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 Mindfulness - the latest stories on the growing movement

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Mindfulness - the latest stories on the growing movement   Mon Mar 16, 2015 7:28 pm

March 13, 2015
Businesses on the mindfulness bandwagon
Antonia Macaro and Julian Baggini
Companies have adopted the Buddhist discipline but can an ethical philosophy coexist with corporate culture? And does it really work?





One speaker talks about “rebooting civilisation with new software”. Another “dreams of an enlightened society”. Not phrases you would necessarily expect to hear at a gathering of consultants, business owners, managers and academics. And this is before a third speaker at the Cranfield University School of Management concludes his presentation by saying, half-seriously, “Our mission is world peace.”

None of the 250 attendees is here to learn about diplomacy, emerging markets or company leadership. Instead they are discussing a supposedly transformative discipline with a 2,500-year history: mindfulness.

It has been a strange journey from the shade of a peepal tree in India, circa 5th century BC, where Siddhartha is said to have reached enlightenment, to the boardrooms of multinational businesses in the 21st. Mindfulness was until recently a term confined to Buddhist texts and meditation retreats, part of a spiritual path to awakening. (The Pali word sati, usually translated as mindfulness, does not refer to a single practice but to a focusing of attention that can be cultivated in various ways.) But for the increasing modern burdens of stress, depression and anxiety, mindfulness has morphed into a healthcare intervention. The NHS website describes it as an “evidence-based step” for better mental health: “Paying more attention to the present moment — to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you — can improve your mental wellbeing.”

Apps and web courses on mindfulness proliferate, as do reports on new ways in which the practice can do good, including in the corporate world. The list of blue-chip businesses and public bodies that have adopted mindfulness programmes includes Google, Apple, Sony, Ikea, Transport for London and the Department of Health. Yet the juxtaposition between the ethical ideals of Buddhist philosophy and the hard-nosed pragmatism of business is strange and striking. Is it all too good to be true?
. . .
Contemporary mindfulness began when biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn had a “vision” during a meditation retreat in 1979. It prompted him to start a meditation-based programme for stress and chronic pain at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he worked. This was the precursor of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a widely used, eight-week intervention that includes techniques such as mindfulness of breathing and walking meditation, drawn largely from traditional Buddhist thought. This in turn has produced Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for depression and Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) for addictive behaviours.

Any intervention that could help with stress, pain relief, depression and addiction would be impressive. But when people claim that “mindfulness works”, they can mean different things. There are claims that it promotes psychological flexibility, awareness, resilience, better decision-making, job performance, reduced absence rates and the ability to learn new tasks. No wonder businesses are interested.
©Phil Hackett


These claims were regularly repeated at Cranfield University’s Mindfulness at Work conference last year. Jeremy Hunter, an academic and consultant, insisted that mindfulness is not “weird Asian stuff” but an “action-oriented, practice-based, results-focused” discipline. Much of the rhetoric was about how mindfulness helps further mainstream business objectives. Catherine Kilfedder, BT’s wellbeing adviser, said her company’s goal is “sustainable growth”, and mindfulness fits into that because “a resilient workforce is necessary to build a resilient business”. Mindfulness trainer Michael Chaskalson told us: “Clients looking for mindful leadership programmes come with a view to having their leaders become more resilient, flexible, empathic, and more effortlessly able to lead at times of disruptive change.”

One problem is that although everyone speaks of “mindfulness” as though it were a single thing, it is more like a family of practices and capacities, each requiring its own evidence. The word is used to refer to a mental state, a character trait, a feature of Buddhist meditation, or as an umbrella term for any of the above. It is sometimes defined more broadly to include ethical factors such as empathy and compassion.

Mindfulness at work becomes especially problematic in relation to its roots. Could we really imagine the Buddha approving of Cranfield’s two-day Mindfulness for Higher Performance workshop at nearly £2,000 a head, let alone the use of mindfulness by the US military to improve performance?
Jutta Tobias of Cranfield Business School adopts an attitude of ethical neutrality. “It’s completely acceptable for some people to really care about money,” she says. “What we want to teach is: why do you want to have lots of money? The clearer people are about why they want to have a six-figure salary and drive a big car, the more able they are to make the right decisions for them personally. I am not the judge.”

Most, however, see mindfulness as tied to better behaviour. Jeremy Hunter, who talked of “rebooting civilisation”, is bullish about the ethical value of mindfulness and its challenge to materialism. Chaskalson also believes that “mindfulness, well-taught, increases one’s levels of care and concern. Leaders who care more change things for the better.”

Would the Buddha approve of the US military’s use of mindfulness to improve performance?

Why would this be so? Oxford university’s Mark Williams, the professor of clinical psychology who developed MBCT, told us that ethical behaviour “is an emergent property of people who practise mindfulness” because “they discover ethical behaviour from the bottom up, so they find they’re less angry, less dismissive, not so comfortable with gossiping, find themselves doing generous acts. They change their views, they hold them in a larger space.” This is why many Buddhist teachers are sanguine about people beginning to meditate for more instrumental reasons, since they believe the practice itself will in time change the practitioners.

For those who value mindfulness as a spiritual or ethical path, it’s hard not to feel a twinge of concern that something traditionally subversive of mainstream values and goals is being used in support of them. Rupert Gethin, professor of Buddhist studies at Bristol University, warns: “The Buddhist framework is one that orientates you towards something bigger and beyond yourself, whereas the danger when you remove that framework is that you reduce it to something that actually is just about you, one simply of utility.”

But the biggest question hanging over mindfulness in business is: does it really work? Since 2010 there have been more than 1,000 studies on mindfulness — almost all conducted in clinical rather than corporate settings.
©Phil Hackett


MBCT, for instance, is recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) for people who have had three or more episodes of depression. Recent research suggests that MBRP has longer-term effects than other treatments in preventing relapse in substance use. Studies also claim that mindfulness can improve immune function and help to lengthen telomeres, the protective regions at the end of chromosomes whose shortening is predictive of disease and mortality.

