Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., Psych.Central: Our kids are our future and nowadays we are seeing them in them higher states of anxiety, impulsivity and other behavioral problems. In recent years mindfulness has been shown as an effective approach for children in lower stress and anxiety and even increasing states of feeling well. Susan Kaiser Greenland wrote The Mindful Child, I did an interview with Meg Cowan on her work with Mindful Schools, and Goldie Hawn has successfully started and organization called Mind Up. There is another very special organization started by two brothers Ali and Atman Smith and their friend Andres Gonzalez called Holistic …
Judith Newman, Prevention: Since the 1970s, Hawn, 67, has been a practitioner of meditation and living mindfully. Through the Hawn Foundation, she has brought the concept of mindfulness to 150,000 children around the world. Today children in her MindUp program learn how they can reduce stress and anxiety by understanding where negative emotions live in the brain and taking charge of their own feelings. (She also released a book on the program, Ten Mindful Minutes, just out in paperback.)
With a reclining Buddha watching over us, Hawn and I met up in her glass-walled New York City penthouse. The living room is Indochined and feng …
Canadian schools in forefront of adding psychology to the curriculum
Richard Handler, CBC News: As kids head back to school in September, some will find their teachers focusing not just on developing their intellects but also their “mental brawn,” to help adolescent brains cope better with today’s digitalized world.
It seems that as our modern-day culture grows more frenzied, some schools at least are trying to redesign education so kids can be better equipped to function amid the constant bombardment of media messages and gadgets with all their maddening stimuli.
Already students from kindergarten to Grade 8 in Vancouver, and in nearly 175 schools in …
NZ Herald: What happens to Hollywood superstars when they semi-retire? They meditate, of course. And if anyone is going to do it with a smile on her face, it’s Goldie Hawn.
Except for her, inner peace has turned into an international mission. This week, Hawn is in the UK to promote her meditation manual, 10 Mindful Minutes. Already a New York Times bestseller, the book is aimed at parents and teachers in the hope they will encourage children to practise the basics of yoga and meditation.
In recent years, Hawn, 66 has reinvented herself as a philanthropist and sort of “mindfulness campaigner”. Because, if she …
Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun: One of my fondest memories from a recent visit to Seymour elementary in Vancouver was joining the students in Carrie Gelson’s Grade 2 class in morning meditation.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, we concentrated on our breathing and listened to the fading tone of a bell sounded by Gelson. It brought a few moments of blissful calm in an otherwise bouncy room of little kids.
This breathing exercise is a regular event at Seymour, one of several B.C. schools that practices the MindUP program created several years ago by Goldie Hawn. Seymour teacher Janice Parry, a Mind Up trainer with the Hawn Foundation for several years, says the program is popular in Metro Vancouver. “It’s changed lives,” she told me when I interviewed her for a feature story a few years ago.
My colleague Gordon Hoekstra recently interviewed neuroscientist and author Richard Davidson and wrote the following:
Simple meditation techniques, backed up with modern scientific knowledge of the brain, are helping kids hard-wire themselves to be able to better pay attention and become kinder, says neuroscientist Richard Davidson….
Goldie Hawn, whose Hawn Foundation develops programs to help children thrive and find happiness, recently appeared on ABC Nightline to discuss her foundation’s work. In particular she talked about MindUp, which is helping kinds by teaching them mindfulness meditation, or what Hawn calls “brain breaks,” and neuroscience.
In the wake of 9/11, Hawn became concerned at learning that US children were among the unhappiest in the world, with rising suicide rates, depression, and one in three children on medication. As a meditator, she became convinced that she could make a difference. She launched the Hawn Foundation, and began working with scientists to help children train their brains to focus, and become happier.
220 schools in the US, Canada, and Britain are now using her MindUp program.
The video is below.
