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A Time for Gratitude and Aspiration

Two of the main energies shaping this time of year, the winter solstice and the holidays, seem to be at odds. On one hand, we have the increased darkness of the shortened days, while, on the other, everywhere we see the colorful lights of the festive season. But what I really love about this mashup is how these energies combine to naturally turn our minds to two other important things that mark this season: all that we are grateful for and all that we aspire to.

In this last blog of 2017, I’d like to leave you with some of both. I’d like to emphasize the “some” because the two lists are way too long to detail here, and for everyone one that I include I’m sure I’ll leave another two out.

Our Gratitude

First and foremost, I’m grateful for the indomitable mindful spirit in us all—the intelligence that seeks insight and awareness, that yearns for a more inclusive way to see and a more healthy way to be—both alone and in relationship. We’ve seen in the many hardships of 2017 how people’s essential goodness shines through in even the most challenging situations.

In the world of mindfulness, we see this human spirit moving in both the big and the small, as I talked about in my last blog. We are grateful for the well-known champions and famous mindfulness leaders, thinkers, funders, strategists, all who impact the big picture and the critical leverage points. They give the talks, write the articles, and set the trends. We can’t do without them.

We’re equally thankful for all the local champions, so many of you in neighborhoods everywhere inspired to bring the benefits of mindfulness, kindness, and compassion practices to your communities. You’re too many to name but so inspiring to us, so we send along a shout out and thank you to you all.

I’m grateful for the indomitable mindful spirit in us all—the intelligence that seeks insight and awareness, that yearns for a more inclusive way to see and a more healthy way to be—both alone and in relationship.

We’re grateful that people in all walks of life are asking the same important question: is there something in this mindfulness thing that can help us serve better, work better, cure better, teach better, learn better, parent better, innovate better, lead better, police better, and take better care of ourselves while doing so?

And we’re grateful that it’s happening everywhere, in really surprising and gratifying ways. it’s happening not just in suburbs like Marin and Brooklyn anymore, but in the Main Streets of Flint, Louisville, Baltimore, Wichita, Nashville, and Jackson Hole. And it’s happening with kids and teachers in the classroom; nurses, doctors and patients in our hospitals and clinics; supervisors and staff in the workplace; and all the administrators that support that work. It’s happening with mayors and council members, police and border patrol, soldiers and vets, neuroscientist and research funders. It’s kinda mind blowing.

With all this to be grateful for in 2017, our aspirations for 2018 arise naturally and clearly: let’s do all that we can to make more of this!

Our Aspirations

We aspire in 2018 to continue and deepen our work to support champions big and small, to create content that responds to your needs, and to keep important projects and ideas moving forward.

And in particular we aspire to bring the benefits of these practices to all parts of society, to all parts of the country, and into the most challenging situations. We had the aspiration for social innovation when we started the Foundation 6 years and we’re pleased that this work is coming to the forefront now.

A sneak peek into how these aspirations will turn into Mindful’s plans for 2018:

  • A more robust mobile edition for the majority of our readers who follow us on your phones;
  • An expanded web presence with more advance content and community news in mindful education and health care;
  • Expanding our Foundation projects like Mindful Cities, and specific content for firefighters and native Spanish speakers.

We aspire to bring the benefits of these practices to all parts of society, to all parts of the country, and into the most challenging situations.

In the end, it always comes down to a few simple things:

We’re grateful to you all—our readers, subscribers, supporters, critics, and mindfulness activators. You make it possible for us to do what we do, and you’ve helped us grow in numbers and in understanding. Our gratitude to you.

So, join us in fulfilling our mutual aspirations for more mindfulness, kindness, awareness and compassion in 2018!

Thank you!

If you haven’t done so already, please consider supporting our work by making a donation. We’re grateful for your support.

Mindfulness Feeds the Roots

Leaning Into the Mindfulness Momentum

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Leaning Into the Mindfulness Momentum

When you have a mission that sounds as broad as ours—supporting people everywhere who want to bring more mindfulness into their life—it’s sometimes hard to see how some of the things we do fit in. I’d like to help clear that up.

To start with, most people think of us as a magazine and a website. And of course, that’s true—up to a point. Our dedicated Mindful magazine and Mindful.org team works tirelessly to produce content to support anyone who wants to use mindfulness to bring more focus, resilience, compassion—or sometimes just a little space—into their life.

That’s what I call “go small.” We create credible, accessible content to help people in need, from schoolchildren to first responders to doctors to business people to patients and people suffering from trauma, mental illness, or homelessness—whatever.

