Tag Archives: MBSR

Staying : turning towards what is difficult [ Part I]

By Char Wilkins,

charwilkinsChar Wilkins, MSW, LCSW is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist who works with individuals, couples and groups incorporating the intention and skills of mindfulness as a foundation from which to explore one’s life. She leads  MBSR, and Mindful Eating/Conscious Living (MECL) retreats for our Professional Training Institute and programs in her own practice for the general public.

When challenging or unwanted thoughts, emotions or behaviors arise most of us want to avoid or distract ourselves. We may use food, drugs, work or exercise to temporarily sooth, comfort or numb the difficult internal experience. Unfortunately, repeatedly coping in this way creates a habituated pattern that carries with it more shame and fear, and the hope of change slips further away into a seemingly endless out-of-control cycle.

There is of course, a reason why in mindfulness-based work we turn towards what we believe to be so difficult that if we don’t run, we won’t survive. And that is because when we come to know the taste, texture, temperature, shape, sound and movement of the unwanted thought, emotion or sensation, it is no longer a lurking shadow threatening to overwhelm us. It is felt and known for what it is: just a thought. Observed and held in awareness without judgment, it takes its right-sized place in the scope of who we are. Turning toward the difficult offers the possibility of freeing ourselves from the very patterns we fear the most.

Perhaps you’re thinking that this “staying with thing” is not the way you want to spend your day off. It’s not a comfortable thing to do. It just doesn’t have the same feeling that you get when you’re angry, depressed or anxious and think: ” A day at the beach is what I need.” or “A hot fudge sundae would do the trick right about now.”   But one getaway is never enough, is it?  And then, of course, returning is too much. This jumping back and forth we do is wearisome. That’s why the practice of mindfully staying with what is here right now, is so important. Ultimately it conserves energy, time, wear and tear on body and soul, and so much drama is avoided.

I’m aware that I ask participants in MBSR, MBCT and MECL programs to do a very challenging thing: be present to what is arising in the moment and to allow it to be known. It isn’t easy to not turn away from, to not disassociate, to not to run.  Bolting is the norm. If it doesn’t feel good, leave. Leave the person, place or thing. I’m not suggesting that you stay if you’re being abused. I’m talking about the everyday moments when we think, “I wouldn’t have to get so angry if only he wouldn’t ____________.  If she’d just ______________, I’d be happy.” As I’ve sat with clients and participants over the years, I’ve watched so much “bolting,” that recently I thought a new reality TV show entitled “Extreme Bolting might get higher ratings than the X Games since more people bolt than Cave Dive, go Wingsuit Flying or attempt Extreme Ironing. Look it up, it’s worth it.

In Part 2, I’ll share how in working with women who have experienced abuse or trauma mindfulness of the body can help them learn how to stay with what is difficult.

Listen on Monday September 9, 2013 from 12:00pm-1:00pm to Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW, in a special teleconference  exploring how we sometimes use food which temporarily soothes, comforts or submerges the difficult internal experiences.

 

Advertisements

When listening is everything you ever wanted

The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness has partnered with Susan Woods and Char Wilkins to offer a 5-day program entitled: Advanced Training for MBCT and MBSR Teachers: Embodying Mindful Presence and Investigating Mindful InquiryJune 9-14, 2013 at the EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. The following is the second in a series of periodic posts by Susan and Char, sharing their vision and wisdom in formulating and offering this training, and exploring the territory of teaching mindfulness in general. We invite you to get to know them through this series and perhaps to reflect on your own relationship to mindfulness teaching.

CharWilkinsBy Char Wilkins, LCSW

On the opening page of Mark Nepos’s book Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, he quotes an epigraph by Abraham Heschel:

 [We] will not perish for want of information; but only for want of appreciation . . . What we lack is not a will to believe but a will to wonder . . . Reverence is one of [our] answers to the presence of mystery . . .

There is a longing for connection that we all experience and repeatedly hear as participants in our MBCT and MBSR programs speak of disappointment, fear and hope.  And we notice that as we cultivate the ability to listen to each one of them, we begin to hear the themes of need and desire that weave us together in our collective humanness. We begin to hear that indeed, no one is alone in the tangle we call life.

reflectionsNepo believes that if we limit our existence to only what we know, we blind ourselves to the “mystery.” Mystery is about open-eyed wonder, appreciation and gratitude. So when we engage in mindful listening, in which our conditioned mind and heart open in sincere and kindly curiosity, we create a pathway not only to the mystery of what is present in each moment, but to the possibility of a peaceful connection to self and others.

