Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category


Medical Facilities Embrace The Whole Person

Integrative therapy offers a way to address the whole person, not just the underlying illness.  Integrative medicine can address pain relief, diet, stress reduction, lifestyle, in addition to physical symptoms, because it encompasses psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of health and illness.  While some dispute its efficacy, health-promoting behaviors are widely recognized as an important part of the process of treatment.  However, there is a wide body of research that shows how effective integrative therapy can be. Here are a couple of examples of institutes who are doing research on integrative therapy.

University of California, San Francisco
Osher Center for Integrative Medicine

Duke University
Duke Integrative Medicine

Here is an additional list of top medical schools (for internal medicine) as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, with integrative medicine facilities and services:

Harvard Medical School
Osher Center in conjunction with Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Stanford Medicine
Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine: Clinical Services for Mind and Body

Johns Hopkins University
Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center

University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)
Abramson Cancer Center, Integrative Medicine and Wellness

Yale School of Medicine
The Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital &Yale Stress Center

 To see the full list of medical schools who offer integrative therapy click here.




Being Present With It All

This post was written by JG Larochette of Mindful Life Project

Mindful Life Project Boy MeditatingWhen has it been most difficult to stay with the present moment? Was it with emotional or physical pain? Or with trauma? Was it when something life changing happened? For many of us, it is extremely difficult to be present during hard times. Far too often, we get in patterns of avoidance, depression, anxiety, or become disconnected from ourselves and the world around us.

As a teacher in an extremely underserved, violent and poverty stricken community in Richmond, California, I witnessed how students dealt with trauma, violence, abuse, neglect, and many other painful life experiences. Students would get in negative patterns of behavior as a result of what their “fight or flight” response guided them to do. They would constantly be in aggressive mode, reacting to things that for some would seem insignificant. Our community, like many inner city underserved communities, has dealt with high levels of generational violence and poverty. Our students experience this in many ways, either directly within their families or by living in a community where shootings and violence can be a regular occurrence.

In my classroom I saw students make big improvements. Yes, teaching academics, and building class community, and creating strong relationships was important, but I wasn’t able to reach the students in the most meaningful ways. This all changed when I started a Mindful Schools fundamentals course. I was learning a transformational skill that was improving my life and I immediately wanted to share it with my 3rd graders. We started practicing mindfulness daily, and the students started to show compassion, kindness, respect and love for each other and their community.

I piloted Mindful Life Project modalities in the winter of 2012 with our 3rd graders. I taught mindfulness, and had guests teach yoga, therapeutic art, and performing arts. Immediately, I witnessed a decrease in classroom disruptions, and an increase in students showing self-regulation, and confidence. This offered approximately 40 more minutes of teachable time a day due to not having to put out “fires” of students behavior.  I knew that I wanted to spread this to as many kids in Richmond as possible!

In the spring of 2012 I founded Mindful Life Project, a nonprofit that works with five South Richmond elementary schools. We offer three programs: “Rise-Up” is our regular school day intervention program. In “Rise-Up,” Mindful Life Project teaches one-hour pull out sessions twice per week to “at-risk” students in groups of six to eight students in each grade level. During the year students are taught in eight-week rotations of therapeutic art, yoga, and performing arts. All sessions include mindfulness instruction which is taught on its own and also woven into each modality. We also have a regular school day program called “Mindful Community” where instructors teach mindfulness once a week to each classroom at the school site. We also host parent mindfulness nights, and support teachers in implementing mindfulness in their classroom. Our After School Program component is “Take Flight” where we focus on local middle schools, so that we can provide our students with long-term support and guidance through their transition into their teenage years.

Our journey in working with the students and their families in this life changing way has been such an honor. We had a significant impact in our partner schools in our first year, and our team is full of inspirational and motivated instructors that continue to strive to have the deepest impact on the families, students, and community!

To learn more about our project visit www.mindfullifeproject.org.




Riley’s Place; Creating Compassionate Communities

When I share the local purpose of the 1440 Foundation – to inspire, support and be inspired by local champions who are creating authentic relationships and building connected and compassionate communities – I am often met with a puzzled look and the same query:  what is a compassionate community?

Riley's Place Some say compassion begins with attention, others say that compassion is the foundation for a humane world.

Our belief is that a compassionate community can begin with a simple act of kindness, thoughtfulness or caring. When an opportunity to help others is acknowledged and acted on, the process of creating a compassionate community is borne.

Riley's Place Comic BookThat is how Riley’s Place came to be.

Riley’s Place was founded in 2009 by a group of people from the local community in honor of a young  lady named Riley Church. In 2006, Riley died at the age of 14 after a two-year battle with brain cancer. Riley’s love of nature and all animals – especially cats, dogs, horses, lambs and goats – shaped her joyful and compassionate spirit.

Riley's PlaceWhen Riley was no longer able to ride horses and spend time with other animals, friends brought a miniature horse to visit her at home. This visit became the inspiration for Riley’s Place and the programs that would bring the same benefits to other children in need.

Riley’s Place brings the healthful benefits of interacting with animals and nature to children with chronic or life threatening illness, children who have special needs, or children who are otherwise disadvantaged.

In recognition of service to others, Woodside Town Council proclaimed Saturday, June 1st as Riley’s Place Day and local firefighters passed their helmets to raise funds and awareness.  The Woodside Youth Committee also sold homemade baked goods, raffle tickets and notecards.

What can you do for your community to make it more compassionate?




Tending the Garden

Joanie tending her garden

Joanie tending her garden

I’m having so many special moments in the garden these days (almost too many to count). I wanted to share a story of something that happened one morning a few weeks ago that still resonates with me; a story of joy and sorrow of the most profound kind. This to me in some ways demonstrates what a garden is, how it goes beyond beauty, function or food, and the importance and inspiration that springs from what we sow in our relationships.

Recently, I was watering my starter plants in the greenhouse with our sweet cat Sandra, who was rubbing and purring away. Her joyful song echoed in the small warm space and we were both humming along. In the distance I saw my friend Chris coming towards the garden shed. Chris helps me care for our property and knows the land as if it was his own. Chris was carrying a beautiful hand picked bouquet of flowers from the yard, a lovely spring mix of roses and other blooms. As he presented me with this lovely bouquet, I was touched by his random act of kindness.

I thanked him, and as we were catching up on life I asked about his ailing mother. He had just moved her closer to his home so he and his wife Janie could better care for her. He shared with me that his mother had passed away that morning, after he had spent a long evening by her side the night before. It was an unexpected loss. They knew her time was coming, but didn’t expect it so soon. He spoke of the warmth and tenderness a mother brings and of the sadness of loss. It was a difficult day for Chis, and yet, he had thought to gather a bouquet for me.

What resonates with me is Chris’ act of kindness and desire to give to another while being engulfed in grief.

Chris writes, “That particular morning was a little surreal for me. I found myself simply tempted to do what I did. I think it comes down to coping with a loss. The loss of a mother’s care, touch and love needed some attending to. It’s interesting to see what different reactions people go through in such a time. My choice was just spontaneous. Bring joy to someone, to overcome the loss in one’s heart. You were appreciative of the gesture. That was exactly the mending I needed to help me through the day. I have to thank you for simply being there at the right time.”

