Tag Archives: Mindfulness

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.

Cultivating Ease and Freedom When Consuming: The Case for Mindful Eating and Conscious Living

Jan Chozen Bays, M.D.

Jan Chozen Bays, M.D.

By Jan Chozen Bays, MD

You’ve been working hard on a project on the computer, and it’s time for a treat. You’ve been holding off, waiting for the delicious taste of __________ (please fill in the blank). Coffee ice cream? a piece of dark chocolate? a donut? an onion bagel? some fresh strawberries?  For me, it would be a creamy, sweet‑sour lemon tart.

You take the first bite. Very yummy! You take the second bite. Still yummy, maybe a little less yummy than the first bite, but never mind. You glance at the computer and something catches your eye. A Hollywood scandal, a political gaff, a weird and wacky video. You click on it, watch, and continue eating.

Disappearing food!

strawberrySuddenly you look down. Where did that treat go? Your fingers are sticky and there’s still a trace of flavor on your tongue, so it must have disappeared down the hatch while you weren’t looking . . . or smelling, or tasting, or enjoying. Disappointment and dissatisfaction set in. “That one just vanished! I’d better have another one.” Next the internal critic voice pipes up “What are you thinking? One treat is enough. You know you’re trying to lose weight/eat better/stop grazing/etc.”

Thus begins the struggle over the simple, biologically natural, pleasurable act of eating. When I tell people that I’ve written a book on Mindful Eating*, and describe what it is, almost everyone will relate some difficulty they have with food, from an embarrassed confession of an addiction to chocolate to the palpable misery of binging and purging.

How is it that food and eating have become such a common source of unhappiness? And why has it occurred in a country with an abundance of food? The fundamental reason for our imbalance with food and eating is that we=ve forgotten how to be present as we eat. We eat mindlessly.

Food, fat cells and the stomach are not the problem

We decided that the problem was in the food, so we’ve used chemical technology to take the calories out, the fat out, and to substitute chemical sweeteners and artificial fats. Food is food. It is neither good nor bad. Then we decided the problem was our fat cells, so we liposuctioned them out. Fat cells are just trying to do their job, which is to store energy for lean times ahead or for famine. For most of our evolutionary history, starvation was one snowstorm or drought away. Our fat cells are there to help us survive! When I lived in Africa I discovered that skinny women there have trouble finding a spouse. They aren’t considered good marriage material —- they’ll get sick and die on you!

Then we decided that the digestive system was the problem, so we staple the stomach or surgically bypass the small intestine. The digestive system is just trying to do its job,  breaking down food, absorbing nutrients and excreting what’s not needed. (There’s no question that bariatric surgery can be an emergency life-saving measure for some people. It works by forcing people to eat mindfully, causing pain and vomiting if they don’t. It is very expensive, has lots of side effects,  and is not a long-term solution for the majority of people or for children with out-of-balance eating.)

The problem is not in the food, the fat cells or the stomach and intestines. The problem lies in the mind.  It lies in our lack of awareness of the messages coming in from our body, from our very cells and from our heart. Mindful eating helps us learn to hear what our body is telling us about hunger and satisfaction. It helps us become aware of who in the body/heart/mind complex is hungry, and how and what is best to nourish it. Mindful eating is natural, interesting, fun, and cheap.

What is Mindfulness?

Let’s start with what Mindfulness is. It is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside and outside yourself — in your body, heart and mind — and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgement.

The last sentence is very important. In mindful eating we are not comparing ourselves to anyone else. We are not judging ourselves or others. We are simply witnessing the many sensations and thoughts that come up as we eat. The recipe for mindful eating calls for the warming effect of kindness and the spice of curiosity.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. We pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of our food. We pay attention to the experience of the body. Where in the body do we feel hunger? Where do we feel satisfaction? What does half-full feel like, or three quarters full?

We also pay attention to the mind. While avoiding judgment or criticism, we watch when the mind gets distracted, pulling away from full attention to what we are eating or drinking. We watch the impulses that arise after we=ve taken a few sips or bites: to grab a book, to turn on the TV, to call someone on our cell phone, or to do web search on some interesting subject. We notice the impulse and return to just eating.

