Jon Kabat-Zinn

Roundtable: meeting of the minds

wildmind meditation news

Tricycle Magazine: Tricycle sits down for a free-ranging discussion with several pioneers of the dialogue between science and Buddhism.

Since 1987 the Dalai Lama has met biennially with small groups of Western scientists to talk about the nature of mind and reality, and to plan collaborative research between science and Buddhism. These sessions, organized by the Mind and Life Institute, are designed to explore not only what Buddhism and modern science can learn from each other but also what they can learn by working together. Studies sponsored by Mind and Life are beginning to unravel the brain mechanisms underlying contemplative practice, providing scientific validation of the beneficial effects of meditation practice.

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“Mindfulness for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your Life,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your LifeVidyamala, a long-term pain sufferer, rejoices in a new offering from Jon Kabat-Zinn, but experiences regret it wasn’t available years ago.

I was delighted to to be asked to review this new offering from the founder of mindfulness in healthcare: Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is a two-CD audio book combining extensive background information with guided meditations.

Disc One (session one)

The first CD (or session as the CD is labeled) is entirely taken up with short lectures on various aspects of applying mindfulness to chronic pain of any sort. I listened avidly and welcomed everything he had to say and feel. Jon comes across with real depth and understanding of what it is like to apply mindfulness to pain.

As someone who uses mindfulness and meditation to manage chronic back pain myself, I felt a pang that this material was not available 25 years ago when I was first learning to meditate. I’m sure it would have made my journey a lot easier and more effective as he deals very directly with the mystery of how to be with experience when it is painful. One phrase I particularly liked was “tuning IN trumps tuning OUT”. In other words: if we can resist the natural response of endless distraction and aversion to pain and engage with the pain directly, then the overall suffering will diminish greatly.

Title: Mindfulness for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your Life
Author: Jon Kabat-Zinn
Publisher: Sounds True
Content: 2 CDs
ISBN: 1-59179-740-3
Available from: Sounds True and

He also makes the crucial distinction between pain and suffering: Pain is the sensations of discomfort that may be unavoidable; suffering is the ways we react to pain that just makes it worse. All the information on the CD offers deep and profound ways to learn to be with the pain and to eliminate the suffering. He also draws on his own experience of applying mindfulness to pain within a clinical setting at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He refers to research studies and this gives the CD credibility. I was particularly interested to hear about studies that show mindfulness is more effective than distraction when trying to live with severe pain.

The tracks on Disc one are as follows:
Track 1: Introduction
Track 2: Diving right in – Jon begins with an awareness of your body and everything around you.
Track 3: Learning to live with pain – Living with pain is a workable process if you are willing to do daily work. Pain may be unavoidable, but suffering is optional. You have nothing to lose in walking this path.
Track 4: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) – a detailed description of the MBSR programme and scientific basis of this work as part of new field of medicine: Mind/body or Integrative medicine.
Track 5: Seven principles for working with pain –

Principle 1: There is more right with you than wrong with you and mindfulness will help mobilize inner resources.
Principle 2: The Power of Now (vs living in the past or future.)
Principle 3: The “Now” is not always exactly what we want. We usually want something different.
Principle 4: If experience is not what we want, we usually respond in two ways –- either denial or overwhelm.
Principle 5: Mindfulness offers a third way – turning toward what we most fear to feel and open gradually to its experiences. Learn resilience.
Principle 6: Open to experience moment-to-moment with kindness toward oneself without judging the experience (try not to judge or react automatically), Working with mindfulness helps it to become our new default setting.
Principle 7: we are not “fixing” anything, we are just dealing with it in the present moment.

Track 6: Cultivating mindfulness – Jon suggests we listen to this CD until it becomes second nature to us, along with using the second CD to practice with. He offers some tips in terms of finding a quiet place to practice, etc.

Disc Two (session two)

The second session is devoted to guided practices with instruction. Jon has a very pleasant voice and his many years experience of meditation teaching are immediately obvious. The content is precise and subtle. He does talk a lot, but there is a period of silence at the end of each track where the listener can try to put the instructions in to practice for themselves.

The tracks on Disc two are as follows:
Track 1: Introduction
Track 2: The power of disciplined practice – some comments on how to deal with boredom and impatience. Just actively participate in the meditation process, even if you don’t feel like it. The value will come with the repetitive practice.
Track 3: Mindfulness of breathing guided meditation with introduction as to how to best engage with the breath. This track may be particularly useful to those learning to meditate.
Track 4: Working with pain meditation – showing you how to work with your pain through meditation. These are brief meditations in between instructions. Various strategies are introduced and then there is a silent period to try putting them into practice.
Track 5: Working with thoughts and emotions meditation – particularly thoughts and emotions about the pain.
Track 6: Resting in awareness: a three-minute mindful pause meditation
Track 7: A 20 minute body scan.
Track 8: Mindfulness in everyday life.