There is joy and sadness in everyday life. Sharing our joy and sorrow with those around us shows how common our experiences are, and how we are deeply connected through feelings and emotions.

We all carry and feel sadness and joy. Being able to express these feelings to another as they’re happening is a gift. It feels like living in the moment to me. I am truly grateful for all the lessons life brings, so many of which happen in and around the garden…

With Gratitude,

Joanie




Presencing Institute: Transitioning from Ego-system to Eco-system Economies

Katrin Kaeufer

Katrin Kaeufer

This post was written by Katrin Kaeufer and Otto Scharmer of the Presencing Institute.

Finance. Food. Fuel. Water shortage. Resource scarcity. Climate chaos. Mass poverty. We have entered an Age of Disruption. Yet we believe that at the same time, the possibility of profound personal, societal, and global renewal has never been more possible. However, addressing the issues of our time demands that we move beyond trying to put out fires one by one and shift our collective attention to our fundamental humanity and to our common desire to co-create a world we can live in. Such a shift requires relationships that enable collaboration — across institutions, sectors, countries, and systems.

What we do

Over the past ten years, a small core of MIT-based and -affiliated researchers and innovators have been developing, applying, and refining a set of Transformational Leadership methods and tools under the aegis of the Presencing Institute (PI). The U-Process, as the methodology has come to be called, enables leaders and change-makers across systems and regions to effectively address unprecedented challenges  in areas such as healthcare, food and fishing, banking, education, governance, community development, and more.

The Presencing Institute serves as a collective vehicle for advancing this movement of profound innovation and social change by shifting the drivers from the interests of self and ego toward a concern for the well-being of the whole. Thus a shift “from Ego-system to Eco-system Economies.”  (Eco derives from the Greek oikos, meaning the whole house;  this is also the root of the word economy.)

Otto Scharmer

Otto Scharmer

Transforming our current ego-system economy into an emerging eco-system economy means reconnecting economic thinking with its true root, which is the well-being of the “whole house” rather than just a few of its inhabitants. This requires an awareness shift, not only by individuals and organizations, but also by the global community.

In order to drive this forward, the Presencing Institute focuses on:

  • Co-initiating and supporting Living Examples that embody such eco-systems in the economy
  • Advancing Social Leadership Technologies that enable systems to improve
  • Institutional Innovations that facilitate horizontal co-creative relationships in our otherwise silo-like organizational and sectoral environments.

Innovation Labs: Global Well-being and Gross National Happiness Lab

“Living Examples” sponsored by the Presencing Institute include Innovation Laboratories that bring together diverse constellations of leaders and stakeholders around common concerns and intentions. The Innovations Labs focus on critical bottlenecks and leverage points for bringing about profound innovation and change.

One of these Innovation Labs, the Global Well-Being and Gross National Happiness Lab, addresses the need to develop metrics other than gross domestic product (GDP) to measure economic progress. A shift toward a new economic model requires an awareness and understanding of well-being and how it connects to our economic activities. Over the years, countries, communities, and global think tanks have been developing alternative metrics and indices relevant to their own contexts. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is one of these, as pioneered in the country of Bhutan.

In partnership with the GIZ Global Leadership Academy — a program commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) — the Presencing Institute has initiated a living laboratory to explore new ways of measuring and implementing well-being and progress in societies around the world. The ultimate purpose of the Lab is to develop and implement local prototypes like the GNH Centre Bhutan in multiple contexts and countries.

The GNH and Well-Being Lab was launched in January 2013, with twenty-five participants representing a wide range of institutions and geographic locations. These include:

  • India: Oxfam: SEWA
  • Brazil: Natura, Ministry of Environment, Minas Generais State Office for Strategic Priorities, Arapyau Institute
  • USA: State of Oregon, Eileen Fisher, Tata Consulting Services, Demos, BALLE
  • China: Tsinghua University
  • Germany: Wuppertal Institute
  • International: OECD
  • Bhutan: GNH Centre, Greener Way
  • Sri Lanka: Centre for Environment & Development
  • UK: Oxfam

These participants went on a learning process that led them to Brazil and Bhutan where they explored innovation in well-being and sustainability and gained first-hand experiential exposure to some of the approaches and major challenges encountered within areas of relevance to global well-being (e.g., sustainable economic development, cultural resilience, environmental conservation, governance). In a Strategy Workshop they are working to identify a constellation of multi-local prototyping activities for new ways of measuring and implementing well-being in societies worldwide.

Other labs that are ongoing or being developed are the: (1) Finance Lab, (2) Health Lab, (3) Food and Fishery Lab, (4) Resilient Cities Lab, and (5) Education Lab.

Social Technologies: Developing the capacity to act from an emerging future possibility

In order for groups and individuals to co-create in innovation labs, a processes that enables them to act and think based on emerging future possibilities, instead of repeating the patterns of the past, is required. We call this capacity presencing, a blend of the two words sensing and presencing. In our earlier research we interviewed Bill O’Brien, the former CEO of Hanover Insurance, who conveyed this insight from his years of experience with transformation and change processes: “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor.” This implies that it is not only important What we do, and How we do it; he believed that the inner place from which we operate defines the quality of the outcome of our action. Similarly, presencing is a process that allows groups and individuals to connect to and act from this highest future possibility. It is a process that requires us to suspend our judgments, redirect our attention, let go of the past, lean into the future that wants to emerge through us, and let it come.

We believe that the ability to shift from reacting based on the experiences of the past to leaning into and presencing an emerging future is probably the single most important leadership skill today. It is a capacity that is critical in situations of disruptive change, not only for institutions and systems, but also for teams and individuals. Today we face rapidly changing environments that increasingly require us to reinvent ourselves. The more dramatic the changes in our environment, the less we can rely on past patterns, and the more we need to learn to pay attention and tune in to emerging future opportunities.

From our experience with change processes, we have learned that the decisive variable in this process is a shift of consciousness. Today’s thinking shapes how we enact tomorrow’s reality. Part of our task in the Presencing Institute is  articulating a language that defines the shift in awareness and consciousness that we see happening in our work, as well as developing Social Technologies that are accessible to a broad audience.

Institutional innovations: Global Presencing Forum

Another important program at the Presencing Institute consists of experiments we call Institutional Innovations. We believe that a shift in consciousness in our society requires places for dialogue that give people opportunities to “see” the current reality, to experiment with new ideas, and to collectively act and innovate. One first attempt to create such spaces is the Global Presencing Forum, a highly experiential and interactive learning space that brings together eco-system innovators. The first forum was held in Cambridge, Mass., in 2011 with support from the 1440 Foundation (250 participants), the second in Berlin  in 2012 (270 participants), and we are currently planning the next forum for Spring 2014 in Cambridge.

The evolution of economic thought embodies the evolution of consciousness

From our work with societal transformation processes we believe that a transformation to a more just and sustainable society starts with our collective awareness and how we think about key economic concepts and relationships. The following is a brief example of this based on our research on economic transformation, and it illustrates how the evolution of the economy and of economic thought embodies an evolution of consciousness.

