Tag Archives: UCSD CFM

Navigating Aortic Valve Replacement (AVR) Surgery with mPEAK and Mindfulness

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Read this very personal story from a recent mPEAK participant and Join Pete Kirchmer for the next mPEAK 3-Day Intensive March 11-13, 2017, UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness, San Diego, CA.

By William R. Matthews, MA, LPC

Medical literature contains numerous references proclaiming the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on cardiovascular health and pain management. But to me, these were merely academic case studies, as I had not personally known anyone who had successfully used mindfulness to manage through a major medical procedure. That is, until August 17, 2016, when I had aortic valve replacement surgery.

I need to back up a moment. In March of 2016 I participated in the three-day mPEAK intensive that included six weekly one-hour conference call follow-ups. For me the follow-up sessions were critical for integrating the didactic and practice sessions taught in the three-day into a consistent meditative practice. mPEAK was my first hands-on experience with mindfulness. At that point in time, I had been aware for several years that I had a bicuspid aortic valve that would “eventually” need replacement (in fact it kept me from fully participating in the five-mile mindful walk that is part of the program), but there had been no discussion of surgery with my primary physician or cardiologist. Two months after returning from mPEAK, my new primary care physician sent me for an ultrasound of my heart. The results indicated significant blockage of the aortic valve, and that started the ball rolling for surgery “as soon as possible.”

When a date for surgery was set, I emailed mPEAK ccf9e-headshot2program director, Peter Kirchmer, asking if he could provide me with additional mindfulness resources on pain management, since that seemed to be a big concern connected to surgeries. In response, Pete wrote “Forget about additional resources. You have everything you need already. Just continue developing the skills you already have.” Wise counsel indeed. So I loaded up my iPod with all the meditation files mPEAK had made available to us on its website, added John Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief, and a few other meditations. I played these every evening before bed, in the waiting lounges of airports, and in my office sharing them with my clients. Ultimately, my iPod was headed with me to the hospital.

The night before surgery I slept soundly without the benefit of any sleep aid other than my meditation-filled iPod. I arrived at the hospital at 5:40 AM surgery day and was taken back to pre-op shortly thereafter. The nurse remarked that my blood pressure showed no signs of anticipatory anxiety.  I too was surprised at how calm I was considering someone was about to cut my chest open and mess with my heart. I told the nurse about my mindful preparation and she asked a lot of questions of interest to learn more. A brief chat with a family member, a friend and a short prayer from the rector of my church was all I remember before waking up almost six hours later.

I awoke in recovery to see the same three faces that I had left there that morning. After a few minutes I was taken to cardiac ICU. A nurse and a member of the physical therapy team armed with a pillow were waiting for me. The PT announced that she was there to help me get into bed by “leaning into my pain and clutching the pillow” as my incisions were on the right side along with two chest tubes. Even in my post-anesthesia fog, my mind went immediately to a body scan, noting that my left side was incision- and tube-free. I also made a mental note that at home my bedroom is set up so that I can only get into bed from my left side. I got up off the gurney without assistance walked around the end of the hospital bed, sat down and got into bed on the left side of the bed without assistance (with minimal pain) and said, “I think I’ll do it this way instead.” The PT could only respond, “I guess that way’s OK too.”

The nurse waiting her turn with me announced that she was there to help me with pain management. She advised, “The key to pain management is staying ahead of the pain.” I interpreted that to mean don’t wait until the pain gets bad, keep taking your medication. At that point my mind recalled an activity from mPEAK where we were asked to insert a hand up to mid-forearm into a bucket of ice water and keep it there until the pain started to hurt. Most people removed their hands from the buckets in under a minute. The teachers explained that a large part of managing pain is changing our relationship to the pain. After sharing techniques and mindsets for doing so, we were given the opportunity to try immersing our hands into the ice water again. Most everyone were able to keep their hands in the ice water for considerably longer the second time around. With this recollection I informed the nurse of my plan – to measure my pain on a scale from 0-5 every hour or so, and if the pain number was not any higher than the last “reading” I wouldn’t be asking for pain medication. I received medication for pain only twice: 1) shortly after arriving in the ICU and 2) later that day when they removed the chest tubes. By the next morning, the day after surgery, I had discontinued all pain medication for the remainder of my hospital stay.