I highly recommend this 2 CD set for anyone wanting to learn powerful and effective ways to work with chronic pain, or indeed any manifestation of the difficult side of life.

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Slide show: Dalai Lama visit

When the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds held grand-opening events May 15-16, a familiar guest was on hand to celebrate the occasion. As he has a number of times — most recently in 2007 — His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama traveled to Madison to continue ongoing work with the new center’s director, Richard Davidson, a UW–Madison professor of psychology and psychiatry, who also directs the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior. Davidson, who has studied Tibetan monks to explore how meditation affects the brain, established the new center to investigate healthy qualities of the mind and how to cultivate those qualities in children and adults. The weekend’s events included a private scientific meeting, a presentation by mindfulness meditation pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn, and a public dialogue with the Dalai Lama and Davidson at the Overture Center for the Arts.

Click here to view the slide show..

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Fit to be tried: Mindfulness

What’s a good way to ease tension, seek a sliver of serenity, and calm that troublesome mental chatter? Try taking a course in mindfulness.

But first the title: why learn a technique that sounds like “mind fullness” when most of us would be keen to avoid some of the estimated 70,000 thoughts we have a day?

“When we take the time to notice what’s going on inside ourselves, we discover our mind is a very busy place,” says Mary O’Callaghan, a psychotherapist and mindfulness trainer, and director of Dublin’s Oscailt Integrative Health Centre.

Mindfulness meditation aims to bring a more conscious awareness to our daily lives.

“We spend of a lot of our time thinking about the past or planning for the future, and this causes worry and anxiety that robs us of the ability to be truly present, either to ourselves or those we come in contact with,” says Ms Callaghan, who lived as a Buddhist nun for eight years.

Repetitive thinking can become automatic and destructive, she says.

“One of the many liberating insights people achieve on a mindfulness course is the realisation that their thoughts are not facts.”

Mindfulness comes from a Buddhist term and originates from the word sati, first translated in 1881 by a Pali language scholar as “right mindfulness, the active and watchful mind”.

The mindfulness course at Oscailt runs for eight weeks, and means doing about 35 minutes of meditation daily. This training is a challenge “not for the faint-hearted”, warns Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the programme.

Luckily, Ms Callaghan is a patient teacher, who guides us through “body scan” meditation.

But coffee, a late babysitter and an even later bus send my mind spinning off its axis, and I learn there’s a sergeant-major in my brain who takes advantage of my supine position: “Ah, you’re lying down, here’s a list of urgent thoughts.”

Such mental gymnastics are common, says Ms Callaghan.

“Just bring your awareness back to your breath, and be gentle. Thoughts are just a mental event, and trying to hang on to them is like trying to make a cloud concrete.”

The body-scan technique is a good method for beginners. It means slowly focusing your awareness across everything from your breath to your toes to your inner organs.

The result brings a glimpse of conscious serenity — awake but completely relaxed.

It’s important to try out new skills each day. I’m not great solo, but Oscailt provides a CD to back up the hands-on instruction, and following this audio cue is simple.

There’s also a seated meditation. This is tough, as it can be uncomfortable.

Just persist, says Ms Callaghan. “It’s not so much what we do, but the manner in which we do it that either creates speed and anxiety or calm and ease — the choice is ours.”

Well, it might take a former Buddhist nun to know that, but it works for me.

[Amanda Phelan, Irish Independent]
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Researchers see promise in treating addictive behaviors with mindfulness meditation

The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel

When the stresses of life become too much for him, Ken Volante takes a figurative step back and tries out being SOBER. That “nice little trick,” as he describes it, is the backbone of mindfulness meditation and it helps him remain sober.

It’s a series of steps that allows him to cope with the cravings that would lead him to drink. So important is this practice that he carries with him a laminated card listing those steps.

When he practices being SOBER, he Stops, Observes what’s going on, focuses on his Breathing (divorces himself from what’s going on around him), Expands (focus what’s happening to one’s body) and Responds (but constructively).

A binge drinker for two or three years, Volante, of Madison, recently completed an outpatient program at New Start and became part of a pilot study to see whether mindfulness meditation could help alcoholics remain sober and cope with their addiction. The research project is led by Aleksandra Zgierska, a physician at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Mindfulness meditation is closely identified with Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who founded a stress reduction clinic devoted to using mindfulness meditation.

The 19 people in the UW study took an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation, in which they learned how to be “present in the moment and be receptive to what is happening, without judgment imposed, just observing what’s there,” Zgierska says.

Doing that, she says, breaks the “auto-pilot” behavior that can lead to impulsive, unhealthy reactions.

