Urban Mindfulness--The Book!

 

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    Wednesday
    Aug312011

    Urban Mindfulness: Public Talk in NYC

    Submitted by Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D.

    Dear friends, readers, and fellow travelers,

    I'll be giving a public talk next week on mindfulness practice in the city.  I'll discuss the basics of mindfulness (i.e., the what, how, where, when, why, and even who!), and apply the practice of mindfulness to common experiences in town, like waiting in line or riding the subway.  The talk will be held from 7 - 9 pm on Wednesday, September 7th, at The Interdependence Project in the Bowery.  For more details, please visit the Registration Page:  UM at IDP.  Hope to see you there!
    Friday
    Aug262011

    Seeing along the Journey


    By Jennifer Egert, Ph.D.
    Good to be back on UM after also taking a break like Jon! I've been writing a lot, but poetry rather than blogs, so I figured It might be nice to share something here. I wrote this in the midst of a lot of transition, seeing how mindfulness practice helped to create spaciousness that allowed for the whole range of experiences to have their place... and teach me a little something.  Enjoy.

     

    IN THIS LIGHT

    and in this light

    things seem clearer

    which does not presume

    better

    or dazzling

    but rather crisper

    along the edges

    cutting lines through the haze and glare

    leaving illuminated corners and pathways

    behind

     

    and in this light

    tears flow more readily

    which does not presume

    grief

    or despair

    but rather a rooting

    of seeds thought forgotten

    or dormant

    during the long winter and stormy skies

    urging towards singular slumber

     

    and in this light

    a breath can be breathed

    a note can be played

    a line can be drawn

    a smile can form

    which does not presume

    realization

    or achievement

    or termination

    but rather rightness in all

    its simplicity

    and truth

    and disorder

    along the journey.
    Tuesday
    Aug232011

    Mindfulness and Mr. Rogers

    By Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D.

    To UM readers, I hope that you'll excuse my unannounced hiatus from blogging.  For the past few months, I have been prioritizing other pursuits:  reading (vs. writing), listening (vs. speaking), parenting (vs. working), and being (vs. doing).  This has proven to be a very helpful and enriching practice.

    The stillness that accompanies mindfulness practice allows for the natural arising of many things:  emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, and particular human qualities.  In particular, I've taken notice of the ways in which compassion surfaces as a way of considering and treating others.  There are some meditations that specifically cultivate compassion (such as metta meditation within Theravada Buddhism) and psychotherapies that promote its expression as well (e.g., naikan therapy and compassion-focused therapy).  It also becomes present for us when we allow ourselves to see the inherent sufferings and joys in the world, less mediated by our own psychological baggage.  We care genuinely for others, and are more prone to ask "Are you okay?" or "How can I help?" as opposed to "What's wrong with you?!"

    Interestingly, I've seen this same kindness being expressed naturally in young children as they play with each other.  This observation prompted me to recall an anecdote from Fred Rogers (Mister Roberts to you and me), delivered as part of a commencement address a year before he died.  I've saved the New York Times clipping of this story for almost a decade now, and I'm happy to share it with you (it's mid-way down the page):  Mr. Rogers on compassion.  I hope you like it.

    Wednesday
    Jul132011

    Good Reviews for Urban Mindfulness--The Book!

    Submitted by Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D.

    I know it's been a while since I've posted a new blog entry, and I'm working on a few that I hope you'll enjoy.  In the meantime, I'm happy to report that my first book, Urban Mindfulness: Cultivating Peace, Presence, and Purpose in the Middle of It All, has been getting positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.  This month, it was favorably reviewed by Barry Boyce of Shambhala Sun, too.

    The book provides practical tips for practicing mindfulness in the city, including instructions for meditating on the subway and extending kindness towards noisy neighbors.  Please check out it out yourself or consider sending it as a gift to someone interested in mindfulness.  And, as always, thanks for your interest and support.
    Monday
    Jun132011

    Mindfulness and Anxiety: An interview with Dr. Lizabeth Roemer

    By Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D.

