressed or anxious.[5]

While these studies are preliminary, they reinforce what “Jessica”, in 4th grade, already knows—Mindfulness for Children is “No Passing Fad”. In closing I’ll defer to another expert, a fifth grade girl from Menlo Park, California.

Mindfulness is a great class because you can chill out, and relax. It will cool you down and make you less stressed. You should try it if you are mad or sad or just want to feel better. That’s what I do. Try it!
[1] Luthar, S., The Culture of Affluence; the Psychological Costs of Material Wealth, Child Development, 2003; 74 (6), 1581-1593.

[2] Napoli, M. ”Mindfulness Training for Elementary School Students: The Attention Academy” Journal of Applied School Psychology (2005) Vol. 21(1)

[3] Flook, L. “Effects of Mindful Awareness Practices on Executive Functions in Elementary School Children” Journal of Applied School Psychology (2010) 26: 1, 70 -95

[4] Saltzman, A., (2008) “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for School-Age Children, 139-162. In L. Grecco, Acceptance and Mindfulness Treatments for Children and Adolescents: A Practitioner’ Guide, Oakland, New Harbinger, 2008,

[5] Biegel, G. “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for the Treatment of Adolescent

Psychiatric Outpatients: A Randomized Clinical Trial” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (2009) Vol. 77, No. 5: 855–866

Opening the Heart at Stanford, Google and Beyond

Margaret Cullen is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher. In 2008 she launched a mindfulness-based emotional balance program for teachers and school administrators in Denver, Boulder, Ann Arbor, and Vancouver, B.C.  Margaret will be co-presenting, along with Amy Saltzman, MD the workshop entitled SMART in Education: Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance for Educators at the upcoming Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Education and Research conference, February 4-5, 2012 at the Catamaran Hotel in San Diego. (This article originally appeared in “Inquiring Mind.”)

Five years ago, a professor of neurosurgery at Stanford had a revolutionary idea: open a center dedicated to compassion right in the middle of the university. Today, The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) flourishes within this citadel of academia. Here, it quietly pursues its mission of supporting and conducting rigorous scientific studies of compassion and altruism, developing ways to cultivate compassion and promote altruism within individuals and throughout society.

Thupten Jinpa was enlisted as a visiting research scholar at CCARE, during which time he developed a course of study called the Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT). An eight-week program modeled after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (founded at the University of Massachusetts by renowned meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn), CCT teaches Buddhist meditation practices in a completely secular way. Instead of focusing on mindfulness, though, this training emphasizes practices of the heart.

Beginning by developing a foundation of breath awareness, the program systematically teaches students to cultivate the qualities of kindness (metta) and compassion (karuna). Each series of the program begins by sending kindness to people such as grandparents, friends and children—those individuals toward whom it is easy to access tenderness. From there, participants progress to thinking of people about whom they are ambivalent or who cause them downright frustration: the barista at the local café, the bagger at the grocery store, the ex-husband’s new wife. The CCT strives to help individuals imagine each of these people happy and flourishing. But the program also encourages participants to remember or imagine times when they themselves have been hurt, shamed, ill or suffering in some way. By working through such progressions, participants can learn to strengthen the muscle of the heart. Such strengthening can engender a fearlessness that allows them not only to send others wishes of love, and compassion, but to also breathe others suffering into their own hearts and to breathe out relief and ease.

To date, the program has been piloted at Stanford, Google, the Cancer Support Community and in a few series open to the general public in the San Francisco Bay Area. As one of the senior teachers, I have witnessed many transformations. A recent training I led with cancer patients and their loved ones generated a number of moving stories. The following are just two of the narratives of heart that emerged from the eight-week program:

A cancer patient in active treatment has been living with, and caring for, her ninety-five-year-old mother. Having developed her own capacity for tenderness and generosity, the daughter made a radical decision. At our closing circle she shared with tears that she and her mom had invited her suicidal and recently homeless nephew, a war veteran, to come live with them. She said, “Before this course, I might have tried to help him, but my heart wouldn’t have been open enough to take him into my home.” Through this extraordinary act of compassion, both she and her mother learned that, in spite of the limitations imposed by age and illness, they could find happiness by helping another person.

A retired professor of environmental science took the course in order to support his wife, a cancer patient. He told us, “I spent a lot of time talking with my students about the ‘problem’ of poverty, but I just didn’t feel the suffering.” About to cry, he said, “If I had taken this course earlier, I think I would have been a better teacher. Poverty isn’t just a term you can pass over and move on. I’m now able to draw it in and feel the pain. This has been a big aha.”

Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth: February Conference on Mindfulness with Youth in San Diego

Mindfulness, as a powerful and important means of cultivating health, well-being and equanimity, is nowhere more important than in our work with the young people of our society. Alongside the explosive and transformative growth of mindfulness-based programs for adults, there is a particularly heartening and vibrant effort to bring mindfulness to youth of all ages, in a plethora of settings and formats designed to have a significant impact on the lives and futures of literally millions of young people around the world.

To support and grow this important movement, the UCSD Center for Mindfulness has teamed with Stressed Teens to organize and present a first of its kind conference on February 4 and 5, 2012 entitled Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Education and Research . The intention of this conference is to bring together a number of key thought leaders in the field of mindfulness, both those engaged in bringing it to youth and those whose influence extends well beyond that one area, with the hope that the synergy created by such a gathering will provide further impetus to a growing and important field.

Keynote speakers, breakout sessions and half-day workshops will form the structure of this gathering, but the intention is to create an overall atmosphere of connection, collaboration, encouragement, support and innovation that will inspire attendees to continue or begin the work of teaching mindfulness to the young people with whom they work. A full description of the conference is available on the UCSD Center for Mindfulness Professional Training website, but a  few highlights include:

Rick Hanson, author of The Buddha’s Brain and Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time will be presenting a public talk on Friday evening, February 3 entitled “Taking in the Good: Helping Children Build Inner Strength and Happiness” and then will provide a keynote address on Saturday at the conference itself with the intriguing title “Managing the Caveman Brain in the 21st Century”.

Psychologist and well-known mindfulness researcher Amishi Jha will be offering her insights in another keynote address, entitled “From Dazed and Distracted to Attentive and Calm: What the Neuroscience of Mindfulness Reveals”. Dr. Jha will be joining the other keynote presenters, Susan Kaiser Greenland, Pamela Siegle and Chip Wood on a discussion panel on Saturday as well.

Three post-conference half-day workshops will be offered on Sunday, February 5, allowing attendees to deepen their understanding and training in working with mindfulness and youth. Workshops include one by conference co-organizer Gina Biegel, developer of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Teens (MBSR-T); another by Randy Semple, who has adapted Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for children, and a wonderful session on “Nurturing Your Self in Your Work With Youth” offered by mindfulness teacher and holistic physician, Amy Saltzman.

These are just a few of the highlights of this inaugural conference that promises to be literally packed with interesting and engaging speakers, presentations and experiences. Co-organizers Steven Hickman, Director of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness and Gina Biegel, founder of Stressed Teens, hope that this will become an annual event that makes a significant contribution to the field of mindfulness with youth. If you are an educator, therapist, physician, or just a concerned and engaged parent looking to explore how you might integrate mindfulness in your work with youth, you may want to consider joining this impressive lineup of presenters in San Diego at the Catamaran Resort Hotel on February 4 and 5, 2012. Space is limited, register early and receive a $50 Early Bird Discount.