Tim Ryan

A meditation on the quiet time caucus

wildmind meditation newsWarren Rojas, Roll Call: When last we checked in with Rep. Tim Ryan, the contemplative pol was still laying the groundwork for a stress relief initiative he hoped fellow lawmakers and staffers would rally around.

A year after floating his mindfulness plan, the Ohio Democrat can now point to semi-regular staff meetings and a weekly, members-only powwow as proof that he’s not the only one in Congress desperate to shut out all the mind-numbing noise reverberating throughout the Capitol.

Ryan’s suggestion that everyone carve out room for self-reflection has evolved into professionally led meditation sessions open to anyone that works on Capitol …

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Meet the “mindfulness” caucus: Politicians who meditate!

Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon: “If this can help me, a half-Irish, half-Italian quarterback from Northeast Ohio, it’s for everybody,” Congressman Tim Ryan says of his meditation practice developed from Buddhist traditions. The lawmaker, one of a growing group of prominent politicians incorporating mindfulness into their worldview and approach, leans back in a chair in his Longworth House Office Building suite, which includes meditation cushions and signed footballs — and even a Bud Light on display behind glass (the aluminum bottle is made in his district). “It’s not woo woo!”

Despite not fitting the profile, Ryan has become an evangelist for meditation on Capitol Hill, encouraging his fellow lawmakers to try it, securing federal funding for a pilot meditation program at schools in his district, and even writing a book — A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit — on how he sees mindfulness as a cure to the stress of modern life, and something that can help heal Congress and the world. He’s even landed on the cover of Mindful magazine. And he’s not alone.

This year saw gains for bona fide Buddhists, with Mazie Hirono becoming the first to enter…

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‘Mindfulness’ grows in popularity—and profits

Julie Carr-Smyth, AP: In what’s become a daily ritual, Tim Ryan finds a quiet spot, closes his eyes, clears his mind and tries to tap into the eternal calm. In Ryan’s world, it’s a stretch for people to get this relaxed. He’s a member of Congress.

Increasingly, people in settings beyond the serene yoga studio or contemplative nature path are engaging in the practice of mindfulness, a mental technique that dwells on breathing, attention to areas of the body and periods of silence to concentrate on the present rather than the worries of yesterday and tomorrow.

Marines are doing it. Office workers are …

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Mindfulness: the altered state of America

Ed Halliwell, the Guardian: Mindfulness meditation was once a tool of the counter-culture. But now it’s transforming the minds of conservative America.

“A quiet revolution is happening in America.” So says Tim Ryan, Ohio congressman and author of A Mindful Nation, which documents the spread of mindfulness meditation across the US, and argues for its widespread adoption as a way to favourably affect the country’s healthcare system, economy, schools and military.

Just published, the book is significant not so much for what’s being said – evidence for the benefits of mindfulness has been piling up in scientific journals over recent years – but …

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Ohio congressman on a mission to bring meditation to the masses

Daniel Burke: By age 35, Congressman Tim Ryan had been one of Ohio’s youngest state senators, served two terms in the U.S. Congress and hobnobbed with presidents and prime ministers.

But a different story, full of unmet ambitions and caustic self-criticism, coursed through Ryan’s mind, carrying him away from even the most important moments.

“I was so caught up in my story that I missed my life,” the Ohio Democrat writes in his new book, “A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit.”

Practicing mindfulness meditation, Ryan says, has quieted the nattering internal …

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US Congressman Tim Ryan discusses the power of mindfulness

In this talk, US Congressman Tim Ryan points to a quiet revolution that is happening in schools, hospitals, prisons, the military, corporate settings and the lives of millions of people around the world. This revolution is reviewed in his compelling new book, “A Mindful Nation.”

Here he shares about his own personal experience with mindfulness practice and his commitment to seeing the mindfulness and compassion at the center of our work for a better future.

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In meditative mindfulness, Rep. Tim Ryan sees a cure for many American ills

Neely Tucker, Washington Post: Rep. Tim Ryan (D) is a five-term incumbent from the heartland. His Ohio district includes Youngstown and Warren and part of Akron and smaller places. He’s 38, Catholic, single. He was a star quarterback in high school. He lives a few houses down from his childhood home in Niles. He’s won three of his five elections with about 75 percent of the vote.