Ingrid Wickelgren: When I arrived at the Aspen Meadows Resort for the Second Annual Aspen Brain Forum last Thursday evening, Goldie Hawn was getting out of a vehicle near the entrance. I knew she was about to give the keynote address, but I was startled to practically run into the actress. A grandmother now, Hawn looked fabulous in over-the-knee black leather boots and a chunky silver belt strung around a black miniskirt. It wasn’t so much her looks, though, that made her instantly recognizable. Her trademark laugh and general effervescence mark her like a strobe light, quite visible even in the bright Colorado sun. I watched her stop to…
National Health Service departments are now offering the Buddhism-inspired method of ‘mindfulness meditation’ which is favoured by celebrities such as Goldie Hawn.
A form of meditation practised by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars is becoming a major growth area within British psychology, as evidence grows of its effectiveness in dealing with anxiety and depression.
“Mindfulness meditation” was pioneered in the United States during the 1970s as a tool for alleviating stress and is practised, among others, by Meg Ryan and Goldie Hawn, who acts as an advocate for the technique. Drawing on ancient Buddhist principles to combat mental suffering, the technique encourages practitioners to slow down, “inhabit the moment” and become more accepting of their feelings. According to Ryan, “by simply refocusing our awareness, we reshape our experience”.
Although initially regarded with scepticism by mainstream psychologists, the practice has gained respectability thanks to…
A study by researchers in Wales, Toronto and Cambridge found that in cases of recurring depression it reduced the risk of relapse by 50%. As a result, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) adopted it in its guidelines as a recommended intervention in cases of chronic depression. Recent studies have shown that the technique can have other significant benefits, including boosting the immune system and encouraging left-field brain activity – the side most associated with feelings of wellbeing.
The impressive experimental results have led to a surge in interest and increasing demand that the practice be made more widely available. Research centres have sprung up across the country and there has been an explosion of mindfulness courses in non-clinical settings.
The School of Life in central London offers a variety of classes applying mindfulness techniques, including “How to Face Death” and “How to Stay Calm”. The Mental Health Foundation has launched Be Mindful, a campaign geared to making the technique available to “everyone who wants it”, while the Mindfulness in Schools campaign has been established to encourage its adoption in classrooms.
Ed Halliwell, a teacher on mindfulness and co-author of a recent book, The Mindfulness Manifesto, attributed the popularity to the technique’s blending of age-old spirituality with modern convenience: “It’s based on thousands of years of wisdom. It is simple but not always easy to do. You don’t need any special equipment. It’s not expensive. And it seems to connect with a lot of people’s intuitive sense that slowing down, practising stillness, learning how to be with our body and mind are good things. These are ancient ways of working to develop wellbeing, but what’s happened now is that the science is catching up and showing us that this does actually work. It’s become very of the moment.”
However, some psychologists are cautious about overselling the benefits or applying mindfulness too zealously outside a clinical setting. Florian Ruths, who runs a mindfulness meditation programme at the Maudsley Hospital in south London, argues that the technique’s very success in becoming part of the psychological mainstream could lead people to view it as a quick-fix solution.
“I think we need to be cautious,” he said. “At the moment the enthusiasm is much higher than the evidence. Those who practise mindfulness meditation know it makes a huge difference to people’s lives. But there is a danger of saying it works in psychology so why not use it for almost anything in life? And suddenly having a bit of pleasure, or seeing something beautiful, becomes an act of mindfulness.
“We need to be careful that we don’t create an impression that we’ve got something proven to be effective for almost everything when we haven’t actually done the scientific work.”
According to Ruths, when practised properly in a clinical setting, mindfulness meditation has three key benefits. First, “it teaches us to immerse ourselves deeper in the present rather than worry about things we can’t control in the future – will I have a job? Will I be OK in five years’ time? – or dwell on something in the past that we can’t change either.”
Second, it “teaches us something about the validity of thoughts and emotions. When we are in a difficult state we believe several things: it will never end, it says something about us being flawed, and we need to get out of it now. Mindfulness helps us to see that emotions change and that if I have a thought, it is not necessarily the reality, it is just a thought.”
