Mindfulness Northwest News

The latest news on Mindfulness Northwest developments. You can keep in touch with us further by signing up for our email newsletters on the Contact page.

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  • 7 Nov 2019 2:10 PM | Catherine Duffy (Administrator)

    Meeting our Worries with RAIN

    By Tim Burnett

    Mindfulness training with its present-centered non-judgmental focus is so very helpful in turning down the volume on worry and rumination. Have you noticed this yet? The power of meeting our complex problems with simplicity is literally revolutionary (in that it can turns us around in a very healthy way). 

    We notice that the mind is getting lost in planning, fretting, rehashing, rehearsing, and ruminating and we learn that it's possible, with practice, to a take a little inner step back. We don't have to get lost in the thinking and worrying and the associated heavy emotions that come up.

    We can use the labeling practice [for more info, see link at bottom] to notice the mental phenomena that are arising without getting quite as caught in them. They are powerful thoughts but it's possible to see them as thoughts. "Oooh, I sure am worrying about this non-stop, wow." And then we can move our attention to the body or the breathing or anchor ourselves in our present-moment sensory experience. Have you looked at the sky lately? We live under a beautiful and always changing sky!

    This way, mindfulness can give us at least a moment of peace. And those moments are powerful. Those moments add up. Our ruminating worried mind, little by little, has less of a grip on us. It's less controlling. We can do something else internally and open to so much else externally.

    And yet. And yet: we do have problems that need attending to. Every one of us carries burdens and challenges. It's a great exercise in common humanity to look around at people - on the street, in the store, at work - and remind yourself of this. Every single person you see is carrying a serious challenge of some kind. We don’t know what it is, but we know this is true. People have sick and dying parents and children and friends. People are stuck in unhealthy patterns and addictions of all kinds. People are worried about their future and often have very good reason to be worried. It's not easy being a person regardless of our circumstances and many face very difficult circumstances. And we all share this challenge - it's just the details that differ.

    More than moments of peace and changes in perception

    We also do need to turn towards and work with our problems. The question is how can we do this wisely? How do we meet our difficult problems with a little more spaciousness and compassion? How do we approach inner turmoil with mindfulness? 

    There are so many answers to this question aren't there? It's good to have a trusted friend or therapist to talk things though with. For many, journal writing is helpful. All kinds of body-based practices can help us gain insight and perspective as well, lest we try to tackle everything with our thinking minds alone.

    One meditation-based practice we find very helpful for turning towards our problems is the practice of RAIN. Popularized by the American meditation teacher Tara Brach, RAIN is an acronym.

    R.  Recognize what is happening – can we release from denial and avoidance, and turn towards it?

    A.   Allow and Accept that what is, is – can we see and feel and understand this more fully?

    I.   Investigate the inner experience – what else is here? What are your deeper feelings?

    N.   Non-identification – see that this problem does not define who you are. 

    RAIN directly de-conditions the habitual ways in which you resist your moment-to-moment experience. It doesn’t matter whether you resist “what is” by lashing out in anger, by having a drink or other unhealthy coping, or by getting immersed in obsessive thinking. Your attempt to control the life within and around you actually cuts you off from your own heart and from this living world. RAIN begins to undo these unconscious patterns as soon as we take the first step.

    Learn more about RAIN and try practicing along with two of our senior teacher's as they guide the practice on our website [see link below].

    May the gentle rain of mindful awareness and compassion help you face your deep inner challenges in wise and helpful ways when it's time to do that. And maybe the practice of mindfulness can help house the wide world of your life, and see that your life is much much more than just your problems.


    Resource links:

    Noting/Labeling Practice

    RAIN Practice

  • 3 Oct 2019 1:01 PM | Catherine Duffy (Administrator)

    Mindfulness of Life Wandering

    By Michael Kelberer

    I’ve learned that meditation is a way to practice the skills of noticing when our minds are wandering and returning our awareness to the object of our practice. I’ve often heard this practice as noticing when our mental train has left the station and choosing to disembark back into the present.

    The Big Narrative

    I have known for some time that there are quite a few deeply ingrained habits of thought, emotion and actions that together form the train ride I’ve been on for most of my life. At my age, that train has been away from the Present Station for a long time!

    It occurred to me lately that I could apply the same principles of mindfulness that I use in my meditations to my life as a whole. To the Big Train. The Big Narrative. That’s because it would be very fair to say that my life has wandered far from my true path over the decades.