This is encouraging for those who want to shift mindfulness into the workplace but it is no more than promising. The intervention that has been best corroborated by research is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which involves developing mindfulness through exercises other than meditation. Professor Frank Bond of Goldsmiths University told us that he and his team will soon publish a meta-analysis of about 20 randomised controlled trials, which found that in a work context “ACT has been successful in improving mental health and behavioural effectiveness (for example, absence rates and performance targets) to a good degree”.

Much of the other research that has been done in business settings usually turns out to be less conclusive than it first sounds. BT’s Catherine Kilfedder has been encouraged by the online pilot course for employees that appeared to show benefits for stress and depression; but as only 24 per cent of the 400 participants completed the course, the results could only reflect the motivations of the minority who persisted.

A study made by Insead concluded that “coaching programs based on introspection and meditation techniques, without any discussion about CSR [corporate social responsibility] topics, exhibit a significant impact on both the probability to act in a socially responsible way and on the factors that influence the probability to behave that way”. But this report does not mention the word “mindfulness” and draws heavily on a single study based on a meditation technique called sahaja yoga, a “mental silence” practice that was adapted for the corporate environment. What’s more, a control group that practised hatha yoga without meditation also showed improvement, though it was not as great.

Almost everyone acknowledges the evidence gap. Sean Gilgallon, group health and safety manager for CVS UK, talked enthusiastically at Cranfield about “absolutely amazing” results of pilot programmes and “great feedback”. But he accepts in conversation that the evidence is at the moment largely anecdotal: “We do need facts still, I appreciate that.”

The more our minds wander, the less healthy and more unhappy we are. Mindfulness seems to be an antidote to this

Much of what is claimed is based on small studies, often arguably relying too heavily on self-reporting questionnaires. Even when a good study does find that mindfulness is beneficial, we don’t know at a glance whether it researched traditional Buddhist meditation techniques, one of the eight-week programmes or something else. One study, for instance, was based on a single 15 minutes’ breathing meditation, while another investigated practitioners with substantial meditation background, one of whom had previously clocked 45,000 hours of practice.
. . .
Yet belief in mindfulness’s efficacy in the workplace is more than blind faith. A study of computer-based knowledge workers suggested that it makes you better at serial-tasking, “permitting people both to concentrate more deeply and to switch between objects of attention more fluidly”.

Scientific knowledge about the effects of secular mindfulness revolves around the “default mode network”, which the brain slips into when we’re at rest. It appears that the more our minds wander, the less healthy and more unhappy we are. Mindfulness seems to be some kind of antidote to this, Williams told us: it helps in “cultivating awareness by learning to pay attention in the moment, intentionally and non-judgmentally”, meaning “compassionately, not without discernment”.

The kind of awareness cultivated through mindfulness helps people to “decentre” from disruptive inner experiences, enabling us “to see thinking as thinking rather than something that drives all your behaviour”, as Williams puts it. By extending the gap between stimulus and reaction we become more in control of how and if we do react.
©Phil Hackett


It is not yet clear what the precise mix of “active ingredients” is in effective mindfulness. Williams argues that there is “a pretty linear relationship between how much people meditated and how much benefit they got”. His study into depression suggests that “MBCT without meditation got you halfway there”.

Nonetheless, he is concerned that mindfulness is being overhyped. “There’s a real danger of people being lured into thinking this is a cure for everything,” he says. Even though MBCT has been approved by Nice for depression, it does not prevent 40 per cent of people from relapsing, and was better than no treatment at all in only 25 per cent of cases. “If people over-promise either to themselves or others, then they’ll be over-disappointed,” Williams says.

Still, the bandwagon rolls on. An All Party Parliamentary Group is studying the benefits of bringing mindfulness into public policy. Nearly 100 MPs, peers and parliamentary staff have taken mindfulness meditation courses.

Whether we’ll still be talking about mindfulness with such zeal in a decade is unclear. The fundamental insight may be simply that we can relate to our inner world differently, as an object of attention rather than a subject we must identify with and act on. Whether you meditate or not, that’s something that we can all use to help cope with daily life.

‘The Shrink & The Sage: A Guide to Living’ is published by Icon Books; shrinkandsage.com
Illustrations by Phil Hackett
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PostSubject: Re: Mindfulness - the latest stories on the growing movement   Mon Mar 16, 2015 10:32 pm

Mindfulness meditation is big business in London's Square Mile


Advocates say mindful meditation focuses the mind and boosts concentration, therefore boosting productivity. But it has been criticised for abandoning the spiritual premise behind it for secular gain, as Siobhan Norton reports

Siobhan Norton   Saturday 14 March 2015
Here, have a raisin. No, not a handful, just the one. Wait, wait, wait, don't eat it. Feel its weight in your palm. Squeeze it gently between finger and thumb. Examine the glossy surface, the bumpy texture. OK, pop it in your mouth. Don't bite, not yet. Roll it on your tongue. How does it taste? Bite once. Can you feel the juices flowing to hit your taste buds? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? Does it remind you of anything? You can keep chewing now. And swallow. Feel it move towards your stomach...

This is the much ridiculed lesson that you will probably come across if you embark on a mindfulness course. In a nutshell, it sums up the concept – taking your time, considering the now, experiencing the moment. While there are plenty that imagine a room filled with people sitting staring at raisins must contain more than a few fruitcakes, the reach of mindfulness now extends far beyond some remote Buddhist temples. Tech geniuses are walking the labyrinth in Silicon Valley, world leaders are jostling for a cross-legged sitting space at international conferences, and, even in the City, bankers are taking a pause.

It's a far cry from the classic lunch-is-for-wimps Gordon Gekko-esque idea we normally have of those in the financial sector. We hear more about people depending on cocaine and Red Bull than cognitive exercises. But it is becoming more mainstream, even encouraged, in top banking firms, with many offering mindfulness courses and retreats. Goldman Sachs, Barclays and JP Morgan are just some of the firms investing in the area.

