Practicing Mindfulness in Nature by Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT

December 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Self-Regulation, Stress Management | Leave a comment

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A very natural and simple way to experience mindfulness is to spend time in nature on a daily basis. Learning to take the time to listen to falling rain, observe the colors of nature as they appear to your eyes, and smell the air, sea, or earth are opportunities for cultivating your ability to relax into the present moment. Being in the moment allows you to become aware of the many beautiful changes occurring during every moment of your precious life.


Observing the light as it changes from daylight to dusk can influence and balance your natural biological rhythms. Exploring your own internal nature can teach you how your energy changes with your moods, activities, what you focus upon, and with your intentions. Being in nature can profoundly drop you right back into the present moment when you’re paying close attention.


The high stimulation of modern culture has impaired our ability to self-regulate, connect to nature, and create the space needed to learn the art of being in the present moment. We are overly stimulated by excessive light, food, sugar, caffeine, noise, and technology. This can be depleting, leaving us feeling empty, and needing to nourish ourselves. As we engage our senses, we return to the nature of our own human body, the internal natural environment that is always here for us; we learn that self-regulation can occur without excessive external stimulation. Taking the time to reconnect with nature may help us relieve our stress, inspire hope, balance our energy, and infuse joy into our life. I invite you to go outside today for a breath of fresh air to relax and take a look into the natural world that surrounds you and is also always there, inside of you.

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(with contributing editors Heather Butts, JD, MPH, MA, Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., and  Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC)


Suchness and Mindfulness by Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC

November 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Posted in Adolescents, Insomnia, Migraine Headaches, Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Self-Regulation, Sleep Health, Stress Management, Trauma, Underserved Youth | 1 Comment

The word “suchness” has become one of the most helpful words I have used to deepen the practice of mindfulness and to heal areas of distress not only for myself but also in my clinical psychotherapy practice with clients. Saying the word, “suchness” immediately takes the edge off the pain and suffering I may be feeling at the time, and allows for a kinder, accepting approach to any distress I may be encountering.

I have found that saying, “this is the suchness of my present moment experience” creates ease and peace, which are useful resources to draw upon when I feel any kind of mental or physical distress. Suchness goes to the very root of mindfulness practice. The essence of mindfulness is being in the present moment, accepting what is in the present moment, knowing it is temporary, and that we are much more than our present moment experience. It is an experience of non-judgment, acceptance, kindness, compassion, and allowing for what is to come next.

Suchness creates an ideal space to just experience what Martin Buber calls the, “I and Thou,” or in more Buddhist terms, the experience of “equanimity,” where we can be in relationship to the present moment with an experience of fullness, awe, appreciation, and gratitude.

When I am counseling my clients, I do my very best to accept the suchness of their way of being, their unique experience of their issues of concern, and engender acceptance, ease, and warmth with them in each moment. The energy of suchness then creates the conditions for healing, space, and freedom for my clients to tap into their own self-healing resources.

So the next time you are aware of a mental or physical distress, you may consider saying, “this is the suchness of my present moment experience.” You may then want to breathe in and out while being aware of all the temporary mental and physical formations for a few minutes, returning to each moment with the experience of the suchness of the present moment, and allowing the healing to begin anew. In this way, we are bringing a refreshingly open attitude to the infinite creative and healing possibilities of the present moment in service of our highest good.

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(with contributing editors Heather Butts, JD, MPH, MA, Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., and  Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT)


Self-Soothing, Part 2: A Mindful Practice for Health & Wellness Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT Consultant, Contributing Editor

November 13, 2013 at 12:53 am | Posted in Insomnia, Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Pain Management, Self-Regulation, Sleep Health, Stress Management | 4 Comments

 self soothing part 2 pic

Self-soothing practices to consider:

  • Maintain an attitude of gentleness in your communication. Practice this gentle manner of communication with yourself and especially with those you are closest to in your life. This is a method of emotional regulation, which supports and balances your moods.
  • Participate in mindful movement classes like yoga and qigong. Learn how slow movements can help you to self-soothe and enhance your health and energy.
  • Along with movement classes, if possible, receive regular therapeutic massages.
  • Ventilate your thoughts, emotions, and actions by taking a 20-30 minute walk everyday. Walk by yourself or with another person who embodies compassion. A compassionate, caring presence (internally or in relationship to another) can create conditions for greater ease and acceptance that support self-soothing.
  • After taking a shower or bath, take time to rub your entire body with a favorite natural oil or cream. You can add your favorite soothing aromatherapy to the oil or cream to deepen your relaxation. Feel and enjoy the texture of your skin, notice the contours of your body, and relax into this ritual with slow deep breaths.
  • Nourish your body with healthy foods. Over time, you will begin to notice your body’s response to healthier food choices. Eat a fresh green salad loaded with your favorite vegetables and notice how soothing this feels to your body. Look at the colors and textures, taking time to experience the scent of your food prior to ingesting.
  • Take time out to connect with others by rubbing the back of your child, spouse, partner, or friend. As you relax, notice how the other person begins to relax. This practice is especially necessary if you have not grown up with healthy, safe touch as part of your daily life. We need more of this connection in life to enhance self-soothing. Why wait when you can begin self-soothing today!


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(with contributing editors Heather Butts, JD, MPH, MA, Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., and  Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC)


Embodying the Mind of Love, Joy, Compassion, and Equanimity by Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. © 2013

October 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Adolescents, Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Self-Regulation, Stress Management, Trauma | Leave a comment
Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.

Mindfulness, Love, Joy, Compassion, and Equanimity

Mindfulness has been defined as, “…awareness…of present experience…with acceptance” (Germer, 2005, p. 7).  Although mindfulness seems to refer only to the mind, it also involves the body as well as the heart. Your body is a vehicle for the experience of present-centered awareness, and without it, some of the most elevated heart-centered expressions of mindfulness practice—love, joy, compassion, and equanimity—cannot become manifest. Love in this context is about unity, the absence of separation, which provides a pathway to peace, harmony, and healthy living. A loving attitude is one that supports the wish for the happiness of others. There are many interpretations of joy. Joy can be a consequence of resonantly rejoicing in the happiness of others. I like to view joy as the result of connecting with the energy of life with full acceptance, without the distorting filter of thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions. Compassion is about recognizing the suffering of self and others with an intention and effort to relieve it. Equanimity allows you to be stable and composed in the face of changing external conditions. Equanimity is most tested when people and situations are not operating in accordance with our wishes or liking. When the mind, heart, and body are relating to self and others with equanimity, there is no hostility or reactive stress, even when others intent on pushing our buttons provoke us!

Practice, Ideas, and Embodiment

Without practicing mindfulness, the ability to focus upon and cultivate qualities of love, joy, compassion, and equanimity are limited. Mindfulness allows you to know how aligned your thoughts, speech, and actions are with those qualities, as well as the values and intentions that you uphold.

Through the practices described below, I invite you to experiment with embodying love, joy, compassion, and equanimity. Embodiment is about bringing a mental concept into physical form. For example, the idea of love is different than the embodied expression of love. Although the idea of love (e.g., through the written word) can touch others in unseen ways, the embodied expression of love can literally touch others through a reassuring, gentle grasp of a hand or a soft tone of voice.

Practice I: Imagining Embodiment

First choose a mental quality of love, joy, compassion, or equanimity. You may also consider another quality such as kindness or optimism if that is more relevant for you. Then, write a brief description of how a person who strongly embodied one of those qualities would speak, act, think, feel, and relate to others. Create a mini-script that describes how such a person would appear in your everyday life. If it helps, you might imagine the person to be someone that you admire, like a spiritual or religious figure who clearly exudes love, joy, compassion, and/or equanimity.

Practice II: Embodiment in the Real World

After you have developed a sense of the “script” that such an individual might follow, allow yourself to step into the role of being like that individual, although this time, transitioning from imagining the embodiment to practicing the embodiment of love, joy, compassion, and/or equanimity in relation to self and the others in your everyday life. How do you speak? What thoughts do you cultivate? What feelings are embraced? How do you relate to yourself during stressful times? How do you relate to the people who challenge you? How do you relate to the people that you love and care for? How does your posture express the quality that you are cultivating? How does the eye contact you make with others embody this quality? How does your body feel when you are aligned with love, joy, compassion, and/or equanimity?

