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”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Real Mindful Podcast Ep 10: Our Top Mindful Moments of the Year

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In this unique episode of Real Mindful, we’re looking back at some of the memorable moments at Mindful in 2021. Mindful managing editor Stephanie Domet sits down with members of the editorial and design team to discuss what stood out to them in the world of mindfulness over the past year. You’ll also hear all about how the folks at Mindful like to rest, a few things they’re grateful for, and the importance of taking the time to notice the small moments of beauty all around us. 

Show notes:

Powerful women of mindfulness, 2021: 10 Powerful Women of the Mindfulness Movement: 2021

Powerful women of mindfulness, 2020: 12 Powerful Women of the Mindfulness Movement: 2020

Powerful women of mindfulness, 2019: 12 Powerful Women of the Mindfulness Movement

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How Integrity Can Heal Burnout

In April 2020, Caitlin McGeehan, a critical care and palliative medicine nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, found herself facing an unimaginable situation. Cloaked from head to toe in a biocontainment suit, McGeehan entered the room of a COVID-19 patient experiencing respiratory failure. As the doors slid shut behind her, McGeehan felt as if she’d walked into an isolated moonscape—whooshing sounds circulated through her air-purifying hood, with the hiss of the lifesupport machines keeping her patient alive. Between the stressors of COVID, wearing the containment suit in this eerie environment, and feeling emotionally and physically isolated by the pandemic, McGeehan momentarily lost confidence. “I was acutely aware that I didn’t necessarily have the resources and support to do my job well and safely,” she recalls. “The patient was breathing fast and unable to articulate his needs, and I just tried to steady my breath and calm my body, so I could act more quickly in response to what he needed.”

Feeling enormous responsibility to treat her patient with care and empathy, McGeehan called upon tools she learned in 2016 during a mindfulness and resilience program for nurses. Bringing awareness to her physical experience—with the help of mindful breathing and a body scan—allowed her to self-soothe and regulate the emotional whirlwind she felt. Asking herself questions such as, “How can I serve?” and “What is the need here?” gave her the focus she needed to effectively care for her patient, as well as be the touchpoint for the patient’s family.

What McGeehan experienced when she first entered the patient’s room was a moment of moral suffering, a concept that has emerged through research on healthcare communities. When a nurse finds themselves in a situation where what they believe they ought to be doing differs from what they are doing in the context of patient care, there is a dissonance that occurs—and the result is moral suffering, explains Dr. Cynda Hylton Rushton, a professor of nursing and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, and coauthor and editor of Moral Resilience: Transforming Moral Suffering in Healthcare. “Moral suffering leads nurses to feel compromised at a deep level,” Rushton says. “How do I make sense of the conflict I feel when asked to do things that I thought caused more harm than good and I was the implementer of those decisions, and saw the consequences firsthand?”

The challenges most of us navigate daily may not be of this life-and-death magnitude. Struggling to make an organizational decision that could adversely impact employees, or feeling unable to provide your children with care and attention while balancing the demands of work and your own need for rest, represent situations where moral suffering could arise. Whatever the exact nature of the decisions and dilemmas we face, the feeling of being too pressured or undersupported to act in alignment with our values has real effects on our mental health, and on whether we reach a point of burnout.

A Prescription for Resilience

It’s a problem for which Dr. Rushton has helped us, literally, to find new words. Rushton coined the term moral resilience: the capacity to sustain integrity in response to morally difficult circumstances. (Integrity is defined by Rushton as a sense of wholeness and being in alignment with your values, personally as well as in relationships). In response to the crisis of burnout in healthcare—a 2021 study in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association showed that among nurses who reported leaving their current job, 31.5% reported leaving because of burnout in 2018—Rushton developed an educational program for nurses called Mindful Ethical Practice and Resilience Academy, or MEPRA, launched in 2016. Research on the program’s efficacy showed significantly increased levels of mindfulness, ethical competence, confidence, work engagement, and resilience for the nurses who participated, as well as lower levels of depression, anger, and intent to leave their jobs.

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A Mindfulness Practice to Welcome Everything

To welcome something doesn’t mean we have to like it, and it doesn’t mean we have to agree with it; it just means we have to be willing to meet it. We temporarily suspend our rush to judgment and are simply open to what’s occurring.

