Sunday, 12 May 2013

The First International Conference on Mindfulness - days 3 & 4

Day 3
Again, lots to hear and learn about today. The day began with a meditation session led by Ajahn Amaro from Amaravati in the UK, a great way to start the day! Then we had Mark Williams keynote presentation on depression and suicidality and the positive effects mindfulness can have in reversing these processes. It was a very interesting talk, especially given that depression is by far the highest cause of people taking time off work according to the World Health Organisation. Then I heard presentations on experimental studies of mindfulness such as in reducing cognitive rigidity and enabling problem solving. The final session of the day was more presentations on using mindfulness with both children and adults with autism spectrum disorders and what is particularly beneficial in these studies with parents and children is that they are working with both the parents and the children and they are meditating together. Just the plain fact that parents are doing things with their children must be beneficial but when you realise they are meditating and practising mindfulness together, how much more beneficial that must be!
For myself the evening activity was mindful sightseeing (as my husband arrived today) and we went to visit the Vatican museums which culminates in the Sistine Chapel. The museums are vast and we had to be quite choosy about what to look and what to pass by in order to give ourselves time in the Cappella Sistina. It is such an amazing and powerful place dedicated to passion, hard work, artistic ability and love of God.

Day 4
Another morning meditation, this time led by an Italian monk, Dario Doshin Girolami. Followed by a keynote presentation from Susan Bogels who works in Amsterdam offering mindfulness courses to parents whose children suffer mainly from ADHD but also ASD, and again the programme runs complementary classes for the parents and the children and it is their joint participation that is effective. She spoke about recognising there is not just one role the parent plays in relating to their child, especially when stressed, but one can be affected by the way they were parented and can behave as a vulnerable child or revert to the way their parents were and become particularly punitive. There are many factors to consider.
Today was my turn to present some of my research on the mindfulness teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, and this had been put into a Symposium entitled Foundations of Mindfulness as all the speakers were reflecting in some way on the foundation of mindfulness in the teachings of the Buddha (note I do not say Buddhism, as that is a western construct). As Jon Kabat-Zinn pointed out to us, the Buddha was not a Buddhist but a man teaching humanity.
The presentation went well despite problems with the projector and the computer and having to hold a mic (it's much easier when you don't have to rely on powerpoint presentations) and I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to people about Thich Nhat Hanh and the important work he is undertaking, and has been doing for many years. 70 years of practising mindfulness and 60 years of teaching it! I don't think any people can beat that!

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