    This process started for me on a retreat when I decided to use the Labeling practice all day. Whenever I noticed the thought train leave the station, I’d apply a label to it. It didn’t take long before I realized the same labels appeared over and over again. In particular, I noticed that, although the details varied, most of my past and future journeys weren’t thinking as much as they were daydreaming, and the daydreams were remarkably adolescent – meaning they’d been part of the Big Narrative for a long while. The most common, for example, was re-writing the past or scripting the future so that I, a Lone Ranger-type, swept in and saved the day: A problem would ensue and there I was to fix it right up. Pretty embarrassing daydream for a man of six-plus decades to see, admit to myself, and accept as a part of who I am. But there it was.

    Turning Toward

    In mindful self-compassion I learned the value of turning toward unpleasant emotions like embarrassment, and how to recognize that while emotions I feel are valid, they are not who I am. I also began to realize that by staying with my unpleasant feelings of embarrassment - rather than turning away from them - I could use the feeling of embarrassment to cultivate new levels of awareness and choice. For instance, I would rather not spend my valuable time on these daydreams. Instead, when I noticed my mind wandering down these familiar train tracks, I could call the past “the past” while planning for the future in more realistic ways.

    Practicing mindfulness as a means of staying with those embarrassment feelings also led me to realize one reason my daydreaming had stuck around so long. For me, it is because the daydreams themselves are very pleasant (as long as I stayed safely in my save-the-day narrative). I began to realize that if I wanted to change my daydreaming habit, to get off that particular narrative train, I’d have to be willing to give up the save-the-day parts of the daydreams as well.

    It’s kind of like the effects of eating ice cream: The cold, creamy goodness tastes awesome going down. But once I step off the Ice Cream Express, I begin to notice the unpleasant bloated feeling afterwards...not to mention the expanding waistline.  So maybe it’s better to limit my intake of ice cream?

    Wisdom Mind

    For me, in-the-present mindfulness has served up a generous platter of tidbits about my life, but by itself it wasn’t effecting any change. For me, the wisdom mind, the part of the mind that steps back and can see what I’m doing – kind of like a silent witness – was the key to getting off the Big Narrative train. This is the part of our minds that, between stimulus and response, helps us choose to move toward freedom and happiness. This is also the part of me that saw patterns in my daydreams, looked beyond their fabricated pleasantness, and was able to admit that their stories were untrue. My wisdom mind is also what imagines me giving up the momentary pleasure of lifeless daydreams in return for more lasting happiness and well-being.  And that’s the route I’ve chosen to take.

    These three aspects of meditative practice: mindfulness, turning toward, and wisdom mind, work together to enabled me - for the first time in my life - to step off of my Big Narrative Train. And as I become more and more used to greater awareness of what is really here right now, I am finding that the only place where happiness is truly possible is in the present moment.

    Author's note: I created the basic thread for this article after reading
    The Power of Mindfulness” by Diana Winston. 

  • 6 Sep 2019 9:39 AM | Catherine Duffy (Administrator)

    Wise Neutrality

    I recently ran across this quotation from James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing is changed until it is faced.”

    Mindfulness and compassion training help us with this practice of "facing" in so many ways. The practices help us be aware there's something there to be faced in the first place. The practices then help us see and start to understand the thoughts and emotions that often stand in the way of this standing upright in the face of our suffering. And the practices offer us tools for understanding and processing as the depth of what we hope to change becomes clear.

    But it's so easy to narrow the project down too much. We narrow it down to something each of us alone must do.  We are so individualistic. A separateness is deeply wired into us. "I should be able to figure this out," we think – a reflex we assume to be truth.

    The more I go along the more I think this just isn't true. We can't figure it out, really. We are too easily misled by our own too-small point of view. We need others to help us face what needs to be changed.

    Given that we truly need each other to face what must be faced, the question that's on my mind lately is how do we need each other? 

    Do we need warmth and friendship from each other? Do we need insight and fresh perspectives from each other? Do we need trusted friends who will question our assumptions about what's going on? Do we need supporters who will simply offer us unconditional encouragement, having total trust that we can do what we set out to do - that we are strong and intelligent and resourceful?

    Probably we need all of the above but perhaps we also need another quality in the supportive others who help us to see who and what we are: The quality of neutrality.

    At a recent retreat a participant who'd experienced significant trauma said something like the following to me: "I really love how neutral you and the other Mindfulness Northwest teachers are when I talk about my problems. You don’t get too excited or disturbed. You don't give advice. You just listen and you're neutral." He went on to talk about how that gave him the space he needed to trust his own resources, to keep working on his life. To face what needs to be faced.

    Isn't that interesting? I think we very much need people we trust, whom we can talk to deeply and intimately, who can be neutral with us. Who can just listen. Who help us face what needs to be faced by simply bearing witness to our process. 

    And this is a gift we can give others when we're the trusted friend or family member. We talk all the time about being present for people in the mindfulness world, and that's more or less the same thing, but there's something that's striking me deeply about remembering to value neutrality. 

    So here's to wise neutrality.

