Donna Karan begins yoga, meditation program at UCLA hospital

Sarah Fay: Patients and staff at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center will be the first on the west coast to receive training in a blend of Eastern and Western therapies designed by yoga instructors and fashion designer Donna Karan.

Urban Zen Foundation, started by Karan, is taking up residency at UCLA to ease the minds and bodies of cancer patients and their caretakers. It is the first hospital on the west coast to adopt the program, which involves training in yoga, Reiki, meditation, aromatherapy and other practices. Karan was at UCLA Thursday to visit with patients and staff.

“People think yoga is kind of …

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Meditative channel added to TV choices at Illinois medical center

Patients watching television in their rooms at Springfield, Illinois, Memorial Medical Center now can turn on a channel that features instrumental music and soothing nature scenes.

The CARE Channel was added to the hospital’s TV lineup a few months ago, Memorial spokesman Michael Leathers said.

CARE, which stands for “Continuous Ambient Relaxation Environment,” is provided through a 19-year-old company in Reno, Nev., called Healing Healthcare Systems.

A news release from Memorial said the channel is designed “to enhance and promote healing.”

Susan Mazer, chief executive officer of Healing Healthcare Systems, said Wednesday the channel’s videos of waterfalls, mountain ranges, wildlife and flowers are not repetitive and have original music playing in the background.

“It’s kind of like walking in a garden,” she said.

The channel’s programming changes by the time of the day. It includes sunrise and sunset scenes during the day and starry skies at night, Mazer said.

More than 600 hospitals nationwide pay for the CARE Channel, which Mazer said has unique content designed to promote rest and sleep. Scenes on the channel focus on nature. They contain no people or “artifacts” of civilization such as telephone poles, fences or buildings, she said.

In downstate Illinois, the CARE Channel is offered at Taylorville Memorial Hospital, Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville, Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, and Methodist Medical Center in Peoria. The channel is scheduled to be switched on in April at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Lincoln.

St. John’s Hospital in Springfield doesn’t offer the channel, but St. John’s spokeswoman Erica Smith said the hospital does have “meditation” recordings on CDs and cassettes that patients can play in their rooms.

A sample of the CARE Channel is available at

Memorial officials didn’t say how much the hospital pays for the 24-hour service, but Mazer said: “The cost is truly reasonable. It’s pennies per bed per day.”

Dean Olsen can be reached at 788-1543.

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Meditation chapel remodeled to embrace all faiths

Banner Boswell Medical Center [in Sun City, Arizona] reopened its chapel this week, just in time for Ash Wednesday.

The newly remodeled space, now a non-denominational meditation chapel, offers both patients and their families a quiet space to think and escape the busy hospital atmosphere.

Chaplain Larry Weidner, the director of Spiritual Care, said that the remodel is more inclusive to all religions. Instead of pews, the room now contains individual chairs, and the art is not specific to one religion, but a trio of paintings on one wall incorporates symbols from all faiths.

“As a hospital, we minister to anyone that comes here,” Weidner said.

Weidner pointed out that when the remodel was first proposed, he heard some complaints from people about…

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the switch to a nondenominational, rather than Christian, chapel, but he thought it was important to be welcoming to all religions.

Loretta Tropea, a hospital volunteer from Peoria, said the room looked completely different when she stopped in to receive her ashes Wednesday morning.

“I think it’s very nice,” Tropea said. “They did a nice job.”

The chapel also includes a new water feature just inside the door on a newly constructed wall, which blocks out noise from the busy lobby, where the room is located, giving visitors more privacy.

“It’s an environment that is quiet and peaceful and comfortable,” Weidner said, adding that the new design is more accommodating if a family wants a private session with him.

Chapel visitors can check out a library of more than 40 pamphlets on various supportive topics that Weidner said he has already seen circulating throughout the hospital in the hands of patients and families. There is also a special ‘faith box’ where handwritten requests for prayers can be placed for daily prayer by the chaplain.

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Meditation chapel reflects diversity of spiritual culture

After several months of remodeling, Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City has reopened its Meditation Chapel inside the hospital’s main entrance.

The remodeling project was done to reflect the diversity of the spiritual culture of patients, visitors and staff.
The chapel has a new water feature, an original triptych painting representing the 10 major world religions. The remodeling project also included the replacement of pews with individual chairs to create an atmosphere for individual meditation and reflection.

The chapel features a library of more than…

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40 pamphlets on various supportive topics and a special “faith box,” where handwritten requests for prayers can be placed for the chaplain. The chapel is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The reopening is just in time for this week’s observance of Ash Wednesday, which marks for Christians the beginning of the Lenten season leading to Easter Sunday.

In addition to providing ashes for patients and staff throughout the hospital, Banner Boswell’s Spiritual Care ministers will distribute ashes between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Meditation Chapel.

Banner Boswell is located at 10401 W. Thunderbird Blvd.