Third, he says, “mindfulness itself is an act of kindness, of compassion. It teaches us about directing the capacity for compassion that we all have at ourselves. That in itself is something new.”
One 37-year-old woman who attended a group course at the Maudsley last summer said she was encouraged to try the technique after more than 20 years of suffering acute depression, anxiety and fatigue, and more recently panic attacks. After experiencing the “recurrent corruptions of medication”, she was not hopeful that this technique would be any different. “I expected it to be merely another variation on the theme of cognitive hygiene. But I was wrong. There was no feeling of ideological imposition or the energetic tidying of my psyche. It felt respectful, gentle, patient, almost companionable.”
With time and regular practice, the techniques she learned started to make a difference. Her panic attacks ceased and she was able to cope without medication for the first time in more than two decades. One of the technique’s benefits, she said, is the ease with which she had been able to incorporate it within her busy life. “Since doing the course, I have tried to continue regularly with the various meditation practices I learned. It has made waiting, even on rowdy buses, a prized opportunity, for such practices do not rely on a quiet without, but a quiet within.”
There are certain people you expect to talk about with Goldie Hawn: Kurt Russell, her partner of more than 25 years; Kate Hudson, her identikit actress daughter. But Michael Gove, the Member of Parliament for Surrey Heath and Secretary of State for Education? Michael Gove, the man who looks as if he has just been pulled out of a sheep by Kate Humble in an episode of Lambing Live? Yes. Goldie Hawn, Oscar-winning actress, Hollywood producer, America’s sweetheart, is talking about that Michael Gove.
I don’t know. It’s hot outside – perhaps I have sun stroke. Or maybe there has been a rip in the space time continuum, and somewhere, Jennifer Aniston is spouting forth her views on Danny Alexander and Vince Cable. No, no. Actually, Hawn is keen to set the record straight on a strange story that appeared just before the general election.
The actress, who is described as a Jewish-Buddhist, runs the Hawn Foundation, an educational charity that teaches American children mindfulness and breathing exercises to boost their learning ability. And in an interview in February, Gove announced that the Tories were in talks with her to adopt the practice in the UK.
“I never met him,” she says, shaking her trademark white blonde tousled hair. “I’ll tell you exactly what I did. I had a meeting with an aide of his, I’ve forgotten his name, in some lobby at one of the Parliament buildings down there, by the river you know? Anyway, I came in and sat down with this man, just in the place where you get the coffee from the vending machine, and I spoke to him about the programme, and that was it. I never met Michael Gove.”
Was she, perhaps, a little irritated by the story? “Yes because they [the press] were wrong. When you don’t check facts and you use it for other purposes, you’re abusing something that is actually quite wonderful… So yes, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.” She says firmly that she hasn’t heard from the Tories since. Does she think she fell prey to political spinning? “I have no idea,” she says with a sweet, knowing smile. “I mean, you could draw a conclusion…”
Anyway, I do like the idea of Goldie Hawn drinking vending-machine coffee in one of the House of Commons canteens – perhaps her experience in Private Benjamin helped prepare her for such miserable conditions. She met blinking Ed Balls, too. Did she like him? “Yeah,” she says dispassionately, before adding that “I mean, I was only there for a short period. I had a nice conversation with him.” She doesn’t seem bowled over to me. I wonder if he asked for her autograph. “No!” And out comes that wonderful Goldie Hawn giggle.
Hawn only arrived a couple of hours earlier from Greece, where she has been holidaying with Kurt and Kate and various other family members. She says that she is sleepy, that she was up late last night, but one gets the sense that Hawn’s sleepy is a lesser person’s perky.
“Oh, OK, so wooow,” she says immediately. “Last night, we had dinner on the boat of this big shipping guy, he’s fat and he’s Jewish, and his father’s Greek and his mother’s French, and brrrr, can you imagine?! The most wonderful mix! I’m obviously disciplined and was like ‘well, I’m going at 11’, but we had so much fun we didn’t get to bed until 2.30am.”