It makes sense that the frantic corporate world should turn to mindfulness. There is a Zen proverb that says: "You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day – unless you're too busy. Then you should sit for an hour." If you, say, paint landscapes for a living, you are probably quite often 'in the moment'. If you're the type that checks your emails hundreds of times a day, probably not.

Of course, these corporations have not suddenly gone all warm and fuzzy – it makes financial sense. Less stress and anxiety in the workplace means less absenteeism. Advocates say mindful meditation focuses the mind and boosts concentration, therefore boosting productivity. Leaders are said to gain empathy and patience, which will result in a happier team.

Celebrity fan: Oprah Winfrey is said to practise mindfulness (Getty) 

It seems win-win, but mindfulness, raisin or no, has left a bad taste in many mouths. It has been criticised for abandoning the spiritual premise behind it for secular gain, branded trendy psychobabble. And a trend it certainly is. Fashion magazines offer advice on mindful eating, health columns remind us to have mindful moments. Celebrities casually mention their mindfulness guru in interviews. Sadie Frost does it. Oprah does it. Gwyneth surely does it. You can move mindfully, travel mindfully, even go to the loo mindfully.

And yet mindfulness is being recognised by science more and more. Although it has its roots in Buddhism, secular mindfulness has stripped out much of the spiritual and focused on the scientific. In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course in the University of Massachusetts to treat the chronically ill, and now psychologists and medical professionals all over the world are using mindfulness.

There are now masters courses in mindfulness in the UK, and it is being piloted in schools, government, the prison system and for unemployed people. Studies report that mindfulness lowers stress, is good for your heart and can alleviate IBS and skin conditions such as psoriasis. The US Marine Corps uses it for its troops to help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In prisons, it can help reduce violence. And in schools, it can curb the growing problem of anxiety among pupils.

Labour MP Chris Ruane discovered mindfulness when he was working as a teacher. "I found it helped my pupils focus, and regain their attention after lunchtime," he says. "We even used it to improve their creative writing." Ruane's relationship with mindfulness stayed with him into his political career, and now he is the co-chair of an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness, in association with the Mindfulness Initiative. The initiative works with parliamentarians and policy makers to develop recommendations on the role of mindfulness in society. More than 100 Lords have now completed a mindfulness course.

Mindfulness, however, has not just burst on to the Western world. It began creeping into many people's consciousness along with the counter-culture movement of the 1960s. Steve Jobs placed huge importance on meditation following his time travelling in India, and spoke of how Zen had influenced his designs. The rise to prominence of trendy 'Don't Be Evil' tech firms promoted worker well-being and further fuelled the mindfulness train. Google offers an internal course called Search Inside Yourself, or 'neural self-hacking', and has even built an indoor labyrinth for mindful walking.
The man behind Google's course, Chade-Meng Tan – who holds the job title Jolly Good Fellow – says meditation thickens the brain's cortex, lowers blood pressure, can heal psoriasis and even get you a promotion. He teaches simple-sounding techniques such as pausing before sending important emails and silently wishing happiness upon difficult colleagues.

Steve Jobs placed huge importance on meditation following his time travelling in India, and spoke of how Zen had influenced his designs (Getty) 

Rest assured, though, that greed is still good. There is plenty of money to be made from mindfulness. Glasgow-based Rohan Gunatillake invented a meditation app called Buddhify, which became a worldwide hit. Its successor, Buddhify2, clocked up six million minutes of use in less than a year. The Headspace app, launched by Andy Puddicombe, a Bristolian former monk, is worth £25m, and has been downloaded in 150 different countries. And there are any number of companies providing mindfulness training and courses for both private individuals and corporates.

Alexa Frey and Autumn Totton set up The Mindfulness Project in 2013. The pair had met while studying, and Totton had gone on to a demanding career in asset management. She contacted Frey for advice on mindfulness, and she began to teach her via Skype. As their friendship developed, they decided to form The Mindfulness Project together, combining Totton's business expertise and Frey's experience in mindfulness. Their classes are frequented by everyone from new mothers, older people who have dealt with illness or bereavement – and a large number of businessmen and women.

"When I first discovered mindfulness – those fleeting moments of pure peace – I thought, 'Someone has to tell people about this'," says Frey. "Practising mindfulness meditation is like training a muscle. Our minds have a default mode – if you don't control it, it goes all over the place. Mindfulness makes you less reactive, but also more in touch with your emotions."

Ruane is also passionate about why mindfulness does, in fact, matter. "We are all on this hedonic treadmill that keeps going faster and faster," he says. "We spend money we haven't got, are plagued by digital distraction and bombarded by advertising, which is designed to make you unhappy with your lot."

Tessa Watt, a mindfulness teacher who is part of the Mindfulness Initiative, says you don't need to head straight for your nearest mountain top to be mindful. She has written a book, Mindful London, on achieving urban calm. "There is 'formal practice', where you meditate and focus on your breath, and this is important to practise often," she says. "But you can also apply it to everything you do. Take pauses throughout the day – on public transport, before eating a meal. It's about catching yourself – if you live in a city you can use triggers, like a siren or alarm, to help remind you to stop."

As harried, besuited workers stream out of Bank station every morning, it is difficult to imagine much that would make any of them take a pause. This, say disciples of mindfulness, is the point. Gordon Gekko says that greed captures the essence of evolutionary spirit – but perhaps this is the next phase of evolution.

Mind over matter: from high finance to higher consciousness

 
Simon Abel (above) is an investment banker who left the City to join the investment firm, ClearlySo, which raises capital for businesses creating positive impacts.



"I got depressed about the world and the City in 2005 and yet felt completely unable to do anything about it. At this point I was working in the City in corporate finance. I got more and more upset and frustrated about it – and then my wife suggested out of desperation that I ought to do something active, so I started to do some yoga. This led me on the path to a deeper and fuller knowledge of all the attributes of yoga – you exercise the muscles to tire them out a little, which then allows your brain to forget about your body, which is the first expression of detachment.