And we take that duty very seriously. Mindfulness teaching and publishing requires a kind of Hippocratic oath, a commitment to helping people where they are and being careful not to create harm. That’s one reason we pay the greatest possible attention to scientific integrity.

We’re very proud that we do all that, but (surprise!) we didn’t get into this work just to create a media business. We first established the Foundation for a Mindful Society 6 years ago as the nonprofit vehicle to achieve our broad mission. And since our professional expertise is in the media, we created Mindful magazine and Mindful.org as powerful tools to do just that.

We’re leaning into emerging initiatives like mindfulness training for border patrol agents, displaced refugees, international care workers, and health care agencies.

That’s where “go big” comes in. Our commitment to the Foundation’s mission means we show up in every high leverage conversation where we can make a difference. That’s why we’re excited about big projects like Mindful Cities and mindfulness in education, and why we’re leaning into emerging initiatives like mindfulness training for border patrol agents, displaced refugees, international care workers, and health care agencies.

Of course, the coolest thing is when big and small clearly converge, which we think happens much of the time. Mindfulness in education may sound like a remote ‘big idea,’ but when you hear homeless 9-year-old Charles in Louisville tell about teaching his 23-year-old mother to “find your anchor” in a quiet corner of the shelter they live in during one of her rare breaks between her school classes and her job, well, it becomes very immediate.

One such convergence is our emerging project to help bring mindfulness training to federal firefighters by providing support to the inspired work of MBSR teacher and lifelong firefighter Michelle Reugebrink and her insightful, innovative bosses at the US Forest Services. We read about the homes and lives lost from the fires in every part of the country but less spoken about is the stress, trauma, and life-pressures suffered by the brave women and men who fight those fires on our behalf.

We receive many inquiries from folks across the country with projects and inspirations just like this, folks who want information, counsel, support, guidance, and assurances to know they’re doing their very best in how they bring mindfulness in to help improve the lives of the folks in their communities. We want to be there to help them.

The challenge for us is that that the ‘go big’ projects don’t often fit a media economic model. For example, we won’t necessarily sell more magazine subscriptions or advertising with our Mindful Cities project. But when we see the opportunity to bring mindfulness to all aspects of our society we can’t help but do it.

And further we can’t leave this mindfulness social innovation work solely to the for-profit mindfulness world. There’s often no business incentive where mindfulness addresses social challenges in our society. And we’ve already seen visionary mindfulness business founders displaced by investors, as well as questionable new products introduced to meet investors’ sales goals.

It’s your support—from individuals, foundations, and anonymous donors—that makes it possible for us to do this mindfulness-based social innovation work. While the media operation can be self-sustaining, our efforts to support the go big projects are only possible through your vision and generosity.

Gosh, I didn’t start the Inside Mindful blog to do fundraising. But funding the ‘go big’ work is important for us to fulfill our mission. It’s that time of year, and the opportunity for you to help is immediate, so thanks for letting me rant.

 

Help Fund Mindful 2017

Your small donations make a big difference, your big donations mean that much more.
Go big and small with us.

 

Mindfulness Feeds the Roots

Why There’s No “Mindfulness Movement”

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Mindfulness Feeds the Roots

I heard a very helpful analogy recently when attending a meeting of civic leaders in Louisville, Kentucky, who are bringing mindfulness and compassion into their schools.

Using the image of caring for trees, the speaker argued that the education field tends to focus too much on the tree’s fruit (outcomes like test scores) while ignoring the roots. If you ignore the roots for too long, he continued, you don’t get any fruit at all. The takeaway: mindfulness and compassion feed the roots.

I heard this analogy when I was lucky enough to witness the mid-term review of Louisville’s “audacious” 7-year Compassionate Schools Project (CSP) serving over 10,000 K-5 students at 45 schools. The University of Virginia’s Department of Education and its Contemplative Sciences Center have teamed up with the Louisville public schools on a randomized control study of a compassion, mindfulness and movement curriculum. In addition to being the largest and most innovative study of its kind, the curriculum will be free when it’s completed for any school that wants to use it.

This determined crowd of impassioned project leaders included every part of “the system:” the Mayor, the local school district superintendent, a city councilperson, principals and teachers, community leaders, local and national funders, and project leaders from UVA. I was moved to witness leaders from all these sectors championing the benefits of mindfulness.

The highlight was my visit to a grade 1 class to watch the CSP curriculum taught first hand. I saw six year olds using “finding your anchor” and “calming” practices to regain their focus after it had been stolen away by the “visit” of an emotion, and with effectiveness that I rarely see in adults (or myself!). Infectious narratives, replacing the Dick and Jane that I grew up with, gave life to practical breathing and movement exercises.

