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Lions Roar : January 2011
45 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2011 Daniel Siegel, M.D., is a clinical pro- fessor of psychiatry at the uCLA School of Medicine. he is director of the Mindsight institute and co-director of the uCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. he is the author of The Mindful Brain: Reflec- tion and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, and Mindsight: The New Sci- ence of Personal Transformation. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., is the founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, health Care, and Society at the university of Mas- sachusetts Medical School, and creator of the famed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. he is the author of several bestselling books, including Full Catastrophe Living; Wherever You Go, There You Are; and most recently, Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness. SuSan bauer-Wu, Ph.D., is an as- sociate professor of nursing and Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar at Emory university in Atlanta. She is a researcher, clinician, and educator whose work focuses on the clinical ap- plication of meditation and its effects on health and quality of life in individuals living with serious illness, especially cancer. self-understanding, being aware of your own body, being able to be flexible, pausing before you act—all those elements of our mental experience seem to correlate with middle prefrontal activity, not just the side prefrontal activity. the person using his dorsolateral area is aware of the gun and aims well, because he’s got good attention. But the person who is mindfully aware, we can propose, harnesses all the correlates of wisdom and compassion, and in that moment he either doesn’t pick up the gun, or thinks of other options, or pauses before the impulse turns into action. Mindfulness practice can uncover dark and difficult thoughts, which people can find quite shocking. Is that beneficial in the middle of a health crisis? DAniEL SiEGEL: Much of what happens in the mind is not within consciousness, yet these non-conscious processes have an impact on our health. Bringing these negative thoughts, such as fear, hostility, betrayal, or sadness, to awareness is part of basic health, because those thoughts—what in my field are called un- integrated neural processes—are basically like black holes. they have so much gravity to them that they suck the energy out of life. they influence the health of the mind, its flexibility and flu- idity, its sense of joy and gratitude. they impact relationships, leading to rigid ways of behaving or explosive ways of interact- ing. they also influence the body itself, including the nervous system and the immune system. So an exploratory process like mindfulness that brings those fearful negative thoughts to awareness can be very beneficial. Sometimes you have to name it to tame it. A number of stud- ies suggest that when you bring something into awareness, and describe it, you can move that previously negative energy—a draining thought or cognition—into a new form. With mindfulness, what was not available to awareness be- comes available. We need to support people in that journey, because bringing more of what’s going on in the mind to aware- ness can be a very helpful development in a person’s life. JOn KABAt-Zinn: We often relate to our thoughts, whether they’re intensely negative or not, as a reliable statement of the truth. When you’re angry, everything can seem threatening or mindfulness helps you to take wise and discerning action, which is vitally important if you want to participate in your own healing process. — Jon kaBat-Zinn