The practice of mindfulness is moving off the cushion and out of the meditation centers into public schools, hospitals, prisons, MBA programs nationwide as scientists validate the benefits of even a minimal practice of mindful awareness. Elementary school students show greater concentration, fewer behavior problems, and reduced test anxiety. Patients coping with stress and chronic pain show reduced anxiety and insomnia, improved immune systems, and lower blood pressure. Mindfulness in a business context is associated with more openness to new information, enhanced awareness of multiple perspectives in problem solving, increased creativity, increased productivity, and decreased burnout. It’s now estimated that more than 20 million Americans do some sort of formal meditation practice every day.
In this month’s e-newsletter, we look at “meditation on the hoof”, as my colleague Rick Hanson calls mindfulness applied to daily living, and how mindfulness shapes neural structure in ways that bring greater resilience and well-being to our coping with the jarring and jolting of modern life.
REFLECTIONS on Applied Mindfulness
Mindfulness, minimally, could be considered a tool to focus attention and strengthen self-reflection, useful in many walks of life. Indeed, the neuroscience shows significant neural cell growth in the areas of the brain we use for focal attention (anterior cingulate) and interoception (insula) – knowing what’s going on in our bodies moment to moment. Our mental activity becomes less scattered and distractible as the brain communicates with itself better and becomes more integrated. (Why research is showing meditation to be an effective alternative or supplement to medication for treatment of ADHD and OCD.)
Stress reduction is another well-researched benefit of mindfulness practice. Researchers have found a “left shift” in the neural firing patterns in the brains of people who practice mindfulness meditation daily over a long period of time. More neural activity in the left frontal cortex doesn’t necessarily mean more thinking, more cognition from the left hemisphere. It’s more that the presence, openness, interest, curiosity that are the hallmarks of mindful awareness encourage an “approach” stance toward experience, an acceptance of experience in the moment, without contraction into judgment or aversion, without longing or dejection, as the Buddha said.
Mindfulness thus helps overcome the “avoidance” tendencies of the right hemisphere of the brain, linked more neuronally than the left to the alarm center of the amygdala and focused more on survival. The negativity bias of the right hemisphere is an artifact of evolution when our ancestors on the savannah needed to respond quickly to threats to survive and pass on their genes to us today. This bias leaves us more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and shame. Mindfulness is a powerful tool to encourage the “left shift”, thus reducing stress, anxiety, depression. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is now taught in 240 hospitals nationwide to do just that.
But mindfulness is more than a tool to focus attention and reduce stress, as helpful as those outcomes are. Mindfulness – defined as presence, openness, engaged awareness and compassionate acceptance of life as it is in this moment – allows us to re-wire our brains to support more flexibility in how we process information and more resilience in how we respond to the slings and arrows of our personal and collective outrageous fortune.
1. Mindfulness helps us see clearly “what is happening in the moment and what is happening in me (or you) in response to the moment.” – Sylvia Boorstein. Mindfulness also helps us intentionally shift to a more skillful response to what is happening in me or you in that moment. Neuropsychologist Dan Siegel calls this the capacity of mindfulness to “monitor and modify.” We are present, engaged, open. We notice and we know. We discern moment by moment by moment what is unwholesome or unskillful in what we are doing, thinking, feeling. Mindfulness is the platform that supports choosing to let go of the unwholesome and cultivate the wholesome. This is the Wise Effort of the Buddhist eight-fold path to enlightenment. Mindfulness opens us to a way of being in the world that has more balance, more perspective, more equanimity, and thus more of the wholesome states: more gratitude, more generosity, more compassion, more joy. (See Exercises to Practice below.)
2. Mindfulness interrupts the habits of our nervous system. Our brains assess and react to the stimuli of our basic daily existence on automatic pilot most of the time, thank goodness; that’s nature’s way of being efficient, leaving our brains’ processing capacities free to write symphonies, create governments, and solve global warming. When our learned, conditioned habits are skillful – without thinking we reach down to pick up something someone else has dropped or we cover our mouths when we cough to avoid spreading germs) we and everyone else benefits. When our learned conditioned habits are unskillful – becoming impatient with a computer that takes a full 20 seconds to boot up or yelling at a driver who has just cut us off in traffic, mindfulness allows us to catch our reactivity quickly and shift gears to calm down our nervous system.
