September 2012       
 Professional advice 
  & practical solutions 
for families of
 every kind
 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. 

What Is It About Mindfulness?   
"Awake," "watchful," "clear-seeing," "conscious"...these are all common definitions of the word mindfulness.  Who wouldn't want to walk through life wielding such desirable attributes of the mind?  Right now, my mind seems clouded with worry and weighed-down by terrible images of all of the things that could go wrong with my day if...[fill in the blank]...were to happen.  Gasp!  While this is true, it's also correct that my daily practice of mindfulness meditation has played a critical role in helping me overcome a panic disorder and minimize the frequency and intensity of powerful migraine headaches--and this, to me, is nothing less than miraculous! 

       Taken further, mindfulness can be described as the practice of consciously shifting one's focus onto the present moment with an attitude of openness and acceptance.  Deeply rooted in ancient Eastern practices, contemporary mindfulness has, more recently, attracted growing attention from a number of scientists and practitioners in the fields of medicine, psychology, and business.  This, along with my first-hand experiences hastened my decision to showcase mindfulness as the centerpiece of this month's issue; reporting on what "all the commotion is about!"

       In my first article: "What Is Mindfulness? How Can It Help Me?" I define mindfulness by reviewing the various health-related benefits associated with it and by engaging you in a mindfulness exercise designed to help you manage your difficult emotions.  It's a great take-away tool!  Next, in his video entitled: "Learning to Surf," Jack Kornfield, one of the leading mindfulness teachers in America, conceptualizes mindfulness, in practical terms, by painting us an imaginative portrait of a man standing poised upon a surfboard.  And, last but not least, the third section of this month's issue lists a number of useful resources to deepen your knowledge and practice of mindfulness.

       After reading this month's newsletter, I invite you to expand your experience by reading one of the books on the resource list or by taking one more "small step" to deepen your mindfulness practice in the days and months to come while pondering what possibilities lay ahead for you on the path of mindfulness.  


Well wishes,

Tony Madril
In This Issue
What Is Mindfulness?
Learning to Surf with Jack Kornfield
Mindfulness Resources
Newsletter Archive
Special Focus: Helping LGBT Youth
Special Focus: Cyberbullying
Special Focus: Teens and the internet
Special Focus: Problems facing LGBT youth
Special Focus: Children with special learning needs 
Special Focus: Managing challenging behaviors in children  
About Tony
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What is Mindfulness?
How Can It Help Me?   
By Tony Madril, M.S.W., B.C.D. 

In simple terms, mindfulness can be thought of as a particular state of awareness developed by engaging in practices that brings one's attention to the present moment.  For example, a person counting their number of breaths as they inhale during a yoga class is practicing one form of mindfulness.  So is someone who deliberately draws their attention to the full sensory experience of washing the dishes.  


Although more traditional mindfulness practices have been around for more than 5,000 years, today's mindfulness practitioners bring these unique skills to a number of contemporary venues, often to help others manage the many challenges of life.  Psychotherapists use it to help people reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Health care professionals use it to help patients decrease stress, pain, and manage chronic illness.  Business school professors teach it to graduate students as a means of boosting concentration and creativity.   Indeed, there are many known benefits of practicing mindfulness.  Scientific studies show that repeated mindfulness practice can lead to a number of positive life-changing events.  For example, mindfulness can help us:

  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce chronic physical pain
  • Boost the body's immune system to fight disease
  • Cope with painful life events, such as the death of a loved one or major illness
  • Deal with negative emotions like anger and fear
  • Increase self-awareness to detect harmful reactive patterns of thought, feeling, and action
  • Enhance performance at work, in sports or academics

To be clear, mindfulness does not remove the challenges of life, rather it equips us with the tools we need to change how well we are able to respond to them.  In other words, the practice of mindfulness changes our relationship to the circumstances of life:  Instead of constantly struggling with problems--often making the situation worse--we can learn to be with things just as they are, with an open heart and the wisdom of knowing that nothing lasts forever.  


Now that you are reminded of the meaning of mindfulness and how it can help, here is a simple exercise called RAIN to get you started on the path of mindfulness if you don't already have a regular practice.  "RAIN" is an acronym that stands for Recognize, Accept, Investigate, and Not-Identify.  Each of these key words is a mnemonic for a specific mindfulness-based tool that can help you manage self-defeating thoughts, disruptive emotions, and painful physical sensations:


Recognize.  Recognizing what is happening for you is the first step to being mindful. In this step, you recognize your emotion and give it a gentle label like "frustrated," "angry," or "anxious." Research has shown that just by labeling an emotion you can calm of the emotional centers of your brain. In the midst of the emotion, you may find that by simply identifying and labeling it, you are not so overwhelmed.