The Compassionate Schools Project is teaching strengths and skills for inner resilience, for both students and teachers, that are transforming lives inside and outside of class. And, as the city councillor reminded everyone, this is not just a “soft skill,” quoting recent research that points to social emotional learning skills as responsible for “50% of future economic and workplace success.”

I saw six year olds using “finding your anchor” and “calming” practices to regain their focus after it had been stolen away by the “visit” of an emotion, and with effectiveness that I rarely see in adults (or myself!).

Louisville is but one inspiring example of civic leaders and local schools joining forces to feed the roots; Flint, Michigan, is another. I was grateful to attend a recent fundraiser in LA to support the important work of our friends at the Crim Fitness Foundation who are presenting mindfulness and yoga in Flint public schools. Hosted at the beautiful home of Peter and Tara Guber, Hollywood movie producers and professional sports team owners, the gathering was highlighted by inspiring remarks from Crim Executive Director Gerry Myers, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha who all detailed the ravages and trauma visited upon the lives of the children in Flint, and how the mindfulness and yoga programs were rebuilding resilience and strength.

Perhaps most inspiring were the opening comments of host Tara Guber, who pioneered the Yoga ed program that’s being presented in Flint schools. She reminded everyone that, in today’s interconnected world, Flint is not only the heartland of America, that it’s “every town,” and it could be “any town.” Bringing mindfulness to help heal Flint is “healing our towns, our society, and ourselves.”

Here at the Foundation for a Mindful Society, we are greatly inspired by the work of our friends at the Crim Foundation in Flint and Compassionate Schools in Louisville. And it connects up beautifully with the leading work of our friends at the Holistic Life Foundation in Baltimore, the Momentous School in Dallas, and the emerging Jackson Whole project in Jackson, WY. That’s the start of quite a robust root system.

Seeing these benefits first-hand drives home why it’s so important for Mindful to support the work of these organizations, which we do in a variety of ways. From reporting in Mindful magazine and Mindful.org, our support extends to advocacy and making connections, to our Mindful Cities initiative, to our recent Mindful30 meditation challenge, and most recently to publication of our free content to support mindfulness in schools. We are working every day to galvanize the mindfulness momentum in order to bring the benefits of well-being, resilience, kindness, and compassion into our world.

And thank you all for being part of this grand adventure with us. Thank you for reading our magazine, website, newsletters, and this blog, as well as for supporting so many worthy initiatives that we haven’t touch on yet.

There is much to do, there are roots crying out for nourishment. Let’s keep up the momentum so that mindfulness feeding these roots can bear fruit for all.

 

To help Mindful “feed the roots,” please donate to our year-end funding campaign here.

 

Why There’s No “Mindfulness Movement”

Don’t follow the traffic. Follow the signs.

 

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Don’t follow the traffic. Follow the signs.

I’m on the road as I write this, on the second stop of a five-city tour to learn first hand what’s going on with mindfulness in the world. It’s a great part of my job, catching up with old friends who’ve been leaders in the field for years, while also meeting new folks who are launching fresh, inspiring initiatives.

This is one of the ways we here at Mindful keep up with what’s happening, and it’s part of the unique role we play. We’re the ones whose job it is to see the overview. We learn about the wide range of initiatives, and from that patterns and themes emerge. Seeing those patterns helps Mindful figure out what stories to tell, what initiatives to focus on, and in general how best to help.

So far the themes I’m hearing on this trip aren’t particularly new, but they’re important. People are talking about how there’s lots of excitement about mindfulness practice in the beginning but it’s hard to get people to continue. Some folks are talking about “minimum effective dose” so it’s easier to get people into practice. Everyone agrees that apps are popular and easy to start with but the drop off in engagement is steep. And people are worried about that so many are overstating benefits from scientific research.

No big surprises here, but it’s good to be reminded about the questions and challenges we’re all working on. And, more importantly, the Mindful Foundation projects I mentioned in my first blog—like the Annual Survey and broadcast TV series—arise in response to the needs we’ve been hearing about from the field.

Take the Mindful Cities project, for example. We didn’t just make up the list of what makes one city more mindful than another—We just started responding to some of the great initiatives we learned about. The folks in Flint, Michigan started a mindfulness program to help build resilience in an American heartland town hard bitten by closing industries and the disastrous water crisis. The folks in Jackson, Wyoming are talking about a project to bring in mindfulness as one part of a robust civic leadership training program to ensure a flourishing city into the future.