I’ve written here before of my own bad habit of responded automatically, unthinkingly, to any disappointment I felt with my partner with criticism, nagging, haranguing. I “couldn’t help it;” the lifelong pattern was deeply embedded in my neural circuitry at that point. Mindfulness interrupted the automaticity of that habit. I could “see clearly” what was happening in me in response to the moment, and I could choose to shift gears. I began saying out loud to myself, “Compassion!” every time I caught the criticism coming out of my mouth. Evoking the word, and within a few seconds evoking the feeling of compassion, broke the lockstep pattern in my brain just running off with itself. The moment of consciousness gave me a moment to choose something else. (See Exercises to Practice below.)
3. Mindfulness can help us hold, and then release, the deeply challenging, difficult, afflictive experiences of life, the pain and suffering of the human condition. A Buddhist teaching story analogizes the power of mindfulness to do this. If you stir a teaspoon of salt into a glass of water and take a sip of the water, ick! The water is too salty to drink. If you stir a teaspoon of salt into a large freshwater lake, and then take a glass of water from the lake and take a sip of that water, the salt is dissolved in the lake, no big deal to drink it.
When we are present and mindful, when our awareness is spacious enough and our acceptance of life in this moment is steady enough, we can allow even the most difficult, potentially traumatizing experiences to arise in that stable container. (See Stories to Learn From for examples of people doing this.) We can be with the experience, hold it, name it. (When we name our experience in the moment, we keep the regulatory function of our frontal lobes on line, so we don’t get emotionally swept away by our experience.)
As we hold the experience and we are aware of holding it, we can let it in, let it be, and let it go. The subjective experience is that the fear, anger, grief, whatever “dissolves” in the larger perspective of awareness. Science is just beginning to research how this happens in the brain. It may be that our attention, and thus our brain activity, shifts from the medial (middle) parts of our frontal lobe, where our sense of self is constructed and thus where we focus on the pain and suffering of the personal self, to the lateral [side] parts of our frontal lobes, associated with a more diffuse, panoramic consciousness that feels less personal. Regardless, practitioners have been reporting these phenomena of “dissolving” for thousands of years. What was deeply troubling suddenly, quietly, isn’t anymore. It poofs and is gone.
4. Mindfulness re-wires the neural circuitry of the brain. The steps of pause-step back-reflect on experience that are so integral to the practice of mindfulness begin to change the neural structure of our brains. Actually, any mental activity, any processing of experience at all, changes neural firing patterns in our brains, for better or worse. (Why setting intentions can positively shape what happens during the day. Why unconsciously repeating our same old bad habits only grooves them further into our circuitry, making them harder to change.)
We can harness what scientists call neural plasticity – our brain’s capacity to grow new neurons, new neural circuits, even new neural structures lifelong – to deliberately re-wire those circuits toward more skillful patterns of neural firing. “We can train our minds to change our brains to benefit all beings.” – Rick Hanson.
We become deliberately present and mindful. When our capacities for engaged awareness and compassionate acceptance are steady enough, we can call up a difficult memory into that container of mindfulness. (Not the most toxic to start with, we are dissolving a teaspoon of salt, not a full ton yet.) We can be with, explore, experiment, play with the old memory. We can simultaneously resource ourselves with other positive memories of feeling loved, acting competently, resiliently The neural firing of remembering positive memories pairs with the neural firing of the more toxic memory. Neurons that fire together wire together, creating new circuitry. (More detailed instructions offered in Exercises to Practice below.)
We’re not just shifting our response from an unskillful to a more skillful one as we did in step 2. And we’re more than dissolving the old patterns, letting them go into vast spacious awareness (like a vast sky where clouds or troublesome thoughts flow through.) We’re actually transforming the wiring of the old patterns by pairing them with the new; the old memory goes back down into long term memory storage changed. [A specific application of The Power of Mindful Empathy to Heal Toxic Shame can be found in my article published in the January 2010 Wise Brain Bulletin.]