We ask our clients and participants to listen not because it’s a Mindful Rule, but because listening is a threshold between our inner and outer worlds. It’s an entryway to pause in, a vantage point from where we can see our own limiting beliefs and also the possibility of choice. From this doorway we can begin to hear harmonies that strike a chord within, where perhaps before we only heard the dissonance that isolated and left us feel disconnected from ourselves and others.

In our teaching, we become aware that it isn’t the dissemination of information that connects people intra and interpersonally, but rather being listened to- their story heard and appreciated. We may call it group dynamics or breaking the isolation or normalizing, but in the end I believe it is simply the reverence of listening. This is what MBCT and MBSR offer teacher and participants: the possibility of discovery through wonder and freedom through listening.

The Truly Mindful Workplace: A Reality Whose Moment Is Arriving

Christy Cassisa, J.D.

Christy Cassisa

By Christy Cassisa, J.D.
Co-Director of Workplace Initiatives and Giving
UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness

If you follow workplace mindfulness in the news, you’ve had quite a bit of reading material in the last few months. Businesses of all types have embraced the fact that the wellbeing of their employees improves the health of the company.  One quarter of large US companies have launched stress reduction programs of some sort, and many of those are also incorporating mindfulness and meditation trainings.  Many well-known names such as Google, Aetna, General Mills, AOL Time Warner and Target have brought mindfulness and meditation to their people.  Mindfulness is being hailed as the next great thing in the efforts to improve the performance, health and overall wellbeing of employees and leadership alike.

Mindfulness In Leadership
Both formal studies and informal self-reports show that leaders who practice mindfulness have more mental clarity and flexibility, are able to listen better and as a result, make better decisions.  Enhanced emotional resiliency and self-awareness arise as a natural byproduct of mindfulness practices, and these in turn can lead to more effective and inspirational leaders.

One such program you may have read about in the Financial Times (The Mind Business) was developed at General Mills.  Janice Marturano, deputy general counsel, phrased it this way: “It’s about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected. That compassion to ourselves, to everyone around us- our colleagues, customers- that’s what the training of mindfulness is really about.” More than 400 employees and 250 executives have participated in the GM program, and the results are amazing:  83% of participants reported increased personal productivity and of the senior executives who took the course, 80% reported improved decision-making and 89% reported that they had become better listeners.

For executives, learning to do nothing to achieve more is counter-intuitive. But what they often find once they begin to look is that the very drive that has lead them to success thus far blinds them to the next steps to progress further. And this clouded vision is precisely what mindfulness meditation can clear.

Employee Well-Being
When it comes to employees, the benefits are also well-documented. Company-wide stress reduction programs are nothing new, but with the addition of mindfulness and meditation, employees have shown dramatic improvements in stress levels and overall wellbeing.  Meditation programs have shown employee results such as:

  • Reduced anxiety and increased overall sense of calm
  • Enhanced ability to bounce back from emotionally charged situations
  • Enhanced coping abilities related to everyday stress as well as severe or acute stress encounters
  • Increased creativity
  • Improved memory
  • Increased focus (staying on task longer)
  • Improved teamwork, increased respect and support for colleagues
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Lowered blood pressure

And these results are simply the performance and health-related measures. At Google, employees reported improved marriages, reversed decisions to leave the company, and more. The benefits to the employee far exceed those measured by standard health and productivity scores.

Return on Investment
What, you say, is the value of this kind of program?  What does my bottom line expect to get in return for the outlay of time money and effort into a mindfulness meditation program?