“Let’s say a person has a lapse, they have one night of drinking or they have one drink. It’s not unusual for us to hear people in treatment say, ‘What I said to myself is that I screwed it up now. I might as well go ahead and finish it off.’ What mindfulness can do is interrupt that way of thinking,” says Michael Waupoose, program director at UW Health-Gateway Recovery in Madison.

Alcoholics, says Zgierska, when confronted with a situation that could lead to drinking – for example, passing a bar or being offered a drink – could rely on using the SOBER technique, or another approach, such as what’s called urge surfing.

Urge surfing is imagining the urge to drink as a wave, and imagining oneself riding the wave and coming down the other side, says Alan Marlatt, director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Study results awaited

How mindfulness meditation helps alcoholics deal with their desire to drink remains uncertain.

“That’s the big question everyone is trying to get a handle on,” says Marlatt, who has also been studying mindfulness meditation and consulted with Zgierska on her study.

But he does contrast it with other approaches to alcoholism.

“The traditional kinds of behavioral treatment like aversion therapy tried to suppress urges or inhibit cravings or create a condition of aversion to them. Mindfulness is radically different. Let’s take an acceptance approach. You will have urges, you will experience cravings, but we’re going to teach you strategies so that you can manage them and get through them,” Marlatt says.

“I think that it has great potential for the treatment of substance abuse disorders,” says Waupoose.

This is a new approach that clients and clinicians are excited about, says Sarah Bowen, a research scientist at the Addictive Behaviors Research Center in Seattle.

For one thing, it’s an alternative to the traditional so-called 12-step group approach used by Alcoholics Anonymous. It was that alternative that attracted Margee Baxter of Baraboo to mindfulness meditation.

“I’ve done the whole AA thing before. I’m not a real rigid follower. I just kind of like to do my own thing in my own order,” says Baxter, 51, who adds that she had trouble finding a group setting in which she felt comfortable.
Early success

Zgierska’s study was a pilot study, which did not involve a control group, but rather sought to examine how feasible the mindfulness approach would be for alcoholics.

In the first controlled study comparing mindfulness with a 12-step approach, Bowen and her colleagues found that alcoholics and drug users using mindfulness meditation reduced the number of days they used drugs or drank to fewer than half the number of days of those in the 12-step group after two months (2.1 compared with 5.4). But the difference disappeared after four months.

The researchers explain the result by noting that after the initial course in mindfulness, the participants went back to the 12-step groups.

“It is therefore not surprising that MBRP (Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention) treatment gains were not fully maintained,” the researchers write. They add that mindfulness training may require continuing support to be successful.

The study began with 93 people who used mindfulness meditation and 75 who participated in the 12-step program. At the study’s conclusion, 69 were in the mindfulness group, 49 in the 12-step group.

The results of the study, published late last year in the journal Substance Abuse, should enhance the scientific credibility of mindfulness meditation as a treatment for alcoholism and other addictive disorders, says Bowen. She adds that as an approach it has drawn the interest and praise of many professionals who treat these disorders.

“This provides us yet another opportunity to say, ‘Here is another intervention that has been studied and outcomes are favorable.’ It gives us another tool we can use for treating substance abuse disorders,” Waupoose says.

Bowen says such findings may also increase the use of the technique.

“We may be able to have programs like this integrated into and covered by large organizations, such as the VA,” she says.

Zgierska says she plans on doing further controlled studies of mindfulness meditation. And Waupoose says he aims to introduce the technique to the treatment programs at UW Health-Gateway Recovery.

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Preschoolers practice meditation

Take a breath. Pay attention as the air goes in…and out. There, you’ve just had a moment of mindfulness.

In the 1970s, a young scientist named Jon Kabat-Zinn began introducing mindfulness meditation to people who suffered from chronic pain. He found that bringing awareness to the pain helped them cope with it. The techniques were rooted in Eastern practices taught by the Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha. And they caught on in the medical world.

Over the decades, mindfulness has become integrated into treatments for physical pain, anxiety and depression. It’s put into practice at esteemed medical centers such as UCSF. And recently, its reach has expanded into some schools. Supporters say it may be just the trick to lower stress in anxious teachers and students. But there’s still a lot to figure out — what to teach children, at what age, and what mindfulness and meditation can actually do.

KALW’s Judy Silber visited a pre-school in Marin County, where children are learning mindfulness during the earliest stages of their education.

*     *     *


My mind is a clear, blue sky, my mind is a clear blue sky.

And I breathe in, and I breathe out.

And my mind is a clear, blue sky.

My mind is a clear, blue sky. And the feelings come, and the feelings go.

And my mind is a clear, blue sky. My mind is a clear, blue sky.

To meditate, you have to sit still. Stillness and preschoolers ? two words that usually don’t go together. But they do for Lesley Grant, the director of the Marin Mindfulness Cooperative in San Anselmo. Through pictures and stories, she guides kids between the ages of two-and-a-half and five in following their breath.