We notice how eating affects our mood and how our emotions like anxiety influence our eating.  Gradually we regain the sense of ease and freedom with eating that we had in childhood. It is  our natural birthright.

The old habits of eating and not paying attention are not easy to change. Don=t try to make drastic changes. Lasting change takes time, and is built on many small changes. We start simply.

NOTE: Jan and her colleague Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW continue to offer a 5-day Professional Training through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness entitled  “Mindful Eating, Conscious Living” based upon their work in this field and Jan’s book. Upcoming training dates and locations include March 10-15, 2013 in Joshua Tree, California and September 15-20, 2013 in Batavia, New York.

Further Reading and Listening:

* Mindful Eating: a Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food, by Jan Chozen Bays, with an introduction by Jon Kabat-Zinn, released February 3, 2009 by Shambhala Publishing. (Includes a CD of 14 mindful eating exercises and meditations.)

** Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink, published 2006 by Bantam Books. (A very funny look at very interesting research about how we all eat mindlessly.)

From: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mindful-eating/200902/mindful-eating

Mending and Deepening the Encounter Between Doctor and Patient Through Mindfulness

We are updating this blogpost to call attention to an amazing event that has come together primarily as a result of the original posting back in September. After sharing this article with our colleagues around the world, and across the Southern California region, we received an outpouring of interest. We have since invited Dr. Krasner to come to San Diego on May 11, 2013 to present a daylong workshop on mindful practice entitled “Mindfulness in Clinical Practice: Our Patients, Ourselves.” This event will include an hour-long presentation on the Neuroscience of Mindfulness by Tom Chippendale, MD, Director of Neuroscience at Scripps Health and longtime MBSR teacher.

stressed-docs-1.25.12As the skirmishes and battles on healthcare rage loudly on in the political and financial arenas of our society, there is a darker, more troubling process unfolding “on the ground” in the day-to-day practice of medicine and healing in general. Within the crucible of the doctor-patient encounter, where human suffering is intended to meet compassionate and effective healing, something isn’t working. Patients aren’t satisfied with the quality of care they receive and doctors are experiencing declining job satisfaction, burnout, “compassion fatigue” and are feeling increasingly alienated from the profession that once inspired passion and dedication. Physician and physician-in-training suicide is a rising and troubling outgrowth of this underlying malaise in the system.

Dr. Mick Krasner, Associate Professor Clinical Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry, and his colleagues, have done groundbreaking research on the potential to address this growing phenomenon. In the Journal of the American Medical Association, they shared the results of a 2012 study of the impact of an extensive course in mindfulness, communication and self-awareness on 70 community physicians. The results are striking in demonstrating the positive effect of this program on physician well-being and satisfaction, including improvements in scores on measures of burnout, mood disturbance, emotional stability and depersonalization.

Mick Krasner, MD

Krasner and his colleagues have now taken their results to the examining room, so to speak, and drawn on them to develop a powerful training program in what they call Mindful Practice. More than just a gathering of health professionals interested in exploring what it would mean to bring mindfulness into their lives both personally and professionally, Krasner notes that “What has become clear is the imperative for what Saki Santorelli calls a ‘Collegial Sangha’ and that is what has been the outcome of our trainings. …this need for community and its absence in many of our health professionals’ work lives is a real force in the loss of meaning in our profession, reduced adaptive capacity and resilience to withstand the changing nature of our work, and the growing trend toward burnout.”

“…isn’t a boundary also a place of meeting and coming together?”

This effort to powerfully change the nature of the healing encounter through the mindful practice of the clinician arises out of exploring what has traditionally been referred to as the “boundary” between patient and doctor. Saki Santorelli, the Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, writes eloquently in his book Heal Thy Self of the pitfalls and opportunities of boundary-making. He says, “The usual meaning of boundary is “dividing line” – a separation between two things. But isn’t a boundary also a place of meeting and coming together?” He goes on to write “These intertwining movements are similar for us as patients and practitioners. Yet all too often the hard, impenetrable borders of this relationship are carved out of a process of identification that divides self and not-self into mutually exclusive entities. Unconsciously, this process winds up shaping the entire interaction. I am not suggesting that these roles are the same. They are not. But they are just that – roles. And behind these roles lies a much larger field, our shared humanness.”