So when he starts talking about his life-changing moment after the 2008 race, you’re not expecting him to lean forward at the lunch table and tell you, with great sincerity, that this little story of American politics is about …

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‘Mindfulness’ meditation being used in hospitals and schools

Marilyn Elias, USA Today: Challenges are landing fast and furious on Capitol Hill. So Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, feels he has to arrive at the top of his game every day. And Ryan says he has found a way to do that: He meditates for at least 45 minutes before leaving home.

Ryan, 35, sits on a floor cushion, closes his eyes, focuses on his breath and tries to detach from any thoughts, just observing them like clouds moving across the sky — a practice he learned at a retreat. “I find it makes me a better listener, and my concentration is sharper. I get less distracted when I’m reading,” he says. “It’s like you see through the clutter of life and can penetrate to what’s really going on.”

Once thought of as an esoteric, mystical pursuit, meditation is going mainstream. A government survey in 2007 found that about 1 out of 11 Americans, more than 20 million, meditated in the past year. And a growing number of medical centers are teaching meditation to patients for relief of pain and stress.

More than 240 programs in clinics and hospitals teach the same type of meditation that Ryan learned, says Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed mindfulness-based stress reduction 30 years ago at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Other types, such as transcendental meditation, use a mantra or repeated phrase.

‘A colossal shift in acceptance’

Some kind of meditative practice is found in all the world’s religions, says Shauna Shapiro of Santa Clara (Calif.) University, co-author with Linda Carlson of the new book The Art and Science of Mindfulness. Most include focusing attention and letting thoughts and emotions go by without judgment or becoming involved.

Kabat-Zinn credits “a colossal shift in acceptance” to accelerating research on the benefits of meditation.

Studies suggest the practice can ease pain, improve concentration and immune function, lower blood pressure, curb anxiety and insomnia, and possibly even help prevent depression. Newer research tools, such as high-tech brain scans, show how meditation might have diverse effects.

In a brain-scan study of long-time meditators compared with a control group that never meditated, the meditators had increased thickness in parts of the brain associated with attention and with sensitivity to internal sensations of the body. “These are people who would notice their muscles tensing when they’re angry or butterflies in their stomach if they’re scared,” says study leader Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

And a UCLA study out in May found that, compared with a non-meditating control group, meditators’ brains have larger volume in areas important for attention, focus and regulating emotion. They also have more gray matter, which could sharpen mental function, says study leader Eileen Luders, a neuroscientist.

Of course, nobody knows whether these meditators’ brains were different to begin with. And that’s the problem with much of the meditation research so far. Although studies have improved, most still aren’t large and lack good control groups, says Richard Davidson, a pioneering meditation researcher and neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin.

His research shows that even novice meditators have greater activation in a part of the brain tied to well-being. The more activation, the greater their antibody response to a flu vaccine, which makes the vaccine more protective. By changing the brain, meditation could affect many biological processes, he says.

Settling down, not lashing out

A cutting-edge approach to meditation practice starts with children. In scattered pockets across the USA, students are learning meditation at school.

Steve Reidman, a fourth-grade teacher at Toluca Lake Elementary School in North Hollywood, Calif., says teaching meditation to children has curbed fighting while sharpening their focus. “You can just watch them breathe deeply and settle down rather than lashing out.”

Susan Kaiser Greenland, whose InnerKids Foundation teaches in Los Angeles-area schools, works with Reidman’s class.

Preliminary research shows that Los Angeles preschoolers who were taught meditation improved in their ability to pay attention and focus. For early elementary school kids, improvement came only in those who had attention problems at the start, says Susan Smalley, a UCLA behavioral geneticist who did the research with psychologist Lisa Flook. Very young brains may be more malleable, she speculates.

As research expands, scientists expect to unlock more of the mysteries around meditation. Meanwhile, for those such as Ryan, proof of benefit is already evident. “I’m much more aware now than I used to be,” he says. “I enjoy my life more because you notice, and you really appreciate.”

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