LESLEY GRANT: And now the moon has set. And the night is gone. And the sun is about to come up. So you are a flower and you are going to breathe in the sunlight, and open your petals?

The kids are hardly perfect meditators. A few have their eyes open. One little boy lies on his stomach. Still, Grant says the deliberate breathing calms them. And it’s teaching them how to be mindful, to be present and aware of their experiences.

GRANT: ?can you ring the bell, Ezra, and let’s see if we can be mindful of the sound. Ring the bell. (bell rings) And let’s listen until the sound stops. Raise your hand when you can’t hear it.

Grant’s meditation practice began 35 years ago, when she was 17. A certified early childhood educator, in 2000 she was ordained as a Buddhist nun in Sikkim, India.

GRANT: I stayed in a monastery where there were a lot of little monks, and I watched them a lot because I had already worked with children. I watched the freedom and the joy in their play…

I met some little nuns, too. And I saw that they were very free and alive and vital in their play. And then when they were in the gompa, the meditation hall, meditating, they could be very still and peaceful.

When she returned to the U.S. in 2002, Grant began a preschool cooperative. She included meditation and mindfulness training for the parents. And then, she decided to pass it on to the kids as well.

EILEEN BROWN: I was kind of surprised, and I was really kind of skeptical. I couldn’t imagine how Lesley was getting these kids to do all of this.

Three years ago, Eileen Brown enrolled her four-year-old daughter in Grant’s co-op.

BROWN: Then when I came in to do my co-oping shift, I was just really amazed at how the kids really meditated, and how they really could. And then, what my daughter was bringing home, like she could just plop down and get in full lotus and meditate, and she’s talking about Buddhist philosophy, and different Buddhas, and that’s Shakyamuni, and that’s Green Tara, and I didn’t know any of that, so she, sort of, started teaching me.

It’s really kind of an experiment because meditation isn’t usually taught to children. The practices are geared toward adults, and that’s where the research has focused, at least until now.

PHILIPPE GOLDIN: There’s an explosion of interest right now from many different areas in society.

That’s Philippe Goldin, a clinical scientist at Stanford University. He runs a research group looking at how various meditations, mindfulness and psychotherapy affect the brain. Goldin says specific forms of meditation can increase attention and emotional awareness ? actually change the psychology of a person. But almost all those studies were on adults. Goldin says, when it comes to mindfulness and children, we know …

GOLDIN: …very little. There are many people who are trying to implement and weave in mindfulness practices into, either the home, or school, perhaps even daycare centers. There are very, very few research studies where people have tried to measure the effects.

So far, the results for children are encouraging, though not stunning. One study out of UCLA showed that mindfulness improves a quality called “executive function,” which is the ability to stay focused and on task. Over a period of eight weeks, second and third graders who started with low scores improved a lot. However, those who started with high scores didn’t change much.

Goldin’s group conducted a study in which families sat in silence for a few minutes each day, together, for eight weeks, connecting with what Goldin calls, “the still quiet place within.” The researchers tested the subjects before and after each trial. The kids, aged 8 to 12, showed improvement in their attention. And the parents?

GOLDIN: The parents additionally benefited on multiple measures of emotion regulation, decreased symptoms of anxiety, depression, increased self-efficacy, or belief in the parents’ ability to work effectively with their kids. So there are many, many benefits to the parents. The one thing we found in the kids that really was reliable was this increased ability to focus and use their attention.

The Centers for Disease Control says attention deficit hyperactivity disorder affects three to seven percent of school-age children in the U.S.Researchers say they are curious as to whether mindfulness can offer a non-pharmaceutical treatment. For adults, there’s a small, but growing body of evidence that says it might. For kids, it’s still an open question, with a lot to sort out, including whether it’s better to train children, their parents, or both.

Back at the Marin Mindfulness Cooperative, Lesley Grant is creating exercises for her students.

GRANT: We might have children open their mind like the ocean. And that’s giving them an image that helps them to bring a sense of spaciousness to their mind. Then we might ask what’s in their ocean, and they might, we might play with it like a game.

            GRANT [demonstrating example]: Yes, Tobias, did you have something in your ocean?

            TOBIAS: um, kitty cats.

            GRANT: You had kitty cats at the edge of your ocean. What are they doing?

            TOBIAS: They’re playing in the sand.

            GRANT: Can you show us how kitty cat moves? And how does kitty cat feel?

            TOBIAS: Mad!

            GRANT: It’s a mad kitty cat. So let’s all move. Tobias will show us how the mad kitty cat moves?

            [Example ends]

GRANT: And the child gets to determine when they’re done moving, and everybody is going to sit down and we see if we let in stillness — when we’re sitting still, can let a feeling move through us.