In the beginning, mindfulness felt completely at odds with the City mentality. Eventually it got to the point where I didn't work for a couple of years, but I did continue practising the yoga and the mindfulness. I don't believe that mindfulness doesn't fit with other jobs in the City, it's just that it allows you to become more aware of everything outside of yourself – there are all these things that you have no control of. You start to realise how fortunate you are – the more grateful you are, the happier you become, the more focused your intention is on what your 'inner being' is telling you to do. My inner being tells me I need to earn money to keep my family going – yet seek to genuinely help people and find a job that intellectually challenges me, too.

A year ago, I knew that I had to find a job where I was using my skills I had learnt from my finance career, but being true to everything I had learnt. And frankly I couldn't think of anything. A year later, I am at ClearlySo, working on growing positive social impacts.

Mindfulness can be used as a way of channelling your intent and achieving your goals. And, of course, mindfulness certainly helps to give you an ability to practise increasing your level of focus on the issue at hand – and that is invaluable in terms of getting jobs done on time, under pressure. At the same time, this is an incredibly stressful world and mindfulness helps you to find space in that stress. It's a bit like in between your inhalation and your exhalation of breath, there is a moment in time where you are not doing anything. Being mindful of that moment can add so much value to you – that is your space. I have found so much more happiness by listening to what my inner being is telling me to do than by following the crowd."

 Eva Luterkort (left) is an investment banker


"I became interested in mindfulness a few years ago when I felt like I needed more balance in my life. I had at that time been working long hours in a City law firm for a few years and was generally feeling rather drained and stressed. As a concept, mindfulness was, however, quite alien and 'airy-fairy' to me, so before I started practising, it I felt like I needed to be convinced on a more 'scientific' level. Having read Daniel Siegel's book Mindsight, as well as research around neuroplasticity, I became fascinated not only by the powerful impact it could have on your thoughts, feelings and general emotional well-being, but also by the physical impact it could have on the brain (thickening of certain membranes, etc, by stimulating neuron activity) and body (lowering of blood pressure and cortisol levels, etc). I decided to give it a go and started doing short, very basic mindfulness exercises.

For me, mindfulness is grounding and helps me put things into perspective: it allows me to take a step back and anchor myself in the present moment even when things are hectic. It makes me resilient and helps me cope with stress. It improves my ability to concentrate and therefore to do a better job. It also makes me a better, more balanced human being who has better relationships with other people, both in my professional and personal life.

I think the benefit of mindfulness is something that most of the big institutions in the City now recognise and support. Employers increasingly understand that they can only really maximise the full potential of their employees if they are well functioning, healthy and resilient. Employers have been encouraging physical fitness among employees for some time now with gym memberships – supporting mindfulness is the next step. It makes sense from a business perspective."

 Louise Chester (right) is the founder of Mindfulness at Work, which offers corporate training courses in mindfulness. She is a former director in financial services.


"I discovered mindfulness almost completely by accident. About 20 years ago, my next-door neighbour asked to use my phone. She had locked herself out of her house and had a flight to catch – but she just seemed to remain so calm, even as I felt my own panic rising. Eventually, I had to ask her how she did it, and she told me about mindfulness. I asked her if she would teach me about it.

I started meditating with the help of my neighbour – she advised me to spend 45 minutes to an hour on formal practice, although I know now that even 10 minutes makes a difference. Even though I was carving out that time to meditate, I quickly felt like there was more time, more space in the day. I felt much less assaulted by life – more waving, less drowning.

Sitting out on a busy trading floor, it helped me to cope with a deluge of information – an investment analyst's job involves trying to process huge amounts of data into wise action and advice. I found I could choose when to focus in on big financial spreadsheets and when to extend my awareness out to take in the sentiment on the trading floor; I would be more present when on the phone to a client, my memory improved and I was less often in 'react' mode when it came to making decisions.
I started to teach my friends and family about mindfulness, and it was so lovely to see other people getting the benefits. Mindfulness at Work developed from there, and it's a real labour of love.
Everyone involved with the company has a senior corporate background, and all believe that the only reason we thrived in that world was thanks to our personal mindfulness practices. The corporate world seems to be ready for this training now – we normally get standing room only whenever we hold a corporate session. I always say to the organiser: 'Don't worry, there will not be one moment that will make your toes curl'. This is not 'knit your own yogurt' stuff but peak performance through self-awareness, self-care, clarity and focus. The response we always get is a queue of people wanting to know when they can take our four-week work-based introductory course.

What's most rewarding is seeing how it helps people in not just their work but in their personal lives. Mindfulness makes you realise you are not your thoughts – because you are stopping and noticing them with an open mind. Mindfulness is kindfulness, and the whole basis of it is compassion, for yourself and others.

It's never a case of just 'getting it'; 20 years on I'm still a work in progress. With mindfulness, you have to apply it in real life. It's like having a gym membership: the exercise you do there builds your fitness and then you support it by taking the stairs instead of the lift. And it all contributes to you feeling great throughout your day. Your 10 minutes formal mindfulness practice is the same. You support it during the day, by taking pauses when waiting in line, or sitting on the train. This helps us realise that choices are there in every moment and it's our responsibility to make the most value-creating ones."
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PostSubject: Re: Mindfulness - the latest stories on the growing movement   Mon Mar 16, 2015 11:05 pm

Knicks reflect on mindfulness training

March, 9, 2015
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com


NEW YORK – It’s midmorning, and the New York Knicks are sitting in a film room at the team’s facility before practice.

It’s a place where players and coaches gather to break down the successes and failures of a recent game.

But Phil Jackson’s Knicks are working on something a bit more obscure than a blown defensive assignment.

“We’re getting in touch with our inner beings, our inner selves,” Quincy Acy says.

[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Kathy WillensPhil Jackson has gone through with his promise to have his Knicks undergo mindfulness training.
“We’re just reflecting on how our bodies are feeling,” Travis Wear says. “It’s really just getting in touch with where your mind is at.”

If the idea of an imposing 6-foot-7 forward talking about his “inner self” strikes you, the Knicks fan, as a bit strange, you should probably get used to it.

What Acy and Wear are describing is known as “mindfulness training” – and it’s all part of Jackson’s grand plan to transform the Knicks.