Prior to my surgery, my cardiologist and cardiac surgeon both agreed that I would need to go to a rehab facility “for at least a week” after being discharged from the hospital because I live alone. However, I created a dilemma for them because my recovery was so quick and complete. The discharge social worker advised me that I didn’t meet any medical criteria for rehab placement. She even had PT and OT evaluate me one more time in hopes of coming up with some reason to get me admitted, but neither could come up with a medical need. So I was discharged after 4-1/2 days, with my doctors agreeing that I could stay with a friend who lived within a mile of the hospital. I had a return visit to the cardiac surgeon four days afterward. At that appointment my cardiac surgeon said I was free to go back home and decide for myself when I would go back to work. I was back to work half-time three weeks after surgery and returned to full-time work the following week.

While I wouldn’t necessarily put AVR surgery in the category of a high performance activity, I am convinced that the skills and tools I learned from mPEAK, played a central role in my recovery.

William R. Matthews, MA, LPC is in private practice with the Great Lakes Psychology Group. Bill works out of GLPG’s office in Clinton Township, Michigan, where he counsels with children, adolescents and adults using family systems, EMDR, Mindfulness and sports psychology approaches. Bill is also a volunteer trainer and curriculum consultant for the University of Notre Dame’s Play Like a Champion Today educational program. Bill can be reached at bill.matt.GLPG@gmail.com.

Join Pete Kirchmer for the next mPEAK 3-Day Intensive March 11-13, 2017, UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness, San Diego, CA.

ccf9e-headshot2Pete Kirchmer is  the Program Director for the UCSD Center For Mindfulness mPEAK (Mindful, Performance Enhancement, Awareness & Knowledge) Program. Pete specializes in coaching his clients in applying the practice of mindfulness to making healthy lifestyle changes as well as improving performance in life, work and sport. For more information about Pete Kirchmer please visit his Mindfulness Based Health Coaching website.

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Mindfulness Training Makes for Better Leadership, Better Companies, and Better People

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By Christy Cassisa, Esq.
Director of WorkLife Integration
UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness

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“Leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them towards shared goals. Hence, they become more effective in leadership roles.”

~ William W. George, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, former chairman and chief executive officer of Medtronic, author of four best-selling books.

Mindfulness in Leadership

In the past few years, we have seen a veritable explosion of research into the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Many researchers have been surprised by the depth and breadth of positive changes seen in individuals who have learned and practiced these skills. As many of us know, the data are showing that those who practice meditation experience improvements not only in measures of health, such as stress levels, blood pressure and chronic pain, but also in aspects of job performance, such as focus, emotional regulation, creativity and working memory capacity. And additional studies show links to improved overall life satisfaction through increased social connectedness, decreased anxiety and depression and increased empathy and compassion.

Mindfulness, the practice of simply being aware of what is happening right now, in this moment, and exploring that awareness with a non-judgmental attitude, is a skill that, despite its simplicity, takes effort and repetition. In our 24/7, on-call culture, we have seemingly forgotten what it means to “pay attention” to our lives, and both our personal and work lives can suffer for it. We are seeing more and more how an individual who practices mindfulness naturally brings the benefits to work, often improving both the experience of work, related job performance and even organizational culture as a whole.

As I noted in my 2012 blog post, businesses of all types have embraced the fact that the wellbeing of their employees improves the health of the company, and mindfulness has become an accepted component of wellness programs, joining such mainstays as yoga and exercise. We are hearing more about the well-known leaders who practice mindfulness, such as Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh, just to name a few, and we are learning more about companies that are integrating and expanding these offerings. Intel, for example, has had such success with their Awake@Intel program that they are expanding it worldwide through an internal train the illuminatrainer program. And we are proud to have been chosen as a partner to bring mindfulness programs to Illumina beginning this summer.

Executives and leaders can benefit from practicing mindfulness in a particular way. Although the health and work performance improvements alone would likely convince most skeptics, management-related benefits are becoming increasingly apparent as well. Leaders at work influence not only their own careers, but also the direction of the entire organization, and with it the livelihoods and wellbeing of all of their employees. The consequences of a poor decision made by an executive in reactive, auto-pilot mode, are felt more broadly than most as effects spread throughout the organizational strategy and culture. Even the products produced and services provided bear the imprint of choices made at the top.