    I hope when you read this you are having a good-enough day!


  • 6 Sep 2019 9:00 AM | Catherine Duffy (Administrator)

    Mindfulness for Healthcare Organizations

    Mindfulness Northwest offers healthcare organizations a full suite of mindfulness trainings designed to reduce stress and burnout. Our workshops and classes include the gold standard 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for medical professionals and, where the 8-week MBSR course isn't a fit, our 4-week Mindfulness for Healthcare Professionals class. We've offered the latter over 40 times in the region both in person and live online. Click for an overview of Mindfulness Northwest's programs for healthcare professionals

    We are happy to share that our pre-/post-training data on burnout using the Maslach Burnout Inventory was recently analyzed by a researcher to show that on two of three legs of that measure participants saw a significant improvement.

    Reduction in emotional exhaustion: 19% (p < .001)

    Reduction in depersonalization: 22% (p = .008)

    The analysis also showed that these measure were highly reliable (Cronbach's alpha scores of 0.87 - 0.91 with anything over 0.70 considered good, and 1.0 being the maximum).

    In this article from Kaiser Permanente (also on our next blog post) Mindfulness: Practicing what we preach (and study ), the author, a physician who took one of our in-house courses, describes how they not only research the benefits of mindfulness, but put mindfulness into practice in their organization.

  • 6 Sep 2019 8:30 AM | Catherine Duffy (Administrator)

    Mindfulness: Practicing what we preach (and study)

    KPWHRI staff attend mindfulness class

    We don't just do research on mindfulness. We encourage our employees to practice it. Dr. Jennifer McClure explains.

    By Jennifer McClure, PhD, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI), senior investigator and director of research, faculty & development

    Mindfulness has become the buzz word du jour. It’s hard to turn on the TV or open a magazine without hearing celebrities, corporate leaders, or spiritual teachers praise its benefits and share their secrets for how you, too can live a more mindful life. It almost sounds like mindfulness is a cure-all—the key to a less stressful, healthier, and happier life. And you know what? As much as that sounds like hype, there’s actually some truth to it.

    What is mindfulness?  

    Jon Kabat-Zinn created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program while at the University of Massachusetts. He defined mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, and sometimes in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”

    Truly being aware of the present moment and giving it your undivided attention is harder than it sounds. It takes training (which is why meditation is considered something you practice, not something you master). To be fully aware of the present moment—including all of the thoughts in your head, sensations in your body, and the symphony of sights and sounds around you—without being judgmental or critical of yourself or others is also really difficult. It’s a skill that most of us must cultivate over time, but the mental investment can pay huge dividends.

    Benefits of mindfulness

    Mindfulness has a strong empirical basis, especially the MBSR program developed by Kabat-Zinn. Research shows that being more mindful has both positive mental and physical health benefits, including reduced stress, anxiety, burnout, chronic pain, and symptoms of chronic illness. Being mindful is also associated with improved focus and creativity, greater job satisfaction and engagement, increased stress resilience, and greater immune functioning. My colleagues from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and I have even found that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a form of mindfulness practice, may be a useful tool to help people stop smoking when delivered as an online intervention or in group counseling sessions.

    Practicing what we preach (and study)

    Given all of these benefits, it’s easy to understand why we don’t just study mindfulness at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI). This summer we also hosted a series of trainings with the regional organization Mindfulness Northwest. The trainings were to teach KPWHRI employees some basic mindfulness exercises and encourage them to practice them as part of their daily routine. Our goal: To help our coworkers better manage the stress of our daily (professional and private) lives.

    Initial feedback on the introductory trainings was very positive. Three-quarters of those surveyed rated the training as “excellent” or “very good” and more than 80 percent said they were likely to use the skills they learned. Others were pleased to have an opportunity to learn some of the techniques used in research studies they’ve worked on at KPWHRI.

    All in all, it was good experience and one that I hope we can offer again in the future. It’s important that we not only study but also promote ways to improve health and wellbeing at KPWHRI. I’m proud to work for a health care organization that allows us to walk our talk.


    If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, here are some resources to consider:

    • Basics of Mindfulness Practice: Learn more about basic mindfulness and mindful meditation practices from the Foundation for a Mindful Society.
    • Mindfulness Classes: Find a range of trainings and classes in Western Washington at Mindfulness Northwest and their class schedule.
    • How Mindfulness Transforms Us: Learn more about mindfulness and what it can do for you with this Tedx Talk by Jo Pang, Slalom Consulting.
    • MBSR: Learn more about MSBR without taking a multiweek class with these resources.
    • Mindfulness Mediation: For more guidance in mindful meditation, check out these great resources from author and teacher Pema Chödrön.

