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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Teachers and Talks Thursday: Susan Woods and Miv London

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a research demonstrated effective treatment for depression, especially for preventing future recurrences of depressive episodes. It is built upon the foundation of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and was founded by the cognitive psychologists, Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale. They wrote the now classic text, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression.

When these experts in cognitive therapy first heard about mindfulness they saw a natural fit between the two approaches. To paraphrase, they asked Jon Kabat-Zinn if they could integrate mindfulness to create MBCT. He said, “Sure, now sit down to meditate.” They said, “Oh no, we don’t want to meditate, we just want to use the techniques.” To which, Jon smiled and shook his head. Once they did meditate, they realized that one cannot teach any mindfulness-based intervention without having one’s own practice.

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My dharma friends and colleagues Susan Woods and Miv London will be presenting an introductory MBCT training at Kripalu the weekend of 22-24 October. If you are a mental health professional or student interested in this potent approach you I recommend that you check it out and register here. In this workshop, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to begin or deepen your mindfulness practice and this is the core to practicing MBCT.

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Susan Woods, MSW, LICSW, is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist in private practice. She has worked in a variety of clinical settings since she began practicing in 1989. Susan provides supervision and consultation in mindfulness-based approaches to mental health professionals and businesses. She leads MBCT professional training programs for health professionals and mindfulness-based professional training retreats. Susan is a published author in the training of health professionals in mindfulness and has been involved in MBCT clinical research projects. She is a certified yoga instructor and has been practicing yoga and meditation since 1981. www.slwoods.com

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Miriam “Miv” London, PhD, received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Yale University in 1984 and has held a variety of clinical and academic positions. Since 1994, she has worked at the University of Vermont as assistant clinical professor of psychology and staff psychologist at the Counseling Center. She cofounded the UVM Mindfulness Practice Center in 1999 and currently serves as its coordinator. Miv has developed a comprehensive program of meditation programs and mindfulness-based interventions for the campus community. She has integrated yoga and meditation into her personal and professional life for more than 20 years.


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Wisdom Wednesday :: FOGWINE: Fear of Getting What is Not Enjoyed

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

In a previous entry we explored FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. Today we’ll explore its counterpart, FOGWINE: Fear of Getting What is not Enjoyed. 

FOGWINE explains much of the Second Noble Truth — the cause of suffering, anguish, and pervasive dissatisfaction. 

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Fear suggests that the emotional brain is being activated. It’s job is to protect us from danger. In the old days of humanity 50,000 years ago these dangers were limited to things like predators and starvation. Today, however, our emotional brain is protecting us from the “danger” of not getting what we want. 
This is, perhaps, not the best use for this system. Off-label use of the emotional brain can lead to the frequent flush of stress response system. We feel as though we are being threatened, but in the case of FOGWINE it’s hard to pinpoint what the fear is about because its about something that might occur in the future.
I might not get what I want; I might be uncomfortable; I might be disappointed, let down, or not get my needs meet; I might have to deal with an unpleasant emotion, a discomfort, a pain; I might have to deal with disapproval, criticism, or judgment from someone else. The list goes on. 
The underlying formula seems to be, “If I get what I don’t want, I can’t be OK.” Or put another way, “I can only be OK if I get what I want and don’t get what I don’t want.” Since we can’t control many of these outcomes, we set ourselves up for a lot of anguish, suffering, and dissatisfaction. At some basic level we may harbor a pervasive feeling that we are not “OK”
That’s a crazy way to live. Instead we can look within our experience to see if this contingency is active. Likely it is in some form. Mindfulness can help us to see how we construct this contingency and to deconstruct it. Perhaps we can issue some encouragement, “Hey, I’ll be OK no matter what happens.” Then we can turn our attention away from stories about how awful things are or might be to an open curiosity to what is occurring in the moment. 
This can lead us from insanity towards sanity and a sense of ease of being in the world.
(original photography by Arnie Kozak)

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TED Tuesday: Rabbi Jackie Tabick: The balancing act of compassion

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

More on compassion from the Charter for Compassion. Today, Rabbi Jackie Tabick. From Snoopy to compassion fatigue, Rabbi Jacky reflects on compassion and the Golden Rule. 

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Metaphor Monday :: Topple a Nant’an with a Cow

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Back to the Starfish and the Spider. The starfish represents the decentralized organization and provides a fitting metaphor for the Buddha’s notion of self. There is no “person” at the top, no executive, no CEO in control of self. The self is an interplexing network of connections. 

Neuroscience confirms the Buddha’s idea. We can’t go inside the brain and find the self. Whatever self is, it arises out of the interplay of these sensory and brain processes. 
The spider is the ego self, the notion of self that leads to anguish because it has a prodigious appetite for material objects, adoration, admiration, and confirmation. The spider self is always seeking things, approval, and validation. It’s constantly preoccupied with the question of OK-ness (see entry on ) and needs energy and resources for protection and glorification. 

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Brafman and Beckstrom present the fascinating case of the Apache. They were able to fight off the Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans for centuries because they were decentralized. There was no one place for their adversaries to attack, no one person to take down. In other words, no spider to kill. 
The Apaches were lead by Nant’ans, spiritual leaders like Geronimo who led by example not edict. If an Nant’an was killed, another stepped forward to take his place. The Apache remained resilient, mobile, and impervious to destruction.
This persisted until 1914. The Americans gave the Nant’ans cattle shifting their power from symbolic to material. “The cows changed everything. Once the Nant’ans gained authoritative power, they began fighting with each other for seats on the newly created tribal councils.” Greed undermined their real power to lead.
This is a potent metaphor for self. If we see the cows as attachments wherever we are attached we are vulnerable; we have something to protect. Our identity shifts from values to things. Attachment to things (even beliefs about ourselves) gives us something to protect and resources must be mobilized to take care of them. We lose fluidity, mobility, and resilience.
Suzuki Roshi said if “your mind have a lot of sheep and cows, give them a large meadow.” Don’t try to control them; don’t try to possess them. Just let them be. Likewise, when it comes to the ideology of ourselves, are we better off with a decentralized model where we lead by example rather than material power. 
This decentralized, non-attached way of being helps us to persist without unnecessary anguish, suffering, and dissatisfaction. 
If someone offers you a cow: beware! These cows may come in the form of a promotion, a bigger house, a more expensive car. These things can weigh the self down and centralize it into a vulnerable form. 
(photograph courtesy of http://www.old-picture.com/indians/Apache-Warrior.htm)
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