We meet in the Royal Suite of the Ritz Hotel. Hawn turns 65 this November but as we are given a tour of the giant oval bedroom, the dressing room and the study, she radiates an almost childlike wonder. Dressed in loose linen trousers, a vest and flip-flops, she settles her teeny-tiny body on a giant sofa in the drawing room, tucking her feet underneath her in the lotus position. Is she going to start the interview with some meditation (she does a lot of that)? Is she going to answer me in ohms? I shift in a giant armchair. “Honey,” she spreads her arms out, and surveys the drawing room. “I just love your house.”
Goldie Hawn is just as you would expect her: warm, bubbly, doling out “sweeties” as if the word were going out of fashion, a natural comedienne as witnessed in such films as The First Wives Club and Death Becomes Her. She is that rare thing in Hollywood: a woman nobody would ever dare bitch about. Females want to be her, men want to be with her. I try and think of people as universally lovely – or as loved – as Hawn and can come up only with Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and when they were alive, Mother Theresa and Diana, Princess of Wales. Simperingly, I tell her this. “OH. MY. GOD” she squeals, giggling as she goes.
I suppose the best (and less over-the-top) comparison would be Joanna Lumley, or America’s version thereof, right down to the tireless campaigning for worthwhile causes.
She is in London as guest of honour at an event hosted by the conservationist Mark Shand, whose charity The Elephant Family raises money for the endangered Asian pachyderm. For the last two months, Londoners have been admiring 258 elephant sculptures dotted around the capital – they have been designed by artists as diverse as Marc Quinn and Jack Vettriano. Hawn, who sponsored an appropriately gold elephant, has jetted in to see them auctioned off.
“I’m not an animal-crazy person, you know.” It’s as if she wants to make clear the fact she hasn’t turned into some crazy Brigitte Bardot figure. “I don’t have a house full of cats. But animals, children, elderly people… that’s my level of empathy.”
She visits India regularly. (In 2006 she published a book with the terribly spiritual title A Lotus Grows in the Mud. It was full of life advice and was based on her journey from Washington suburbia to the Hollywood Hills, where she picked up a best supporting actress Oscar for Cactus Flower). Anyway, on one of these visits she encountered a blind elephant and her calf, who acted as its mother’s eyes, an experience that Hawn describes as “profound” and “absolutely honest”, and that moved her to tears.
Hawn explains that as humans take elephant habitats, herds break down “and when that society is breaking down, we can only look at our own, and say ‘they are behaving no differently [from us], they are angry, they’re irrational, they’re throwing tantrums’.” From another Hollywood celebrity this would be enough to make you vomit up a bucketful of cynicism, but Hawn is so sincere that her sentiment is infectious and to mock it would just be wrong.
She talks about the Hawn Foundation, and explains the MindUp programme that she briefly discussed with Ed Balls, and last month, Jamie Oliver, who is helping her to establish the project in several British schools. “It teaches children how their minds work, it teaches them to recognise stress, and when they do, it gives them tools for how to deal with stress. All of this is wrapped around the curriculum, so in other words, it doesn’t take time from the academics.”
“And we have done tests that show there was better attendance, that their aggression went down in the playground, that their optimism went up to 63 per cent…” How, exactly, does one measure optimism, I ask. “It’s been done by neuroscientists and researchers from the University of British Columbia,” she says sharply. “People who have been doing this for 30 years…” It’s the only time she is short; it is a hint of the steeliness that must have kept her afloat during her 40 year career.
Would she call herself an actress, or a philanthropist? “I’m a humanitarian. I’m a dreamer, someone who wishes the best for mankind.” I ask her what someone would have to do to make her angry. “I get angry at lies, and I get angry at ill-intended people. I think the thing that thrills me the most in life, aside from seeing a happy child giggle, is human spirit.”
