On a mindfulness retreat, Anderson Cooper puts down the microphone and learns to love silence, as well as life without a cell phone.
Ryan helped introduce a bill that would support bringing integrative health to Veterans Affairs and mindfulness techniques into the military as part of basic training, making members of the military "more proficient in how to deal with trauma"—a concept investigated recently by research on Marines and mindfulness.
"When you taste it, it’s something you want to continue to cultivate. You realize how much better your days are, how much better your relationships are because you’re actually there for them. Then you start to realize how much energy you can waste by fretting about the future or regretting things in the past that we just carry with us."
Excerpt from "Mindfulness Programs In Schools Reduce Symptoms Of Depression Among Adolescents: Study," by Carolyn Gregoire, The Huffington Post, March 15, 2013:
University of Leuven study looked at the experiences of 408 students from five different schools in Flanders, Belgium, all between the ages of 13 and 20. At the beginning of the study, the students answered a questionnaire designed to reveal symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, and were then divided into a test group and a control group. The test group followed an in-class mindfulness training program which consisted of instruction in mindful breathing and body scan exercises, sharing experiences of these exercises, group reflection, inspiring stories, and education on stress, depression and self-care. The control group, meanwhile, received no training. All students filled out the questionnaire after the training, and again six months later.
The researchers found that students who adhered to the mindfulness program exhibited decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression both immediately after and six months after the program. Whereas before the training, 21 percent of the test group and 24 percent of the control group reported symptoms of depression, after the mindfulness training, 15 percent of the test group versus 27 percent of the control group had depression symptoms. Six months later, 16 percent of the test group and 31 percent of the control group showed signs of depression.
The study is the first to examine the effects of mindfulness on depression among adolescents in a classroom setting, but previous research has found that mindfulness meditation can reduce symptoms of depression and chronic pain in adult patients...
This month, the first international conference for mindfulness in schools will take place in London. And in the U.S., the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) program, supported by Congressman Tim Ryan, is bringing mindfulness training into schools as a way to boost students' emotional resilience and help improve academic performance.
"It's a quiet revolution that's happening...It's happening now in the military, in the prisons. I think at some point the more we understand about how the brain works, the more this is going to catch on."
~ Congressman Tim Ryan
See also: Ryan, T. (2012). A mindful nation: How a simple practice can help us reduce stress, improve performance, and recapture the American spirit. Carlsbad, Calif: Hay House.http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/754725090
Excerpt from "In Meditative Mindfulness, Rep. Tim Ryan Sees a Cure for Many American Ills," by Neely Tucker, The Washington Post, Apr. 4, 2012:
Rep. Tim Ryan (D) is a five-term incumbent from the heartland. His Ohio district includes Youngstown and Warren and part of Akron and smaller places. He’s 38, Catholic, single. He was a star quarterback in high school. He lives a few houses down from his childhood home in Niles. He’s won three of his five elections with about 75 percent of the vote.
So when he starts talking about his life-changing moment after the 2008 race, you’re not expecting him to lean forward at the lunch table and tell you, with great sincerity, that this little story of American politics is about (a) a raisin and (b) nothing else.
“You hold this one raisin right up to your mouth, but you don’t put it in, and after a moment your mouth starts to water,” he says, describing an exercise during a five-day retreat into the meditative technique of mindfulness, developed from centuries of Buddhist practice. “The teaching point is that your body responds to things outside of it, that there’s a mind-body connection. It links to how we take on situations and how this results in a great deal of stress.”
For Ryan, the raisin was the beginning of a transformation. The retreat, conducted by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, led Ryan on a search into how the practice of mindfulness — sitting in silence, losing oneself in the present moment — could be a tonic for what ails the body politic.
In “A Mindful Nation,” published last week, Ryan details his travels across the country, to schools and companies and research facilities, documenting how mindfulness is relieving stress, improving performance and showing potential to reduce health-care costs. It is a prescription, he says, that can help the nation better deal with the constant barrage of information that the Internet age delivers.
“I think when you realize that U.S. Marines are using this that it’s already in the mainstream of our culture,” he says. “It’s a real technique that has real usefulness that has been scientifically documented. . . . Why wouldn’t we have this as part of our health-care program to prevent high levels of stress that cause heart disease and ulcers and Type 2 diabetes and everything else?”
"Mindfulness can be a great opportunity for us as a country, for all of us to develop this skill in some way, improve our performance… but there’s some fundamental things that are essential to that, and it’s the ability to concentrate, to relax, to be aware, and to cultivate and develop these skills; they’re going to improve your performance, regardless of what you are trying to do. And mindfulness, in my estimation, doing a lot of work in Congress, and travelling a lot, and playing sports, and all of these things… there’s something fundamental underneath all of those activities, and paying attention, and being aware, and having a reduced stress level, helps in all of those situations. And I think this is going to have transformational effects on our education system.
"I don’t care how much money we spend on education, it doesn’t matter what programs we’re trying to teach our kids… if they don’t have the fundamental building block of learning, which is being able to control your attention span, all the rest is not going to be effective. And mindfulness teaches these kids how to pay attention. It teaches them how they are connected to other people, and how to be kind to other people, and to see the problems that other people may be dealing with, and then understand that in a more compassionate way.
"So mindfulness, I believe, is already having transformational effects in classrooms in Youngstown, in Northern Ohio, and all across the country, but we need to ramp it up, [the understanding that] this fundamental skill of paying attention is essential to us transforming our education system...
"And once I had the personal experience myself at an extended five-day silent retreat, and you practice and meet people who are implementing mindfulness programs in the military, in our education system, in our healthcare system, for our veterans, for our family caregivers. And seeing these programs have a profound effect on people who are working in very high levels of stress burnout in their jobs – if they’re nurses, or firefighters, or police officers—and [that] this is able to reduce their stress, and improve their performance. When I saw all this, and had a personal experience myself, I felt like I would be derelict in my duty as a United States Congressman if I didn’t try to push this stuff out into society...
Our country is going through too much right now. Our soldiers are suffering too much. Parents and teachers, all down the line, and now is the time for us to implement this. It’s not the 99% against the 1%, it’s about the 100%, all of us together. And when we all move in concert in the same direction we have success as a country. And we have quality of life, and a higher standard of living, and more happy citizens. And so, to me a 'Mindful Nation' is a nation where we are connected, and we care about each other, and we’re willing to do what it takes to help our neighbor."
See also: Creating a Mindful Society 2011
From “Mindfulness meditation being used in hospitals and schools,” by Marilyn Elias, USA TODAY (6.8.09):
Challenges are landing fast and furious on Capitol Hill. So Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, feels he has to arrive at the top of his game every day. And Ryan says he has found a way to do that: He meditates for at least 45 minutes before leaving home.
Ryan, 35, sits on a floor cushion, closes his eyes, focuses on his breath and tries to detach from any thoughts, just observing them like clouds moving across the sky — a practice he learned at a retreat. "I find it makes me a better listener, and my concentration is sharper. I get less distracted when I'm reading," he says. "It's like you see through the clutter of life and can penetrate to what's really going on."
…As research expands, scientists expect to unlock more of the mysteries around meditation. Meanwhile, for those such as Ryan, proof of benefit is already evident. "I'm much more aware now than I used to be," he says. "I enjoy my life more because you notice, and you really appreciate."