            [Example continues]

            GRANT: Okay, Tobias. And when you’re ready, ring the bell, and we’ll all sit and see if we can let that kitty cat run through us.

The scientific proof may be lacking, as yet, but Grant has great anecdotal evidence: children who meditated in the back seat of a car in response to a stressed-out parent; a 5-year old girl who used to act out by hitting, and can now catch the impulse of one fist with the other hand.

Then there was a 4-year old with impulse control issues. One day, about a year after he had been at the cooperative, he and a three-year old were making a puppet show. The younger child started knocking things down. Grant was right there.

GRANT: And the older boy who was four, said, “I want to hit him, I shouldn’t hit him.”  And I said, yes, that’s right. And the boy said, “My anger fish is here.” And I said, Oh, what’s it like? And he said, “Anger fish wants to drink up all the water.” Which, to me, was a child having an insight about what anger does in the mind. I mean, isn’t it like that? It really is. When we’re angry, the anger wants to take up all the clarity of our mind, and this is how the child was saying that in a child’s way, in a way of saying it as a picture.

And I said, yes, but can he drink up the whole ocean? And the child said, “No, I’m bigger than the anger fish.” And suddenly, he had this experience that his mind, that his awareness, was bigger than his anger — which was the joy, and the sense of empowerment in him, in that moment — was just amazing.

This kind of emotional awareness is rare, even among adults. So it may take a long time to gather the statistics to support this kind of approach in schools. Young children, especially, are hard to test. But if Grants’ stories are an indicator, teaching mindfulness to preschoolers may have some very practical applications.

The mindfulness song at the beginning of this story comes from Betsy Rose.

[via San Francisco Chronicle]
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Visit by mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn unites university and community

On Sunday morning, more than 200 people rolled out their yoga mats, took off their shoes and eagerly awaited the start of a full-day retreat with renowned scientist, writer and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn at Alumni Hall.

The event was part of the John and Tussi Kluge Compassionate Care Lecture series and one of two retreats – one tailored for health care professionals and the other for community members – and two talks held during Kabat-Zinn’s visit to the University of Virginia.

His talk on Friday at Old Cabell Hall, “Arriving at Your Own Door: Meditation Can Change Your Brain, Transform Your Mind, and Light Up Your Life,” was followed by a book signing. He also gave a special Medical Center Hour talk on Monday, “Mindfulness in Medicine and Psychology: Its Transformative and Healing Potential in Living and in Dying.”

The group gathered on Sunday included long-time practitioners of mindfulness meditation and novices.

Kabat-Zinn opened the session by inviting everyone to join together in “a day of adventuring in the field of being.”

“Being trumps doing,” he said, noting that our lives are filled with “busyness,” striving and stress.

Mindfulness meditation puts energy in the present moment. The past is past and the future is unknown, but the present is what is happening now, he told the group.

Mindfulness meditation is not a technique and not a striving for an ideal state, but a training of the mind and body to become aware.

“Awareness comes when we pay attention to the moment,” he said. “It brings intention and attention together and brings orientation to your life.”

Although the exercises focus on breathing, the in and out of a natural body function, Kabat-Zinn instructed participants to pay attention to the stray thoughts that divert attention and to recognize them and go back to the breathing. Throughout the day, he led the group in sitting, standing and walking yoga exercises.

A silent lunch provided an opportunity for participants to be aware of both what they were eating — the taste and texture of the grapes, cheese, almonds, raisins, muffins, Clementines and dark chocolate.

Participants later commented that the simplicity and small amounts of each food were both ample and satisfying.

With food issues related to health so prevalent in the United States, Kabat-Zinn said the silent lunch exercise was a way to bring awareness to the mindfulness of daily living. The benefits of mindfulness meditation and awareness can have impact on all areas of society.

“Awareness changes everything and it has the capacity to move the bell-shaped curve of a whole society,” he said.

Kabat-Zinn’s scientific work has shown that mindfulness meditation training restructures the brain, and the benefits have been documented on the physical and mental levels. People trained in mindfulness meditation are “off the charts” in effecting changes in the nervous system, aging and even on the cellular level, and science has shown that there are benefits against depressive thinking and pain, he said.

Kabat-Zinn praised the University for embracing mindfulness meditation across disciplines, including medicine, nursing, education and business.

“True education is a thought surrounded by awareness,” he said.

Lynn Hamilton, assistant professor and director of the Management Communication Program in the McIntire School of Commerce, attended Sunday’s retreat. She has used mindfulness meditation concepts and techniques in small ways with her undergraduate classes in activities that involve public speaking and anxiety.

“Public speaking is one of the most commonly named fears,” she said. “By noting, by paying attention to those anxieties, worries and fears can lose power over us.”