Consider the evolution of the division of labor. Historically, we can identify three ways of coordinating an economy. The first, or 1.0 economy, features central planning or a state-centric coordination mechanism that focuses on inputs and operates according to a strict hierarchy, regulation, and control. Mercantilism and state socialism are examples.

The second, or 2.0 free market economy, corresponds with the rise of the private sector and of competition. The coordination mechanism is decentralized, focusing on outputs rather than inputs. The laissez-faire economy of 19th-century Europe is an example.  The result has been enormous growth, enormous successes, and enormous problems in the form of negative externalities.

The third, or 3.0 social market economy, corresponds with the rise of the social sector and with stakeholder negotiation among diverse interest groups. This phase comes with institutional innovations, including the creation of federal reserve banks, social security systems, labor unions, and environmental standards all designed to limit possible negative externalities in the market.

While the 3.0 approach has served the OECD countries throughout most of the 20th century, we now see the limits of the 3.0 approach in its failure to address global externalities.  The evolution of the economy and of economic thought embodies the evolution of consciousness.  The centralized 1.0 economy requires the individuum to fit into an existing hierarchical structure; the market-driven 2.0 economy builds on an ego-system awareness, in which the individual takes initiative to maximize his/her own utility. Most neoclassic economic theory is based on the 2.0 rational actor called homo oeconomicus. But we see that current reality is characterized by another type of rationality that we refer to as the 3.0 type, or stakeholder awareness. Here individual actors internalize some of the externalities of their key stakeholders into their own decisionmaking.

Today the biggest challenge is yet another transition: moving the many ego-system and stakeholder-based awareness structures toward what we call eco-system awareness.  If I am “eco-system aware,”  I not only maximize my own well-being, but I internalize the well-being of all other participants in the eco-system that I’m dealing with. This implies a rethinking of how we coordinate the economy, from the three old mechanisms — hierarchy, markets, and stakeholder negotiations — to something that Otto Scharmer calls ABC — awareness-based collective action. This requires creating a holding space where awareness can broaden and deepen, from ego to eco.

At the beginning of the 21st century we find ourselves in a debate that revolves around three major options: (1) just muddle through, doing more of the same, (2) go backwards in history, or (3), move forward by building a co-creative stage in which the three sectors — business, government, and civil society — are not working against each other, but co-creatively with each other. At the Presencing Institute we are working on the third option by initiating and facilitating living examples, developing social technologies, and experimenting with spaces for public dialogue.

 




Teaching empathy: The ancient way is now cutting edge

This post was written by David A. Levine, the director of the School of Belonging Training Institute at Creative Response to Conflict.

KidsWe hear all the time about learning for the 21st century and the need for U.S. schools to prepare our students to effectively compete internationally. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) predominate the conversation and yet there is often one critical area of development that is missing from the vision: teaching children how to build creative, intuitive, trusting and collaborative relationships with others.

Many people became aware of how emotional intelligence plays a role in a person’s success, both socially and professionally, with the publication of Dr. Daniel Goleman’s landmark book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ,” in 1995. Since then, organizations like CASEL (co-founded by Dr. Goleman and Timothy Shriver and a 1440 Grantee) and the Developmental Studies Center (founded by Dr. Eric Shaps) have conducted research on social and emotional learning programs and the positive effects these programs have on student achievement. The Novo Foundation, the 1440 Foundation, and the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust have invested in evidence-based social and emotional learning programs that promote, among other things, pro-social skills development, empathy-consciousness within schools, equity-based opportunities for disenfranchised youth, and self-regulation and mindfulness practices.

The efforts of these organizations and many other like-minded groups are part of a national movement that would make social and emotional learning a free-standing, required learning standard for grades pre-k through 12. While the movement is changing the way many educators, parents and policymakers think about schools, it’s not moving fast enough. Maybe I’m impatient.

I wonder what would the world be like if we acted with a certain level of decency, tenderness and caring every day in all of our interactions?

We can teach this way of being in our schools by living this way. I believe that if all schools (instead of a select few) put as much emphasis and exploration in teaching social and emotional competencies as they do on math, science and literacy, in 10 years, the workforce would be more productive, talented and happier, helping our nation and the rest of the world at the same time. In the words of emotional intelligence author and practitioner Robert K. Cooper: “These skills are ‘common sense but not common practice.’ ”

The current reality is that most schools are evaluated and funded based on reaching state standards and test scores. Human relationship skill building is often seen as an “add-on,” or something that can’t be taught, but these skills can be refined through conversation, modeling and recognition. Social and emotional learning is implemented best when it is a part of a consciousness movement—one that creates a balanced, challenging, and ultimately life-changing learning community.

In my work as a systems change specialist in schools and other learning communities, here are the practices I encourage instructional leaders to promote:

  1. Teach listening as a core skill and expect it as a cultural practice. Start by being an active listener yourself and give people the time they need to reflect. Time not made for someone is time wasted.
  2. Make dialogue a primary team, group or classroom practice. Dialogue opens the doors to exploration—what Peter Senge in his guide “The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook” calls “skillful discussion,” where thoughtful decisions can be made that honor all participants (or, in business, stakeholders).
  3. Identify roles, not organizational charts. When people are able to articulate their role, what they need to be successful and what gets in the way of their success, an empathic understanding is present and the beginnings of a healthy team, class or group takes shape.
  4. Lead with consistency, authenticity and honesty. Be clear as to why you are doing what you are doing. Do not lead or manage through personality but rather through articulation. To articulate is to clarify.

Let’s make it common practice to return to the ancient way when people survived and excelled because they knew that survival was based on working together, overcoming conflicts, and helping their neighbors through difficult times.

We need to create an authentic curriculum—a curriculum of human touch. Our children deserve it, and the world definitely needs it.

A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.




Sharpening Focus and Opening Minds Through Mindfulness

imagesLike most people, I have my share of tension and anxiety. And I’m happy to find ways to cope that don’t involve illegal drugs. So when the term mindfulness began cropping up everywhere, I became intrigued.

Elementary school students practice it. Doctors practice it — and their patients. Prisoners practice it. There’s mindful eating that promises a healthier way of eating. And scans show mindfulness may change the way our brains function and help us improve attention, reduce stress hormones and even bounce back faster from negative information.

But, skeptic that I am, I wondered if it was being oversold as a panacea that is simple, safe and involves no heavy objects.

First, I had to figure out what exactly it is. I had an understanding that mindfulness went hand-in-hand with meditation, but also that it was more than that.

“Intentionally paying attention to the present nonjudgmentally” is the way that Janice Marturano explains it. Ms. Marturano is a former deputy general counsel and vice president for public responsibility at General Mills, and helped start its Mindful Leadership Forum in 2004. She left a few years ago to start the nonprofit Institute for Mindful Leadership, which happens to be a 1440 Grantee.

What it’s not, she said, is only about reducing stress. Or about emptying our minds of all thoughts. Or about religion.

“People have the sense that mindfulness is something they can do by focusing on a raisin for five minutes,” said Michael Baime, director of the Penn Program for Mindfulness at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “That is mindful practice, but it takes more than that.”

So here’s what I learned about the basic techniques. First, find a quiet place to focus your attention — on your breath or perhaps on an object. It’s not deep breathing, but rather experiencing “when the breath enters and leaves,” Ms. Marturano said. “Feel the stretch in the rib cage, without me doing anything. Can I notice when the mind takes a hike and redirect it? That redirection is the exercise.”