As we apply mindfulness to healing old traumas, old wounds (and old traumas and old wounds can be healed only with the engaged awareness and compassionate acceptance that mindfulness embodies) we can move from being caught in the old patterns that instantly de-rail us, into the seeing-shifting-dissolving-transforming practices that allow us to “drop the story” as personal. We see our personal pain as inevitable in the human condition. (That life is suffering is the first of the Four Noble Truths.) With enough time on the cushion or mindfully on the hoof, we eventually come to appreciate the Wise View that everything is impermanent; everything changes. “When we are truly mindful, we are never stuck.” – James Baraz.
Then we can relax into the unworried, ungrasping, unconfused responses to life that emerges naturally from our True Nature. There is a greater inclusiveness, a greater integration, synchrony, harmony, in our brains and minds, and in our lives. (See Doing Time, Doing Vipassana under Books and Websites to learn how this has worked in prisons.)
As our brains work better, firing at higher frequencies and in more synchrony, we have the neurological support for penetrating, liberating insight and wisdom. “Mindfulness creates the conditions for revelation.” – Sylvia Boorstein. We can experience for ourselves that the complete liberation from suffering is possible. And that Wise View revolutionizes our efforts, bringing mindfulness into our parenting, our schools, our health care, how we do business, how we run our government, our prisons, our military.
“There is nothing passive about awareness. Our state of mind and everything that flows from it affect the world. When our doing comes out of being, out of awareness, it is likely to be a wiser, freer, more creative and caring doing, a doing that can promote greater wisdom and compassion and healing in the world. The intentional engagement in mindfulness within various strata of society, and within the body politic, even in the tiniest of ways, has the potential, because we are all cells of the body of the world, to lead to a true flowering, a veritable renaissance of human creativity and potential, and expression of our profound health as a species, and as a world.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness
POETRY AND QUOTES to Inspire
There is no enlightenment outside of daily life.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
* * * * *
Mental activity shapes neural structure. Mindfulness practice turbo-charges that process of change.
– Rick Hanson
* * * * *
When we put down our ideas of what life should be like, we are free to -wholeheartedly say “yes” to our life as it is.
* * * * *
Oh do you have time
for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.
– Mary Oliver
* * * * *
The Buddhist teachings are fabulous at simply working with what’s happening as your path of awakening, rather than treating your life experiences as some kind of deviation from what is supposed to be happening. The more difficulties you have, in fact, the greater opportunity there is to let them transform you. The difficult things provoke all your irritations and bring your habitual patterns to the surface. And that becomes the moment of truth. You have the choice to launch into the lousy habitual patterns you already have, or to stay with the rawness and discomfort of the situation and let it transform you, on the spot.
– Pema Chodron
* * * * *
You carry in yourself all the obstacles necessary to make your realization perfect. If you discover a very black hole, a thick shadow, be sure there is somewhere in you a great light. It is up to you to know how to use the one to realize the other.
– Sri Auribindo
STORIES TO LEARN FROM
There’s a teaching story in the Buddhist tradition that sets a pretty high bar for the powers of awareness and acceptance to hold and deal with challenging experiences.
A master monk is meditating quietly in a temple on day when a ferocious bandit bursts in, brandishing his sword, threatening and scattering everyone. The master monk remains unmoved. Offended, the bandit growls, “Don’t you realize I could run you through with this sword and not bat an eye?” The master replies, “Don’t you realize I could be run through by your sword and not bat an eye?”
I don’t know how many lifetimes it takes to develop that kind of equanimity, but the stories below illustrate that mindfulness does hold our own moments of being run through by a sword, allowing us to remain present and deal.
James Baraz tells his own story, in his new book Awakening Joy, of potentially being run through by a sword, being told a growing tear in the retina of his right eye could cause him to quickly and completely lose the sight in that eye. Having already lost vision in his left eye in childhood, not having surgery immediately, and if the surgery wasn’t successful, would mean James would be completely blind.
“During the forty-five-minute drive [from the doctor’s office] back to the retreat center where I was teaching, I would experience firsthand the benefits of mindfulness practice. I made my way to the parking lot. I don’t know if it was the time of day, but as I turned on the car ignition, everything suddenly seemed darker, both outside and inside. Hands gripping the steering wheel a bit more tightly than usual, I took the familiar route through the stark landscape of the desert hills. Although I wasn’t driving fast, my mind was racing. I could be blind next week. What will my life be like? Will I be totally dependant on [wife] Jane? Then something curious happened. It was like a voice reminding me from a distance, “You don’t know about next week. Just be here now.”