For health care workers, a major issue is burnout as a result of job stress. Also attending the Sunday event was John Schorling, professor of medicine and director of U.Va.’s Mindfulness Center, who works with students, physicians and other health care professionals. He has participated in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Professional Training Program with Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where Kabat-Zinn founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society. Schorling will soon release an eight-year study on reducing stress in health care providers through mindfulness meditation.

Drummer Robert Jospe, a member of the McIntire Department of Music performance faculty, collaborates at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail with Tussi Kluge in a program on rhythm and resilience that incorporates mindfulness meditation and drumming. “One benefit is that it helps re-entry into society,” Jospe said.

Building a supportive community that bridges all areas of the University and the local community was one of Kluge’s goals in supporting Kabat-Zinn’s visit.

“With these events, we are trying to connect communities, the University and the larger community. We freshen each other,” she said.

Nursing School Dean Dorrie Fontaine praised Kluge’s ongoing support for initiatives surrounding both the University and the community.

“The series of Jon Kabat-Zinn events this past weekend, engaging hundreds of people, was a truly exciting kickoff to our new University of Virginia Initiatives in Compassionate Care, made possible through the generosity of Tussi and John Kluge,” Fontaine said.

“Three of the four events reached out to the public, and we’re especially delighted at the response of the community, including patients and their families and many who are our partners in offering compassionate care to our neighbors.

“Thanks to programs like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness workshops, we’re also teaching students throughout the U.Va. Health System, and especially in the schools of Medicine and Nursing, how to care for themselves so they will have the strength and resilience to sustain long and successful careers as care givers for others.”

The John and Tussi Kluge Compassionate Care Lecture Series is part of a groundbreaking collaboration – the University of Virginia Initiatives in Compassionate Care – established with U.Va.’s schools of Medicine and Nursing and the U.Va. Health System.

Under the initiative, an interdisciplinary team seeks to create a transformational model for delivery of compassionate care to improve the lives of those with life-threatening illnesses across the lifespan and in health care settings by transforming practice, education, research and community partnerships. [via UVaToday]

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Buddhists say you aren’t what you eat, but how

With his round cheeks and ample belly, the Buddha may rank somewhere close to sumo wrestlers on most Americans’ list of go-to sources for healthful eating tips.

But the ever-present image of a fat and happy Buddha owes more to China’s ideal of prosperity and ability to mass-produce figurines than to historical accuracy. In Japan and India, the Buddha is depicted as trim and lithe, said the Rev. Jan Chozen Bays, a Zen priest and pediatrician, and his teachings may be key to overcoming Americans’ increasingly troubled eating habits.

Bays, who goes by the Dharma name Chozen (“clear meditation”), is a student and teacher of “mindful eating,” a practice that borrows liberally from Buddhist psychology and meditation techniques.

For calorie-counting Americans, mindful eating preaches an alert, moment-by-moment focus on emotions, food and fullness. Buddhism teaches that “right mindfulness” is a step on the path to nirvana; in mindful eating, it could be a step toward a smaller waistline, especially for people struggling to keep those New Year’s resolutions to shed a few pounds.

Bay says hunger is only one of several reasons people eat.

Read the rest of this article…

Frustration, sadness, irritation, boredom, anxiety, anger and insecurity are all additional — if somewhat hidden — spurs to snacking.

“There’s no guarantee that mindful eating will help you lose weight,” said Bays, author of the 2009 book Mindful Eating. “But it will help you enter a balanced, helpful relationship with food again.”

Aside from the Buddha, mindful eating also draws lessons and inspiration from Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program, which introduced the masses to a secularized form of meditation in 1979. Since then, studies have shown the positive effects of mindfulness meditation on everything from substance abuse to psoriasis, and hundreds of hospitals have established mindfulness clinics.

Dr. Jean Kristeller, a psychologist and director of the Center for the Study of Health, Religion, and Spirituality at Indiana State University, has studied meditation for 30 years. As co-founder of the Center for Mindful Eating, Kristeller has also received two grants from the National Institutes of Health to study the effects of mindful eating. Though the studies’ results have not yet been published, Kristeller said she has seen firsthand that mindful eating works.

Some, but not all, proponents of mindful eating are Buddhists, said Dr. Brian Shelley, who developed a mindful-eating program at the University of New Mexico. And though advocates are open about the Buddhist roots of mindfulness, they are not out to gain converts.

“It’s more like a cognitive therapy than a spiritual practice,” said Shelley, who meditates and studies the Buddha’s teachings but does not consider himself a Buddhist. “We are very clear that this is not a course in Buddhism or spirituality.”

Many nutritionists — including mindful-eating teachers — now think the problem with American diets is not only the food we eat — it’s also how we consume it.