Questions for Exploration

What did you learn from this practice? How can this practice help to relieve the suffering and distress of self and others? In what other ways can this practice be applied to your work, family, close relationships, or relationship with self?

An Open Invitation

Intentional embodiment is like a vessel that holds the nourishing liquid of your choice. Your thoughts, speech, and actions can give form to your highest values, mental qualities, and aspirations. The invitation is to continue the practice of embodiment in your everyday life, the place where it can truly make a meaningful difference.


Germer, C.K. 2005. Mindfulness. In C.K. Germer, R.D. Siegel, & P.R. Fulton (Eds.), Mindfulness and psychotherapy (pp. 3-27). New York: Guilford Press.

For more information about Dr. Larry Cammarata go to To receive our Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC newsletters and future blogs:

(with contributing editors, Heather Butts, J.D., MPH, MA,  Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT, and Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC)


Photo by Emily Nichols Photography at

Self-Soothing: A Mindful Practice for Health & Wellness by Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT Consultant, Contributing Editor

October 3, 2013 at 11:58 am | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Self-Regulation, Sleep Health, Stress Management, Trauma | 2 Comments


A soothing backrub was a nightly ritual for my sister and I. Those backrubs warmed us during the cold winter nights and helped us doze quietly off into a deep sleep. Thoughts of my nightly backrubs have created a sweet, soothing childhood memory for my sister and myself.

Has our increasingly busy lifestyle contributed to the lost art of self-soothing? I wonder; if we engaged in more self-soothing, would we have less anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia? Does our health and wellbeing suffer as we become more disconnected from the practice of self-soothing? Has technology displaced our deeply rooted need for touch, connection, and feeling soothed? How does the rise of using medications for stress, anxiety, and pain reflect our diminished relationship to self-soothing?

Atlanta-based physician Anne Namnoum, M.D. has written an excellent article entitled Self-Soothing vs. Self-Medicating. In her article, she explores the importance of self-soothing in the face of today’s anxiety, stress, and discomfort. She makes the distinction between the health benefits found in self-soothing and the challenges found in self-medicating. She points out that self-medicating includes numbing and avoidance, whereas self-soothing promotes acceptance and the decision to do something that will become helpful for our wellbeing in the long-term. She also shares that the hazards of self-medicating vs. self-soothing can result in addiction, obesity, emotional disorders, physical complications, plus a variety of other potential health risks.

The attitude of acceptance that Dr. Namnoum shares in her article reminds me of the mental attitudes found in the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us to stay in the present moment. Mindfulness promotes a mental attitude of curiosity, gentleness, and flexibility, with a willingness to face reality on reality’s terms. There is something quite soothing about the idea of letting go and accepting each moment as it unfolds before us. We can learn to relax and cherish every moment and every breath.

Today, there is an active movement of nurses providing hands-on-therapies for their patients. Medicine is returning to the healing power found within therapeutic touch. I recall the nightly backrubs we provided to our patients when I first began my career as a nurse. Providing soothing touch was an integral aspect of our healing work. Self-soothing can relax the nervous system, reducing pain, anxiety and stress. It is an expression of our human need for connection.


·       Dr. Anne Namnoum






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(with contributing editors Heather Butts, JD, MPH, MA, Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., and  Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC)



“What is Your Bell of Mindfulness?” by Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC

September 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Mindfulness, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Self-Regulation, Sleep Health, Stress Management, Trauma, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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bell 4

I love introducing the bell of mindfulness to students and clients in my school-based and community counseling practice whenever distress shows up.  The bell of mindfulness beckons the listener to come back to the present moment, listen to the sound of the bell, take mindful in and out breaths, and compassionately observe thoughts, feelings, sensations, or images. The bell of mindfulness can also be a metaphorical reminder for us to return our awareness to the present moment. For example, physical or emotional distress can be such a “bell” that activates mindful awareness upon a location within the body that is experiencing tension. Focusing attentively with acceptance and compassion upon that part of the body provides a space for healing and centering.

The bell of mindfulness can be the sound of a meditation bell, the sound of a phone ringing, a dog barking, the voice of a loved one, or it can be an image of what is of value to each person.  In my own life, the bells of mindfulness that I use when I am in distress are images of loving family members, places in nature that are connected to my family, or simply being aware of the in and out breath in the present moment as I walk, listen to good music, or eat something healthy.