“My attention turned to my hands on the wheel, and I realized I could relax my white-knuckle grip. I began noticing my breath move in and out of my nostrils. My mind calmed down…for about a minute or so before the next swirl of disturbing thoughts arose. Adam [son] is just eleven years old. What will his teenage years be like if I can’t be there for him the way I want to? Once again the words inside gently and firmly reminded me, “You don’t know what the future will be like. Just come back to this moment.”
“This process of my mind spinning out with fearful images, followed by a return to the breath and a calming down, took place at least another twenty-five times as I made my way back to the retreat center. What we so illuminating was not that my mind was filled with worry, but that it didn’t kick into outright panic. My years of meditation practice proved to be my greatest ally. I was experiencing the power of mindfulness. Each time the nightmare fantasies were starting to take over, they were interrupted by a return to the present moment and a recentering on my breath. Remaining mindful carried me safely back home and even helped me get through the operation a few days later with a level of calm and acceptance.”
James’ surgery was successful and the vision in his right eye was eventually completely restored. Many years later, James taught a daylong at Spirit Rock Meditation Center on how Buddhist practice can help people deal with swords that have actually run through them – people coping with or caring for people coping with severe neurological damage to the brain itself, from strokes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis. How Buddhist practices of awareness and compassion can keep the heart open when the mind itself is impaired. The most moving part of that day for me was hearing people’s stories of how, indeed, their years of practice of mindfulness, loving kindness, gratitude, compassion, were showing up now in being able to hold the very real suffering and despair of affliction, loss, and uncertainty
Similar to my friend Marilynne’s experience of 30 years of meditation and yoga practice holding the chronic inflammation and decreasing physical mobility from a serious car accident three years ago. “It’s not so much finding moments of joy in the midst of the pain. It’s about holding the moments of pain and fatigue in a larger field of well-being that is always there.”
“This refuge from our fears – the present moment – is always available to us. And with practice we learn to more easily return to it, even in the midst of confusion. As we do this over and over, we begin to understand how the mind works and what choices incline it toward well-being and joy. In time our experience shows us that mindfulness can indeed, as the Buddha said, help us “overcome grief and sorrow, end pain and anxiety, and realize the highest happiness.”
– James Baraz
EXERCISES TO PRACTICE Applied Mindfulness
My colleague Rick Hanson calls applying a stable and deepening mindfulness practice to the tasks of daily living “meditation on the hoof.” The exercise below will help you cultivate the experience of presence, openness, engagement and reflection without reactivity, “without longing or dejection” as the Buddha said, that leads to awareness and acceptance of each moment of life, precious and precarious as it is.
Steadying Awareness and Acceptance
1. “Felt sense” of experience in the moment. [From James Baraz’ course in Awakening Joy.]
Stand, sit, or lie down comfortably. Take a moment to become aware of being present in your body, in this moment, here and now. Focus your attention on your breathing to quiet your mind and focus your awareness.
When your awareness is steady, lift your arm to shoulder height, perpendicular to your body. Close your eyes and focus on the “felt sense” of your arm, knowing your arm is there without having to see it. Begin to move our arm slowly from side to side, noticing any changes in body sensations; notice any images, feelings, thoughts arising, if they do. Begin to move your am up and down, noticing any changes in body sensations; noticing any images, feelings, thoughts as they arise and pass away. Let your arm gently return to resting and reflect – were you noticing any pain, any worry, any memories form the past or anticipations of the future, or did your awareness stay steady on the felt experience of the moment?
2, Presence in Eating (and eventually in anything)
Sit down with a raisin, a grape, a section of orange in your hand. Notice the weight of the fruit as you roll it around with your fingers; notice the size, shape, color, texture, etc.; notice any light sparkling off the fruit, any change in sensation if you pinch it.