Jackson first talked about implementing the training back in the preseason and, true to his word, he’s had the Knicks go through 10-15 sessions this season.

Most take place in the video room at the team’s training facility; a few have taken place on the practice court and at least one has been in the locker room at Madison Square Garden. All are led by an instructor hired by Jackson.

“It’s very basic stuff that you really don’t think about much in your daily life,” Jason Smith says. “…. You try to focus on the well-being of your body and taking care of your body and doing the right things.”

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that stresses the importance of staying in the moment. It’s most closely associated with Eastern religions. Jackson’s affinity for the practice is one of the reasons he’s commonly known as the “Zen Master.”

Jackson instilled principles of mindfulness, visualization and other techniques associated with Eastern religions in his teams in Chicago and Los Angeles.

How well has it worked for the Knicks?

If you’re drawing a conclusion based on the team’s record, then it hasn’t worked well.

New York enters Monday’s game against Denver with the worst record in the NBA. The club needs to win 11 of its final 21 games to avoid setting the mark for the worst 82-game record in franchise history.

But it would be short-sighted to judge all of this by the team’s record.

Just like everything else during Jackson’s tenure as team president, it’s probably fair to say that the jury is still out.

For what it’s worth, some of the Knicks seem to enjoy the training.

“It’s helped me stay in the moment – really that’s the biggest thing,” Langston Galloway says. “…. It’s had an impact on a lot of different things in the games. When I’m struggling, I’m able to refocus myself.”

The sessions have sometimes included teammates talking openly to one another – talking about issues that may not otherwise be discussed.

Does everyone in the room take it seriously?

“Some guys are a little indifferent about it but some guys soak it up,” Smith says.

“I don’t think anyone is sitting there brushing it off. I think everyone goes in with a willingness to participate,” Wear says.

Will any of this help lead the Knicks to a title? Who knows?

Did mindfulness training help Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s Bulls to six titles? Did it help Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal win rings in Los Angeles?

That’s all a matter of perspective.

The one thing that appears to be clear about all of this is that mindfulness will be a part of life as a Knick under Phil Jackson.

“It's so vital for a team to have this skill or players to have this skill,” Jackson said back in October. “To be able to divorce themselves from what just happened -- a referee's bad call, or an issue that goes on individually or against your opponent. You've got to be able to come back to your center."

Put in that context, mindfulness has probably been pretty useful for the 2014-15 Knicks.
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PostSubject: This issue concerns public schools in the U.S. - not private schools or corporations   Sun Mar 22, 2015 11:35 pm

Candy Gunther Brown, Ph.D.
Mindfulness Meditation in Public Schools: Side-Stepping Supreme Court Religion Rulings
Posted: 12/05/2014 4:18 pm EST

Since the 1960s, the United States Supreme Court has found it unconstitutional for public schools to teach religious practices such as prayer. But today, mindfulness meditation--a Buddhist religious practice similar to prayer--is promoted by schools nationwide. Why aren't the courts intervening? Because promoters assert, as the Associated Press did recently, that "Western culture has secularized" this "centuries-old" religious practice.

But what does it mean to "secularize" mindfulness? It boils down to a simple change of vocabulary. Promoters drop the terms "Buddhism" and "meditation" and add the terms "neuroscience" and "scientific research." Meanwhile, the same practice is taught in both public schools and Buddhist basics classes.

Indeed, the Associated Press notes that the Portland, Oregon high-school mindfulness program it features, Peace in Schools, is the "brainchild" of European-American Caverly Morgan, who "trained at a Zen Buddhist monastery for eight years," and who, according to Morgan's personal website, remains committed to "Zen Awareness Practice" and "maintains her own spiritual practice while offering the gift of practice to others." Peace in Schools boasts being the "first for-credit mindfulness course in a U.S. public high school."

Trudy Goodman, founder of Insight LA, California, confesses in an interview with Vincent and Emily Horn of BuddhistGeeks.com that what she advertises as "secular" mindfulness for public schools is really, in her words, "stealth Buddhism." Although the "secular" classes use a "different vocabulary," getting children to engage in the same practice of mindfulness that is taught in Buddhist classes transforms students "whether they want it or not," and many go on to enroll in explicitly Buddhist classes. The podcast interview records Goodman and the Horns laughing while discussing this intentional deception.

"We worked the most on language," admits Marilyn Neagley, director of the Talk About Wellness initiative in Vermont public schools: "When we say 'mindfulness,' we feel it's safer than saying 'meditation.'"

Actress Goldie Hawn actually refers to her internationally disseminated MindUP curriculum as a "script." She explains her tactic to a group of Buddhist insiders at the 2013 Heart-Mind conference at The Dalai Lama Center for Peace-Education: "We have to be able to bring contemplative practice into the classroom under a different name because obviously people that say 'oh meditation' they think oh this is 'Buddhist.'" So she instead uses the terms "Core Practice" and "brain breaks" as euphemisms for Buddhist meditation.

Hawn started The Hawn Foundation in 2005 and recruited educators, neuroscientists, and psychologists to work with Buddhist meditators in writing the MindUP Curriculum, published in partnership with Scholastic Books in 2011. When speaking to Buddhist coreligionists, Hawn says MindUP "all started" with "His Holiness" (who gave Hawn her own personal mantra) and with the Dalai Lama Center. But, in presenting her program to the public, Hawn drops all references to Buddhism or meditation and claims that she is simply teaching children how the brain works.

As an actress and movie producer, Hawn knows the power of language to win an audience. Hawn describes the genesis of MindUP to Buddhist insiders: "I'm a producer, I'm gonna put this show on the road . . . and I got the script written, and I call it a script because it is, it's one step of how the story gets told of how you're able to facilitate the best part of you." The MindUP "script" tells the story that Buddhist mindfulness meditation is really "secular" neuroscience. Yet, contradicting this claim, the Hawn Foundation's Scientific Research Advisory Board webpage--which lists only one member: Kimberly Schonert-Reichl--links to Schonert-Reichl explaining how classroom mindfulness advances "Buddhist Contemplative Care."

