Jon Kabat-Zinn talk in Memphis
With the war in the Middle East and missile testing in the Far East, the world is not a peaceful and compassionate place. But our day-to-day lives need not be that way. Here in Memphis, we have many opportunities to cultivate compassion.
Last month Dan Harris, a correspondent for ABC News, spoke to a crowd of over 500 people on how meditation made him happier, which he explains in his book “10% Happier.” He was not overselling his newly learned practice but sharing a life-changing experience.
This month Jon Kabat-Zinn, a life-long teacher of mindfulness, comes to Memphis to share his nationally acclaimed learning. I met Kabat-Zinn five years ago at the White House when we participated in a forum discussing tools to decrease stress. We became close friends and our work has engaged the US Surgeon General on mindfulness and meditation for emotional well-being.
Nearly four decades ago, Kabat-Zinn introduced to the scientific and lay community the five millennia old concept of mindfulness through a structured course called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Now over 25,000 people have been trained, and 80% of medical schools offer some element of mindfulness training.
In addition, hundreds of research studies have found that the MBSR technique reduces stress, depression and pain. Doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists are now routinely recommending it to their patients, including veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. One person who benefited was Anderson Cooper of CNN who participated in the 8-week MBSR course and talked about his experience in a “60 Minutes” story.
Taking on a new activity or changing our old habits is not easy. Restructuring our thinking to bring meditation and mindfulness into our lives may be harder. But I see meditation as an advancement of our wellness efforts.
Wellness can be categorized as either physical or mental, though they are often interrelated. Wellness is created when we practice prevention, which leads to less disease and distress.
Just as exercise contributes to physical well-being, meditation supports emotional well-being. Meditation is preventive medicine for the mind just as exercise is preventive medicine for the body. And we need more of mental preventive medicine in our fast-paced, technology-driven, instant-messaging world.
This week Kabat-Zinn will talk about another valuable aspect of mindfulness– cultivating compassion. This could not be more timely, as our political and civic discourse grows ever more angry and polarized. Kabat-Zinn, in a visit cosponsored by Rhodes College and Advancing Mindfulness, will speak on Wednesday, March 29 at 7 pm at Rhodes College. Kabat-Zinn will then convene a forum on Thursday, March 30 on Cultivating Compassion in our schools, colleges, and academic communities. Both events are free to the public. Information at www.Rhodes.edu and www.advancingmindfulness.com.
If that is not a big enough dose of compassion, then on Friday, March 31 at the Vanderhaar Symposium, Shaka Senghor will talk about how he learned to control his anger and hate while serving prison time for second-degree murder. Then on Saturday, April 1, the Gandhi King Conference at Christian Brothers University will host dozens of leaders to discuss themes ranging from mindfulness to the arts. www.gandhikingconference.org Most engaging for me will be a session on nonviolent response to hate speech and crime against Indian immigrants. Sort of a “What would Gandhi do today?”
Lastly, on Saturday night Valarie Kaur, a filmmaker and lawyer, will speak at the National Civil Rights Museum’s Catalyst for Change Distinguished Speaker Series.
What I have learned in my many years of work on nonviolence is that peace and compassion are not destinations but journeys and fortunately here in Memphis we have many opportunities to cultivate mindfulness, peace, and compassion.