Slowly lift the fruit to your mouth, noticing any anticipation, curiosity, craving arising. Place the fruit in your mouth but don’t chew it yet. Roll the fruit around with your tongue, noticing the movements and sensations; notice, too, any changes in feelings or thoughts as the experience unfolds. Now, notice the burst of sensation as you bite the fruit; become aware of the juice, the pulp, the skin as you slowly chew the fruit. Chew it slowly; savor the changing experience; savor the felt sense of being present, being aware of this process of eating this piece of fruit. When you’re ready, swallow the fruit and notice changes in your experience, you awareness. Reflect on your sense of presence now, as you bring this exercise to a close.
Most people are astonished at the experience of being actually present, open, engaged with the simple moment of a simple activity. We taste the fruit as we never have before. We generalize this practice to taking a shower, washing the dishes, reaching for the phone, as a platform of mindfulness when we need to tell our partner or child or boss no, when the shock of someone cutting us off in traffic moves us quickly, without our even knowing it, to rage, when despair and hopelessness returns as the cancer returns. It’s all the same choosing to be present, open, engaged, knowing what is happening, steadying our awareness and acceptance of oh, eating a grape, taking a shower, dealing with cancer, is like this.
3. Taking in the Good
Our brains have evolved with a negativity bias; “Teflon for the positive, Velcro for the negative” is Rick Hanson’s phrase that I hope is becoming a household understanding. We need to pay instant attention to threats if we are to survive; paying attention to the good stuff is nice, but that’s not what kept our ancestors alive on the savannah to pass on their genes to us today.
We can activate the “left shift” mentioned in Reflections above by deliberately noticing moments of well-being, ease, joy in our lives and taking them in. Letting the felt sense of the goodness of that moment register and resonate in our bodies for 20-30 seconds. A steady practice of deliberately noticing the good – peacefulness, energy, connection, delight wherever it happens – and taking it in re-wires our neural circuitry and our sense of being toward “approach” and resilience.
Take a moment to become aware of something good in this moment, even that you have the eyesight and physical stamina and mental bandwidth to be reading this newsletter. Get a felt sense of the gratitude, the goodness, in your body. Savor the feeling in your body for 20-30 seconds so it will install in your implicit body memory.
Pause many times a day to check in. What can you find in this moment to take in as good? And thus accumulatively shift your brain to a stance of “yes” to life as it is.
Applying Awareness and Acceptance to Challenging, Even Overwhelming, Situations
4. Mindful Relationships
There’s probably no more challenging challenge for mindfulness than to pay attention to what’s happening in me as I respond to what’s happening in you as you pay attention to what’s happening in me, etc.
Mindfulness is essential to own our own reactivity any time we’re in an argument or confrontation with someone near and dear to us (or even not so near and dear). Mindfulness is ever so helpful even negotiating between a hike or a movie on the weekend, or asking someone to take out the garbage, clean out the cat litter box, wipe down the bathroom sink, etc. Mindful communication, Wise Speech, moment by moment by moment, means a lot of pausing, and noticing, and acknowledging from deep within ourselves, what’s happening in me, in you, between us. Feeling our way into the energy and vibe, seeing clearly the dynamic, the habitual scripts, the predictable impasses. Mindfulness – awareness and acceptance – allows the simultaneous connection and differentiation necessary for authentic and skillful relating, whether we’ve been with our partner for 30years or we’ve just met our child’s new teacher for the year three minutes ago.
Find a partner to practice mindful relating with, someone who can be self-reflective with a firm intention to be respectful and reciprocal in the exercise. You can take turns, one of you speaking and the other listening without interruption for several minutes at a time; taking turns makes it easier to be mindful of your own experience as you talk, as you listen. You can sophisticate the practice by taking turns back and forth more frequently; you can sophisticate the practice by speaking about something that’s happening in your relationship with each other, even the experience of doing this exercise together, rather than an event outside the relational field in the moment.
As you talk back and forth for about five minutes, practice maintaining a dual awareness of what you are saying and what you are hearing, and how you are responding inside to that speaking and hearing. Notice changes in your body energy, any upwelling of reactivity as you progress through the conversation. As you de-brief the exercise with your partner, see if you can reflect on your experience of the process even more than the content of what you or they were saying. Practicing this dual awareness many, many times makes it easier to remember to do in the tense moments of real relating.