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Kaiser’s new meditation room reflects shift away from chapels in U.S. hospitals

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Roseville Press-Tribune: Books on Buddha, prayers printed in different languages, moveable chairs, kneeling stools, a glass prayer bowl, space for Muslim prayer rugs and a stained glass installation with a nature design fill the 180-square-foot room.

As intended, it’s a hodgepodge scene.

But for patients, visitors and staff of the hospital at Kaiser Roseville Medical Center, the room represents a quiet, sacred space where people of all religious backgrounds and spiritual beliefs are welcome. This meditation room also illustrates a growing recognition by health care providers throughout the United States that mind, body and spirit go hand in hand.

“Healing comes in many ways and we do a great job with the physical healing, but there’s the emotional and spiritual wounds, as well,” said Kaiser Chaplain Alice Anderson.

Gylnda Hardin happened upon the meditation room during its public unveiling Jan. 19. She traveled from Oakland to visit a family member receiving treatment in the hospital. As she tried reading her Bible in the patient’s room, she grew distracted by other family members conversing and noise from the television.

“I love it,” Hardin said of the meditation room. “It’s beautiful and it’s very much needed.”

Although Kaiser Permanente opened for public enrollment in 1945, their hospitals did not include chapels until about a decade ago. Now they have about 30 chaplains serving the northern California region. When Kaiser built the local medical center in 1998, they set aside a meditation room, tacking a sign on the door.

But no one oversaw the space and the room devolved into a waiting lounge.

“It felt like a conference room and wasn’t really meeting the needs of our patients,” said Keith Hoerman, director of continuity of care, during the opening ceremony.

In June 2009, Connie Johnstone, former spiritual care manager for Kaiser Roseville Medical Center, grew frustrated telling people there was no spiritual sanctuary on hospital grounds.

A particular family had struck Johnstone as one that could really benefit from the presence of a meditation room. She talked to her boss and got the ball rolling.

“There was a pastor and a retired pastor who had a loved one in the hospital,” she said. “They had huge spiritual resources available to them. They didn’t need me to gather at the bedside with them. They needed a place to go draw on their own strength.”

Everything about the meditation room is intentional. The stained glass gives people a visual object to observe. Chairs are arranged so visitors don’t sit looking at one another. The furniture is comfortable but doesn’t enable people to curl up and read a novel.

The prayer bowl gives visitors something to interact with — they can leave prayer requests and spiritual care volunteers will keep these in their reflections, Johnstone said. The room feels set apart from the rest of the hospital.

Most importantly, elements in the room don’t privilege one religious tradition over another.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, Catholic, Baptist and Methodist churches built many hospitals, which typically incorporated chapels with crosses and pews.

“It’s just not like that anymore,” Johnstone said, adding that Roseville has a big Sikh population and many Buddhist practitioners.

Not to mention Muslims, including medical personnel, need a place to pray five times a day.

“The person brings their own resources, their own spirituality (to the room),” Johnstone said. “We understand this is a diverse world and we don’t want to diminish any one practice or put focus on any one.”

UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento made the transition to a nondenominational room recently with an “all-faith chapel.” Sutter Health’s Women’s and Children’s Center plans to open a 40-seat meditation room in 2013.

Closer to home, Sutter Roseville Medical Center has boasted a meditation room since 1996 when the hospital opened, although they call it a chapel. The interfaith space has a stained glass piece and nature motif, but Sutter uses “chapel” because people recognize the term’s meaning, said Chaplain Gerald Jones.

“It’s a place where anybody can come — religious or not — to feel connected with their sense of the divine,” Jones said.

Even people who don’t follow an organized religion may need spiritual renewal and reprieve from the surrounding stressful situation.

Prior to Kaiser’s meditation room, Anderson said intensive-care unit nurses came to her asking for a quiet place to recover from the illness and death they experience daily. Spending time in a hospital whether as a nurse, patient or visitor takes a toll.

“People are facing death and serious illnesses,” Anderson said. “There are many loses every day, so they’re dealing with these great emotional stresses, as well as spiritual stress, like, ‘Can I go on? Did I deserve this?’ They’re really wrestling with God during this time.”

The meditation room, she said, provides a place to seek wisdom, express fears, ask for mercy, grieve and find the strength to carry on.

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North Dakota medical center uses meditation room for healing

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Indian Country Today: The patterns of sacred colors pressed in glass on the doors of St. Alexius’ Meditation Room are rounded, reminiscent of Chippewa art and decoration, as well as geometric motifs, like the Lakotas’.

The colors and patterns also are appropriate for a room used by Muslim medical staff for prayer, since there is no depiction of the human form, which is forbidden in Islam.

The colored doors and side windows designed by artist Butch Thunderhawk allow light into the simply-furnished room. Rows of chairs line soft sand-colored walls. Natural materials complete the space – a wood plank ceiling and slate floor. The back of the room curves into a gentle bow to suggest the circular themes in Native American spiritual practices and the ceiling is inset with a large louvered ventilation cover. The ventilation was built in so that the room can be used for smudging and the use of incense or the ritual pipe.