Awareness & Intention: For executives, learning to do nothing to achieve more is counter-intuitive. But what is often found once one begins to pay attention is that the very drive that has brought success thus far may in fact be blocking future success. Mindfulness allows the mind to begin to recognize the patterns and habits, the stories and tape-loops that run a constant commentary on the happenings of the day. Once that awareness is developed, the commentary can be challenged and resulting behaviors can be shifted towards wisdom and intentional choice.

Focus & Clarity: Mindfulness helps improve strategizing, the decision-making process and the resulting decisions because the brain is able to be present and focused on what is actually on the table. As a result, a leader is able to see more clearly the factors at play and respond more appropriately. Rather than reactive interpretations or pre-conceived expectations, perspectives are widened and calmed. Much like “mental hygiene”, mindfulness clears out the clutter and stories so that the workday can be managed with more clarity and creativity, and decisions are made more consciously, with clear awareness of both their the roots and results.

Communication: Connection between human beings is at the core of much of the business world. Mindfulness can facilitate interpersonal communications by increasing openness and improving listening skills. When we are more available to hear the message being communicated, we can see opportunity rather than obstacle and connection instead of just conflict. We have all likely encountered the experience of talking without being heard, and the feeling of being misunderstood or even neglected. The practice of mindful listening builds the skill of real communication, on both the individual level and on a more global scale. The leader who hears the customer or client is more likely to provide a better service or product and the executive who can clearly articulate the vision is more likely to gain support with employees.
We are pleased to be partnering with the UC San Diego Rady School of Management, Center for Executive Development in offering our first Mindful Leadership course. This one-day course is highly experiential and will introduce mindfulness and explore how it can be integrated into leadership roles and organizational culture. Participants will learn about the scientific foundations of mindfulness, why meditation is such a powerful technique and will begin practicing mindfulness exercises. The class will provide a unique supportive structure to discuss experiences and build a framework for bringing this new awareness to work, leadership and life.  We hope to meet you there!

For more information about our workplace mindfulness programs, please visit our WorkLife Integration program page or email Christy Cassisa at mindfulness@ucsd.edu.

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Christy Cassisa is a former attorney, who is the Director of WorkLife Integration for the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. As she notes, “With all of the excitement surrounding mindfulness in the business community, we are thrilled to offer our WorkLife Integration Programs and our new  Mindful Leadership course in partnership with UC San Diego Rady School of Management, Center for Executive Development. 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, contact Christy via the Center for Mindfulness at cfmworklife.ucsd,edu. 

http://mindfulness.ucsd.edu

A Few Mindful Leadership Articles

Developing Mindful Leaders– Harvard Business Review, Dec 2011

The Mind Business– Financial Times Magazine, Aug 2012

Mindfulness Helps You Become a Better Leader –Harvard Business Review Oct 2012

Practicing Mindful Leadership– T & D by ASTD, March 2013

Is Mindfulness Good for Business?– Mindful, April 2013

Meditate for More Profitable Decisions– Insead, Sept 2013

The Mindfulness Business– The Economist, Nov 2013

Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity– Harvard Business Review, March 2014

Become a Mindful Leader: Slow Down to Move Faster– Forbes, March 2014

There’s no price tag on a clear mind: Intel to launch mindfulness program– The Guardian, April 2014

 

eMindful Introduces QuitSmart® Mindfully A Successful Tobacco Cessation Study

site_logoSmokers pay dearly for their habit: their health, fun, relationships, and even their life. We also know that most adult smokers want to quit – more than 69% according to the CDC. Yet most smoking cessation programs don’t work over the long-term. In fact, smokers will try to quit an average of seven times. These statistics alone are why we want to let you know about a new mindfulness-based program: QuitSmart Mindfully which is a tobacco cessation program developed in collaboration with eMindful and Dr. Robert Shipley, Director of the Duke Medical Center Stop Smoking Clinic.

eMindful is offering the program for the first time in November 2013 and it will be taught by eMindful’s senior instructor, Jim Austin. QuitSmart Mindfully consists of 12 classes conducted in eMindful’s live, online classroom (where participants see, hear, speak to, and interact with both the instructor and other course participants) over a seven-week time frame

cfmcolorlogomed copy 2The November QuitSmart Mindfully course will be utilized to collect pre- and post-course data about the success of this program and to coincide with the Great American Smokeout. Through our UCSD CFM blog, the course is available at a deeply discounted rate of $125 (normally $395). Included in the course tuition is the QuitSmart® Kit, which includes an informative guidebook, a relaxing hypnosis CD, and a patented cigarette substitute. 