I invite you to take a moment to think of what nurtures you and come back to that as a bell of mindfulness, breathe in and out, and be compassionately aware of the present moment as you encounter any distress.  You may be pleasantly surprised with how much you can heal yourself in the present moment by finding your own bell of mindfulness. What is your bell of mindfulness?

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(with contributing editors Heather Butts, JD, MPH, MA, Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., and  Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT)



Mindfulness and Adolescents by Heather Butts, JD, MPH, MA

September 18, 2013 at 11:55 pm | Posted in Adolescents, Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Self-Regulation, Stress Management, Trauma, Underserved Youth | 1 Comment


For over a decade I have worked with at-risk, underserved adolescents, assisting them in transitioning from high school to college, but also ensuring that they learn functional ways to develop and grow as individuals. While I am a lawyer by training, my focus and life’s work has revolved around adolescent education and mental health. My M.A. is in psychology in education, focusing on young adults. Over the course of my years working with adolescents, it has become clear to me that there is a segment of that population that have experienced very traumatic episodes in their young lives, but do not have sufficient coping mechanisms and tools to effectively deal with such events.

There is literature in existence looking at mindfulness and its efficacy in dealing with trauma and anxiety in adolescents. Researchers such as Susan Bogels have looked at the utility of mindfulness for the adolescent population. There appears to be interesting possibilities for utilizing mindfulness with adolescents who have suffered from traumatic events, and specifically at risk, underserved adolescents who have been exposed to violence and other life-threatening stressors. This blog series will examine various mindfulness techniques and their efficacy with this population.

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(with contributing editors, Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.,  Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT, and Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC)



Slow is a Fast Route to Health and Wellness by Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist Copyright September 11, 2013

September 11, 2013 at 12:23 am | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Self-Regulation, Stress Management, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Tai Chi Master larry blog

The other day, I observed a man walking hurriedly on a downtown street. With his cell phone to his ear and an eye on his watch, he seemed to be late to an appointment. His brow was furrowed, his body tense, and if I had to make a quick assessment, I would say that he was stressed! Have you ever noticed how you feel when you are rushing about your house, impatient, or simply feeling pressed for time?  In that sort of situation, chances are that your heart rate is elevated, your breathing is shallow, and more of the stress hormone cortisol is flowing through your bloodstream.

From time to time, everyone experiences stress, and that’s not necessarily a problem. However, when stress is chronic or uncontrollable, we become vulnerable to physical illnesses and emotional problems. The good news is that there are easily learnable mind-body practices that can reverse this pattern. In addition to being healthy for you, these activities are also extremely enjoyable.

Research shows that slow movement practices such as Tai Chi, Yoga, and Qigong can have numerous physical and emotional benefits that support mood, sleep, and cardiovascular health, while also reducing stress and pain. The article at the link below by Psychology Professor Alan Fogel, Ph.D. describes the benefits of slow movement with awareness. I encourage you to read it slowly, with a relaxed body, and while taking long, slow, deep breaths. Enjoy!

For more information about Dr. Larry Cammarata: To receive our Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC newsletters and future blogs:

(with contributing editors, Heather Butts, J.D., MPH, MA,  Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT, and Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC)


A Brief Introduction to the Practice of Integral Ethics for Healthcare Professionals: Honoring the Ken Wilber Model

July 19, 2013 at 2:32 am | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Self-Regulation, Stress Management | Leave a comment
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(The author, Durwin Foster, M.A. is a Canadian Certified Counselor, Researcher and Professional Presenter who has worked directly with Ken Wilber, a pioneer of integral theory)

In this article, I will provide a brief introduction to the practice of integral ethics for healthcare professionals.

One way to define the word “integral” is as “comprehensive.”  Therefore, the benefit of taking an integral approach to the ethical dilemmas we may face as healthcare professionals is that an integral approach allows us to honor the complexity of the situations we face.  When we make decisions that embrace and honor complexity, we are more likely to experience positive outcomes for both us and our clients.

