We elected a a president, vice-president, and a slew of senators, governors, and representatives. We elected politicians, and we generally don’t have a very high opinion of politicians. Politicians are generally not well liked.
There’s one congressman, though, that captured my attention: a Midwestern congressman named Ryan. I don’t mean Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district. I mean Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio’s 13th congressional district. First elected in 2002 at age 29, he was re-elected a month ago to his 6th term.
Last March, Tim Ryan came out with a book: A Mindful Nation. Wow. "A Mindful Nation." Not what I would expect from a sitting congressman. Full title: A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit. It seems that sitting still and being quiet for a while each day – and trying to be mindful throughout the day – is not only a spiritual discipline but a patriotic duty.
Mindfulness is now a key concept in psychology, referring to a psychological quality that involves:
- “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally;”
- “a kind of nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is.”
- bringing attention to immediate experience – particularly, noting mental events as they happen.
- being open, curious, and accepting of whatever it is that you’re noticing.
That's easy to say. It takes a lot of practice to develop the habit of doing it.
|Congressman Tim Ryan, bringing|
mindfulness into schools
Tim Ryan’s journey to mindfulness began with Jon Kabat-Zinn. Jon Kabat-Zinn is himself an interesting guy. Born Jon Kabat in 1944, he hyphenated his last name to Kabat-Zinn when he married Myla Zinn, the daughter of Howard Zinn (1922-2010), the great historian/social activist. Jon, as his father-in-law was, is a man committed to transformation.
A professor of medicine and a long-time student of the Korean Zen master, Seung Sahn, in 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn integrated medicine and Zen and created MBSR – Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction – and began teaching it at his Stress Reduction Clinic. Today, over 200 medical centers and clinics in the US and elsewhere use the MBSR model.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is the author of, Full Catastrophe Living:How to Cope with Stress, Pain and Illness using Mindfulness Meditation; and Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. Then, in 2005, Jon Kabat-Zinn came out with another book: Coming to Our Senses:Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. There was a 100-page section on mindfulness and politics, so Kabat-Zinn’s publisher mailed a copy to each of the 535 members of Congress. Casting bread upon the waters. You never know. Maybe one of them will read more than a page.
And one of them did. . . .
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This is part 1 of 4 of "Mindful Nation."
Next: Part 2: "Mindfulness and Reactivity"