The new program is based on the highly successful QuitSmart® program: A study at five U.S. Air Force bases showed an impressive 66% quit rate after six months, which proved two to four times more effective than other smoking cessation methods. The program has also produced impressive success rates in studies published in Veterans Health System Journal and Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

QuitSmart Mindfully integrates a significant mindfulness practice component.  The study will assess its ability to help participants:

·      Ease off nicotine.

·      Enhance coping skills by practicing acceptance of cravings, stress and emotional distress, rather than avoidance.

·      See themselves as comfortable nonsmokers rather than as smokers deprived of cigarettes.

·      Develop the respect for their bodies that naturally leads to freedom from cigarettes.

·      Break the smoking habit.

If you, or someone you know, would like to take advantage of QuitSmart Mindfully’s efficacy study, please click the following link to register: http://www.emindful.com/quitsmart-mindfully

Building Skills of Self-Compassion

Our Dear friend & colleague Dr. Kristin Neff will be holding a Self-Compassion Workshop Dec. 7-9 at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. This is a unique opportunity to be with Kristin and learn first-hand, by participating in this experiential weekend workshop, about her research and work in the field of Mindful-Self Compassion.

“This workshop uses exercises taken from the Mindful Self-Compassion program, an empirically supported 8-week training course Neff co-created with colleague Chris Germer. The course is relevant to the general public as well as to practicing mental health professionals, and has the power to radically transform the way you relate to yourself and your life.”

IONS will also be screening The Horse Boy for the larger community on Sat. Dec. 8th from 7:30-9:30 pm. Kristin will be there for Q & A afterward!  The Horse Boy is an award-winning documentary her family made about our trip to Mongolia on horseback to find healing for their autistic son.

If the December workshop is not convenient and you would like to train in  Mindful-Self Compassion there is an opportunity to participate in our  UCSD CFM Professional Training Institute’s  5-Day MSC Professional Training Retreat, being held at Earthrise May 12-17, 2013.  Kristin will be joined by her colleague and MSC co-developer Christopher Germer, Ph.D. in leading this training.

Loneliness and Boredom “eat” at us! by Jan Chozen Bays, MD

By Jan Chozen Bays, MD
Dr. Bays is a pediatrician and Zen teacher in Oregon. She is the author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food.

Loneliness and boredom are often triggers for eating comfort foods, or for eating at inappropriate times.
When we feel the impulse to eat at an odd time (such as an hour after lunch or when we can’t fall asleep at night ) we can take a moment to investigate what is happening in our body, heart and mind.
We can check within our bodies to investigate if we are actually hungry. How full does our stomach feel? Empty? One quarter full? Half full? Full? Stuffed? If we realize that we’re not actually hungry, we can investigate our feelings and thoughts.
We can check in with our feelings to investigate what emotions might be present. It helps to become acquainted with the particular body sensations that accompany different emotions. For example, the body signals of loneliness in one person might be a sagging feeling in the eyelids and heaviness in the chest. We find that the body can tell us about feelings of loneliness or boredom that we are not fully aware of.
We can check the background dialogue in our minds. The mind might be subtly murmuring, “I feel so alone. I need to comfort myself with something to eat, ” or “I’m bored. I need some exciting taste sensations in my mouth.”
Once we’ve identified the emotion we are feeling, what can we do? If the discomfort we are feeling is arising from loneliness, we can reach out. We can call someone who cares for us. We can reach out to another person who might be lonely. We can play with a child or pet. We can go outdoors and open our awareness to the company of trees and birds.
If the discomfort arises from boredom, we can challenge the mind that says, “There’s nothing going on, ” by looking directly and carefully at just what actually IS going on. We can sit down for a moment and focus on the breath, curious about the thousands of tiny touches in and on our body. We can look at a flower close up, drinking in its color with our eyes. We can open our ears to the many sounds, obvious and subtle, that surround us. We can sip a cup of tea slowly, aware of changes in temperature and flavor. When we are fully present, when boredom is replaced by curiosity, when loneliness is replaced by connecting to others, our discontent can dissolve and be replaced by satisfaction and ease.

Register, and join mindfulness teachers and retreat leaders,
Jan Chozen Bays, MD and Char Wilkins, LCSW
for Mindful Eating, Conscious Living, a 5-day Professional Training Retreat, August 4-9, 2012, Chapin Mill Retreat Center, New York.