Accept.  From the perspective of mindfulness, whatever you are experiencing is completely fine. This step asks you to accept what is happening in the present moment without any shame or blame. Unconditionally accepting what you are sensing helps you "let go" of any resistance your mind may be creating toward the situation you are in and what is happening in your body.


Investigate.  This step asks that you become curious about your situation by doing some personal exploration. To do this, you are encouraged to ask yourself questions about your emotions and body sensations such as: What does the emotional or physical sensation feel like in my body? Is it focused in one spot in my body or is it moving from place to place? Does it have shape or color? Is it pulsing, piercing or dull?

In this step, you are additionally encouraged to ask yourself questions about the stories you might be telling about your situation such as: Does this situation seem unfair? Is the situation ruining my day; is it ruining my life? Do I imagine that the situation getting worse in the future? Does the story I'm telling seem hopeless and depressing? Am I blaming myself for what has gone wrong?


Not-Identify.  Finally, this step asks that you try to separate yourself from the stories you are telling about the situation through the practice of "bare attention." When you get caught in a difficult emotion or body sensation, you may get lost in the story about it, which only intensifies it. The key is to stop dwelling on the story and tune into the feelings and bodily sensations as they are expressed moment-to-moment within your body.


Try to practice this mindfulness exercise whenever you are beginning to feel yourself overcome by negative emotions and see what it does for you.  And, remember:  As with any skill we hope to learn, mindfulness takes practice.  Consequently, the health-promoting effects of mindfulness tend to flourish most when exercises like RAIN are practiced over time and with frequent repetition.  


Less stress, less pain, more concentration and doubt, practicing mindfulness is a proven way to enhance the quality of your life.  And, mindfulness doesn't have to take a lot of time: One study shows that positive changes in attention may arise in as little as twenty minutes of meditation a day for just five days! With all of the benefits and no disadvantages, other than the time you spend mindfully, wouldn't you say that mindfulness is worth a try?  




*Smalley, S. and Winston, D. (2010). Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness. Da Capo Press.




Learning to Surf: Jack Kornfield Explains Mindfulness
Jack Kornfield is one of the leading mindfulness teachers in America. A practitioner for over 40 years, he is one of the key teachers to introduce mindfulness and vipassana meditation to the West.  Click on the link below to hear his explanation of mindfulness and how it can help us manage the challenges of life:


Mindfulness Resources 

Books on Mindfulness

  • Fully Present by Susan Smalley and Diana Winston 
  • Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • The Mindful Way Through Depression by Zindall Segal, Jon Kabat-Zinn, et al
  • Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens by Diana Winston
  • Take the Stress Out of Your Life by Jay Winner
Articles on Mindfulness
  • "Mindfulness: Theoretical Foundations and Evidence for its Salutary Effects" by Ryan Brown, Creswell, Psychological Inquiry, 2007, Vol. 18, No.4
  • "A Proposal for a Mindfulness-Based Trauma Prevention Program for Social Work Professionals" by David Berceli, Complementary Health Practice Review, Vol. 11, No.3, October 2006.
  • "Conceptualizing Mindfulness and Acceptance as Components of Psychological Resilience to Trauma" by Rachel Thompson, Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 12(4), 220-235.
Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) at UCLA 

MARC is a new center in the Semel Institute at UCLA. MARC was created to bring to a renowned mental health research institution the ancient art of mindful awareness in a scientifically supported and rigorous form. The center offers classes and workshops to the general public, teaching the skills of mindfulness across the lifespan.  Its website has free and downloadable meditation pod casts and audio recordings.  


Insight LA

InsightLA is dedicated to bringing the deep joy and peace of mindfulness and compassion to people everywhere. The center offers a number of workshops to health care professionals and to the general public, such as beginning and intermediate-level mindfulness meditation courses, group practice groups, mindfulness retreats and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) classes. You can also download free mindfulness guided meditations from its website


 Apple-iTunes U & Central Washington University

Central Washington University on Apple's i-Tunes University has a number of free and downloadable guided mindfulness meditations to increase concentration, ease anxiety and stress.



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