Building resilience in 2022

Dear Friends,

While Resilience and Mindfulness have been forefront in mental health, healthcare, and community development for some time, these traits are even more critical now as the pandemic lingers. They may seem unrelated but mindfulness plays an important role in building resilience. Mindfulness has been illustrated by Eastern and Western teachers as a bird with two wings: one wing represents awareness and clear seeing of the mind and the other wing represents lovingkindness and compassion of the heart. Just as a it takes both wings for a bird to fly, mindfulness requires skillful qualities of the mind and the heart to flourish and take flight.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the renowned scientist, author, mindfulness teacher, and pioneering founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), established nine Attitudes of Mindfulness (see video below). Cultivating these foundations takes intention and practice but once committed, the mind becomes more open and receptive allowing other elements like present moment awareness, curiosity, learning, lovingkindness, clarity, inclusivity, and wisdom to take hold and strengthen.

The good news is that many aspects of mindfulness and resilience are related and can be learned! Why not strengthen your readiness and capacity for resilience with a daily mindfulness practice?


Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/kScIqoEEbYs

While resilience and mindfulness are essential for developing healthy and thriving individuals, families, neighborhoods, sectors, communities, and countries, I can include only a brief array of reflections in this newsletter as we begin again in the New Year. May we support each other’s efforts to wisely and compassionately strengthen ourselves and our communities in 2022!

— Valerie York-Zimmerman

 

NOTE: This message is related to the January 2022 Newsletter, which you can read here.

Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn: ‘People are losing their minds. That is what we need to wake up to’ (The Guardian)

Kabat Zinn

By taking the Buddhism out of the practice, Kabat-Zinn pioneered a meditative approach used all over the world to treat pain and depression. He talks about Trump, ‘McMindfulness’ and how a 10-second vision in 1979 led to a change in the world’s consciousness

Interview by Robert Booth
The Guardian
Sun 22 Oct 2017

The police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, showed no mercy to Jon Kabat-Zinn in May 1970. The man now considered the godfather of modern mindfulness was a graduate student from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and an anti-Vietnam-war protester, agitating alongside the Black Panthers and the French playwright Jean Genet.

“I got my entire face battered in,” he recalls. “They put this instrument on my wrist called the claw, which they tightened to generate enormous amounts of pain without leaving any marks. But they certainly left a lot of marks on my face. They pulled me into the back of the police station and beat the shit out of me.”

Today, at 73, Kabat-Zinn’s restful, lined face shows no scars from that protest outside a police station, when a trip canvassing support for a nationwide university strike boiled over into violence,leaving him with stitches.

He sits beneath the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on Parliament Square in London taking a breather after going straight from an overnight flight out of Boston into a 90-minute talk to a gathering of international parliamentarians about how he thinks mindfulness could – to put it bluntly – change the world.

The once “very macho” anti-war activist who raged against MIT’s role in nuclear weapons research is the catalyst behind the west’s mushrooming interest in mindfulness meditation, having reimagined Buddhist contemplation practices for a secular age almost 40 years ago.

With others, he pioneered an eight-week mindfulness-based stress-reduction course at the University of Massachusetts Medical School for patients with chronic pain, harnessing the fundamentals of mindfulness meditation as taught by the Buddha, but with the Buddhism taken out. “I bent over backwards to structure it and find ways to speak about it that avoided as much as possible the risk of it being seen as Buddhist, new age, eastern mysticism or just plain flakey,” he says.

Kabat-Zinn had been meditating since 1965, but had no compunction in playing the Buddhism right down. “I got into this through the Zen door which is a very irreverent approach to Buddhism,” he says. He talks a lot about dharma, the term for the Buddha’s teaching, but he’s not a Buddhist and remarks that to insist mindfulness meditation is Buddhist is like saying gravity is English because it was identified by Sir Isaac Newton.

The UMass Stress Reduction Clinic opened its doors in 1979 and taught people with chronic back pain, victims of industrial accidents, cancer patients and sometimes paraplegics. Kabat-Zinn has defined mindfulness meditation as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. By focusing on the breath, the idea is to cultivate attention on the body and mind as it is moment to moment, and so help with pain, both physical and emotional.

“It often results in apprehending the constantly changing nature of sensations, even highly unpleasant ones, and thus their impermanence,” he says. “It also gives rise to the direct experience that ‘the pain is not me’.” As a result, some of his patients found ways “to be in a different relationship with their pain” while others felt it diminish. The title of his 1990 bestseller about the clinic captures his approach to accepting whatever life throws at you: Full Catastrophe Living.

Now, in 2017, Kabat-Zinn vibrates with an urgent belief that meditation is the “radical act of love and sanity” we need in the age of Trump, accelerating climate change and disasters such as the Grenfell Tower fire.

He has a platform to build on. Mindfulness courses ultimately derived from his work are now being rolled out in the UK to school pupils, convicts, civil servants and even politicians. It is prescribed on the NHS in some areas to prevent recurrent depression, with 2,256 people completing eight-week courses last year. The course reduces the likelihood of relapse by almost a third, according to an analysis of nine trials. In the US, the NBA basketball champions, Golden State Warriors, are the latest poster boys for the practice after their coach, Steve Kerr, made mindfulness one of the team’s core values.

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE AT THE GUARDIAN WEBSITE

In loving memory and honor: Ferris Buck Urbanowski

Ferris Buck Urbanowski, RIP

In loving memory and honor of my first MBSR teacher Ferris Buck Urbanowski who passed away on March 29, 2019. An early student of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, she was among the first practitioners of Mindfulness-Based Meditation in the U.S.  For years she worked with her friend Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn as the Director of Training, Center for Mindfulness, UMass Medical Center.  Ferris taught at many spiritual centers, universities, and professional institutions including Tufts, Harvard, Pepperdine, Omega Center, as well as in Canada, Wales and Denmark.