This training emphasizes experiential engagement in mindfulness meditation practices and mindful eating awareness exercises, so that the participant will be able to pass the benefit of these exercises on to clients and patients in a variety of settings. These practices and exercises are integral components of the Mindful Eating program, designed by Bays and Wilkins, which provides the organizing structure for this training.

Please click here for information on our local UCSD Center for Mindfulness 4-week Mindful Eating Conscious Living program starting June 28, 2012 6-7:30pm.

Mindfully Slowing Down, Pausing and Pacing Can Add to Your Eating Enjoyment and Better Choices

By Jan Chozen Bays, MD
Dr. Bays is a pediatrician and Zen teacher in Oregon. She is the author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food.

One of the simplest ways to get more enjoyment out of eating while eating more appropriate amounts of food, is to deliberately slow down. Our digestive system sends “satiety” signals to our brain when we’ve had enough to eat. These signals take about 20 minutes after we begin eating to be activated.

Americans are speedy eaters. Beginning in the elementary school lunch room, we consume our meals in about ten minutes. This means our body doesn’t have a chance to give us “feedback” about how much food is the right amount. We can easily eat too much food too quickly. Because there isn’t time to release the satiety hormones, we also miss pleasant sensation of satisfaction after our meal.

There are some simple ways to slow your eating down. Try taking a small first portion and deliberately eating it slowly, with full attention to the flavor and texture. Avoid “layering” that is, don’t put additional bites of food in on top of previous ones. Try putting down the fork or spoon between bites, and don’t pick it back up until the food in your mouth is savored and swallowed. Check-in with the sensations in your stomach a few times during the meal to see how full it is feeling.

Ordinarily our food seems to lose flavor after the first bite. When you slow down, however, pausing between bites, you will discover that each bite retains that “first bite” flavor. Your body also has a chance to register a sense of satisfaction with just the right amount of food.

Register, and join mindfulness teachers and retreat leaders,
Jan Chozen Bays, MD and Char Wilkins, LCSW
for
Mindful Eating, Conscious Living, a 5-day Professional Training Retreat sponsored by the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness, March 10-15, 2013, Joshua Tree Retreat Center, Yucca Valley, CA

This training emphasizes experiential engagement in mindfulness meditation practices and mindful eating awareness exercises, so that the participant will be able to pass the benefit of these exercises on to clients and patients in a variety of settings. These practices and exercises are integral components of the Mindful Eating program, designed by Bays and Wilkins, which provides the organizing structure for this training.

Please click here for information on our local UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness 6-week Mindful Eating, Conscious Living program starting January 7.

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.

Mindful Parenting: Resilient Children: Parenting in a Rapidly Changing World

M. Lee Freedman, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, is a Co-Founder of, Mindfulness Toronto and Founder of, Mindful Families and Schools. We warmly welcome her as our newest guest author. Dr. Freedman will be presenting Mindful Parents: Resilient Children: Teaching Mindful Parenting Practice through Group and Individual Psychotherapy at our Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth Conference. This workshop will describe a multi-dimensional model of therapeutic intervention in which mindful parenting practices are taught in individual, family and/or group therapy through direct practice experience, conceptual teaching, and within a therapeutic relationship that embodies mindful interaction

Families today live in a society that is rapidly changing, increasingly demanding, faster moving, overly stimulating, increasingly unpredictable, and financially insecure. In the midst of this, stress-related symptoms and conditions in adults and children alike have become common, and cross all socioeconomic lines. There is an increasing need for both children and parents to develop stress management skills, and cultivate qualities of resilience in order to thrive in our current culture, and to prevent illness.

Mindfulness-based programs have been used increasingly in the health care system in the management of stress-related conditions. Extensive research has shown the many health and psychological benefits of practicing mindful awareness. Neuroscience research are showing the positive effects on the functioning and structure of the brain of regularly practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness-based programs have more recently been developed for children, teens, parents and teachers and are increasingly being used as a preventative as well as a treatment intervention.

The practice of living mindfully involves the practice of deliberately paying attention and living as many of the moments of our lives as possible with caring and intentional non-judgmental awareness.

The practice of parenting is often accompanied by multiple stressors. Under stress, we tend to spend more of our waking hours functioning mindlessly, reacting in a habitual way, often ineffectively and contrary to our values. Mindful living is about being fully awake and aware of what is going on, rather than reacting unconsciously according to predetermined habits, patterns, and judgements.