Perhaps you start at 10 minutes and work your way up to half an hour or 40 minutes a day. But that’s only part of the whole practice.

There’s also what Ms. Marturano calls “purposeful pauses.” Deciding that instead of thinking of a coming meeting while brushing your teeth you really focus on the taste of the toothpaste and the bristles and the water.

“Take yourself out of autopilot,” she said. And eventually expand that “being in the moment” to other parts of your life.

The idea is that over time you’ll feel more focused and more connected to yourself and others.

It sounds simple, but it’s not, because it so goes against the grain of how most of us think and operate. We want to get things done, to identify and fix problems. And that’s the opposite of what mindfulness is all about.

“The way it’s presented in the media, people begin to believe it’s a magic pill,” said Christy Matta, author of the book “The Stress Response” (2012, New Harbinger Publications). “I’ll clear my mind and I’ll be peaceful and stress-free. If that’s what people think, they’ll be disappointed.”

Rather, she said, “it takes time and sustained practice to experience the benefits.”

And, she said, if you go into it with the idea of reducing stress, you’re working against the very thing you’re trying to attain, because you’re aiming toward a goal.

Mindfulness, “is about being present,” she said. “You have to do it just to do it. You can’t strive for things.”

While being aware of your feelings may be nice when drinking a lovely cup of tea or relaxing in a garden, Ms. Matta said, part of mindfulness is also uncomfortable feelings — not trying to change or judge them, but being aware of them. And that may not feel so pleasant.

Dr. Baime said another common misconception is that mindfulness is about learning to be happy. It’s not. Nor is it about eliminating stress.

“Stress doesn’t go away, ever. That’s why we call it stress management rather than stress elimination,” he said. Rather, he said, mindfulness can “create a world where you experience depth, meaning and connectedness. You see joy and sadness more fully and settle more deeply into an authentic way of being.”

If that’s a bit tough to wrap one’s mind around, that’s O.K. Just go with it.

Eventually, mindfulness is supposed to help us spend less time worrying about the future or fretting about the past. We’ll gain perspective, listen better and step back to consider more choices and make decisions more clearly and intentionally, rather than reactively, Ms. Marturano said.

But you shouldn’t assume that mindfulness is the one answer to everything.

For instance, while it has been used to good effect in classrooms, it shouldn’t be used in isolation, said Linda Lantieri, director of the nonprofit group and 1440 Grantee the Inner Resilience Program.

She and others have found that practicing mindfulness can increase attention and focus, and help children respond to stress in a calmer manner, but it also “needs to be part of learning concrete emotional and social skills,” she said.

And although it can help with anxiety and depression, you may need to augment it with other therapies or medication, Ms. Matta said.

Is mindfulness something you can learn by yourself? There are some good books that offer guidance. Ms. Matta mentioned her own, of course, and “Full Catastrophe Living,” (Delacorte Press, 1990) by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Professor Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is considered one of the foremost experts on the subject.

But everyone I spoke to said that you need to take a course and perhaps go on a retreat to fully experience and gain value from mindfulness. I realize that the people I talked to tended to teach courses, so maybe they’re a little biased. But it also makes sense to me.

Ms. Marturano, who delivered a presentation on mindfulness at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, compared it to exercise. You can watch a video of how to play tennis or read a book and perhaps even learn to play at a basic level that way. But to get better, you need a teacher.

“You’re on a journey of self-discovery and you need a guide,” she said.

Dr. Baime’s institute offers eight-week courses, which cost $549, in which participants attend class for two and half hours a week and one full-day session, and are provided with textbooks and recordings to help meditation at home. The class members are asked to meditate for 40 minutes daily, although Dr. Baime acknowledged that wasn’t an easy goal.

Professor Kabat-Zinn’s center has a useful list to search for centers and teachers by state.

Now that I know more about the potential and limits of mindfulness, I can see it as an option. And I can see why other people are drawn to it, given that we’re living in a such a fractured, information-overloaded world. We’re looking so far ahead to the next thing, we miss what’s going on in the present.

Mindfulness may not be the answer to every ill. But it may be the answer to some. And I’ll settle for that.

A version of this article originally appeared in The New York Times. Read the story here.




Keeping Calm Under Fire

First, I wanted to extend a heart-felt thanks to the folks at 1440 Foundation for supporting our work and making real change possible in the heart of our community.

For those of you who don’t know us, here’s where we’re coming from: we believe awareness practices develop and sustain the basic capacities at the foundation of human performance. Like 1440 Foundation, we see self-awareness as the heart of the matter – it changes relationships to self, family, and others. With our deep background in martial arts, combat and athletic performance, our goal is to share the mental conditioning techniques that cultivate awareness in ways that can have a profound impact on both the performance and wellbeing of Type A individuals.

Here’s a quick story to illustrate what I mean:

A military SWAT unit we trained last spring was called to support an operation by the FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). Parents had killed their older child and were home with their small baby. The HRT mission was a “snatch and grab” of sorts – snatch the baby before any harm could be done and grab the parents to subdue them before they could hurt themselves or anyone else.

MWThe HRT team was to enter from the front of the house; the SWAT unit we trained was to enter from the back. As they waited on high alert at the rear door, battering ram at the ready, the SWAT team lead felt the growing tension and whispered to his teammates, “Alright everybody, belly breath.” A collective deep breath ensued, re-regulating their nervous systems. Almost immediately, the team lead heard a whisper from behind, “Hey, is the door open?” A simple question, but way outside of the box. SWAT teams are trained to Go, Go, Go!  but this team now saw a new option, a new choice point, thanks to the mind training they’d done with us.

Reaching out, the team lead silently turned the doorknob. The door wasn’t locked. The baby was in a crib right by the door. They scooped up the baby and closed the back door. Safe baby.

When the entry call came, all hell broke loose up front, but the SWAT team just entered quietly through the back. Distracted by an explosion at the front door, the parents missed the SWAT team advancing on them from the rear of the house. They were both subdued with no weapons fired and no further harm done.

On the way home, the team did a debrief and a collective belly breath exercise for nervous system re-regulation. Against the odds, it had been a very good day. Mission accomplished for the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and the SWAT team (safe baby and no further casualties), and mission accomplished for us (the awareness, modulation and regulation of body and mind under extreme duress produced the best possible outcome for the situation).

That baby is alive today as a direct result of the training we do. So, when we say our goal is to share mental conditioning techniques that have a profound impact, we mean exactly that.

Mark Williams is CEO of Dynamic Human Solutions, a 1440 Grantee.




A Quiet Transformation

This post is a summary of “A Quiet Transformation” by James S. Dierke, the former principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School. You can read the full article in the “Leadership Newsletter” here.

Developed by Washington, D.C. principal, George Rutherford, at the Fletcher Johnson School in the early ‘90s, Quiet Time (QT) helps reduce stress and fuel the desire to learn by integrating meditation into the daily routine of the school. After hearing a talk on the subject of Transcendental Meditation (TM) in October 1992 and finding success with it in his own life, Rutherford decided to integrate TM in his school hoping for similar success. You can read Fletcher Johnson School’s story here.