5. Re-pairing troublesome or traumatic memories
Besides being aware of problematic feelings or thoughts arising in the moment, using awareness and acceptance to hold-shift-dissolve them, we can harness the neural plasticity of our brains to deliberately transform old memories so they no longer arise and de-rail us “out of the blue”. We intentionally and pro-actively re-pair the old memory with new experiences of self-empathy, self-compassion to change our reactivity to it and lessen its grip on our behavior.
Settle yourself into a moment of quiet presence; focus your awareness on your breathing to steady the mind and deepen your mindfulness. When you are feeling present, aware, and open to engaging in this exercise, call up a memory of something troubling to you, a gnawing anxiety, an irritation, a self doubt, a pang of hurt or regret. It’s wise to practice with something manageable at first, not the most toxic or traumatic of memories to begin with. As an event or experience comes into your consciousness, notice the feelings, images, body sensations, thoughts that come up with the memory. Explore the feelings, etc, from your place of mindful awareness. If the feelings or thoughts begin to feel overwhelming, “chunk” the experience down to a smaller part of it, maybe one feeling or one body sensation to begin with.
Then bring into your awareness, simultaneously, a sense of empathy or compassion for yourself for having had this experience, this memory. Feel that empathy and compassion in your body, take it in, savor it. As the neural networks of empathy and compassion are firing, and the neural networks of the original memory are firing at the same time – “neurons that fire together wire together” – the new experience of empathy and compassion is being paired with the old memory, whatever it is. This moment of pairing, of re-pairing the old memory, is the moment of brain change. The two neural networks are firing and wiring together, and new circuitry is created in that moment, sometimes quite dramatically. You may even feel a felt sense of shift in your body as your whole body begins to deeply encode this new way of being. You may have to practice this re-pairing over and over if there is a swamp of salt to dissolve, but this is how it works. And as we practice this re-pairing and experience a new relationship to old trauma, we learn that we can, again and again. We don’t re-write history, but we do re-wire our brain.
BOOKS AND WEBSITES
Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., Bantam Books, 2010.
Dan Siegel has been at the cutting-edge of integrating brain science into the practice of psychotherapy for more than a decade. His latest book weaves mindfulness practices into “mindsight,” a practical way people can focus their attention on the internal world of their mind to literally change the wiring and architecture of their brains. Written in a very accessible style for lay people rather than clinicians, this book is a great aid in fostering more emotional and social intelligence among its readers.
Mindful Motherhood: Practical Tools for Staying Sane During Pregnancy and Your Child’s First Year by Cassandra Vieten. New Harbinger/Noetic Books, 2009 and
Practical advice on cultivating mindfulness to help new moms be aware in the present moment, in their bodies, connected with the babies, even when the going gets rough.
Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, Hyperion, 1997.
A sweet offering of how mindfulness can help parents give their children their own nonjudgmental, conscious, fully accepting presence and foster the development of the truly unique potential of each child.
The website of the Association for Mindfulness in Education, a collaborative association of stellar organizations and individuals, offering research, resources, and training events to support mindfulness training in schools, K-12.
The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Workbook by Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein, New Harbinger, 2009.
This very user-friendly workbook includes an MP3 CD with eight hours of guided meditations on mindfulness in everyday life, mindful eating, mindful interpersonal communication, mindfulness of emotions, and well as more traditional mindfulness practices.
Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief: Guided Practice to Reclaiming Your Body and Your life by Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2009.
A 2-CD audio book by the developer of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Described by one reader as “manna from heaven,” the set has exercises ranging from 4-18 minutes to deal with pain, and the anxiety and self-defeating thoughts that often accompany chronic pain.
Website for an international support network for prisoners, prison volunteers, and corrections professionals, working to provide effective contemplative tools for self-transformation and rehabilitation. The organization has provided books on meditation to over 25,000 prisoners in 900 prisons around the world, connected hundreds of prisoners with dharma mentors, and provided training in contemplative practices for prison staff and volunteers.
Doing Time, Doing Vipassana, 1997.
A film (available through www.netflix.com) documenting the impact of mindfulness training on the rehabilitation of prisoners at India’s Tihar prison, which led to the subsequent adoption of mindfulness training in all of India’s prisons.