Practicing mindful awareness while parenting enables us to actually see our thoughts, feelings and body sensations more clearly, and with acceptance and self-compassion, as we interact with our children. This further allows us to see our children more clearly. It helps us to be aware of what is really happening here and now, without getting caught up in judgments, ruminations, prior expectations, or worries about the future. This gives us a choice to respond to what is happening in the moment more calmly, empathically, compassionately, effectively, and more in keeping with our values, rather than reacting unconsciously, automatically and driven by our emotional state.

The practice of self-compassion is integral to mindful parenting, as we are more present to our children when we are not caught up in self-judgment. Self-judgment tends to result in exhausting our vital emotional energy either by defending ourselves, or in denial of our feelings and thoughts as they truly are, rendering us unaware of what we may unconsciously be passing on or projecting on to our children. The opportunity to effectively respond to our thoughts and feelings wisely, and act with the best interest of our children in mind, is lost if we are not able to accept and clearly see our thoughts and feelings with an attitude of curiosity and compassion.

Mindful parenting is not a collection of techniques of how-to- dos and what-to-dos. Rather it is a practice of a way to be with our children, that is seeing and accepting of ourselves, and our children as they are now, responding effectively, and encouraging of their further growth in a healthy, safe, peaceful, and fulfilled way. Parenting tasks such as teaching, guiding, disciplining, limit-setting, nurturing, and providing a safe and healthy environment, among others, continue to play a central role of parenting in the context of a mindful relationship in which the child feels heard, respected, seen and accepted. When a child’s behaviour needs to be addressed for moral, safety or health reasons, this need could be responded to with clarity, calm, compassion and wisdom.

The practice of mindful parenting is not conditional on the emotional states or stress levels of ourselves or our children, nor does it depend on external circumstances. Whatever is going on in ourselves, our children and the world around us is the actual subject of mindful awareness, and therefore an opportunity to practice.

Listening in an attentive way is a valuable and practical expression of our love for our child, and understanding our child’s perspective is an effective tool of communication. This often requires slowing down. Unfortunately, it can feel like we are going against the cultural grain to value or to learn how to slow down, pay attention, single-task, delay gratification, and be kind and compassionate to ourselves and to others. For many of us, it seems more culturally congruent to show our love for our children by doing as much as we can as fast as we can to provide them with all of the experiences and opportunities we think they need to thrive in this rapidly changing society.

In reality, we just do not know. The world is changing quickly. This uncertainty leads to some parents feeling powerless, and less confident in their parenting, deferring to the “experts” and well-intended “enriching” activities and stimulation in an attempt to prepare their children for an uncertain future in this competitive and stressful culture. Ironically, this may lead to insufficient time and energy for the most valuable, (and cost-effective) resource parents have to offer their children to enhance their resilience in preparation for their future: regular unstructured, “unproductive” time with a mindfully present and attuned adult. Optimally, a child’s life would have a fluid balance between productive, active “learning time”, and rest and unstructured “play time”. In either case our mindful presence and the mindful presence of their teachers and other significant adults in their lives would enhance any experience.

Mindful parenting becomes especially important with the challenges of raising a child with biological vulnerabilities such as symptoms consistent with diagnoses of attention deficit disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, autistic spectrum disorder, and learning exceptionalities, and under stressful circumstances such as chronic illness of a family member, divorce, exposure to domestic or neughbourhood violence, and poverty, to name a few.

The reliable presence of an adult who is attuned to the child, who is willing and able to consider the perspective of the child, who cares unconditionally about the child, and who is able to regulate their own emotions and attention in order to clearly see and respond wisely to whatever is happening, is extremely valuable to the optimal emotional, social, physical and cognitive development, and success of the child.

Recent findings in neuroscience research suggest that parenting our children mindfully provides them with a sense of security which fortifies their health and wellness, enhances their abilities to learn to their full potential in and out of school, potentiates their ability to regulate their emotions and attention and to make good decisions, fosters resilience in the face of any curve balls that life throws their way, and enables them to thrive in this fast-paced and uncertain world.

Parenting mindfully also deepens the relationship between parent and child, and provides parents with a more comfortable and joyful experience of raising their children.

Mindful parenting is a practice which is simple, but not easy, and most definitely worth the effort.

M. Lee Freedman, MD, CM FRCP(C)

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.