Mindfulness Matters

I was very happy to be interviewed by Elisha Goldstein, co-author of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook on his blog Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.

When it comes to trying to understand almost anything, I have found
metaphors to be extremely useful. In mindfulness we use them all the
time, we say, “Paying attention to your thoughts is like lying down on
a field of grass looking at the clouds go on by or like lying down by a
riverbed see the variety of debris come and go.”
I am very pleased to bring you Arnie Kozak, PhD, who is a master at using metaphors to help us understand mindfulness.

Continue reading it here:

The insurance giant, Aetna, has announced in a recent press release its commitment to bringing mindfulness to its membership. Aetna, in conjunction with eMindful, Duke Integrative Medicine, and the Viniyoga Institute have been conducting a randomized controlled trial of two methods of stress reduction, one of them being mindfulness-based stress reduction. 

Early results for both mindfulness and yoga show significant benefits for participants (as would be expected by the previous 30 years of mindfulness research showing such benefits)
From the press release:

Helping people take control of their health is a critical
step in achieving better health and reducing the cost of health care,”
said Aetna CEO and President Mark Bertolini. “Stress takes a significant
toll on physical and mental health. We want to understand, and also
demonstrate, whether integrative medicine can offer our members options that
both better suit their lifestyles and can be proven to improve their health. We
will continue to build an evidence base for the mind-body approach to health.

The 12-week mindfulness meditation-based online program was
developed and offered by eMindful. Participants interacted using video, audio
and instant messaging chat or in-person instruction. Expert instructors from
eMindful helped participants learn self-care, with the objective of improving
overall health and energy levels. Participants also learned stress reduction
techniques, more effective management of work load and better ways to
prioritize tasks to increase efficiency and effectiveness. 


eMindful is the same organization that brings you free
meditation sessions each morning in its virtual classroom. You can get a taste
of mindfulness from 8:00 to 8:45 EST. Click here to

I’m proud to be part of the eMindful faculty and on the
forefront of the mindfulness revolution that is taking hold in the U.S. and
around the world. We see it all around us as the medical and health-related
professions embrace mindfulness as a healing approach. We see it in the
explosion of publications on mindfulness. We see it in the growing body of
research. And we see it with Aetna’s partnership described above. In 1999 Jon
Kabat-Zinn said:

I am keenly aware, and reminded daily, of the huge
subterranean yearning in people everywhere for authenticity and personal
agency, for silence and stillness and peace of mind, for embodied experience,
and for vehicles and methods that are equal to the task of helping us perceive
and face the full extant of the human condition with integrity, freedom,
wisdom, and compassion, including, importantly, self-compassion. The world
seems hungry, if not starving, for the implementation of such explorations at
work, in the family, in virtually every aspect of personal, professional, and
institutional life. 

The time for satisfying this yearning is NOW. Join the


It’s Stress Reduction Sunday. Read my weekly post in the Connecticut Watchdog. Here is my CT Watchdog posts from last week:

Diligent Joy: Cultivating the Present Moment

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about “diligent joy,” suggesting that joy is an active process and not just something that happens to us. This is consistent with the message of positive psychology — feeling good arises from practicing a set of skills devoted to how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Gilbert defines diligent joy as, “This is what I’d like to hold on to. Please help me to memorize this feeling of contentment and to always support it.”

Read more …

Tenthousandjoys.jpgIf you are one of the 29 million people in the United States touched by Alzheimer’s you will want to read this book, Ten Thousand Joys & Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Couple’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s by Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle. It is a beautifully written memoir with practical guidance for family members and friends of those afflicted with this condition.

“Hob” was 72 when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a relatively young age. A dear friend of mine was diagnosed at 60, a devastatingly young age. I’m reminded of what Bette Davis said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” 
This disease, perhaps like no other, makes it clear that aging is inevitable and that our sense of control over things has been a comforting illusion, perhaps even delusion. It reminds us as Hoblitzelle says that, “We all live on the edge of the unknown. Maybe even on the edge of an abyss.”
Olivia and Hob were married for 33 years when the diagnosis arrived. Perhaps we all fear losing our minds in this way, and reading about this couple’s journey can give us tools and confidence to navigate that journey should it become necessary in our lives. And much inspiration and practical guidance at the end of each chapter if you are going through the journey now. 
They committed themselves to making the journey a spiritual one. Both had a longstanding relationship with Buddhist practice. “Determined to live the experience consciously and lovingly, we regarded this–the final challenge of our relationship–as an opportunity for opening to the unknown, for learning, and, above all, for deepening in love.”
This is a tale of courage, grace, and humanity — at its most essential. It’s a deeply personal account of the range of emotions that arose in this process from the initial shock, “I felt like an animal wounded by an invisible arrow, but I couldn’t find the place where it had hit,” to loss, “grief wrapped me in a finely woven cocoon to protect me from the enormity of loss.”
This is also a good introduction or deepening of familiarity with the teachings of the Buddha — the dharma — that has nothing but relevance for these circumstances. It’s a call to mindfulness, a gentle vigilance that helps her to cope with grace. 
Never knowing what would confront her in the early days of Hob’s illness, Olivia would invoke mindfulness before entering the home:
I shifted into mindfulness practice: Walking and breathing mindfully, aware of each step, each breath. Just before the door, I repeated a simple metta, or loving-kindess prayer. That was how I steadied myself in preparation for the inevitable–the latest crisis waiting for me on the other side of the door. 

There are many lessons available here. Cultivating the six perfections (patience, generosity, discipline, diligence, contemplation, and wisdom), being wholehearted in everything you do, using hardships as the means for spiritual growth and equanimity.

This book is a powerful reminder on how to transform adversity into blessing. Hob’s attitude is a testament to human adaptability and I’ll leave you with his words:
If you want to be entertained by your own downfall, better to do it knowingly than get all choked up the inevitable. I can feel the slipping; it’s like having quicksand under me. Sometimes if I don’t say something right away, it’s like a wild bird. it’s gone. it’s delicate, this business of memory and words. 

This blog entry is dedicated to my friend Ed as he moves along on his journey with Alzheimer’s.