According to the Gallup Business Journal, wellbeing is an employer issue. By the numbers, they reported:

  • People who have thriving wellbeing have a 35% lower turnover rate than those who are struggling; in a 10,000-person company, this represents $19.5 million.
  • Employees with high wellbeing have 41% lower health-related costs compared with employees who have lower wellbeing. In a firm that has 10,000 employees, this difference amounts to nearly $30 million​

So incorporating these measures, your ROI of each benefit may be measured as so:

  1. Stress Reduction:  As a result of reducing the stress of your employees, look for a reduction in health care costs and absenteeism rates.
  2. Improved Employee Well-being: As a result of investing in your people, look for increased retention rates, improved employee satisfaction and overall engagement measures.  And as an interesting additional measure, you might look to your customers’ experiences as a result of this investment in your employees’ health and well-being: look for increases in sales and improved customer satisfaction surveys.
  3. Strengthened Leadership: Leadership Development programs have many measures to use to evaluate the effectiveness of executives, ranging from 360 evaluations to overall company performance. When executives are operating more effectively, the entire company benefits in innumerable ways.

In case you have not been immersed in the news of mindfulness in the workplace, I’ve summarized many of the recent articles below.  Please comment on this post to contribute additional articles as you find them so that other readers can have access to all the latest information and resources!

Note: Christy Cassisa is a former attorney, turned coach, who has recently been appointed as the Co-Director of Workplace Initiatives and Giving for the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. As she notes, “With all of the excitement surrounding mindfulness in the business community, we feel it is time to opt in. In this effort, we are thrilled to announce the launch of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness Workplace Programs.  Now you can bring the Center’s expertise to your office with a program or workshop tailored for your business or group. If you have an interest in learning more, take a look at Christy’s blog, Mindful Clarity, and/or contact Christy via the Center for Mindfulness at mindfulness@ucsd.edu

Workplace Mindfulness Articles

Developing Mindful Leaders– Harvard Business Review, Dec 2011

Meditation Makes You More Creative– Science Daily, April 2012

OK Google, Take a Deep Breath– New York Times, April 2012

How to be Happier at Work– Inc., May 2012

How to kill a thought in a good way– Forbes, June 2012

Meditation Can Keep you More Focused at Work– USAToday, July 2012

Be more mindful for a better workplace– Chicago Tribune Aug 2012

Mindfulness is not a Cure, it’s Better– HuffPost, Aug 2012

The Mind Business– Financial Times Magazine, Aug 2012

Mindfulness-based stress reduction effects on moral reasoning and decision makingJournal of Positive Psychology, Sept 2012

A Guide to Mindfulness at Work– Forbes Oct, 2012

Mindfulness Helps you become a better leader –Harvard Business Review Oct 2012

Multitasking Loses its Cool: Mindfulness is Now In – Investors.com, Oct 2012

The ROI of Practicing Mindfulness at Work– Under30CEO.com, Nov 2012

Meditation finds an ommmm in the office– Globe & Mail, Nov 2012

Mindful Multitasking– Levy, U Washington

Why Mindful Breathing Works– Huffington Post, Nov 2012

Lead by Achieving Nothing.  Seriously. Forbes, Nov 2012

Experienced Teachers Reflect on the Opportunities and Challenges of Teaching Mindfulness

With the proliferation of mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Interventions, there is increasing demand for foundational and advanced training for teachers of these so-called “MBIs”. The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness has partnered with Susan Woods and Char Wilkins to partially meet this demand through a 5-day program entitled: Advanced Training for MBCT and MBSR Teachers: Embodying Mindful Presence and Investigating Mindful Inquiry, June 9-14, 2013 at the EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. The following is the first in a series of periodic posts by Susan and Char, sharing their vision and wisdom in formulating and offering this training, and exploring the territory of teaching mindfulness in general. We invite you to get to know Susan and Char through this series and perhaps to reflect on your own relationship to mindfulness teaching.

By Susan Woods
What a true joy it is for me to anticipate this possibility of bringing MBCT and MBSR teachers together for this training. As the community of MBCT and MBSR teachers has grown in breadth and depth I believe it has become increasingly important to hold in awareness certain questions. What is it that helps sustain our teaching? What are our aspirations? How do we find ways to articulate and live inside the teaching process? How do we come to see the challenges of teaching as the wealth of continually opening landscapes of compassion, generosity and kindness?

