Have you noticed a total deluge of headlines from the news in the first 2 weeks of February are flooding readers with the magic of mindfulness. Consider these randomly selected tidbits:
“Smartphone based Mindfulness training can Reduce Loneliness” summarizing a Carnegie Mellon study.
“Mindfulness Proven to be a Powerful Painkiller” from Psychology Today
“Children Across England Now Being Taught Mindfulness Training” everywhere in the media!
“Spanish Schools are Teaching Mindfulness” from Euro Daily
Mens Health Magazine, “This Mindfulness Technique Will Enhance Your Sex Life”
“Mindfulness May Ease Menopausal Symptoms” from US News & World Report
“Dallas Police Officers Benefitting from Mindfulness Training”, CBS Dallas
“Mindfulness: Good Tool For Backcountry Skiers to Sense Avalanches”, Helena Independent Record
Forbes, “How to Manage Teams Through a Meditative Lens”
All across the news: Calm (a mindfulness app) valued $1 Billion
And a little dissent from the Irish Times, “Mindfulness Classes for Politicians Might Not Be Such a Good Idea”. Article points out how the turning inward might make narcissistic individuals more focused on themselves.
A big dissent from me: unmonitored, self-help mindfulness can be detrimental for victims of trauma. That bombshell is another blog topic to explore in the future.
I do not like popular culture trends in general. In my practice clients have benefitted enormously from developing and using skills of Mindfulness in their daily lives to reduce a variety of symptoms. ADHD/ADD, Anxiety in many forms, Depression, Grief, Relationship Issues, Anger, Substance Abuse, Parenting all become tamer with a comprehensive mindfulness routine. Working with children, adolescents and their parents, I can certainly testify to the power of teaching meditation skills in all its’ forms (of which there are many) to young children through adulthood. Current headlines are singularly focused on the daily meditation apps and routines used to find an inner sense of personal calm, balance and “wellness”.
The Irish Times article resonates deeply in its’ spotlight on the narcissistic quality of mainstreaming mindfulness today. Harvesting a true love for others and our physical world is equally important to the practice of mindfulness and largely absent in the press. We know this concept as GRATITUDE. Awareness of ourselves in a global community is central to the impact of a mindfulness practice. Bringing this awareness into every minute of our existence is a key ingredient to healing.
In the spirit of gratitude, University of Massachusetts Medical School is a founding institution and has generated an enormous body of scientific evidence-based research in the field of mindfulness also offers an online extensive mindfulness training program. It is free, as in costs absolutely no money. Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MSBR) is a thorough practice for any adult interested in learning how to live mindfully. The link:
Body Mind Spirit Connection
Mindy Body Soul connection in Anxiety
How do you greet a new year? Most of us set out to do better, do different, in a pursuit of change and growth. Experiencing this work of art from the Sound Series by Nick Cave screamed "Happy New Year" to me. Thank you Nick Cave and the Katonah Art Museum for inspiration and help with organizing some of my swirling thoughts about walking through this new year with more awareness and intentions.
Creativity has been on my mind a lot these days. Emotional Intelligence Quotients have also been on my mind these days. I'm fairly well convinced that we need to refine our abilities in both areas to achieve success (doing better and doing different). How do creativity and emotional intelligence interact when confronting problems? Problems can be global like nuclear threats and climate change. Problems can be intimate like career change, parenting less than perfect kids and marital unrest. Navigating our paths through problems is a process of creatively seeking solutions while managing strong, often unpleasant emotions. Approaching a problem with emotional intelligence requires 4 distinct realms: emotional self awareness, sensitivity to the social cues of others, feeling empathy and the ability to regulate our emotional responses.
I make art and experience the art of others often, I also use creative expression in therapy sessions with people of all ages and issues. My first efforts at using art as part of treatment was during an internship at an inpatient unit for adults suffering from treatment-refractory schizophrenia and the results were stunning. Working with an older male client who suffered serious and persistent delusions, we created a 5 foot pictorial timeline of his life on what he consistently believed to be his 660,000th birthday. Within one hour after unrolling an entire roll of paper down a long hospital hallway, the client was able to organize the events of his life and permanently integrate the knowledge that we were celebrating his 68th birthday. This was a dramatic experience for us both! His schizophrenia was not cured, however he was able to develop a far more realistic self awareness through the process of creative expression. The act of interacting with me in mapping out his life on paper in a safe space allowed for this client to benefit from a warm relationship and begin the foundation of trusting others. Empathy was developed as my client recognized that I was genuinely curious about his life experience and he was able to satisfy my curiosity through narrating a rich, trauma-infused, difficult history. Emotional regulation was not a usual strength in the client. However in this act of creating, the client was able to remain calm and thoughtful while revealing enormously frightening, violent and confusing events. I am forever grateful to this client in teaching me the power of art early on in my professional training.
Restructuring our experience of the world, our relationships to others and forging a pathway based on mindful decision making that incorporates our emotional responses with rational thoughts is strengthened by both experiencing the art of others and creating art ourselves. Whether it be visual art, music, literature, dance or film, our ability to deeply observe, pay attention to our emotional responses and recognize the artistic language of others alters the way we approach problems and find solutions. A quote on the museum signage introducing the exhibit set the tone for me, "Sound doesn't always have to be heard. Sound can also be created by how a pattern is set up on a surface...how it moves across the surface, how light reflects the surface...Sound can also be through feeling, through color, through texture". - Nick Cave
So, Happy and Creative New Year to You!
Lots of light through big windows, tall ceilings and being situated close to the heart of downtown Bedford was on the list "musts" when searching for our family home. Our needs seemed well defined and our real estate agent (who has become a wonderful friend) located the perfect home for us.
Feel good date nights were often a local movie and dinner on a Friday night. A time to re-connect, relax, and use the movie as dinner conversation. Our vision was to walk, holding hands on nice evenings to the Bedford Playhouse and we did this for a while. One day our wonderful friend the real estate broker shared the news that the movie theater would shut down. Real estate agents know everything first in a small town.
Moving, changing, rebuilding and growth when expectations are not met is pretty much what therapy can be. We did not move, we grew in place. Discovering new movie theaters, new restaurants, watching children leave for college and filling up the spaces they left behind became a new journey with new goals. My current office is a re-use of my son's bedroom!
Along the way, I worked with an 11 year old boy with an extensive trauma history who taught me the power of movies. He entered the therapeutic relationship with an inability to use words to describe his childhood experiences. Anger and violence toward those he loved became his tools of communication to signify his pain. Children who experience trauma events before they can speak often cannot put words to their feelings of distress or narrate what happened to them. In building a largely nonverbal relationship with this young client, he suggested we watch movies during session. We struck a deal, he would allow me to pause the movie every 10 minutes or so, and he would identify his feelings in the minute by using a feelings vocabulary list. Over the course of 7 weeks and one movie, the client learned to name and share feelings. His adoptive family noticed a reduction of violent outbursts in this period of time and he was able to navigate his way to feeling safe through the course of trauma therapy that combined CBT and creative expression over the next several months. Supporting families to emerge from trauma with strength and new depth is a joyous experience.
Movies do have the power to aid healing, the power to create intimacy, the power to open up one's experience of the world and expand options. I am thankful that the Bedford Playhouse is returning to our town and thankful that I was able to grow from it's absence.