San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley Middle School invited 1440 Foundation Grantee, Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education, to help develop and implement the program at their school. The program launched at the school in January 2007 after receiving funding from the David Lynch Foundation.

By shortening the lunch period and using homeroom and passing periods, the school created two 15-minute stretches for QT, each at the beginning and end of each day. All students and teachers are offered training in TM, chosen for its particular effectiveness at reducing stress and supporting healthy brain development.

At first, the program was only implemented with sixth and seventh graders using eighth graders as the control group. The results were astounding. As eighth grade referrals and suspensions increased, both sixth and seventh grade saw a decrease, with overall suspensions reduced by 79 percent. Multi-day suspensions, which are given out for more serious offenses, like fighting, decreased by 43 percent among students enrolled in the QT program. The school saw a 43-percent decrease for multi-day suspensions among students enrolled in the QT program.

It wasn’t just disciplinary rates that saw improvement; QT students improved in math and language arts with the biggest improvements coming from the below-basic and far-below-basic groups. Teachers also improved from the QT program; absenteeism among teachers was down 30 percent compared to the prior year. In fact, teachers listed QT as the most impactful program in the school, citing improvements in climate, health and student engagement. Students agreed — 85 percent reported the program helped reduce stress and violence and improve focus and health.

QT showed administrators that unless the underlying stress and trauma that students deal with is addressed, it doesn’t matter how much effort is put into teaching. In a study conducted by Columbia University that confirmed this, researchers found that high levels of stress, like that experienced by students in low socio-economic status areas, impairs healthy brain function, making it even more difficult to learn. Columbia’s researchers concluded poverty leads to higher stress, which in turn leads to poorer working memory, violence, behavioral issues and impaired focus —impairing a child’s ability to learn and make good decisions.

With the implementation of the QT program, the atmosphere at Visitacion Valley Middle School has become much more positive. In the lastCalifornia Healthy Kids Survey, the students from Visitacion Valley Middle School reported the highest happiness levels in San Francisco (even though their neighborhood experienced 41 murders from 2005 to 2007).

By taking just 30 minutes out of their 1440, school administrators changed the lives of each of the students who walked through the doors of Visitacion Valley Middle School.

What could meditation do for you?




Why Today Counts

You check your phone shortly after waking tomorrow morning.

There’s a text from your bank saying, “Someone deposited $1440 in your checking account last night.  It’ll only be there today.  Whatever you don’t use will be removed at midnight.”

What would you do?

If it happened to me, I would think, “OK, this is no little thing.  I’ve got some options:

  • I could spend it.
  • I could save it.
  • I could invest it.
  • I could give it.

But there’s one thing I wouldn’t do: Ignore it.

Would you?

Surprised man holding moneyThat’s really what happens every day to each of us

But it’s not dollars.

It’s minutes.

Every day, we get 1440 minutes.  We start the day with them, and they’ll be gone when the day is over.

At the beginning of the day, we can choose what to do with them.  If we wait until the end of the day, those choices are made for us by default.

The good news is that it happens again tomorrow.

And the next day.  And the day after that.

But not forever.

So, we’ve got 1,440 minutes today (less, unless we’re reading this at midnight).  What do we need to know to make good use of those minutes?

  1. Time is limited.  There will come a day when those daily deposits stop.  So it’s important to make sure we use each day’s minutes wisely.
  2. There are no days that do not count.  Each day is unique, and provides unique opportunities.  If we ignore those opportunities today, they’re gone forever.
  3. Our future will be determined by our daily choices.
    • Good choices today will pay dividends in our future.
    • Bad choices today will make withdrawals from our future.
    • Not making any choices today gives our future away.
  4. Nobody becomes an overnight success.  Nobody becomes an overnight failure.  It’s the culmination of our daily choices.
  5. If we’ve been making bad choices (or no choices), we can change that today.  One good choice moves our future forward.

Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow isn’t here yet.  Worrying about either one will distract us from being intentional about today.

So, how will you use your 1,440 minutes today?

This post originally appeared on http://www.mikebechtle.com/.




Interpersonal Benefits of Mindfulness: Part II

This is a guest blog post by Suzanne Parker, research associate in the department of psychology at the University of Miami.

As discussed in the previous post, mindfulness practices often cultivate a sense of presence that enhances moment-to-moment awareness. This direct experience of the present moment – minimizing interpretation, ingrained emotional reactivity, and cognitive restructuring – is conducive to facilitating interpersonal attunement, the resonance that occurs between people while interacting.

A great deal of the significance of presence is in the ability to attend to the most authentic – the least automatic – experience possible. Opening one’s present experience to “bottom-up” processing means sensing perceptual stimuli as directly as possible with a minimization of “top-down” filtering by cognitive and emotional mechanisms that have formed over time through past experience. This is not to say that the mental schemas we have established over time are harmful; indeed, they are what categorize our experience into manageable information as we move through the world. However, sometimes these schemas, while streamlining perception, can limit our direct observation of the present moment by shaping our experience to fit patterns we have come to expect.

The receptivity of presence allows us to more directly perceive the person in front of us, as well as our own reactions to them, in an authentic manner that goes above seeing what we expect – or want – to see. Brown and Cordon (2009) describe this suspension of a habitual, automatic mode of processing and assert that this flexibility of attention enables us to bring a sense of freshness and clarity to our individual experience. Dr. Dan Siegel refers to this idea as such:

“In the presence mindful awareness reveals, top-down constraints that filter, distort, limit, and restrict sensation are minimized … it seems that mindful awareness permits us to get as close as we can to clear vision, that there is some kind of ‘ground of being’ or some grounded receptive state, some spaciousness of the mind, that is as free from top-down filter constraints as is humanly possible.” (Siegel, 2007, p. 161-2)

Presence in interpersonal interaction includes not only being receptive to the experience of the person across from you, but also to your own internal experience during that interaction. This intrapersonal attunement is a necessary part of interpersonal attunement, in that your awareness of your own reactions while interacting with another person are key to the ability to resonate deeply with the other person.

“Receptivity demands a conscious intention and commitment to remain open, accepting, and allowing to all of the dimensions and experiences that arise. The allowing quality of receptivity is a distinct process of letting in experience and allowing it to flow through one’s self, as opposed to observing experience from an emotional or clinical distance.” (Geller & Greenberg, 2002, p. 78)

Being present with another person simultaneously involves being fully present with yourself and your own experience.

Photo Credits: davidyuweb, Martin LaBar




Announcing the 1440 Challenge Winners

There has been a veritable whirlwind of activity surrounding the inaugural 1440 Challenge here at 1440 Foundation this summer. We reviewed close to 170 submissions, selected our top 20 semi-finalists, further filtered that list down to six finalists, convened the judging panel, hosted finalist presentations, and completed the deliberations to select three winners. It was a strong field of submissions, and we were honored to review literally dozens of fresh ideas and insightful programs designed to promote self-awareness, empathy, authenticity and trust.

Drum roll, please….

We’re delighted to announce that the three winners of this year’s 1440 Challenge are (in alphabetical order) The Headspace Experiment, Teen Wellness Counselor, and What Matters Now. Each winner will receive a $25,000 award as well as assistance from members of the judging panel. In addition, all 20 semi-finalists have been given complimentary admission to the Wisdom 2.0 conference,February 21-24, 2013 at Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco.