At its core the Advanced training for MBCT and MBSR teachers is about supporting and strengthening the skills that characterize teaching mindfulness in the MBCT and MBSR programs.  At its deepest depth, it is about our relationship to the practice of mindfulness and to the articulation of that process. Collectively, it is my hope and belief we will weave a process of contemplative awareness that not only supports and strengthens our teaching, but that emphasizes embodying mindful presence as the heart of teaching with mindful reflective inquiry as the journey.  I look forward to joining you there.
Susan Woods

Susan Woods, MSW., LICSW is a psychotherapist in private practice and has been practicing mindfulness meditation and yoga since 1981.  She teaches MBSR and MBCT groups through her private practice and since 2005 has been immersed in teaching and developing mindfulness-based professional trainings.  She has presented on the clinical application of mindfulness at numerous conferences and is a published author on the training of health professionals in mindfulness-based skills.   www.slwoods.com

By Char Wilkins
As a teacher, the moments that inspire me to keep teaching are never the moments when I’ve cleared up a participant’s confusion for them or said something that a group member thought profound.  Rather, they are the times when coming from a genuinely curious and patient place within myself, I have mindfully attended as the participant found her own truth and understanding.  This relational field that is created between teacher and participant holds the potential of accessibility and possibility.

Is it possible for a teacher to cultivate patience, focus, curiosity and compassion to such an extent that it becomes an articulated and felt sense through his or her teaching?  This is the exploratory path of the Advanced Training for MBCT & MBSR Teachers that invites investigation of two important aspects of teaching MBCT and MBSR, that of embodied mindful presence and the facilitation of mindful inquiry.  I am delighted to be teaching alongside my colleague, Susan Woods, as we offer this program which is both deeply personal and universal in its intentional and heartfelt focus.
–Char Wilkins, LCSW

Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW is a psychotherapist and certified MBSR teacher. She trains professionals in Adv. MBCT, MBSR and MECL (Mindful Eating/Conscious Living) and offers consultation to MBI teachers and in the use of mindfulness in psychotherapy. She considers her long standing meditation practice to be the foundation of all her work and continues to train in the Dhamma, Qigong and Tai Chi. In her private psychotherapy practice she specializes in working with women who suffer from the ramifications of childhood abuse, depression, anxiety and disordered eating.  www.amindfulpath.com

New training pathways for MBSR and MBCT teachers now available through UC San Diego

By Steven Hickman, PsyD, Director, UCSD Center for Mindfulness

“How can I become a teacher of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?” I cannot begin to calculate how many times I have been asked this question in the past ten years as a teacher of the MBSR program. I am constantly moved and touched by the people in my classes and the tremendous change and healing that can happen through the regular practice of mindfulness. This profound impact on people has more recently manifested in a huge demand among people touched by the practice who wish to share it with others. As MBSR programs have spread across this country and the world, there is a growing (and unprecedented) need to provide well-designed training for those who wish to teach MBSR and share this practice with a wide variety of people and groups in a whole host of settings.

Susan Woods

That is why I am particularly excited to announce that two highly qualified mindfulness teachers and trainers, Susan Woods and Char Wilkins, will be teaching our first 5-Day Foundational Training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for professionalson June 2-7, 2013 at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center.  Intended to support and develop people along their path toward teaching MBSR, this intimate foundational training will provide attendees the opportunities to learn in depth about the program, but more importantly to explore it “from the inside out” in the role of teacher, through small group exercises, mindful feedback and reflection.

Char Wilkins

The second of our two new trainings, also taught by Susan Woods and Char Wilkins, is the 5-day Advanced Professional Training for MBCT/MBSR Teachers, June 9-14, 2013 at EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, California.  The demand for advanced training in mindfulness-based interventions has grown over the years and a foundational professional training is just the beginning of becoming a skilled and knowledgeable teacher.  This ground-breaking advanced training brings together, for the first time in the U.S., both MBCT and MBSR teachers allowing for a rich learning experience.  Susan has designed a training in which there is less dependence on teaching to the curricula of either MBCT/MBSR, and greater attention to strengthening core competency skills allied with teaching mindfulness. The heart of this program lies in closely attending to and strengthening the development of universal mindfulness principles such as investigating how one comes to understand and embody mindful presence and mindful reflective inquiry.

The training model that has evolved here at UCSD has proved to be efficient and effective. By providing intense retreat-style trainings that combine personal mindfulness practice, experiential learning of the curriculum and opportunities to guide practices, engage in mindful inquiry and take part in dialogue with skilled teachers, we have found that our participants leave feeling prepared to actually begin the important work of leading Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBI’s).

