Urban Mindfulness--The Book!


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    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.

    Urban Mindfulness on TV...Again!

    Submitted by Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D.

    A few weeks ago, I appeared on Chicago Tonight with anchor Phil Ponce to discuss my book and the practice of mindfulness in urban areas.  A couple folks have sent e-mails inquiring about the footage, so here's a link to the on-line video:  UM on Chicago Tonight.  As always, thanks for your support and encouragement!

    Urban Mindfulness Sample Chapter

    Submitted by Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D.

    Urban Mindfulness--the book!--is available now at bookstores everywhere.  My publisher, New Harbinger, has made a sample chapter available, too.  Just click here to see a blurb about the book and access the free chapter:  Urban Mindfulness Sample.

    Urban Mindfulness--The Book!--Has Been Released

    Dear friends, colleagues, readers, and fans,

    I am excited to announce the release of my book, Urban Mindfulness: Cultivating Peace, Presence, and Purpose in the Middle of It All!  As a clinical psychologist in New York, I've seen many of us struggle to manage stress while living and working in the city.  The traffic, noise, fast pace and other factors can undermine our happiness and well-being.

    My book helps to solve this problem by inviting us to be here mindfully--paying attention to our thoughts, emotions, and sensory experiences as they arise from moment-to-moment.  The book is divided into 5 sections, each devoted to where you would practice mindfulness (i.e., at home, at work, on the go, at play, or anytime, anywhere).  Within each section, there are 10 chapters, which provide practical tips (e.g., how to meditate on the subway), thoughtful reflections (e.g., questioning why you're here in the city), and fun exercises (e.g., being a tourist in your own neighborhood).

    I wrote this book to appeal to two groups of people:  (1) folks who are unfamiliar with mindfulness; and (2) those of us who strive to practice mindfulness regularly while being in the city.  Maybe you’ve heard about mindfulness, and want to learn more about it.  Maybe you regularly do yoga, get massages, or go on retreats, only to find your calm center unravels as soon as you hit city traffic.  Maybe you’ve given up on trying to meditate in context of your busy, urban existence, but really want the sense of peace it can provide.  Maybe you’re a healing professional who has been encouraging your clients to be more mindful.  If any of these descriptions are applicable, this book is for you (and your friends, family members, patients, etc.).  To put it another way, this book is about practicing mindfulness beyond meditation or psychotherapy.  Sometimes, I joke that Urban Mindfulness is about taking the practice “off of the cushion” and “off of the couch”, and instead “taking it to the streets."  Literally.

    Professionally, my book has been well-received by many experts on mindfulness, including Drs. Christopher Germer, Robert Leahy, Elizabeth Roemer, and Jeff Brantley.  Sharon Salzberg, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and author of Lovingkindness, found the book to be “an excellent guide.”

    Some of you might know that I have been writing on this topic for about 2 years.  I founded UrbanMindfulness.org in 2008, and write for PsychologyToday.com.  Over 30,000 people have been reading these blogs annually, and the number has been growing steadily.  This shows that there is clearly an interest--and need--in revising our experience of life in the city.

    So, please check out Urban Mindfulness: Cultivating Peace, Presence, and Purpose in the Middle of It All, which is available for purchase everywhere (Amazon, Barnes &Noble, New Harbinger, and local bookstores).  Its cover price ($15.98) is about what you would pay for one yoga class in most major cities, and you’re likely to get just as much--if not more!--from reading my book.  You can also review the many free resources available at UrbanMindfulness.org.  In addition, I invite you to become a friend of Urban Mindfulness on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, subscribe to blog’s RSS feed, and view the Urban Mindfulness channel on YouTube.  Over the next month, I’ll be  uploading some videos of “mindfulness in action,” including a demonstration of subway meditation and “Mindfulness vs. Road Rage.”

    If you’d like to support Urban Mindfulness--the book, blog, organization, or practice--please share this post with your friends, family, and colleagues.  Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


    Jonathan S. Kaplan

    Urban Mindfulness--The Book!--Available for Pre-Order

    Submitted by Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D.

    It's finally here!  Urban Mindfulness:  Cultivating Peace, Presence, and Purpose in the Middle of It All will be released next month by New Harbinger Press.  In writing this book, I was sure to fill it with practical tips (like how to meditate on the subway), thoughtful reflections (such as questioning why you're here in the city in the first place), and fun exercises (like being a tourist in your own neighborhood).  With 50 chapters, there's assuredly something here for everyone who lives or works in the city.  Right now, you can pre-order the book through Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

    Stay tuned for details of my book readings and interviews!  As always, thank you very much for your support!