The integral ethical-decision making model and process that Dr. Tim Black and I developed, with guidance from Ken Wilber, facilitates the wise embrace of complexity by parsing ethics into four key domains that correlate to the interior and exterior of reality, as well as its individual and collective aspects.  Analyzing ethics in this way gives us ethics itself, as well as morals, behaviors and laws.  The relationship between these four domains is perhaps best understood with the assistance of visuals, as follows:

IntegralDiagram B-IntegralEthics(1)

The integral ethical-decision making process then guides you through the four domains using four different lenses in order to make an optimal decision in resolution of any ethical quandary you may be facing.  Here are the lenses:


Here is an illustrative example:

I am at my workplace as an Employee Assistance Counsellor where the context requires me to keep in mind multiple clients, not only including my immediate client who is the person sitting in front of me, but also the client’s employer is a client of my employer.  This creates a complex stakeholder arrangement which can lead to tricky ethical decision-making.

Then let us say I have a client who brings up a case of bullying by her manager.  This client is regularly being “put down” in a way that she experiences as demeaning.  She has become depressed and her health is suffering as she is eating less and sleeping more fitfully.  She wants to speak up for herself in a straightforward way, but fears that doing so may jeopardize her job.  The situation is serious enough that she has started looking for other work, but has not yet been successful in finding alternative employment.

Trained in social justice and advocacy work, my first desire — coming from the moral virtues view — is to do what is right.  The client ought to be able to go to her Human Resources department, file a complaint, and something should be done by Human Resources to reprimand the manager.  Right?

However, in looking through the systems-regulatory view that both she and I are members of, the reality becomes clear of how difficult this could be to enact without putting both of us at considerable risk.  By working through all four lenses, I decide to focus on the power of relationship — the “relational-contextual view” — to assist this client.  I surmise that by building a strong relationship of mutual trust, unconditional positive regard, and “mattering”, I can support her to maintain her self-esteem in this challenging situation.   Also, I can support her by giving her specific behaviors — called the “video-camera view” because behavior is observable —  to try out around assertiveness and non-violent communication that she can use to “test the waters” with her manager.

I trust the above overview of two of the main components of the integral ethical-decision making model, as well as an example of the model being applied, helps to wet your appetite for learning more about how this model can help you serve your clients and patients in the most ethical manner possible.  You can participate in “the rest of the story” by registering for my Mind Body Medicine Network’s webinar on Sunday, August 25th from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.. on “Integral Ethics for Health and Helping Professionals.”  The webinar will be interactive and participants are welcome to share any hypothetical ethics situations that can be processed through the integral ethics model.  1.5 Ethics CE’s will be awarded to Psychologists, Licensed Professional Counselors and Social Workers by either participating in the live webinar or watching the webinar recording and taking the post-test.  For more information and to register for the webinar, please click on: http:///  The cost is $30.


Mindfulness: If Not Now, When? by Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.

May 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Pain Management, Self-Regulation, Stress Management | 2 Comments

Mindfulness: If Not Now, When?

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.


Introduction to Mindfulness

John Lennon’s apt quote that, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” is a very accurate statement for so many of us who are caught up in the rapid pace of our busy lives. We plan our day while brushing our teeth, obsess about the conflict we had at work earlier in the day while lying in bed at night, think about what clever reply to make as our friend or partner expresses their thoughts to us—the list goes on and on, exemplifying how life offers us one thing while our minds are often focused elsewhere. This is a common state of affairs for many people. While multitasking and simultaneously processing various bits of information might be advantageous for “getting the job done”, something is lost in the experience. This “something” that is lost is the full experience of the present moment. To fully experience the present moment, our mind and body must be focused upon what is happening in the present moment, not our story, expectations, thought, or plan about what is or should be happening. The practice of mindfulness is a process that trains the mind and body to be fully present to the reality of the present moment, without the added thoughts, fantasies, and images that obscure the moment.

lotus flower

Mindfulness has been succinctly defined as, “…awareness…of present experience…with acceptance” (Germer, 2005, p. 7). Mindfulness informs you about the present state of your mind, body, and actions. Mindfulness is an antidote to “mindlessness”, the state of mind that is likely to result in actions and speech that are ineffective at best and harmful at worst.