The MindUP curriculum consists in large part of simplified (and not always accurate) lessons in brain anatomy ("reflective, thinking prefontal cortex" = good, "reflexive, reactive amygdala" = bad) and exhortations to be kind to others (pause for a moment before hitting another kid back), oneself (if you actually try your vegetables you might like them) and the earth (recycle instead of littering). This may not be a great replacement for spending school time on math and reading skills, but it has nothing to do with meditation or mindfulness.

Yet here's the kicker. The MindUP curriculum insists that its unique benefits derive from its two distinctive features:

1) "The MindUP Core Practice is the signature daily routine of the MindUP program." The "Core Practice" of "deep belly breathing and attentive listening," i.e. mindfulness meditation, is to be led by classroom teachers three-times a day during every school day. Cued by a resonant sound to begin and end practice, students are instructed to focus attention on their breath and cultivate "non-judgmental awareness" of passing thoughts and emotions. This Core Practice, the curriculum promises, habituates children to respond to experiences in a mindful way that develops moral and ethical virtues of "empathy, compassion, patience, and generosity." If the Core Practice of mindfulness is reducible to paying attention while breathing deeply, it is unclear how it makes one virtuous--except as a tenet of the eightfold path of Buddhist awakening.

But the curriculum further insists that: 2) "To get the full benefit of MindUp lessons, children will need to know a specific vocabulary." What vocabulary word is repeated multiple times every lesson? Mindfulness. Repetition of this term communicates that mindfulness--circularly defined as the opposite of "unmindfulness"--is the key to any positive attitude or behavior. Lessons encourage students to think of role models who act in mindful ways--the custodian who picks up trash, a doctor who keeps calm in emergencies, or an imaginary dinosaur who eats its broccoli rather than spitting it out--though none of these role models may ever have used MindUP's Core Practice. But defining mindfulness as synonymous with virtue makes it seem urgent that children cultivate mindfulness rather than unmindfulness. How do they do this? By engaging in the Core Practice every chance they get.

Why is the Core Practice central to MindUP? This goes back to Goldie Hawn's agenda of getting Buddhist religious contemplative practice into the classroom by another name. As I explain in more detail in my previous post, meditating on one's breath and present-moment bodily sensations and cultivating non-judgmental awareness of passing thoughts and emotions trains the mind to perceive experiences and the notion of a "self" as transitory. Right mindfulness--the seventh aspect of the eightfold path of Buddhism--alleviates the human predicament of suffering by detaching the mind from pursuing desires, avoiding dislikes, or worrying about past or future. Compassion toward others stems from realizing that everyone is really part of the same universal process, or Buddha nature. The ultimate goal is freedom from karma and reincarnation, and attainment of enlightenment or nirvana.

Of course, the MindUP curriculum never uses any of these religious-sounding terms. It just keeps returning to the mantra of "neuroplasticity"--that mindfulness changes the brain. Research shows that lots of other things--such as math, aerobic exercise, music, and a healthy lunch--all change the brain too. MindUP doesn't mention these more conventional components of the school day because this might make the Core Practice seem less essential.

Repetition of the term mindfulness does one more thing: it points children and parents to where they can find resources to go "deeper" in their meditation practice. Googling the term "mindfulness" yields an abundance of explicitly Buddhist books, classes, and retreat centers. Jenny Wilks, a teacher of both "secular" and explicitly Buddhist mindfulness classes, reports seeing "an increase in the numbers of people coming on retreats and many of them have started with a secular eight-week course."

Public-school mindfulness programs often pair the term mindfulness with "heartfulness." Mindful Schools is one such program, founded in 2010 in Northern California, and now providing on-site or on-line training to teachers and children in 48 states and 43 countries. The Mindful Schools website embeds a promotional video, Healthy Habits of Mind, which depicts what heartfulness looks like in the classroom--in short, it looks a lot like prayer:

"'I want you to first picture Aiden in your mind. Now I want you to picture Jailen. Really picture him. And now I want you to say. May you be happy. May you be healthy, and may you be peaceful.' Whenever we have somebody that's absent in here, and I know it's because they're sick, we actually stop in the morning, and we close our eyes, and we send good thoughts to that person. And there is something about that action of stopping and noticing that somebody who is a part of our community is not here and it's because they're not feeling well. It could be somebody who has already passed too. Think of that person, close your eyes, and have that person right in front of you. [Videotaped teacher and students fold their hands in a prayer position.] 'May you be happy and peaceful. May you be safe and protected. May you be healthy and strong and free. And may you accept yourself just as you are.'"

Instead of asking children to pray for God to bless sick classmates, the teacher "secularizes" prayer by substituting the language of sending good thoughts, while leading children to perform symbolic gestures such as folding their hands in a traditional prayer gesture and closing their eyes, while reciting companion phrases that connote prayer.

Although limited to "secular" language while in the classroom, mindfulness instructors take more liberties in off-campus teacher trainings. Organizations such as Mindful Schools require that classroom teachers using their curriculum enroll in a training course and cultivate their own personal, daily mindfulness practice. This is because mindfulness is a "lifestyle," not merely a curriculum comparable to that for math or social studies. A year-long certification program is bookended by two week-long summer retreats designed to "deepen your personal practice." As one testimonial posted on the Mindful Schools website reports, teacher Sivie Suckerman from Seattle, Washington "gained a deeper connection to what's not in the curriculum but inherent in the practice."

Why is mindfulness sweeping American public schools? There is a perceived crisis in U.S. public education. Religious disestablishment coincided with desegregation, new immigration, and accelerating urbanization--social developments that many observers blame for a seeming epidemic of poor academic performance, bullying, violence, stress, obesity, sex, and drugs. In the wake of Supreme Court rulings, schools cannot use Protestant religious practices such as prayer and Bible reading to inculcate moral and ethical character. Teachers and administrators welcome offers by Buddhist meditators to teach "secularized" versions of practices that instill the same moral and ethical virtues as religion. Ironically, it is primarily European-Americans who seek to extract meditation "techniques" from the "cultural baggage" of Asian religious traditions and impose them on "low-income, at-risk" African-American and Hispanic student populations. Why? Educational reformers fear that their own children may be threatened by the perceived inability of racialized "others" to "self-regulate."

