Urban Mindfulness--The Book!


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    Minding the Fun Stuff

    By Jenny Taitz, Ph.D.

    You’re in a funk and you coincidentally bump into a friend. Are you able to enter the moment and take pleasure in it? It can be quite easy to stay lost in our minds. What may happen if the moment is one where you let go and fully enjoy the chance encounter?

    So often, we may find ourselves in a certain mood and gravitate toward information consistent with our mood. For example, if you’re feeling sad in a restaurant you generally like, you may notice a bunch of other diners who seem to be elated and compare yourself to them, maintaining and potentially exacerbating your negative emotional place. It’s hard to relish in the fun stuff when we’re weighed down by emotions.

    It’s also challenging to enjoy potential pleasantries when we’re too busy to notice. I often encourage my clients to purposefully plan activities they enjoy. As busy New Yorkers, many people often insist, “There’s just no time!” The good news is we may not necessarily need to actively schedule enjoyment if we practice awareness of small spontaneous surprises.

    I’ve been recovering from a month long flu. A couple of days ago I felt exhausted and overwhelmed. A colleague presented me with bag of cough drops and a warm note (thank you, Laura!). For several minutes, I felt revitalized observing about how lucky I am to work with wonderful colleagues. I also noticed a woman bopping along enjoying singers on the subway platform and found myself experiencing subtle happiness while noticing her enthusiasm. That same day, a gym instructor played a song I loved in high school and hadn’t heard in a while, hello four minutes of bliss!

    None of the aforementioned examples are especially notable though each entailed taking note.

    A potential challenge we all face when we experience joy involves wanting the event to last. Please play my song three more times! Oh no, it’s coming to an end! Does joy penetrate when we worry about the fun stuff ending? Do you ever find yourself distressed about something you enjoy coming to an end (only 2 more days of vacation!)? How does that affect that moment? You’re hardly on vacation if you’re imaging leaving.

    It may be helpful to practice being mindful of the fun stuff by:

    1. Bringing your full attention to your experience

    2. Letting go of the thoughts about the past or worries about the future

    3. Beginning again when your mind leaves the moment

    4. Not clinging or pushing away from what arises in the moment

    Urban Mindfulness in the News

    Submitted by Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D.

    Urban Mindfulness is featured in MSNBC's article today about dealing with your stressful commute.  Check out the article here:  Subway Meditation.  Also, I'll be interviewed tomorrow on Fox 25 in Boston by anchor Kim Carrigan.  The interview is scheduled to air around 9:45 am, so please tune in!  Finally, Amazon reviews of Urban Mindfulness--the book!--have been pretty positive.  Check them out here:  Urban Mindfulness.

    Mindful Connection

    By Emily Polak, Ph.D.

    Last night I attended my grandparents’ 65th wedding anniversary party.  He is 98, she is 88, and they fell in love in a concentration camp while he was married to another woman. While it doesn’t really get more dramatic than that, I am more impressed by the fact that their love has sustained for over 65 years.

    Living in New York City in this day and age, where people increasingly report feeling isolated, connection is more important than ever.  Specifically, dating in NYC is a challenging endeavor. There are a lot of nice people out there, but actually connecting with someone on a deep level doesn’t happen all the time. The same goes for getting to know a new friend.

    According to Brené Brown, a researcher at the University of Houston, in order for connection to happen, we must be vulnerable and allow ourselves to be seen. This is a scary thing to do, especially in a city like New York, where people tend to have extra walls up. When getting to know someone, it usually becomes evident relatively quickly whether someone is open to and looking for a real connection. Then the question becomes, are you?

    Sometimes we fall into the trap of wanting the person to like us and forgetting to think about whether we like them. Or we focus on the superficial things that we like about them, such as their job or their looks. If we are able to be mindful of how we feel when with the person, that is usually a good indicator of the potential for a long-term relationship. After all, dating boils down to spending time with someone and continually assessing how you feel with you’re with them. So mindfulness is useful when dating in that you observe your own experience and use that information to make decisions accordingly.

    Brown’s prescription for happiness is: Let ourselves be deeply and vulnerably seen. Perhaps the life and death nature of my grandparents’ circumstances made it easier for them to be vulnerable, but I think they mastered that principle right from the start. So the next time you are getting to know someone, be it a date or a new friend, remember that the way to really connect is to be as vulnerable and genuine as possible. Then, pay attention to how you feel with the person. Perhaps this combination can lead to a life as long and happy as my grandparents. At the very least, it should lead to more authentic relationships. And ultimately, who doesn’t want that?

    If anyone is interested, here is a link to the documentary that was made about my grandparent's lives: www.stealapencil.com.

    Brain and the Tibetan Creative Mind

    Submitted by Alyssa Barba

    This weekend, the American Museum of Natural History in NYC wraps-up its week-long program dedicated to Tibetan meditation and neuroscience.  Check out this link for more information:  Monks at the Museum.  Researcher Richard Davidson will be giving a talk tomorrow at 1:30 pm.  And Tibetan monks are creating a sand mandala in the morning.

    Mindful Schools

    Submitted by Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D.

    Recently, I participated in a 2-day training in NYC offered by Mindful Schools, an organization devoted to teaching children about mindfulness.  Led by Megan Cowan and Kate Janke, the training reviewed a 16-session curriculum designed to introduce students to mindfulness while promoting social and emotional learning.  Both of the instructors were quite adept at adapting traditional practices and exercises in developmentally appropriate ways.  For example, many of us are familiar with the infamous raisin exercise in which one experiences one single raisin mindfully through all of our senses.  Demonstrating how to conduct this exercise with first graders, Kate playfully showed that a raisin can "talk" by squishing and squeaking it next to your ear.  What a wonderfully silly, memorable moment of mindfulness!  (Ed. note:  Too much alliteration for you?)

    Already, Mindful Schools has introduced close to 10,000 children to the practice of mindfulness.  There are several other organizations and individuals on a similar mission, including MindUP, Inner Kids, and A Still Quiet Place.  If you're interested in helping children learn mindfulness, then I'd encourage you to check-out some of these programs.
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