Floodlights and Laser Beams

The “awareness” component of mindfulness can be compared to the light emanating from a floodlight that illuminates everything in its field. To illustrate this floodlight analogy, take a few moments to be still and just observe your surroundings, noticing what you hear, see, and smell. You might be acutely aware of the sound of your neighbor mowing their lawn, the sight of gently swaying trees outside of your window, or the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting from the kitchen. Mindfulness allows you to receive the sensory impressions of these objects within your field of awareness while also knowing what you are doing or experiencing in the present moment. Instead of getting “swept away” by the experience, you’re able to have a conscious relationship with the object of your experience while also “minding your mind”, knowing where it is in the process. While mindfulness can be compared to a “floodlight”, the related mental process of concentration can be compared to a “laser beam”. As a floodlight illuminates everything within the field of its range, a laser beam pinpoints a narrow focus, essentially illuminating a single point within the wide field of potentially observable phenomena.

Concentration and Mindfulness

Concentration focuses the mind on a single object and mindfulness “remembers” the object and notices when our mind strays from it. Mindfulness allows us to return to the object that we are concentrating upon when we move away from it because of distraction, boredom, or tiredness. Concentration and mindfulness work together; a concentrated mind is typically more mindful and being more mindful allows us to stay concentrated for longer periods of time.

Popularity and Scientific Credibility of Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be practiced formally as “mindfulness meditation” and can also be practiced informally through the process of paying close attention to whatever one is doing, whether washing dishes or enjoying a beautiful sunset. The formal practice of mindfulness meditation has gained popularity and scientific credibility through the writing, teaching, and research efforts of Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). An MIT-trained molecular biologist, Dr. Kabat-Zinn is the founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also the founding director of the renowned Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Mindfulness, Health, and Healing

The practice of mindfulness meditation has been associated with several cognitive and emotional benefits, including emotional regulation (Chambers, Lo, & Allen, 2008) and enhanced information processing speed (Moore & Malinowski, 2009). Mindfulness appears to support the empathy, acceptance, and compassion of therapists (Fulton, 2005), qualities that enhance the effectiveness of therapy. Some of the health benefits of mindfulness meditation include improved cardiac functioning, enhanced immune system functioning, and improved sleep for those suffering from chronic insomnia (Shapiro & Carlson, 2009).

In the field of psychotherapy, there are now several empirically validated therapeutic modalities incorporating mindfulness as a therapeutic process:

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Mindfulness-based treatment approaches have been successfully applied to anxiety, depression, personality disorders, psychotic symptoms, stress symptoms, chronic pain, and substance abuse (Shapiro & Carlson, 2009).

One way to understand the difference of approach between a purely cognitive method of dealing with distressing thoughts vs. a mindfulness-oriented approach is through the following simple example.

Imagine a therapy client complaining of the following thought to their therapist:

“I am worthless”.

A cognitive therapist would be inclined to use Socratic questioning to support “cognitive restructuring” of the thought, helping the client to disprove the thought. A mindfulness-oriented therapist using an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy approach would likely facilitate the client towards cognitive “defusion” (Wilson & DuFrene, 2008), resulting in the client’s acknowledgement that, “I am having a thought that I am worthless”. The awareness of the “thinker” in relation to the “thought” can create emotional distance from the thought without having to change it. Defusion can diminish and remove the stress that can be the consequence of distorted or reactive thoughts, while “fusion” with our thoughts, invests, “…them with authority and consequence…” (Wilson & DuFrene, 2008, p. 51).

Notice how the first statement, “I am worthless”, is a statement of identity, while the second statement, “I am having a thought that I am worthless”, recognizes the distinction between the thinker and the thought. This distinction can be labeled as an example of cognitive defusion, which refers to a process that allows an individual to, “…look at…thoughts rather than from them” (Hayes & Smith, 2005, p. 70). The practice of mindfulness supports cognitive defusion, and is more about the “observation” of thoughts than deconstructive “analysis” of them. When we are aware of our thoughts, we can be free from their literalized constraints. Then, we can choose to act based upon our values and intentions, rather than react to people and situations that activate potentially stressful thoughts.

You don’t have to change your thoughts and feelings to create peace with your thoughts and feelings! Changing your relationship to your thoughts and feelings can result in making peace with them.

Mindfulness on and off the Meditation Cushion

Mindfulness can be practiced formally, as in mindfulness meditation, where the practitioner is seated in a stable position, with the mind focused upon an object of concentration such as the breath. When distracted, the practitioner gently returns their focus back to the object of concentration.