Ron Epstein, MD

Ron Epstein, MD

Two 4-day retreat-style courses have been developed by Krasner and Ron Epstein, Professor of Family Medicine, Psychiatry, Oncology and Nursing at the University of Rochester, and are offered through University of Rochester Medical Center’s Center for Experiential Learning. The first was entitled Promoting Mindful Practice in Medical Education and Practice and was offered on October 31-November 3, 2012. The second course is Mindful Practice: Focus on Serious and Life-Limiting Illness on May 1-4, 2013. Both programs are offered at the beautiful Chapin Mill Retreat Center in Batavia, New York.

________

Krasner M. S., Epstein R. M., Beckman H., Suchman A. L., Chapman B., Mooney C. J., Quill T. E. (2009). Association of an educational program in mindful communication with burnout, empathy, and attitudes among primary care physicians. JAMA 302, 1284–1293. doi: 10.1001/jama.2009.1384.

Beckman HB, Wendland M, Mooney C, Krasner MS, Quill TE, Suchman AL, Epstein RM.. The impact of a program on mindful communication on primary care physicians Academic Medicine 2012; 87(6): 815-819

Take This Job and….

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

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

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

Reflecting_over_the_ocean_1

(Photo Credit Isaac L Koval)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seizing the Moment and Supporting the Work: Giving Mindfulness to the Next Generation

Ellyn Wolfe (2)By Ellyn Wolfe, MEd
Co-Director Workplace Initiatives & Giving
UCSD Center for Mindfulness

Within the virtually exploding field of mindfulness, perhaps no facet is growing faster and spreading wider than that of teaching mindfulness to the youth of our society. Imagine the vast potential of transforming this generation of children into a future generation grounded in a practice that promotes stability and composure, wellness and healthy relationships, and enhanced cognitive function.  This movement is on an unprecedented ascendant path within education, clinical practice and research.

bridging2013badgeThe UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth Second Annual conference February 1-3, 2013 in San Diego is uniquely positioned to further contribute to the growth and vibrancy of the field by assembling the thought leaders, program developers, researchers and educators in an environment of collaboration, connection and dialogue. From presentations by leaders like Jon & Myla Kabat-Zinn, to the diversity found in innovative school-based programs such as Katherine Weare of the .b The Mindfulness in Schools Project  and the amazing work of bringing mindfulness and yoga to the inner city by Ali & Atman Smith’s Holistic Life Foundation,  it is all represented at the conference. This year the conference opens with first-ever research symposia covering a variety of topics, including interesting work by Lisa Flook of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds  on “Mindfulness in Early Education to Promote Self-Regulation”and a full symposia session exploring research around clinical interventions using mindfulness to address issues of kids and teens with chronic pain, HIV, and ADHD. This movement is on an unprecedented ascendant path within education, clinical practice and research.

The conference presents an opportunity for those who actively participate and contribute, to make a real and lasting difference in the course of society, and in particular, to the field of bringing mindfulness to the next generation. The Center for Mindfulness is actively seeking the financial support of individuals and corporations who are interested in making an impact on the emergent field of mindfulness as an agent for change.  These contributions are essential to our success in connecting and supporting the hundreds of educators, researchers and experts who will attend the Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth conference and then carry the practice and research learned to every corner of the globe.  Every donation as a general conference supporter or as sponsor for the Friday night Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn public lecture (which benefits the Youth and Family Programs at UCSD CFM) is important.  Every donation makes a difference.

We welcome the support of anyone in a position to give and make a significant difference in the lives of our children through supporting the important work of this conference and its attendees. If you or someone you know is interested in supporting this work, please feel free to contact us at mindfulness@ucsd.edu or by calling 858-334-4636.

One can also donate directly via the Center for Mindfulness Online Giving site.