This has been a very exciting process for all of us and we’re delighted to help nurture such fantastic and much-needed programs, practices and ideas. We’d like to extend a big thank you to everyone who participated in this 1440 Challenge. We are thrilled with the result and equally eager to see what next year brings!




Interpersonal Benefits of Mindfulness: Part I

This is a guest blog post by Suzanne Parker, research associate in the department of psychology at the University of Miami.

Experienced meditators and people high in dispositional mindfulness are often described as “warm” people, humans who are intimately in touch with the joys and sufferings of their fellow humans. Is this common perception true, and is there empirical evidence to support it? One of the more intriguing elements of mindfulness can appear almost contradictory: how can a personal practice such as meditation that is “your own” lead to interpersonal benefits off the cushion?

The interdisciplinary approach of interpersonal neurobiology suits an exploration of this question. Interpersonal neurobiology examines the neural basis of relationships as the sharing of energy and information (Siegel, 2012a, 2012b). Looking at the impact of mindfulness practices and dispositional mindfulness on relationships and social interaction, “presence” comes forward as an essential component of mindfulness that has a large role in mediating the relationship of mindfulness and “interpersonal attunement,” the ways in which we focus on the internal state of another individual with kindness and compassion (Siegel, 2012a).

In conceptual opposition to presence is mind-wandering, and there is much recent research demonstrating the beneficial effects of mindfulness practices for reducing mind-wandering, in the process enhancing cognitive functioning and attentional ability. Empirical work of late suggests that a sense of presence – facilitating attunement and resonance while decreasing mind-wandering – represents one of the foundational elements of the interpersonal benefits of mindfulness.

Josho Pat Phelan depicts mindful practice as “presence with the intention of becoming one with our activity, so that the gaps between body and mind, between our attention and our activity, close” (Phelan, 2010, p. 131). Phelan describes the process of washing dishes with presence:

You will not have to stop and ask yourself: ‘Are my hands in the water or out?’ ‘Does the water feel hot or just lukewarm?’ … When we wash dishes, we know directly and immediately the heat and sudsy quality of the water without needing to pull ourselves back from the situation to think about it … Once we step back to examine an experience, the original experience has ended and we begin a new experience, which is reflecting on the past. (Phelan, 2010, p. 132-3)

In interpersonal situations, presence facilitates the ability to attune to what is happening in the moment without conceptual elaboration or unintentional preparation for what is anticipated to be coming next that diverts attentional resources. Presence is “the bare awareness of the receptive spaciousness of our mind,” a “state of receptive awareness of our open minds to whatever arises as it arises” (Siegel, 2007, p. 160-1). To be present and experience directly means to minimize interpreting what occurs from within a framework of rigid mental constructs or ingrained emotional reactivity. In interpersonal interaction, these elements are conducive to connecting to the most authentic experience of another person and the ability to deeply resonate with his or her present state.

Photo credit: h.koppdelaney




Announcing the 1440 Challenge Finalists

It’s been almost a month since we announced the semi-finalists in the 1440 Challenge; in that time our jobs have gotten exponentially more difficult. From scouring the Internet for possible competitors to following up on every link that was sent to us, we painstakingly narrowed down the list from 20 semi-finalists to six finalists. We got a hint of how tough this process was going to be when we set out to select our semi-finalists and indeed it took us almost as much time to narrow to six as it did narrowing to 20.

The next step for these six individuals will be presenting their ideas live in front of our panel of judges at 1440 headquarters on August 30. There, the judges will be able to ask questions and delve deeper into each of the projects scrutinizing them based on alignment with the 1440 Foundation’s objectives, sustainability and scalability. Winners will be announced on September 1. Our semi-finalists won’t walk away empty-handed, each will receive a ticket to the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in February to network with like-minded individuals to further their project.

We are excited by the connections people have begun to form through the challenge and we’re hoping to forge even more by getting entrants in touch with others who can help develop and bring their ideas to fruition. A special thank you to Edwin Rutsch, for organizing two awesome panels of 1440 Challenge participants. We are incredibly grateful to have been apart of this process and connect over our shared passion of helping others forge meaningful relationships. We don’t envy our judges as the hardest part of all lies ahead of them.

Congratulations to the 1440 Challenge finalists for 2012:




Enriching Evidence-Based SEL Curricula with Daily Contemplative Practice Routine

I recently attended a conference in San Francisco called “Learning and the Brain – Educating the Whole Child,” attended by more than 1,400 teachers, principals, administrators and health workers in the education system. The speaker program was terrific, and I heard speaker after speaker lecture on the neurophysiological impact of education and upbringing on the developing child.

The scientific understanding of how young people learn, make decisions, relate to others, and develop their neural networks is rapidly expanding. Both the social/behavioral and neuro-scientific evidence seems to be piling up to the point where we now have really good theory and application for how best to teach our children for optimal citizenship, fulfillment, and achievement in life.

The overall conclusion is that social and emotional learning theory and curricula should play an important role in how we attempt to reform our educational system. In short, students do best when the following factors (among many others) are present:

  1. Good early childhood parenting (sufficient stimulation, attachment, and especially being read to).
  2. Good classroom management techniques on the part of the teacher.
  3. Working to increase relevance and salience of the material to the students.
  4. Providing a safe school experience.
  5. Promoting an optimistic, empowered, and curious classroom experience.
  6. Expecting achievement levels that challenge students but fall within their capacities as they develop.
  7. Providing a trusting student teacher relationship with teachers who can embody social and emotional intelligence.
  8. Helping students understand their emotional life and the emotional life of other students.
  9. Helping students develop earned confidence in their ability to solve problems and overcome challenges.
  10.  Creating school leadership that is supportive of whole child development and creates a positive school environment.

Obviously there are many other factors besides the ones listed above, but these and other factors tend to develop the brain and nervous system toward higher levels of integration: right hemisphere integrated with left, limbic integration with cortex, executive functions integrated with inner brain functions, etc. As Dan Siegel and others are demonstrating, good relationships and stimulating surroundings have a dramatic, positive, and integrative impact on the developing brain and nervous system. Further, the level of brain/nervous system integration conditions behavior and character and mediates access to the potential for human achievement in all domains.

I listened to the speakers at the conference make the persuasive case that our approach to education should track with what we now know is going on in our brains and nervous system. I also realized that the approach they recommended mirrored pretty much all of the theory, tenets, and approaches of SEL curricula.

Thus the importance of including SEL curricula in schools.

At the same time I was realizing just how important the relationship and environmental components of education were to successful social and academic outcomes, it also occurred to me just how challenging aggregating those factors is going to be, how expensive, and how difficult it is going to be to sustain them over time. The good principal retires, the next teacher doesn’t care, funding is cut, a parent gets arrested or divorced, the great teacher is overwhelmed with classes that are too big, bullies will always be with us, attention is fragmented more and more in our society, the test score is all, teachers are too stressed to teach and kids are too stressed to learn, etc., etc.