Mindfulness can also be practiced in a more informal way, outside of the structure of a meditation practice. Each waking moment allows us an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Standing and waiting in a long line at a grocery store when we are pressed for time provides a space for practicing patience, an important attitude in support of mindfulness. When we are stressed by conflict at work or home, we have another opportunity to observe the physical or emotional tension that arises, applying mindfulness to our thoughts, speech, and actions, which can prevent unskillful communications and other actions that might impair our relationship with a spouse, partner, friend, client, or co-worker.

The A-B-Cs of Mindfulness

A simple way of remembering the essential components of mindfulness practice involves what I call the “A-B-Cs of Mindfulness”:

Acceptance of all experiences, the essential attitudinal stance that supports the practice

Body awareness, which refers to posture and is related to physical accommodations (e.g., a comfortable chair or cushions) that support the practice

Concentration upon an object of awareness, such as the breath

Acceptance infuses mindfulness practice with an open attitude that meets reality (e.g., thoughts, feelings, perceptions) on reality’s terms, without avoiding or opposing our present-centered experiences.

Body awareness creates stability for the practice of mindfulness through proprioceptive feedback about our posture and level of muscular relaxation. Body awareness establishes a conscious connection to our body that is supportive of acceptance, concentration, and a sense of being grounded.

Concentration cultivates sustained, focused attention upon an object of awareness. In the context of mindfulness meditation, a typical object of concentration is the sensation of the breath upon inhalation and exhalation. The point of focus for the breath is usually at the level of the diaphragm or at the nostrils.

Acceptance supports a sense of peaceful openness, body awareness promotes a stable connection to the body and physical environment, and concentration cultivates mental stability and calmness. Mindfulness allows us to know when we have strayed from acceptance, body awareness, and concentration.

The practice of mindfulness can be applied to our mind, body, and emotions, essentially anything that we encounter internally or in our outer world, including stressful situations and difficult relationships. 

Mindfulness and Intention

Just as attention and an accepting attitude are essential components of mindfulness, so is intention (Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, 2006), which is a reflection of the purposeful nature of mindfulness practice. Individuals have various intentions for practicing mindfulness. Some use mindfulness as a form of stress or pain management, others practice mindfulness to enhance specific abilities such as concentration, emotional regulation, and self-awareness, while the primary intention for many spiritually motivated practitioners is to liberate the mind and care for others with acceptance, kindness, and compassion.

If Not Now, When?

Regardless of one’s intention, the practice of mindfulness is a pathway for making peace with self, others, and the world. Whatever circumstances that you face, now is the time to breathe mindfully, relax, and open to yourself and others with acceptance, appreciation, and kindness. If not now, when?

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.

Please join the Mind Body Medicine Network’s next webinar on “Mindfulness for Health, Healing, and Mind-Body Integration” with Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. on June 16, 2013 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time Zone.  Learn how to apply the skils of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation to enhance personal and professional effectiveness. The benefits of mindfulness meditation include improved cardiovascular health, enhanced concentration, increased self-awareness, anxiety reduction, decreased stress and chronic pain, and improved sleep. Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist practicing in Asheville, North Carolina who specializes in mindfulness-oriented psychotherapy and education. He is a Lead Faculty Area Chair of Psychology for the University of Phoenix. Larry is a regular speaker for FACES Conferences, an organization that brings together leaders and experts in mindfulness and psychology. He is a published author who was designated as an “Author-Expert” by IDEA for his writing, teaching, and practice in the field of mind-body health, fitness, and wellness. Along with Jack Kornfield, Dan Siegel, Marsha Linehan, and other leaders in the field of mindfulness-oriented psychology, Larry co-authored a book entitled, “A Year of Living Mindfully: 52 Quotes & Weekly Mindfulness Practices”. Larry is an instructor of the Chinese martial and healing arts of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong. He has authored a DVD entitled, “Qigong for Health and Vitality: The Eight Pieces of Brocade.” He has presented his work on mindful movement at Investigating and Integrating Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, an annual international scientific conference hosted by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He can be contacted via his website at $30. For more information and to register for Dr. Cammarata’s webinar go to:



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