It took 300 years for the Supreme Court to remove prayer from public schools. When will courts notice what mindfulness promoter Emily Horn calls "the New American religion"?
 

Mindfulness: Stealth Buddhist Strategy for Mainstreaming Meditation?

Posted: 12/02/2014 12:54 pm

Mindfulness has become mainstream. Hospitals and prisons offer "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction," public schools teach students to put their "MindUP," and Google trains employees to "Search Inside Yourself."

Right mindfulness is the seventh aspect of the eightfold path of Buddhist awakening. Implicit in "secularized" mindfulness is the assumption that meditating on one's breath or present-moment bodily sensations, while cultivating non-judgmental awareness of passing thoughts and emotions, trains the mind to perceive experiences -- and even the notion of a "self" -- as transient. This alleviates suffering by detaching the mind from pursuing desires or avoiding displeasures. Recognizing that every apparently unique "self" is really part of the same universal process of becoming develops moral and ethical virtues such as compassion and generosity. Ultimately, this process leads to freedom from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth, and entrance into a transcendent state of enlightenment or nirvana.

Promoters of "secular" mindfulness avoid using the loaded words "Buddhism" or "religion," and may even steer clear of mentioning "spirituality" or "meditation." But the practice is essentially similar to that taught in many Buddhist basics classes. And the hope, expressed by certain key leaders in the secular mindfulness movement, is that introductory classes alleviate suffering for all practitioners, while providing at least some of them with a doorway into deeper, explicitly Buddhist meditation.

The most influential advocate for mindfulness in America is Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine who learned mindfulness from Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. While on a spiritual retreat at the Insight Meditation Society in 1979, Kabat-Zinn had a flash of insight to "[url=http://books.google.com/books?id=1TL6uxsKe1kC&pg=PA17&lpg=PA17&dq=%E2%80%9Ctake+the+heart+of+something+as+meaningful,+as+sacred+if+you+will,+as+Buddha-dharma+and+bring+it+into+the+world+in+a+way+that+doesn%E2%80%99t+dilute,+profane+or+distort+it,+but+at+the+same+time+is+not+locked+into+a+culturally+and+tradition-bound+framework+that+would+make+it+absolutely+impenetrable+to+the+vast+majority+of+people.%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=hLH59oQZhU&sig=HFR_992yGE1U6e6xzbeKNPyqoxs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Vpp5VNPxGO_8sASHnoKwBg&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9Ctake the heart of something as meaningful%2C as sacred if you will%2C as Buddha-dharma and bring it into the world in a way that doesn%E2%80%99t dilute%2C profane or distort it]take the heart of something as meaningful, as sacred if you will, as Buddha-dharma and bring it into the world [/url]in a way that doesn't dilute, profane or distort it, but at the same time is not locked into a culturally and tradition-bound framework that would make it absolutely impenetrable to the vast majority of people." During a 1990 meeting, the Dalai Lama himself approved Kabat-Zinn's strategy of modifying vocabulary in order to make mindfulness acceptable to non-Buddhists.

Kabat-Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, classes, at his Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Kabat-Zinn's goal, as described in his 1990 book Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, was to make the "path of mindfulness accessible to mainstream Americans so that it would not feel Buddhist or mystical so much as sensible." Insisting that "you don't have to be a Buddhist to practice" mindfulness, Kabat-Zinn nevertheless urges MBSR graduates to find an ongoing meditation group such as an Insight Meditation Society, an organization that Kabat-Zinn describes as having "a slightly Buddhist orientation."

Jenny Wilks, a teacher of both explicitly Buddhist and secular mindfulness who received training from Kabat-Zinn, explains in a 2014 article for Insight Journal that "key Dharma teachings and practices are implicit" in secular mindfulness classes. Rather than "diluting the Dharma," Wilks sees "secular mindfulness" as "highly accessible Dharma," a "distillation" of the "essence" of the Buddha's key teachings, repackaged to "make strong medicine palatable." Wilks notes that some participants in secular classes "do later go on to access Buddhist classes," and reports that Buddhist retreat centers have "seen an increase in the numbers of people coming on retreats and many of them have started with a secular eight-week course."

Like Wilks, Trudy Goodman, founder of Insight LA, in California, received training in secular mindfulness from Kabat-Zinn. Goodman describes her understanding of secular mindfulness as "Stealth Buddhism" in a 2014 podcast interview with Vincent Horn of Buddhist Geeks.com:

Goodman: I really wanted us to be able to work in this community to go into hospitals, and universities, and schools, and places where as Buddhists we might not be so welcome, especially state places, which is appropriate since we have the separation of church and state ... The really interesting question is what do they do after they take that class ... And you know the reality is they aren't that different from our Buddhist classes. They just use a different vocabulary ... And the question of will people then sort of migrate into Buddhism. Some will, some won't .... anyone who practices sincerely, whether they want it or not, they are going to discover more deeply other dimensions of their being, I think it's inevitable if they keep practicing, don't you?

Horn: That seems to be somewhat independent of whether one is trained in a Buddhist context, or in a new, non-Buddhist Buddhist context. [laughter]

Goodman: My former husband George, he used to call it crypto-Buddhism, stealth Buddhism we now might say. [more laughter]

Horn: Absolutely.

Some Buddhists affirm a "stealth Buddhist" approach to mainstreaming mindfulness as exemplifying the Buddhist virtue of "skillful" speech. Other Buddhists caution that skillful speech should always be truthful -- that if even silence may deceive, then one must speak the whole truth; exceptions apply only to those who have already reached such a degree of awakening that they are free of self-interest and seek only to alleviate suffering. Yet, proprietary, trademarked mindfulness programs hint that secular mindfulness may be implicated in the self-interested American commercial, self-help market
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PostSubject: Re: Mindfulness - the latest stories on the growing movement   Mon Mar 23, 2015 9:03 am

Why Mindfulness Will Survive The Backlash

Posted:  03/16/2015 12:16 pm EDT  - from HuffingtonPost



First came the declarations that mindfulness was "having a moment." Then came the backlash.

