With 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 lifelong 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 U.S. 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 percent of medical schools offer some element of mindfulness training.
In addition, hundreds of research studies has 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 CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who participated in the eight-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 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 at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Rhodes College. Kabat-Zinn will then convene a forum on Thursday on “Cultivating Compassion” in our schools, colleges, and academic communities. Both events are free and open to the public. Information at rhodes.edu and advancingmindfulness.com.
If that is not a big enough dose of compassion, then Friday 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, the Gandhi King Conference at Christian Brothers University will host dozens of leaders to discuss themes ranging from mindfulness to the arts (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, Valarie Kaur, a filmmaker and lawyer, will speak Saturday night 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.
Source : Commercial Appeal