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Monday, April 15 2013 05:14 pm

A short answer to the question "Why mindful awareness?"

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wis comp I’m often asked what distinguishes mindful awareness from the strong academic, social and emotional learning programs that are already in place. Here’s my short answer.
  • Specific methodologies to develop attention: Mindful awareness offers a variety of methodologies developed over thousands of years that refine attention including concentration (sustained, focused attention on a single object), conflict monitoring (disregarding distractions), orienting (directing and limiting attention to a subset of possible inputs), alerting (achieving and maintaining a vigilant state of preparedness), and visualization (directive practices that promote empathy and compassion). (Holzel, et al. 2011, 540-41) (Kemeny, et al. 2011)
  • For the purpose of transformation: Borrowing from Jon Kabat Zinn’s contribution to The Mindfulness Revolution (Shambhala, 2010), “The ultimate promise of mindfulness is much larger, much more profound, than simply cultivating our attentiveness.” (Zinn 2011, 58) The methodologies referenced in the first bullet point refine attention as a means to a specific end: To develop a way of being in the world where we speak and act with wisdom and compassion.
  • To be in the world with wisdom and compassion: Using the methods to train attention highlighted in number one, mindfulness and awareness develop a wiser, more compassionate way of being in the world by offering techniques to steady ourselves when we’re upset and concentrate when we’re distracted. In over a decade of teaching children, teens and their families, we’ve discovered that steadying techniques - where we move attention away from what we’re thinking to a sensory experience or the task at hand - are especially powerful tools. Many programs teach students to stop and think before they speak and act. Mindful awareness adds another element by asking us to stop and steady ourselves by feeling what’s happening in our minds and bodies before we think, speak and act. Steadying and concentration techniques, together with an understanding of key universal concepts (interdependence and impermanence, for instance), allow us to see what’s happening inside (and outside) more clearly and, as a result, we are better equipped to speak and act with wisdom and compassion.
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1 comment

  • Comment Link John Burik Monday, April 15 2013 08:42 pm posted by John Burik

    The "...and compassion" piece is what does it for me, Susan. I might also emphasize that includes self-compassion.

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