    Recently, a wonderful new book was released to help people suffering from anxiety.  Authored by Drs. Susan Orsillo and Lizabeth Roemer, The Mindful Way Through Anxiety provides a systematic, mindfulness-based approach to the alleviation of anxiety and the promotion of values-based living.  I highly recommend this book to my patients because of the many exercises and case examples.  This book also reflects the research-based treatment that they've developed over the past several years.  Recently, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Dr. Roemer.  Here is an excerpt of our chat.

    What prompted you to write this book?

    After spending years developing this approach to treatment and training therapists in the approach, we wanted to bring the work we’d been doing directly to people with anxiety who we weren’t seeing therapy.  We wanted to help more people experience the kinds of meaningful changes we were seeing our clients make and felt like we could write a book that would make a valuable contribution to the available self-help books.


    Why use mindfulness to address anxiety?  Why would anyone want to become more aware of anxiety, fear, and other unpleasant emotions?

    An important thing about mindfulness is that it is a particular kind  of awareness.  It is an expanded awareness, not a narrow one.  Most  people with anxiety are too narrowly focused on things that are  threatening or anxiety-provoking as opposed to their whole  experience.  Also, mindfulness involves an awareness with compassion  as opposed to the very narrow, critical awareness that accompanies  anxiety.  Anxiety prompts people to be hyperaware of threat, which leads  to avoidance.  That avoidance interferes with learning new things as  well as fully experiencing life.


    How is your treatment different than cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) alone?

    CBT is very effective for anxiety and our treatment is firmly grounded in cognitive-behavioral theory and practice.  We started incorporating mindfulness because we thought it could enhance treatment effects for some people.  By promoting acceptance, mindfulness allows people  to relate differently to experiences that are not amenable to change.   Ultimately however, technique isn’t as important as function.  Our emphasis is on helping people relate differently to their symptoms of anxiety so that they can live their lives more fully.  We think mindfulness allows us to accomplish this better with CBT.

    You include several meditations in your book and on the accompanying  website.  What do you say to folks who tell you that they can't meditate?


    If meditation was something that you could do easily, then you would  have already done it!  The point of the exercises is to cultivate this  new skill of mindfulness, which can be learned through practice--just  like any other skill.  So, we work with many ways to cultivate this  skill.  Most people can find five minutes to sit and practice  mindfulness.  Setting some time outside of our lives to practice  allows us to be better able to use it in our lives. We have also worked with people who practice doing everday activities, like brushing their teeth or folding laundry, with mindfulness instead of setting aside time to meditate.  The book provides flexible suggestions of different ways to incorporate practice into your life.

    Given the topic on this blog--mindfulness in the city--do you find that folks in the city are more or less anxious than others?

    I treated anxiety for a long time in State College in Pennsylvania and  now for a while in Boston.  I find that people's lives are more  complicated in the city.  People encounter more real life barriers and stressors that  naturally elicit anxiety, like the faster pace.  And, relatedly, it's harder to be mindful.  It's harder to naturally have the spaces and moments to come back to ourselves.  We have to do that more intentionally.

    Is there anything else you'd like to add?

    Yes.  I'd like to discuss the importance of engagement in life.  An crucial part of the book--in addition to finding ways to be more open,  expansive, and relate to experience differently--is to find meaningful  experiences in life.  Anxiety leads us to focus on whatever is threatening and avoid it.  People avoid certain experiences in order to  not feel anxious and that doesn't really work.  An alternative is to  cultivate skills of mindfulness and have anxious responses, but not react to them.  And, then proceed to do the things that matter to us, like opening-up in a relationship, being present with your children, or advancing professionally.  It's a way of responding to anxiety that is in the service of living a full life.  What do you want to move  towards that you haven't been moving towards becuase of your fears?  Can you have your reactions and do what matters to you anyway?  The book helps people to develop skills so that they can live their lives more fully.
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