As I began to more deeply understand how the brain develops, it occurred to me the ancients faced this same dilemma many centuries ago. They intuitively understood what brain science is only now supporting; that the way we relate to each other and the fabric of our environment makes a big difference in developing our capacities for power, accomplishment, and fulfillment in life. For this reason almost every wisdom tradition teaches ethical conduct, service to others, compassion, loving kindness, community participation, etc. At the same time, they realized the world and other people form an uncertain abode. While attempting to develop a positive environment or improve the world was a worthy aim, there were so many fluid factors in play that one should not rely solely on the relationships and outer world to create positive outcomes in life. Parallel attempts at developing a positive inner environment could be used as a powerful assist.

They suggested that one could make progress toward neurological integration (healthy brain) by the daily practice of inner meditation methods that turned down the stress response and trained the attention. The theory is that regular practice of these methods trains the same or functionally equivalent brain structures as do good relationships and a positive environment. Adele Diamond’s recent work supports this premise (see attached article). Regular meditation practice improves executive function just like good relationships and positive environment do. If you can’t get all the external factors lined up to create the optimal brain development, you can still work toward that same optimal brain development through daily efforts to calm the body and train ones’ attention. Both outer supports like good relationships and positive environment and inner practices that calm the nervous system and train attention seem to improve brain integration and executive function. Executive function seems to be key to unlocking positive social behaviors, the ability to sustain attention, making good life decisions, and ultimately perhaps academic achievement.

Having advanced this premise, it must be said that humans are complex, and that no one approach seems to work for everyone. It seems intuitively obvious that our efforts to test, refine, and promulgate SEL curricula are valuable, and more evidence is rapidly accumulating that this is so. It also seems obvious that our efforts in that arena depend on a great many variables coming together and staying together in the life of our young people, thus posing significant operational challenges in scaling SEL programs. Why wouldn’t we try to match our efforts in the SEL domain with sustained efforts to provide young adults ways to develop their own brain in the proper way, through stress management and attention training meditation practices?  We may find that the addition of daily practice to SEL curricula is more empowering, more effective, more sustainable, and cheaper than we think.




Insert Empathy Here

Empathy. It’s not something you’ll find taught in schools or practiced in politics, business or the courts, yet it is an essential component to life. Empathy is so fundamental to human development that people without it can be classified as psychopaths. It is a part of psychology that has not been studied until fairly recently but is one of the most precious resources on the planet.

There are two types of empathy, affective empathy (the ability to have consideration and sympathy for other people) and cognitive empathy (the ability to understand situations by reading people’s facial expressions, their way of speaking or their demeanor). A lack of affective empathy will tend to lead people to dominate or abuse others while a lack of cognitive empathy can make one an easy target for bullying because of an inability to properly respond to each situation.

We assume children will naturally develop the ability to empathize and sympathize with people, but this could not be farther from the truth. How a child is raised will have great influence over their ability to empathize and function normally. The hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory and memory consolidation, and the neural systems that respond to threats are impaired in children of abuse and neglect. The same holds true for people who are constantly under stress, the hippocampus will become irreversibly damaged.

Even if children are raised in a loving relaxing home they can still develop an empathy impairment through hyper-connected lifestyles. In fact, millenials score up to 40 percent lower on empathy tests than previous generations, the lowest scores coming after the year 2000. Through exposure to violent media and the trend toward virtual relationships, children can develop a decreased capacity to feel empathy. “In addition to missing facial expressions, tone of voice and body language, today’s digital addicts may miss signs of deception and insincerity in-person,” says Government Executive John K. Mullen. He also asserts that over-reliance on technology can diminish valuable social skills, such as the ability to make eye contact.

Before we go off and blame video games and technology for everything, we have to point out parental responsibility. Lots of kids play violent videogames and spend hours in front of the TV and grow up with a full capacity for empathy so obviously parenting plays an important role. However, parents are also increasingly distracted by technology. In some homes where both parents work full-time, children miss out on their one opportunity for face-to-face interaction (exacerbated by parents glued to their smartphones at home) and are being raised by televisions and the Internet. It is any wonder that these kids don’t understand authentic relationships? They are being raised by the media and taught that worth is defined by looks and that violence is no big deal.

Violence and bullying in school also affects how well children are able to empathize. One study done in Korea on 2,232 pairs of twins age 12 found “The average empathic ability quotient of the children who had no experience of school violence was 5.06 while the bullies and their victims were 4.22 and 4.24 respectively. Children who had both suffered bullying and acted as bullies had the lowest rating at an average of 3.64.” As professor Kim boldly asserts, “Education only focused on English and mathematics cannot solve the school violence problem.”

 

Once the importance of empathy is realized we can begin to fix the structural problems in the system. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen puts it best, “Empathy is like a universal solvent. Any problem immersed in empathy becomes soluble. It is effective as a way of anticipating and resolving interpersonal problems, whether this is a marital conflict, an international conflict, a problem at work, difficulties in a friendship, politicaldeadlocks, a family dispute, or a problem with the neighbor. Unlike the arms industry that costs trillions of dollars to maintain, or the prison service and legal system that cost millions of dollars to keep oiled, empathy is free. And, unlike religion, empathy cannot, by definition, oppress anyone.”

What will you practice with your 1440?

 




Announcing the 1440 Challenge Semi-Finalists

After weeks of reading, deliberation and not a few restless nights, we have narrowed the 1440 Challenge‘s 168 entries to 20 semi-finalists. The challenge (so to speak) for us was choosing just 20, but the effort itself was rewarding because we were able to experience this budding community’s enthusiasm.

We also were grateful for the chance to review some truly fantastic ideas. Not all of them fit into our work directly, but our thanks go out to everyone who participated. When selecting the semi-finalists, we kept in mind four criteria from our submission guidelines:

  1. Was the submission in line with 1440 Foundation’s mission?  We’re looking for ideas that promote or teach the relationship skills of authenticity, trust, empathy and self-awareness in the spaces of education, wellness or the workplace. It was important to the foundation that one of the specific relationship skills be the main focus of the entry and not a byproduct of a specific program.
  2. Does the submission have the potential to scale? Can the project or program be rolled out nationally or internationally? Not all entries in the top 20 fit this bill, but scalability does help ideas reach as many people as possible — people who might benefit from or be amenable to learning and sharing these relationship skills. Social networks and smartphone apps certainly offer the opportunity to spread ideas quickly; however, technology isn’t a tonic that magically makes a program or project reach the masses. The quality of the ideas themselves mattered mosts. You’ll notice a few curricula in our top 20 we feel will scale well.
  3. Can the submission reach people beyond active participants in these fields? It was important to us that the idea have the potential to be accessible to those people who don’t actively practice some of the techniques we often mention, such as mindfulness. Part of spreading these relationship skills means reaching new people not just energizing those who would already be prone to the practice. Again, not every project or program selected will appeal this widely, but it was a consideration.
  4. Finally, the idea needed to be sustainable. 1440 wants to support ideas that can ultimately sustain themselves. We are eager for the best ideas to make the mainstream.

Regardless of whether you’re idea made it into this top 20 list, we hope all of you stay in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, and other communications channels so we can see how your projects and dreams grow. When possible, we’re also happy to point you in the direction of others who might share your goals or organizations that can provide additional support.