Smudging, or using the smoke from smoldering herbs and plants such as cedar, sweetgrass and sage, is associated with healing and prayer, said the Rev. Julian Nix, a chaplain at St. Alexius for 21 years.

The smoke is gently fanned across the people present with a feather or fan of feathers, representing healing purification and the rising of prayers, Nix said. Religious practices that use incense or smudging, anything involving fire, were difficult to do in patient rooms, both for space and for the risk of fire, he said.

The Meditation Room is a separate space just off the solarium on the main floor at St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck.

The solarium’s winding paths and standing greenery are meant to give a park-like feel to the space. A large open-air gathering space just outside the solarium is furnished with tables and benches, large potted plants, and a life-size sculpture of St. Vincent de Paul and a group of children, its tawny finish now interspersed with white where snow has come to rest.

Both the solarium and the Meditation Room were created in 2005, designed in collaboration with St. Alexius’ staffers and people from the Standing Rock, Three Affiliated Tribes and Turtle Mountain communities.

The staff was asked what they would like and the solarium – a place for both staff, visitors and families to unwind, pray or just sit in silence – was the result. Consultations with the Muslim doctors on staff, those from India, Buddhists, and elders and others from North Dakota’s tribes wanted a space that could be used for ceremonies and prayer practices that wouldn’t be suitable in St. Alexius’ Christian-themed chapel.

The whole process included educational sessions for the entire staff on the spiritual practices of other religions and cultures, Nix said.

In the solarium, a large man-made tree has been placed under a glassed-in dome, while nooks of seating make the large space feel like an intimate collection of private spaces. The winding floor leads toward a large fireplace. Soothing music is played there, ranging from Native American flute to Eastern “world” soundscapes.

Both spaces were dedicated to recognizing “the whole person, and all the people,” Nix said. Modern medicine has to fit into the lives of the people coming there, he said.

“Healing is not just physical, but (takes place) in the mind and spirit as well,” he said.

The best medical care can be defeated by fear, but thrives in a place where your beliefs can be freely expressed, Nix said.

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Patients cut stress through meditation

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Melissa Merrett, Whittlesea Leader, Australia: Cancer patients are improving their quality of life and reducing stress through meditation sessions offered by The Northern Hospital.

The sessions teach stillness meditation, which helps manage anxiety and stress to provide inner peace, clearer thinking and improved decision-making.

Northern Health chief executive Greg Pullen said the sessions help patients and families reduce stress by teaching relaxation techniques during challenging times.

“The free meditation sessions provide an opportunity for patients, their families and friends to learn stress management skills while undergoing medical treatment,” he said.

The one-hour meditation sessions are held in The Northern Hospital’s Multifaith Chapel on Wednesdays from 10.30-11.30am.

“The sessions provide an opportunity to meet other people who may share similar concerns in a safe and nurturing environment,” Mr Pullen said.

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Meditation in hospitals, and formidable women everywhere

Hospitals and meditation are coming together, what with the growth in mindfulness-based programs that started with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction several decades ago. Sutter Hospital, in California, is one of the latest to add a Meditation Garden.

Meanwhile, at an Asheville, North Carolina, hospital, meditation is being used to help breast cancer patients. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, a study “found patients using the body/mind/medicine therapies, including guided imaging, reported lowered blood pressure, heart rates and anxiety levels.”

In military medicine circles, the army’s plans to build up mental ‘resilience’ in soldiers serving in Iraq include a meditation room with stained glass windows.

There’s an Asheville connection with regards to Rev. Teijo Munnich, who is said to have been called “relentless” when it comes to her style of meditation, because, she says, her tradition has such a “macho” reputation. Munnich moved to Asheville in the mid-1990s and founded the Great Tree Zen Temple, where one of her intentions is to involve more women in meditation.

Not really a news story, this, but Karen Maezen Miller, “wife, mother, Zen priest and author of Hand Wash Cold” (her book will shortly be reviewed on Wildmind) has a piece in the Huffington Post on 8 Ways to Raise a Mindful Child. It’s all simple, down-to-earth stuff.

Also not strictly a news piece, but Zen Abbess Myoan Grace Schireson is interviewed about her new book, Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters. Just in time for Halloween, there’s a delightful description of Zen Zombies. You’ll have to read the article for clarification!

And one more from the ladies. If you remember that recently Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler was campaigning against the practice of yoga because of its connections with eastern mysticism. Well, the five formidable women of Down Under Yoga are likely to give Mohler a heart-attack, devoted as they are to bringing yoga back to its spiritual roots. They’re concerned by the commercialization of yoga, and wish to promote yogic values of ahimsa (non-harm), and and aparigraha or non-possessiveness. “My worry is that . . . what we do in the yoga room is becoming the same as what we do outside the yoga room. Which is behaving like lunatics,” says yogini Natasha Rizopoulos. “The minute yoga is packaged and branded, you’ve lost it,” adds lawyer-turned-yoga-teacher Justine Wiltshire Cohen.

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