A number of publications (this one included) called 2014 the “year of mindfulness,” and a Time cover story went so far as to proclaim a “mindful revolution” in American culture. Everyone from Rupert Murdoch to Anderson Cooper to Lena Dunham spoke out about the virtues of meditation, and mindfulness -- the cultivation of a focused, non-judgmental awareness on the present moment -- swiftly made its way from spiritual retreat centers to public schools, military bases, hospitals, therapists’ offices and corporate boardrooms across the country.
So it was only a matter of time before resistance began mounting.

“If 2014 was the year of mindfulness, 2015 might be the year of the backlash,” Alice Robb wrote in the New Republic, labeling meditation the latest obsession of the white upper middle class.

The New Republic wasn't alone in taking a skeptical view of mindfulness. The Daily Beast recently asked, “What if meditation isn’t good for you?”, and in the Harvard Business Review, psychiatrist and executive coach David Brendel warned about the risks of mindfulness in the workplace. In another piece, The New Republic even referred to mindfulness as a "tool of corporate control."

So what gives? Well, critics of mindfulness tend to fall into one of three camps: Those who argue that mindfulness has become watered-down secularized; those who claim it's elitist; and those who say benefits of the practice have been “oversold and overhyped.”

“The public enthusiasm for complementary health practices -- and meditation in particular -- is outpacing the scientific research,” Willoughby Britton, a Brown University psychiatry professor who is researching possible negative side effects of meditation, recently told The New York Times. “Widespread implementation is premature.”

Despite the marketing of mindfulness as the latest hobby of the one percent, when it comes to the benefits of a meditation practice, the science is incontrovertible. A growing body of research unequivocally shows that a regular meditation practice is not only risk-free, but highly beneficial to the mind and body. Meditation has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, boost focus and improve sleep quality, among other benefits. And in just eight weeks, a meditation practice can create measurable brain changes in areas associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.

Meditation is also a particularly effective antidote for many of the ailments so common in the modern workplace, including stress, tech addiction, workaholism, burnout and sleep deprivation. Seeing the positive impact of meditation on both an individual and a company-wide level, major companies such as Aetna and Google are offering free meditation classes for their employees.

"It's very early days still, but it seems to be making a difference," David Gelles, a New York Times reporter and author of Mindful Work, said of workplace meditation programs in a recent conversation with HuffPost Live.

Let's take a look at two of the main arguments in the recent mindfulness backlash -- and why they don't capture the full picture of the practice.


Criticism: It's elitist.


Meditation isn’t just for the rich, although it can be presented that way in the mainstream media. The movement is often represented by a serene-looking young blonde woman (thanks, Time) or a Silicon Valley tech titan -- but this picture that doesn't begin to tell the whole story of how mindfulness is changing lives.

In reality, the barrier to entry for meditation is fairly low -- much lower, for instance, than health interventions like eating all-organic or seeing a therapist. Anyone who is interested can find a wealth of information and guidance on meditation on the Internet. Mindfulness also doesn’t necessarily take a whole lot of time. Research has shown that even five or 10 minutes a day can make a difference.

Recent Northeastern University research showed that both taking a meditation course in-person with an experienced mindfulness instructor and practicing meditation for two weeks using the iPhone app Headspace had similarly positive outcomes for boosting compassion and altruistic behavior. The compelling research suggests that this finding might also extend to other important benefits of meditation, including reduced anxiety and depression, and improved cognitive function.

What's more, mindfulness is making waves far beyond the C-suite. Meditation training has been incorporated into public school curriculums, mental health care and end-of-life care. It's helping doctors and nurses fight burnout, new mothers overcome post-partum depression, and veterans cope with PTSD -- certainly a diverse group that goes far beyond the upper-middle class.

It’s "mostly about me."


Another common argument is that mindfulness leads us to focus too much on the self. But really, at its core, mindfulness is about compassion and connection.

“The entire purpose for practicing mindfulness is to tune into the world and engage with reality and society more deeply,” Shambhala meditation teacher Ethan Nichtern, founder of the Interdependence Project, wrote in a 2014 blog post, noting that this objective is often overshadowed.
But if the research is conclusive about one thing, it's this: Practicing mindfulness for any purpose boosts feelings of compassion, empathy and connection with others, and as the Northeastern studies showed, those who spent just two weeks practicing meditation were more likely to act selflessly to help others in need.

Secularized mindfulness doesn't focus as much on the idea of interconnection as spiritual mindfulness does -- but that doesn't mean it doesn't help to connect us to each other and move us to action. As Google's mindfulness guru Chade-Meng Tan insists, a mindfulness practice naturally cultivates emotional intelligence, and when we become more emotionally intelligent, "goodness and world peace [are] the unavoidable side-effects."

Congressman Tim Ryan, who has worked to bring mindfulness to veterans with PTSD, exemplifies mindfulness paired with social activism. At a recent New York City event, Ryan advised those who want to make a difference in the world to practice meditation -- and then to act. “Get off the mat and into the world," he said.

Where is the mindfulness movement heading?


A backlash is a natural phase of growth for any major movement -– in a way, the fact that there’s a backlash attests to the fact that mindfulness is catching on.

As mindfulness is getting more popular and going mainstream, the practice has and will continue to be misrepresented and exploited in different contexts. But that doesn’t mean the whole idea is misguided. The practice has lasted 2,500 years for one simple reason: Because it works.
Giving as many people as possible the opportunity to experience the benefits of meditation means that more people will open themselves up to learning about the practice in an authentic way -- even if, as the Buddhists say, they didn't go into it initially with "right intention." Those who begin a mindfulness practice as a way to become more effective at work may end up starting a spiritual practice, or exercising greater compassion in their daily lives, because of it. As the Buddhist proverb goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher arrives.”
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