Meanwhile, congratulations to the semi-finalists listed below. (Please note: Individual entries in a contest app on Facebook cannot be viewed on a smartphone. You’ll have to use a computer or iPad to see the entries. We apologize for the inconvenience.) Now, in no particular order:




Announcing the Ashoka Activating Empathy Winners

BrainBot is a consumer neurotechnology company based in CaliforniaCongratulations to BrainBot, winner of the 1440 Foundation special-focus prize in the Activating Empathy competition. BrainBot’s entry, Mindful Brains in School, was just what we were looking for to promote empathy in education through technology of social media.

Back in January, Ashoka’s Changemakers launched the Activating Empathy competition to fund big ideas looking to advance empathy in education. 1440 Foundation was excited to sponsor a portion of the competition focused on activating empathy, using consumer technology or social media, in education.

Why does empathy deserve a whole contest? The simple answer: Empathy is fundamental to life. It is about understanding, sensitivity, communication, resolution, listening, learning and awareness. Empathy should be activated every time we interact with someone. The challenge: Empathy is one of the most important skills many of us were never taught in school. Society often expects that children will grow up learning how to relate to others, but more people are finding themselves not wanting or knowing how to relate to others.

The Activating Empathy competition was born out of concern for this dangerous digital trend with one goal: Transforming schools to teach what matters. Applicants were asked to identify solutions that enable children to be effective citizens, leaders, and changemakers by equipping them with the skills to understand the perspectives of others while demonstrating the sustainability of their idea.

Out of 628 entries 15 finalists were selected and 14 won prizes: two judges picks, a People’s Choice pick, one special focus prize awarded by 1440 Foundation, four from Mattel,five from Townsend Press and DonorsChoose.org and three from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. So here — in addition to BrainBot — are  all the winners. A hearty congratulations and thanks to everyone who participated!

Judges choice:


People’s choice:


Mattel Prize for Play:


Donorschoose.org and Townsend Press Prize:


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Prize




Symposia for Contemplative Studies

At the end of April, several of us from 1440 Foundation were fortunate enough to attend the inaugural International Symposia for Contemplative Studies a collaborative effort to explore the value and effects of contemplative practices. The event was facilitated by the Mind & Life Institute, a grantee of 1440 Foundation as well as a recent recipient of a $200,000 grant from the Dalai Lama. The symposia was a great juxtaposition of science and spirit, bringing together renowned researchers, scholars, teachers, students, and 1440 grantees for a weekend centered on mindfulness.

We were awed by the power of the community and their motivation to bringing mindfulness to all people in all spaces. With so many incredible minds in the room, we were able to learn a lot and gain a broader understanding of the work currently being done in the field of mindfulness. One important tip we learned was the importance of logic models when applying for government funding.

We also had the opportunity to catch up with some 1440 grantees and learn about the exciting things they have planned this year. We even got a few of them to give us their thoughts on video! Look for those soon on our Facebook page and this site.

We were filled with a heightened sense of purpose and pride as each one of our grantees took the podium and talked about the work they were doing and how 1440 Foundation had helped them get there. We are so grateful to be working with such incredibly kind, mindful and motivated people. We can’t wait to see what the challenge winners have in store for us.

Love and light,

Ila




Connecting vs. Conversing

An image of the Facebook logo reflected in aviator sunglassesAt 1440 Foundation, we’ve seen more than a few reports lately lament texting and chat as tools removing a personal element from building relationships.

Human relationships are rich, but also messy and demanding. Sherry Turkle’s reported for The New York Times that “technology” is becoming the habit by which more and more people clean up those relationships. In essence, she writes, we seem to be moving from casual conversations to connections. The process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, she claims, it seems that over time we stop caring; we forget that there is a difference.

new study by Julian Orr finds “chat continuously but almost imperceptibly adjusts a group’s collective knowledge and individual members’ awareness of each other.” Orr’s research found that sharing stories help bind people through interpretation of a shared concept. Orr sees how students might benefit from teachers integrating Twitter and the concept of hashtags into online classes. Meanwhile, introverts — even famous ones such as Steve Jobs — seem to have a secret power according to TED speaker Susan Cain.

However, for all the article claiming that Facebook is making us lonely, there are just as many illustrating how social media brings us together. Harvard fellow Zeynep Tufekci detailed his thinking forcefully in a rebuttal to Marche’s article, saying,

“As a social media researcher and a user, every time I read one of these ‘let’s panic’ articles about social media (and there are many), I want to shout: Look at TV! Look at commutes! Look at suburbs! Look at long work hours!”

In another takedown of the Atlantic article, Eric Klinenberg (whose own book “Going Solo” is quoted in the Atlantic story) found many of the article’s historical claims to be “as unfounded as its sociological ones.”

“When the telephone arrived,” Marche writes, “people stopped knocking on their neighbors’ doors.” Fischer, whose America Calling is a landmark study of how the telephone affected U.S. social life, found that “When the telephone arrived, people didn’t stop knocking on their neighbors’ doors; they called and then knocked.” Marche argues that “If cars created the suburbs, surely they also created isolation.” According to Fischer, “The car did not isolate us; women flocked to driving cars because cars made it easier to get out and see people.”

Several bloggers, authors, and essayists have highlighted how social media is becoming the scapegoat for a much deeper social problem. That issue is perhaps best highlighted by a 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything. He tells Turkle, almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

And that’s what we at 1440 Foundation are trying to do in person and online: converse. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t always comfortable, but “connecting” just isn’t the same without real conversation.




Time to Connect?

Illustration of people holding hands

In April, 1440 Foundation spent a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook sharing articles, asking questions, and looking for answers — deeper meanings — in all this news about technology and the skills needed to cultivate deeper, richer relationships with ourselves, each other, and the world. It’s been a learning experience, for sure. Some of these efforts are working well. We’re gaining followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook. They’ve been good for sharing interesting articles (many of which are referenced above) and gleaning interesting perspectives from others. They have not, thus far, been a source of rich conversations.

Obviously, it takes time to build a community and trust. And people—even those who we support with grants or who will be judging our 1440 Challenge—are extraordinarily busy. So, to ensure meaningful conversation continues, we’re taking a few new steps, starting now:

  1. Look for our comments on articles and blog entries. Sometimes we’ll express our point of view, other times, we may just pose a question. But because conversations are happening far and wide, we’ll be stretching ourselves to dive in where they’ve started.
  2. We’ve started a real blog. This is the first post. It’s tough to express everything in the few sentences Facebook allots for posts before being truncated. It’s nearly impossible to share more than a single quip in Twitter’s 140 characters. Previously, we were sharing some quotations we found valuable here, but the page didn’t see a lot of traffic. So now we’re kicking into second gear with more long-form sharing. Obviously, we’d love to see some conversations around these posts, but for now it’s important just to get the words out.
  3. We’re preparing a few more videos that include interviews with the people whose programs we support. And we’ll make sure they’re available to share and embed on other sites, because what they’re doing is important and should be shared.

As always, if you have something you’d like to share, let us know. Pinned to the left of each page of our website are the social networking sites we use. And we have the 1440 Challenge going on right now, which is the best way to both share your big idea for teaching people about these relationship skills and get funding to develop it further.