Author’s Note: Education that motivates the individual to higher levels of being has always been a part of my life.  With a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a master’s certificate from the Fielding Institute in Evidence Based Coaching, and Clinical Training in Mind/Body Medicine with Dr. Herbert Benson at the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Boston, I train corporate leaders in the art of coaching and coach clients to be the best they can be.  For the past twenty years I have worked in the corporate world teaching mindfulness-based programs for a variety of companies, including Dr. Herbert Benson’s Mind Body Medical Institute, FleetBoston Financial and the San Diego Convention Center.  What a different place the corporate world would be if employees and leaders had grown up understanding and practicing mindfulness.

To that end, I have recently been named as Co-Director of Workplace Initiatives and Giving, a newly launched arm of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.  I will be working with my co-director, Christy Cassisa, to develop programs that address corporate need and also to elicit support for the UCSD CFM. I look forward to hearing from you through the Center for Mindfulness at mindfulness@ucsd.edu.

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

Pioneering Mindfulness-Based Dementia Care Program Launched at UC San Francisco

Marguerite Manteau-Rao is a mindfulness colleague and friend, editor of the Mind Deep blog, psychotherapist and now a pioneer in bringing much-needed mindfulness training to people caring for those with dementia. 

By Marguerite Manteau-Rao

‘Mindfulness’ and ‘dementia’, two words to do with mind:
mindfulness
dementia, from Latin word demens, which means ‘without mind 

Mindfulness and dementia are not just connected in words. Mindfulness also happens to be a key element of successful dementia care, working on two fronts: 1) to reduce caregiver’s stress, 2) to help the caregiver be present for the person in their care. Facts gathered by the Alzheimer’s Association show the extraordinary stress suffered by most family caregivers:

• 61 percent of dementia caregivers suffer from high emotional stress.
• 33 percent report symptoms of depression.
• 43 percent experience high physical stress.
• 75 percent are concerned about maintaining their health.
• Dementia caregivers are more likely to have adverse physiological changes such as high levels of stress hormones, reduced immune function, increased hypertension, coronary heart disease.
• In the last year of their loved one’s life, 59 percent feel they are on duty 24 hours a day.

This goes on for an average of 4 to 8 years post-diagnosis. It is no wonder 72 percent of caregivers express relief after their loved ones die. For professional caregivers and health care providers, the stress is also intense and can lead to burnout.

Until recently, most mindfulness-based approach to dementia care referred to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for dementia caregivers. Having observed numerous times the unique challenges as well as mindfulness practice opportunities in dementia care, I realized the need for a mindfulness-based program specially tailored to dementia caregiving. Hence began the Presence Care Project, a non-profit initiative aimed at promoting a new form of dementia care training. In the Presence Care approach,  mindfulness, informed by experiential understanding of the person with dementia, becomes the foundation upon which a caregiver can rest, moment-to-moment, day after day, during the long journey of dementia. UCSF OSHER Center for Integrative Medicine has now taken on this new approach and recently launched its new Mindfulness-Based Dementia Care (MBDC) program.

MBDC builds upon the now very well proven model of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR),  and combines solo mindfulness practices, interactive mindful care practices, lectures, and group sharing. Throughout, aspects of mindfulness practice and dementia care are interwoven. The emphasis is on practice during and between classes. The end goal is for participants to experience a radical shift in attitude from mostly doing and reacting, to being skillfully present for themselves and the person in their care. MBDC is appropriate for the whole range of persons involved in dementia care: family and friend caregivers, professional caregivers, elder care professionals, nurses, doctors, and other health care providers.

MBDC rests on this central premise: mindfulness, that which helps dementia caregivers reduce their stress, is also what can help them provide the best care for the person with dementia.

The first series of 8-week classes has started and is taught by Marguerite and Dr. Kevin Barrows, physician and director of mindfulness programs at the Osher Center.

New brain study sheds light on how mindfulness reduces suffering associated with pain

Mindfulness has been shown in numerous studies to effectively attenuate pain, but a new study about to be published suggested that the way in which this reduction happens is much different than other, more typical coping mechanisms. These findings go to the heart of the difference between pain and suffering, by elucidating the different patterns of brain activation associated with each and showing how suffering is reduced throughout the practice of mindfulness, even when the sensation of pain is present.