Hawn may sound like a Miss World contestant, but so what? She is genuine, which is all that matters, and I think, however simpering this might sound, that the planet would be a much better place were there more people like Goldie Hawn in it.
“I do have a side that is contemplative,” she says, at the end, stretching her legs out. “When I was younger I was this sort of ditzy young comedienne, and people loved to see me laugh, and when I wasn’t they would say to me ‘oh come on Goldie, smile!’ I used to say to them, ‘well, give me a reason to smile’. Because I do get sad, and I do get hurt, and I do get let down, and I do care.” On the last point, I am left in no doubt.[via The Telegraph]
Buddhist meditation is justified in schools by its practical benefits. But there’s more to it than that.
As faith schooling from various traditions continues to grab headlines, the prospect of a specifically Buddhist education hasn’t been much mooted. School-based practices inspired by Buddhism, on the other hand, are starting to gain momentum. Last weekend, Goldie Hawn was enthusing about the British launch of her meditation in schools programme, while, on a slightly lower key note, mindfulness teaching has already been introduced in several private institutions – Wellington College and Tonbridge School among them. There are also initiatives to introduce meditation in the state sector, under the guidance of psychologists such as Mark Williams in Oxford.
It’s been said that Buddhism will establish itself in the west as a psychology rather than a religion, and that seems to be the case here – many of those introducing meditation to schools wouldn’t identify as Buddhists. And the rationale has been mostly scientific – among other benefits, meditation has been shown to foster attention skills, reduce aggression, and increase pro-social behaviour and relational abilities (among children and adults), as well as protecting against anxiety and depression.
That the practices have been presented in this positivist way is skilful – the prospect of teaching kids to pay attention is far more likely to spark educators’ interest than suggesting, hippie-style, that meditation will connect them to a deeper understanding of experience. But are the two claims really that different? A deeper understanding of experience doesn’t have to mean contacting an other-worldly state that reveals the secrets of the universe – in the context of meditation, it’s more likely to involve developing a here-and-now investigation of thoughts, feelings and events, and recognising how they interconnect to create our perception of the world.
The risk of presenting meditation purely in “here’s what you get out of it” terms is that it can come to seem like a technique for self-improvement, or self-control, when actually it is about self-letting-go, a deep dissembling from which a new understanding can come. Rather than offering a promise of betterment, or a false confidence based on faith, meditation can be a way of teaching doubt – the kind of creative uncertainty that can be a useful container for learning. By taking a different perspective on experience – watching it mindfully for a while, rather than getting so caught up in it, we can become more attuned to how our attitudes colour our world, and how the way we see things aren’t the way they necessarily are.
This isn’t quite the kind of scepticism that Richard Dawkins has suggested might be the kernel of an atheist schooling – as Andrew Brown has pointed out, the unspoken premise there is that doubt is taught according to a set of given rules, with an implicit discrediting of ideas which can’t – at least for now – be demonstrated. Instead, it’s more radical – a method for becoming more alive to our ever-changing experience (intellect, emotion, body sensation, event perception), and developing an understanding that to treat one element (or one moment,) as the arbiter of truth is to fixate and judge in a way that limits our view.
It’s the kind of wisdom that Socrates spoke of when he said that while he knew nothing, he knew something from not-knowing. Similarly, by investigating in a meditative way, we might get a little closer to recognising how our preconceptions afflict us. It’s an approach that might not just mean fewer fights in the playground, but the spread of a humility that underpins our continued search for answers – we can accept that it’s a struggle even to formulate good questions.
There wouldn’t be anything explicitly or exclusively Buddhist about such an education, and nor should there be (as Ajan Amaro says: “If you think you really are a Buddhist, you are totally lost!”). But it would honour the spirit of open-minded, fully-embodied inquiry that the Buddhist tradition at its best can offer.[Ed Halliwell, The Guardian]