Thus begins the next phase in the development of the Professional Training programs at the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. This new pathway toward becoming an MBSR teacher is situated alongside intensive training in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP), Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), and Mindful Eating, Conscious Living (MECL). The longer-term goal is the establishment of an entire UC San Diego Mindfulness-Based Training Institute that incorporates foundational aspects of all the MBI’s, specific training in the various curricula, opportunities for live consultation and supervision, and ultimately a process of certification in specific MBI’s. The Training Institute is only in its infancy, but arises out of this increasing demand for training and the assurance of competency in delivery of these wonderful programs that are becoming increasingly popular and are being demonstrated through rigorous research to be effective. 

Registration is now open for both the Advanced Training for MBCT/MBSR Teachers and the 5-Day Foundational Training in MBSR and we expect both to fill up quickly. Plans are also in the works to offer these trainings on an ongoing basis, so if these dates don’t work for your schedule, join our mailing list on our Professional Training website to be notified of upcoming additions to the schedule.

 

Vancouver: Teaching Mindfulness to Adolescents, A Dream Coming True

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

Amazing.

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

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

I found myself deeply moved by what she shared:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Potential Project (TPP) in collaboration with the first UK ‘Mindfulness in Business Conference’ at Cambridge University.

The Potential Project Logo by Sally Muir Senior Trainer TPP UK
Sally has over 20 years of experience as a corporate trainer. Her clients include British Petroleum, BBC, British Airways, BMW, Nestle and many other large corporations. She has been practicing and teaching Mindfulness training for over 20 years.

I was delighted to receive an invitation to represent TPP at this conference by leading a session on our approach to Mindfulness in Business – Corporate Based Mindfulness, (CBMT). The conference was awash with organisations offering Mindfulness courses in a variety of forms. Most participants had trained in MBSR, and the commitment to helping others receive the myriad gifts Mindfulness can bring was inspiring.

There were keynote speakers and workshops on different aspects of Mindfulness in business throughout the day. Over seventy attended TPP session, which was very well received. The CBMT framework is designed for busy workplaces: embedded in daily work life; has a scientific foundation; plus clear and simple instructions. Three components for success: Mindfulness in action, formal Mindfulness training, and attitude training; Short and relevant training in groups with follow-up and leadership support.

This model seems to fit the business environment where they are often time poor; while maintaining the depth and integrity of Mindfulness practice.

We emphasise scientific research as it offers validity to the method, and draw from the inclusion of Eastern Philosophy the depth of the ancient practice of Mindfulness, while keeping the approach secular. In addition, trainers at TPP are certified in CBMT and are long-term Mindfulness practitioners, as well as having experience in corporations.

Increasing capacity and resilience in organisations gives them the opportunity to harness the incredible power and potential that lies within each and every employee. Regular training interventions are often used to limited capacity due to the fact that most people in the office environment are on mental overload. They lack the mind-space to process and integrate what has been taught to its full advantage because the burden remains the same.

Mindfulness as a business tool helps to increase mind-space, resilience and capacity. We are very proud of multi-tasking, yet the energy and focus that gets lost in flitting from one task to another while engaging in distractions can result in chaos and burn-out. When we make conscious choices about what we will engage in, with awareness, we become managers of our own destiny rather than operating on autopilot and being driven by external situations and events.

Mindfulness in business is beginning to change the ambience of the workplace. Research shows that it increases harmony, balance and productivity that in turn, reduce stress, sick leave and anxiety related illness alongside many other benefits. Whether leaders or employees, those practicing Mindfulness seem to be more balanced, joyful and creative. What an amazing environment it would be to live and work in organisations where everyone is practicing together on a daily basis. Any sense of toil and burden could be lifted and teams would become more cohesive and co-operative. Our case study on CBMT in If Insurance shows just this. Mindfulness is surely a win-win and with minimal intervention; a continual group training of the mind that will set individuals and organisations free to reach their full potential! This conference was a great opportunity to learn from others in the field, bring us all together and highlight the far-reaching benefits of this great instrument.

Sally Muir Senior Trainer TPP UK

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.

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.

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.”