It’s an honor to be the eyes and ears for all that’s happening in the mindfulness world nowadays, to figure out which trends to support and the best way to do so. And we get to help from some unlikely places. I’d like to share one from this trip.

Two days ago I was driving in five lanes of the heavy downtown traffic, heading home after a long day. My brain was processing all that I’d heard, looking for the patterns. What was the message here?

As I came to a stop just after turning the corner, I locked eyes with the motorcycle police across the street.

Just then I realized I missed the exit lane for the right turn I needed to make, winding up instead at a red light at the corner. The two cars ahead, obviously in the same boat, turned right at the light to rejoin the traffic, right in front of the “No Right Turn” sign. These are local folks, I figured, they know what they’re doing. So I followed them.

As I came to a stop just after turning the corner, I locked eyes with the motorcycle police across the street. He very slowly pulled closer, pointed his motorcycle right at me, and stopped just 10 feet from my door.

“Did you see the sign?” he asked in a thoroughly expressionless monotone. Fearing a ticket, I replied, “I just followed the traffic, officer. I’m from out of town, I figured these local folks were doing it.”

Without raising his voice or moving a muscle on his face, he looked at me and said, “Don’t follow the traffic, follow the signs.” Then, with an unwavering focus he repeated at least 5 times, “Don’t follow the traffic, follow the signs. Follow the signs. Follow the signs.”

Now, my friends will tell you that I don’t have much patience for the “message from the universe” stuff, but this event took on a whole ‘nuther significance, way beyond the usual warning from a traffic cop. It was a great reminder, and I’m doing my best to understand and integrate it. Maybe you’ll find it helpful too.

Don’t follow the traffic. Follow the signs.

Foundation

 

Inside Mindful: An Introduction

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Inside Mindful: Blog #1 – An Introduction

Welcome to the first post of Inside Mindful, the new blog about what we’re up to here at the Mindful Foundation. You might know about us from Mindful magazine and Mindful.org, our flagship publications. Equally important, though far well less known, the Mindful Foundation works quietly behind the scenes supporting the champions in the field and the work they’re doing to bring mindfulness into society. In this blog I’ll be bringing more of that work to light, but first I’d like to tell you about why I wanted to start it and where we might go.

Inside Mindful is an opportunity to peek inside the mindfulness field, and inside the Mindful Foundation.

No, it won’t be a first-hand “reality blog” account of the food fights around the office and everyone’s missed mindfulness sessions. (Well, maybe we’ll have the occasional expose, and certainly a lot of mini-rants about the dumb stuff going on in the mindfulness world. I mean, let’s get real.) This blog will explore how this grand mindfulness adventure is going, sometimes by sharing a glimpse into some of the conversations I have with field leaders while I’m on the road.

Also, I want you all to know more about what the Mindful Foundation is doing, what concerns we think our projects are addressing, and how the work we do delivers benefit to you and the many others working to bring mindfulness into your lives, families, workplaces, and society. I want you to see us, and through that help us see how we can better serve you.

A few basics:

Before we get into that juicier stuff, though, let’s get a few basics in place. I won’t repeat all of our Mindful Foundation values or our theory of change here —you can take a look at the slide deck for those. But it will be helpful to outline a few things we do:

  • The Mindful Foundation isn’t just a media operation; we use our media expertise as the means to activate social innovation.
  • Our fundamental work is promoting authentic mindfulness to foster enduring social change—in people, their relationships and in society.
  • The time is now! Mindfulness is entering the mainstream, it’s scalable, and it brings its own benefits as well as activating a slate of good health practices.
  • Our goal is to help create a world that fosters resilience, better health, more caring relationships, and a more compassionate and caring society

The Mindful Foundation does this by being an activator of projects that help enhance mindfulness in society at critical leverage points. We are the trusted, credible voice of the movement—gatekeeper and curator presenting high-integrity content.

What the future holds:

In five years, Mindful has reached millions of people with Mindful magazine and Mindful.org, and worked closely with field champions and leading organizations as a key activator of the mindfulness revolution. But there’s so much more to do.

Here are some of the projects we think are important:

  • The Mindful Cities Project
  • A Mindful TV series
  • First Responders Training Project
  • The Annual Mindfulness in America survey
  • Mindfulness in Translation (Spanish, Syrian, etc.)
  • And many more emerging projects…

I look forward to getting into the details of some of these projects over the next few months.

But right now, I’m sorry, I can’t talk. I have to get back to the weekly office food fight.

Jim

Questions or suggestions? Send them to [email protected]

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