Resources for Recovering Resilience: Mindful magazine: Taking Time for What Matters

Mindful magazine provides a wealth of research and resources on the impact of mindfulness and compassion practices on our society today. From the February 2014 issue, in-depth articles on Taking Time for What Matters:

In education: “A Matter of Death and Life” explores the experiences of high school seniors in Rochester, NY who practice both mindfulness and compassion in their hospice class. The founder-teacher of the hospice class, Bob Kane, comments, “When you start caring for people who are ill, you understand what empathy is. I think that death, the dying process, is something that is essential to teach and nurture empathy because we all have it in common.”

And “Now” reports how mindfulness practice helps everyone involved in the bullying triad – the bully, the victim, the witness. Research shows an Inner Experience mindfulness curriculum has reduced reactivity among K-5 students by as much as 50%.

In business: In “Finding the Space to Lead” former General Mills vice-president Janice Marturano reflects on the qualities of a mindful leader – respectful, open thinker, kind and compassionate, clear vision, able to inspire, great listener, creative, patient, collaborative – and notes, “the work of developing leadership presence through mindfulness begins by recognizing how much time we spend in a mental state that has come to be called continuous partial attention.”

In science: “Research Roundup” reports on studies that indicate mindfulness practice reduces depression among teenagers, increases memory in older people with mild dementia, and reduces the perception of pain among chronic pain patients.

In society: In “No Blueprint, Just Love,” Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about the phenomenal growth of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction since its inception 35 years ago, including 18,000 students learning mindfulness in the Mindful Schools curriculum since 2007.

“There are tremendous benefits that arise from mindfulness practice, but it works precisely because we don’t try to attain benefit,” Jon says. “Instead, we befriend ourselves as we are. We learn how to drop in on ourselves, visit, and hang out in awareness. Mindfulness is not a special state you achieve through a trick or a technique. It is a way of being.”

Mindful magazine just celebrated its first year of publication in print and digital format; the website offers additional timely news bits such as speculation that the fact that 20 team members of the Seattle Seahawks meditate several time a week might have given them an “om” advantage in winning the Super Bowl last weekend.

Both the magazine and website offer practical tips on mindfulness practice, too, such as this body scan exercise by Susan Bauer-Wu, director of the Compassionate Care Initiative at the University of Virginia School of Nursing and author of Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully with Serious and Life-Limiting Illness through Mindfulness, Compassion and Connectedness:

When was the last time you noticed how your body was feeling? Not just when you have a headache or you’re tired or you have heartburn after that spicy taco you ate for lunch. But just noticing how your body is feeling right now, while you’re sitting or standing or lying down. How about noticing how your body feels while you’re sitting in an important meeting or walking down the street or playing with your children?

In our busy, high-tech, low-touch lives, it’s easy to operate detached from our own bodies. They too easily become vessels we feed, water, and rest so they can continue to cart around our brains. We don’t pay attention to the information our bodies are sending us or the effect that forces such as stress are having – until real health problems set in.

Let’s take a small and simple step in the direction of paying our body the attention it is due. Consider spending just a few minutes- every day if you can – to notice your own physicality. Not to judge your body or worry about it or push it harder at the gym, but to be in it.

Here’s a easy body-scan practice to try. It will tune you in to your body and anchor you to where you are right now. It will heighten your senses and help you achieve greater levels of relaxation. You can do it sitting in a chair or on the floor, lying down, or standing.

  1. Settle into a comfortable position, so you feel supported and relaxed.
  2. Close your eyes if you wish or leave them open with a soft gaze, not focusing on anything in particular.
  3. Rest for a few moments, paying attention to the natural rhythm of your breathing.
  4. Once your body and mind are settled, bring awareness to your body as a whole. Be aware of your body resting and being supported by the chair, mattress, or floor.
  5. Begin to focus your attention on different parts of your body. You can spotlight one particular area or go through a sequence like this: toes, feet (sole, heel, top of foot), through the legs, pelvis, abdomen, low back, upper back, chest, shoulders, arms down to the fingers, shoulders, neck, different parts of the face, and head.
  6. For each part of the body, linger for a few moments and notice the different sensations as you focus.
  7. The moment you notice that your mind has wandered, return your attention to the part of the body you last remember.

If you fall asleep during this body-scan practice, that’s okay. When you realize you’ve been nodding off, take a deep breath to help you re-awaken and perhaps reposition your body (which will also help wake it up.) When you’re ready, return your attention to the part of the body you last remember focusing on.