With welcoming comes the ability to work with what is present and what is unpleasant. After a while, we begin to discover that our happiness isn’t determined simply by what is external in our life but also what is internal. To be open means to embrace paradox and contradiction; it’s about keeping our minds and hearts available to new information, letting ourselves be informed by life. Openness welcomes the good times and the bad times as equally valid experiences. Openness is the basis of a skillful response to life.

To welcome everything and push away nothing: this can’t be done as an act of will. This is an act of love. 

At the deepest level, this is an invitation to fearless receptivity. To welcome everything and push away nothing can’t be done as an act of will. This is an act of love.

Mostly, we think of mindfulness as bringing a very precise attention to what’s happening, as it’s happening. In this way, we bring an almost laser-like attention to our practice. We bring a careful moment-to-moment attention to sensation, to thoughts, to emotions. But sometimes this kind of precise attention can create a sort of tension or struggle in the mind.

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A User’s Guide to a Journey Called Mindfulness

It’s a paradox that never goes away. You start meditating because you want to get somewhere to find some improvement, gain some benefits. But if you reach for benefits, as longtime meditator Jessica Morey says, “you can become striving-oriented, obsessed with trying to get somewhere, to gain experiences.” And yet, meditation, like life, can feel like a journey. It may not be clear where you’re going or whether you have a destination at all, and yet you keep going. It’s not a path from A to Z. It meanders, cycles, and circles back on itself. Fortunately, there are fellow travelers.

As we at Mindful know from speaking with a lot of people, different questions can pop up at different stages of their journey, whether they are dipping their toes in the water of meditation for the first time, starting to make it a bigger part of their life, or have been doing it for many years. And no matter where you are, it always helps to have the attitude of a beginner, humbled by the power of the mind.

Mindful contributor Jonathan Roberts talked to six of our favorite meditation teachers (see below) to gain their insights about the kinds of challenges that people have in adding meditation to their lives. Each of them in their own way emphasized that it can be a trap to keep thinking that you’re trying to get somewhere (see paradox above). As Will Kabat-Zinn put it, “Practice is really all about helping people step out of this kind of linear thinking. Part of what is so refreshing and liberating is stepping out of that mental framework.”

Life is a little bit like walking one of those slacklines that people tie between trees in parks. We’re always balancing things: work, play, health, sickness, our friendships, our families, our love life (or lack thereof). It’s a little (and sometimes more than a little) stressful. As soon as we tense up, the line starts to shake, and we’re more easily thrown off. It gives immediate feedback. Meditation can help us make use of the feedback.

While we’re the first to acknowledge that there is no single predefined meditation highway to travel on—everyone’s experience and circumstances will differ—we’ve explored the kinds of questions we hear from people in different phases and stages in their relationship with meditation practice

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These 3 Video Games Might Help You Be More Mindful

1) A Happy Ending

A magic-infused game about death and saying goodbye? In Spiritfarer, you play as Stella, a ferry driver who transports friendly spirits to the afterlife, granting their final wishes along the way—like a colorful, compassionate spin on the Greek myth of Charon and the River Styx. Stella also learns to care for herself, during a scene where a snake spirit named Summer teaches her a sort of open-awareness mindfulness practice. “Meditation, Stella, is an affair of wholeness. Wholeness, and oneness,” says Summer.

2) A Calming Quest

Popular among educators, Minecraft provides endless possibilities for creativity and learning. In “The Mindful Knight,” designed for ages 8-13, a wizard teaches players to “cast a spell” by focusing on breathing and not getting distracted by thoughts. Sound familiar? There are further exercises for observing your sensory experience and labeling emotions, and players can record their responses for their teacher in a virtual journal.

3) One Thing at a Time

In Animal Crossing, the mindfulness is more built-in than explicit. While hanging out on a desert island, players perform relaxing tasks like talking with fellow villagers, going fishing, or tending to their virtual gardens—a structure that game designer and writer Jennifer Scheurle describes as a “gentle progression.” There’s no way to get ahead or defeat anyone else. You just have to do a little bit every day to get results in the game, which Scheurle compares to the way we gain benefits over time from meditating.

Original author: Mindful Staff
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