In a study comparing meditators to non-meditators by researchers from Giessen University in Germany, Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and Massachusetts General Hospital, much was learned about the neural processes involved in the reduced suffering in the face of pain experienced by meditators. The findings of this study were recently published ahead of print in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

Mindfulness refers to a specific inner stance of purposefully paying attention to experiences in the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. For example attention is focused on the sensory aspects of a sensation alone, rather than the cognitive and emotional reactions to those sensory experiences. In mindfulness, these sensory aspects are investigated with curiosity and acceptance. Instead of being reactive and judgmental of sensations, people become fully aware of the experience in the present moment and relate to it in an objective and neutral way.

Thirty-four healthy individuals participated in the study; 17 of them were experienced mindfulness meditators. While brain activation of participants was measured in the MRI scanner at Giessen University, participants received mildly painful electric shocks on the left lower arm. Participants were instructed to relate to the shocks in different ways: with mindfulness, and with a normal, daily life stance. Participants were then asked to rate the intensity and unpleasantness of the shocks, and the anticipatory anxiety in regard to receiving the shocks.

During the practice of mindfulness, experienced meditators experienced the pain as significantly less unpleasant. In addition they reported less anticipatory anxiety, even though they didn’t perceive the intensity of the sensations differently. The MRI images revealed interesting changes in brain activation during the state of mindfulness in mindfulness meditators: increased activation in brain regions that are involved in processing the sensory aspects of the pain experience (posterior insula/secondary somatosensory cortex), but decreased activation in brain regions that are involved in regulating pain through reappraisal (lateral prefrontal cortex). Thus, the meditators fully experienced the pain, but they suffered less from it.

This pattern of brain activation is in sharp contrast to other psychological pain modulation strategies: When participants reduce pain by reappraising it (i.e., a cognitive reinterpretation), there is an increase in activation in the lateral prefrontal cortex. Activation in sensory brain areas on the other hand typically decreases. While the pattern of brain activation revealed in this new study is in sharp contrast to other pain modulation strategies, it is well-aligned with theories of mindfulness.

“The increased activation in sensory pain areas in the brain, that we found during the practice of mindfulness seems to be aligned with the increased focus on the sensory aspects of the pain that meditators report”, says Tim Gard, first author of the study. “Simultaneously we saw decreased brain activation in brain regions that are involved in reappraisal. During the state of mindfulness, meditators seem to be in contact with the present moment experience as it is, without reappraising or evaluating it.”

“It is very interesting that the pattern of brain activation that we observed during the attenuation of pain in a state of mindfulness is in sharp contrast to other forms of pain modulation”, says Tim Gard. “It indicates that mindfulness really is a different way of reducing pain. These findings might have interesting clinical implications. The revealed unique mechanisms of pain modulation might be utilized to improve or develop new strategies for the management of chronic pain”, according to Tim Gard. “While the current study investigated the effects of the state of mindfulness on pain perception in healthy subjects, future studies are required to test whether the findings can be generalized to chronic pain.”

Reference:

Gard, T., Hölzel, B.K., Sack, A.T., Hempel, H., Lazar, S.W., Vaitl, D., & Ott, U.: Pain attenuation through mindfulness is associated with decreased cognitive control and increased sensory processing in the brain. Cerebral Cortex, published online on December 15 2011, doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhr352

http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/12/14/cercor.bhr352.abstract

Mindfulness as a Fundamental Form of Literacy, Gems from an Interview with Rick Hanson

Mindful.org logo

Mindful.org’s On Teen Life blogger Gina M. Biegel, MA, LMFT, founder of  Stressed Teens , psychotherapist, and author, has posted a fascinating interview with Rick Hanson, Ph.D., neuropsychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom and the newly released Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time.

In her blog post, Biegel notes that “Hanson . . . says mindfulness can help young adults learn and recognize that they do, in fact, have power and control, and can adjust their own minds. He’ll often ask them, ‘Who is in charge of your attention? Are you a hammer or a nail when it comes to your attention? Most people are nails being pounded on all day long.’ Read the rest of the post at mindful.org.

Join Gina, Rick, and a number of other presenters who are at the forefront of bringing mindfulness to youth at the 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.

Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth Conference