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General News    H4'ed 11/6/17

The Essential Role of Mindfulness in Politics

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Omega Institute live streamed a politically visionary, on-campus event, Being Fearless: Action In a Time of Disruption, from October 13-15, 2017. The full event is also available on-demand through Dec. 14, 2017 for a five dollar contribution. Sign up here . OEN article, The Alpha and Omega of Creative Political Problem Solving, offers background.

Saturday morning speakers included Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of modern day mindfulness. He is professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and author of numerous books, including Full Catastrophe Living, Arriving at Your Own Door, Coming to Our Senses, and Wherever You Go, There You Are. He is also founder/creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Howard Zinn was his father-in-law.

Jon Kabat-Zinn Speaking at Omega Institute
Jon Kabat-Zinn Speaking at Omega Institute
(Image by Omega Institute)
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Kabat-Zinn says mindfulness "means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.

---Psychology Today

During his presentation at Omega, Kabat-Zinn noted that the UK Parliament has "over 140 members of the House of the Lords and the House of Commons who have been through an eight-week mindfulness program, already - and (they) say the same kinds of things about it that any of you who have been through or care about mindfulness say"the standard one is, 'it changed my life.' And if they are cells of the Body Politic, and in some kind of way"reassessing all sorts of things about how wealth is distributed, how money is distributed for social projects"whether it is in health care, or education, or criminal justice, or in innovation and technology and so forth, these are important elements of the body politic, and the meeting is not going to be just be for those 140 politicians and 250 staff who have been through this program, but also, members of Parliaments from all around the world who are also coming to this meeting to just connect and see what might be possible"it's one tiny, little measure"but it's a kind of diagnostic that mindfulness is reaching out and touching people in ways that are really infectious, and spreading the love."

According to The Guardian, Kabat-Zinn said, "The UK is way ahead of the curve... I don't know of any other country that is doing this, and now (the UK has) inspired politicians in many different countries. That is what this event is about. They can look each other in the face and strategize and support each other...This is not a weirdo lunatic fringe trying to take over the world, but an oxygen line straight into the heart of what is deepest and most beautiful in us as human beings."

Politicians from 15 countries came together "in an event to explore whether mindfulness can help reset the conduct of national and international politics," according to The Guardian.

Mindfulness meditation is popular on the other side of the pond, as well. The San Francisco Bay Area's NBA team, the Golden State Warriors' coach Steve Kerr (who played for the Chicago Bulls) includes "mindfulness" in the training. And it seems to work, in Kerr's rookie year the team won their first championship in 30 years.

And Headspace, a "mindfulness-based" iPhone app which provides guided meditations, had been downloaded more than 11 million times by January, 2017, according to Forbes.

In addition, all Virgin Atlantic flights offer a dedicated Headspace channel in the in-flight entertainment system.

Kabat-Zinn told The Guardian: "Trump is crazier than anything we have ever seen ... This is our work at the moment, to see if we can maintain a degree of sanity and recognition of the fears and concerns of those who do not see the world the way we do. The temptation is to fall into camps where you dehumanize the other, and no matter what they do, they are wrong, and no matter what we do, we are right... this may indeed be a pivotal moment for our species to come to our senses ... mobilizing in the mainstream world ... the power of mindfulness."

Ohio congressman and 2020 US presidential hopeful, Tim Ryan, remotely attended the gathering in the UK. Ryan is author of "A Mindful Nation," with a foreword by Kabat-Zinn. Ryan has said that mindfulness meditation has been helpful in guiding his responses to the actions of the current president. Ryan explains more about the value of mindfulness to Americans in this 2012 video, A Mindful Nation with Congressman Tim Ryan

To see more of Omega Institute's Being Fearless: Action In a Time of Disruption on demand, sign up here. Available thorough Dec. 14, 2017 for a five dollar contribution.

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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