Beliefnet
Mindfulness Matters

We’ve known for some time that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is an effective treatment for preventing further episodes of depression for people who have mad multiple episodes of depression. 

The pioneering work of Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale has integrated the best of cognitive behavioral therapy with insights and formats of Jon Kabat -Zinn’s mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) to create mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).
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Their work is detailed in readerly fashion in the treatment manual, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression and in the general audience The Mindful Way Through Depression, co-authored with Jon Kabat-Zinn. 
A recent study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry adds more data to support the efficacy of MBCT. Patients with depression were treated with medication. About half of these patients went into remission. Of these, some were considered to have “unstable” remission, in that they had residual symptoms. For these patients, those maintained on medication had similar rates of remission as those maintained on MBCT. 
This finding is important because not everyone can or is willing to continue medication after their depression improves. MBCT provides important skills with no side effects. 
How does MBCT work? Patients develop the skills to monitor their feelings and thinking and to understand their interrelationship. They learn that normal variations in mood, such as sadness, can activate thought patterns consistent with depression. If those thought are pursued, or identified with, a spiral into depression can occur. So, patients learn to “disidentify” from these thoughts while they also learn mindfulness skills of paying attention to sensations in the body.
Whenever we are paying attention to sensations in the body we aren’t pursuing stories that can get us into trouble. That’s the key for averting all sorts of anguish, including depression. 

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Ram Dass, aka, Richard Alpert, a nice Jewish boy from Brookline Massacusetts becomes the voice of a generation. There are few who have done more to introduce the East to the West. Author of the million copy selling, Be Here Now and many other books, including the recently published Be Love Now. Ram Dass teaches us how to love with gentleness. 

As Richard Alpert, he is infamous for being fired from the Harvard psychology, along with Timothy Leary, for liberal experimentation with LSD in the early 1960s. His mind opened by experimentation with psychedelic drugs, he eventually wound up in India studying with the guru Neem Karoli Baba and then returning to America to become a guru himself, donning white robes, beads, and a scraggly grey beard. 
Ram Dass has always been fresh and honest in his talking and writing. I remember one talk where he confessed to being just as neurotic now thirty years after he started meditating. However, he’d changed his relationship to that neurosis. He invoked the visitation metaphor that now when his demons come to visit he invites them in for tea instead of being overwhelmed by them and pushed around. 
Some years ago he “suffered” a stroke that left him paralyzed and speech impaired. It described the experience as being “stroked” by god, finding grace in the experience. 
In this brief video he says, “I”m living in my perception, you’re living in your perception, and we’re both living in god’s perception” pointing to the interconnectedness of everything. 

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Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are distinct and overlapping experiences. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to our experience; it is a particular way of being engaged with our experience. Mindfulness meditation is a process that trains our brains to be more mindful and the aim of the meditation is for mindfulness to spill over the meditation hour into the rest of our lives.

For some of us, mindfulness comes naturally. We have seen this in studies that have surveyed people with mindfulness questionnaires. Some folks (and I am not one of them!) don’t tend to ruminate and are, by disposition, more engaged with the world around them. This is the case for many who have never practiced mindfulness meditation.
For most of us, however, we need to work at being mindful and therefore we meditate. The goal is not become expert meditators; the goal is to be more mindful and meditation will help to get us there. 
It can be helpful to make a distinction between formal and informal mindfulness meditation practice. Formal practice is devoting time out of your day to do nothing other than mindfulness practice. This is done in a formal posture — sitting, walking, standing, or lying down — with or without guidance, and alone or in a group. 
One major obstacle to a daily practice of mindfulness is finding the time to do formal sitting or walking practice. If this is the case for you, then informal practice is the ticket. There are many things we do throughout the day that can serve as informal practice. Whenever you give your full attention to whatever it is that you are doing, you are practicing informal mindfulness. So when taking a shower, be with the experience of taking a shower. The same for brushing your teeth, walking the dog, driving your car, walking to and from work, washing the dishes and so forth. Then the day becomes a minefield for mindfulness — you can’t get far without detonating awareness in the moment!
To facilitate formal practice I have created a series of eight guided meditation CDs. I used to sell these and now offer them for free listening or download as .mp3 files that you can put on your computer, iPod, or iPhone. The first four CDs are ready for download and you can access them on the Exquisite Mind website in the Learn section
Another important resource is eMindful. Each morning at 8 AM eastern standard time, there is a live online guided meditation practice session. I lead the meditation on Friday mornings and at other days throughout the month. Like my guided meditations, eMindful offers these meditations free of charge. It’s a great resource and a wonderful way to start your day. Follow the instructions for the Morning Meditation in the upper right hand of my blog or follow this link
I invite you to join this unique online community where people can connect from around the world for the common purpose of practicing mindfulness together. Below is a recording of a recent session that I did on a very cold morning in Vermont.

Morning Meditation 10 December 2010 from Arnold Kozak on Vimeo.

What should we be focusing upon? Entrepreneur Chip Conley talks about customer service and the rationale for Gross National Happiness. Would we need a Universal Human Rights Month if we focused more on Gross National Happiness (GNH) than Gross National Product (GNP)?