Free Forum Q&A – TIM RYAN Congressman, author, A MINDFUL NATION: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, Recapture American Spirit & WINIFRED GALLAGHER RAPT: Attention and the Focused LifeWritten on April 2nd, 2015
TIM RYAN (originally aired August 2012)
WINIFRED GALLAGHER (originally aired May 2009)
“My experience is what I agree to attend to.” — William James
This week we focus on mindful attention – hailed by ancient spiritual traditions and modern neuroscience alike as one of the keys to the quality of our lives.
In the first half, I’ll be joined by Ohio Congressman TIM RYAN, who offers a radical solution to the stresses and problems that face Americans today — radical in its original meaning of having to do with roots of things. He has written a book, A MINDFUL NATION: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit. Ryan has a daily practice of mindful meditation and now he’s advocating that the spread of similar practices could help heal us, not just as individuals but as a nation. And his book is filled with examples of how mindfulness is already being successfully applied in education, healthcare, even the military.
Then I’ll speak with bestselling author, WINIFRED GALLAGHER about her book, RAPT: Attention and the Focused Life. In it, she argues that “”The skillful management of attention is the… key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience, from mood to productivity to relationships.” Gallagher came to appreciate this while fighting a fairly advanced form of cancer. Determined not to let her illness “monopolize” her attention, she made a conscious choice to look “toward whatever seemed meaningful, productive, or energizing and away from the destructive, or dispiriting.” Her experience of the world was transformed, and she set out to learn more about the science of attention as well as what we can do to cultivate it.
Here’s one big tip based on neuroscience: GALLAGHER recommends starting your workday concentrating on your most important task for 90 minutes. At that point, your brain may need a break But don’t let yourself get distracted by anything else during that first hour and a half, because it can take the brain 20 minutes to reboot after an interruption.
I don’t have to tell you how many messages, interruptions and distractions you are inundated with every day. Add to that the stress placed on so many of us by the many roles we play everyday – parent, partner, friend, worker, citizen. The very critical skill or quality of attention is under siege.
DANIEL GOLEMAN, the psychologist, journalist, and best-selling author who wrote the book on Emotional Intelligence, has a new book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. In it, he delves into new, surprising findings from neuroscience labs and explains why attention is a little-noticed mental asset that makes a huge difference in how well we find our way in our personal lives, our careers, and in virtually everything we do. Like a muscle, use attention poorly and it withers; work it in the right way and it strengthens. But Goleman doesn’t only consider the personal need for attention but also the way evolution has presented humans a challenge when it comes to dealing with long term threats like climate change.
SHARON SALZBERG has been a student of meditation since 1971, and leading meditation retreats worldwide since 1974. A co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, Sharon is the author of Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Art Of Happiness; A Heart As Wide As The World; Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience; co-author with Joseph Goldstein of Insight Meditation: A Step-By-Step Course On How To Meditate. Her newest book is REAL HAPPINESS: THE POWER OF MEDITATION.
JON KABAT-ZINN, Ph.D. is Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he was founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, and founding Director of its world-renowned Stress Reduction Clinic. In 1993, his work in the Stress Reduction Clinic was featured in Bill Moyer's PBS Special, Healing and the Mind. He's the author of Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness; Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life; Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness.
Dr. Kabat-Zinn's work has contributed to a growing movement of mindfulness within mainstream institutions in medicine, law, education, business, corrections, and sports. Over 200 medical centers and clinics nationwide and abroad now use his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Jon was a guest a couple of times before on this show. On one of those occasions, he was joined by his wife Myla Kabat Zinn, and we talked about mindful parenting and the book they wrote together, Everyday Blessings, which I highly recommend. By the way, the Zinn in both their names is her maiden name. Myla's father is the late historian and activist, Howard Zinn.
TRUCY GOODMAN, Ph.D., has trained and practiced in two fields for over 25 years: meditation and psychotherapy. She studied developmental psychology with Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, and Carol Gilligan, and trained with psychiatrist/psychoanalyst Richard Chasin, MD. For 20 years, Trudy worked with children, teenagers, couples and individuals in a full psychotherapy practice. Since 1974, Trudy devoted much of her life to practicing Buddhist meditation. She taught mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn in the early days of the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) clinic at University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.