The Buddha told monks to take meals silently, with no books or conversations to distract them, only an awareness of what their body needs to get through the day. When they felt full, they stopped eating, even if that meant leaving food in the bowl, Bays said.

Studies have shown that people tend to eat more when they are given larger portions and are distracted.

Bays begins mindful-eating retreats with a single raisin, asking practitioners to consider how hungry they are on a scale of one to 10 while they investigate the color, texture and taste of the raisin. The goal, she said, is to replace thinking with awareness.

“In Christian terms, it’s called communion,” Bays said, “coming into union with everything happening at that moment.”

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Meditation grows in popularity for both health and spiritual reasons Quakers, Buddhists, agnostics, Hindus – they’re all doing it. Over the last few decades, meditation has evolved from a fringe practice to a mainstream stress-reduction technique that might be recommended by your family doctor.

In Washtenaw County, you have your choice of a wide variety of meditation classes and settings, ranging from the Zen Buddhist Temple in Ann Arbor, to a Quaker center in Chelsea to the Washtenaw Community College Health and Fitness Center.

Nationally, meditation is among top three alternative health methods used by Americans. According to a 2007 survey sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (a division of the National Institutes of Health), more than 9 percent of Americans say they meditate. Only herbal supplements and deep-breathing exercises are more popular.

Meditation and health benefits

Carol Blotter, a meditation teacher based in Chelsea, brings to the practice both a Quaker perspective and training in techniques based in Eastern spirituality. She has led meditation workshops and retreats at the Michigan Friends Center in Chelsea and at Deep Spring Center in Ann Arbor.

Blotter pointed to author and researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn as a pivotal figure in the mainstreaming of meditation. Kabat-Zinn is the founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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Blotter noted that other scientists had studied meditation, but added, “Zinn really packaged it up… Americans like something with scientific approval.”

“He created a program called mindfulness-based stress reduction,” she said. “And you’ll find it in an awful lot of hospitals these days. Statistically, it’s phenomenal the impact meditation and mindfulness have on an individual’s health.”

Kimberly Michelle Johnson has been teaching meditation at the Washtenaw Community College Health and Fitness center for about a year. Johnson also mentioned improvements in health as a major benefit of meditation.

“Stress reduction has such a big impact on overall health,” she said. “It can aid in lowering blood pressure, assist in chronic pain reduction and help to relieve insomnia.”

The Ann Arbor Zen Buddhist Temple typically attracts up to 50 area residents for meditation meetings on Sunday mornings and as many as 30 on Sunday afternoons, according to the Rev. Haju Sunim (Linda Murray), resident priest.

Haju Sunim, who helped found the local Buddhist temple in 1982, said she sees modern students use meditation as a way to survive the stresses of everyday life rather than as a route to enlightenment. She said that even with that more secular aim, meditation has benefits.

“It can be very helpful as people learn to pay attention to the myriad of things that arise in their body and mind,” she said. “People often judge themselves and say they’re no good at meditation because so many thoughts are coming up, and they can’t calm their minds. My response is that it’s part of the process. Meditation is something that allows us to see and then to work with what comes up.”

Meditation as spiritual practice

Johnson’s Thursday night classes are designed to be accessible to students from a variety of backgrounds. Participants scan the body for areas of discomfort and pay careful attention to deep breathing.

“The meditation and relaxation techniques can be helpful no matter what your religious or spiritual tradition,” Johnson said. “Students are welcome to tailor the practice to incorporate their personal spiritual beliefs.”

For example, she said, the students can express their spirituality through their choice of mantra. The mantra could be an Eastern-style “Ohm,” a Christian phrase like “God is love” or simply “Let go.”

Blotter said that what people get out of meditation depends on their motivations.

“The wording, the practices that are used and the intention are all different because there are so many different kind of people in this world,” she said.

For many who are just discovering meditation, Blotter said, the emphasis is on feeling better immediately. However, for some, meditation might morph into a more spiritual practice over time.

“The modalities of meditation really expand along that whole continuum from ‘just give me something to do to make me feel better in this moment’ to ‘help me live my life with more honesty, clarity and openness from the heart.’ Many people start with the motivation to ‘just fix this one thing right now,’ and, over time, it changes into an awareness of a spiritual nature.”

In September, Blotter helped run a fall weekend meditation retreat at the Michigan Friends Center. Blotter compared the fall retreat to polishing silver and taking away all the tarnish that can build up after time.

“They can relax into nature, relax into spirit, have time to take a breath.”

Haju Sunim said that, in a Buddhist context, meditation is much more than a coping strategy.

“We’re not meditating for the sake of meditating; we’re meditating to have some deep understanding of life and death,” she said.

She said that meditating in the Zen Buddhist Temple is qualitatively different than taking a college course or a meditation class at a recreation center.

“Something very precious about our particular place is that it is a residential temple,” she said. “Residents… keep a schedule in the mornings and evenings so members can come in and practice if they want to.”

She said that in Asia, village life is affected by proximity to Buddhist temples, where morning prayers and bells rung for evening services set the rhythm of life. She said she hopes that the Ann Arbor Temple has a similar influence on its neighbors.

“We try to set up a rhythm of morning and evening practice. I hope that just by virtue of osmosis… our presence here will be a little more helpful day by day.”

Sarah Rigg is a freelance journalist who writes regularly for

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Zen and success at work

London Evening Standard: If you have ever watched Tiger Woods play golf, you know the look. Brim pulled down over the eyes, which are locked on some point far down the fairway.

Despite all the hubbub, he is locked into the moment.

His opponent stands off to one side gnawing his knuckles, knowing another defeat is just a few holes away. Credit meditation for Woods’ extraordinary focus.

An essential part of Tiger Woods’ success is what he calls “staying in the present” and not letting his mind wander off to hoisting a trophy or depositing another million-dollar cheque.

While other golfers may live in the future, at the moment Woods plays his shots, he is apparently free of the conscious worry which plagues the weekend duffer.

And he puts much of this down to meditation and the Eastern philosophy, mostly Buddhist, he learned from his Thai mother.

In addition to his early morning workouts and hours on the driving range, he also meditates daily.

The value of meditation has long been known to those who practise it. David Lynch, the director of Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, established a foundation for “consciousness-based education and world peace” inspired by his 30 years’ practising transcendental meditation.

Lynch’s ambition is for children to spend one class a day “diving within”, so they can better deal with stress and be more creative throughout their lives.

In the United Kingdom, William Hague has credited his meditative practice with helping him ride the roller coaster of politics.

With so much stress in the economy, meditation is also gaining popularity with business executives.

After the past couple of years, who couldn’t use half an hour a day to tame what Buddhists call “the wild horses” of the mind?

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One of the most prominent advocates of meditation is William George, a Harvard Business School professor and board member at Goldman Sachs. George started to meditate 35 years ago while running the medical devices firm Medtronic.

He calls meditation “the single best thing that happened to me in terms of my leadership”. He says that it “enables one to focus on what is really important; and I haven’t had high blood pressure since the Seventies”.

Pointing to the recent financial crisis, George told Bloomberg News: “I think meditation in these times has an important role to play.

“If you take Wall Street versus Warren Buffett, he has made much wiser decisions than Wall Street has.

Now, I don’t know if he’s a meditator, but he’s calm, thoughtful and he stays clear. Wall Street’s trading floor is exactly the opposite.”

Firms ranging from Apple to Google and organisations such as Nasa offer free meditation classes to their employees these days.

It is regarded by these firms as far more than Eastern quackery or a luxury like free cappuccinos.

Meditation not only helps focus but it is also an effective preventative treatment of stress-related illnesses that cost businesses billions every year.

Google has held regular meditation sessions at its offices around the world for the past two years.

The firm believes that it helps employees develop their “emotional intelligence”, which in turn benefits the company.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the head of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts and one of meditation’s greatest champions, calls meditation an act of love, towards oneself and others.

He is a particular favourite at technology firms.

During his talks, he often brings a tennis ball and drops it to signify the act of dropping into the moment.

He argues that greater knowledge of the mind, attained through meditation, helps business people sweep away the tacit assumptions which so often lead to problems.

In a modern society where so many people suffer from attention deficit disorders, he says, it is all about doing, with little recognition of being. The consequence is that people struggle to rest their minds.

Three years ago, the Dalai Lama supplied 12 Buddhist monks to a team of American neuroscientists so they could study the neurological effect of meditation.

The scientists found that by meditating for tens of thousands of hours, the monks had altered the structure and function of their brains.

It appeared that the monks’ brain waves oscillated at a different rate from those in people who never meditated. They were capable of much more focused thought.

The research was called into question by other scientists but it did prompt a wave of interest in how humans might be able to use meditation to change the function of their brains for the better.

One of the most popular forms of meditation for corporate types is Vipassana, which translates as “insight”.

There are Vipassana centres all over the world, founded by SN Goenka, a Burmese entrepreneur. An introductory retreat involves 10 days of “noble silence”.

Days begin at 4am followed by 11 hours of private and group meditation interspersed with meals and lectures. Once they leave, students are advised to meditate twice a day.

Keith Ferrazzi, an expert on networking and author of the best-selling book Never Eat Lunch Alone, says that the 10-day Vipassana meditation is the one time of year when he stops networking and clears his mind.

The key to networking, after all, he says, is “not being an asshole”.

People are more likely to want to know you if you exude the calm and confidence of the seasoned meditator.

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