  • 1 Aug 2019 9:31 AM | Catherine Duffy (Administrator)

    Before You Hit SEND…

    I remember when I set up my first email account. In my mind, I would only be using email to pay bills online. At that time I had no idea that many of my personal communications and the majority of my work conversations would soon be conducted via the world wide web.

    A lot of us also didn’t anticipate the enormous number of emails that would eventually flood our lives, often seeming to demand our attention. If we define stress as the condition that arises when what we are tasked to do exceeds the reservoir of our perceived resources, it’s easy to understand why responding to our inbox can become a primary source of stress.

    There are many articles about why email is so stressful and how to work with the conundrum of inbox management.

    What is arising most for me these days is the intersection of email communications and mindfulness practice: I find myself wondering what can be learned both from our own experience and from the wisdom of the ages about wise communication as it applies to the landscape of our digital messaging?

    I remember in one MBSR class a participant shared how the informal practice of “stepping back and taking a breath” had helped her skillfully navigate her way to a response rather than a reaction to an unpleasant work email.  The email, she said, had harshly pointed out a mistake she’d made. At first she wanted to send back a reactive reply, but instead, she took a breath. She noticed the emotions that were present:  defensiveness and anger, as well as the impulse in her body to retaliate via the keyboard.

    In that moment of pausing, she realized she had a choice.

    Rather than firing back with a defensive retort and stewing about the original email all afternoon, she wrote a sincere apology for the error. Did this change any outcomes for her? The participant smiled as she told us that once she pressed send, the situation for her was over.  She was able to go on with her day free from rumination.  And while it is necessary and helpful to address how others communicate with us, for this person, the main lesson came in liberating herself from participating in an unskillful cycle of communication.

    A go-to practice for responding instead of reacting to emails is the Mindful Check in (Mindfulness Northwest Mid-month Practice Letter, April 2019):

       Notice what’s happening in the body - heart racing, teeth clenched, a volcano in your belly, hunched shoulders, fingers pounding the keys loud enough for your office mates to hear.

       Pay attention to the feelings on the surface - anger, irritation, indignation, blame, hatred. And then listen for the soft underbelly of emotional pain - insecurity, shame, fear and dread of never being enough.

       Notice the mind - racing of thoughts, the inability to organize thoughts, the wish to do harm, the “I’ll show them!”

    Then wait to respond…the way we stay with an ill child until the fever dissipates. If a reply is needed right away, there’s always the option to say, “I’ll respond as soon as I’m able.” It’s likely that simply stopping, taking a breath, and observing your experience in the body, emotions, and mind will be enough to proceed wisely. (To learn more about the S.T.O.P. practice, watch this video with Elisha Goldstein.)

    We all experience fluctuations of energy throughout the day. Mindfulness exercises like the Mindful Check-In and S.T.O.P. practices are essential tools that help us access vital information about physical fatigue and strain after our hours spent at a keyboard. Or perhaps they can help spotlight the more nuanced awareness of our emotions and mind states. Practicing a Mindful Check-in in for even five minutes can make it possible to discern when it’s time to step away from the computer in an act of compassion for self and others.

    What if there’s resistance to stopping for that break?

    Mindfulness invites us to notice our resistance with curiosity and kindness, beckoning us to investigate the “I don’t have time” and “gotta get it done now” self-talk that is so prevalent in our busy lives. But when we’re willing step back, take a breath, and ask questions like: “What am I believing right now?” via a Mindful Check-In or S.T.O.P. practice, a treasure trove of self-understanding awaits discovery.

  • 1 Aug 2019 9:28 AM | Catherine Duffy (Administrator)

    Best Practices with Email   by Teresa Johnson

    Let’s say we’ve taken a break and are now back at our computer. What are best practices when responding to someone else’s email or creating your own? Here are  Five principles of wise communication shared by Rick Hanson, Ph.D, New York Times best-selling author, and based on Buddhist teachings.

    Ask yourself if this communication is:

                Well-intended – Is my intention based on good will?

                True – Is what I’m saying the truth, unexaggerated, and accurate?

                Beneficial – Will this communication help things get better?

                Timely – Am I sending this when I feel balanced, rested, uncompelled, and at a time when it’s likely to be received well? (Consider keeping a draft overnight or scheduling the email for the next day.)

                Not harsh – When direction or boundaries are needed, is this a firm and clear communication without being harsh?

    If the answer to these questions is YES, then I’m ready to hit SEND.

    For more thoughts on this topic, see this Mindful Magazine article  about the six rules of conscious emailing.

  • 1 Jul 2019 9:29 AM | Catherine Duffy (Administrator)

    Being a Good Friend to Yourself
    with Mindfulness and Self Compassion

    I recently drove with my nephew and his good friend across Washington state. As I quietly navigated a curvy and beautiful mountain pass, I listened to them talk.  Their conversation made it clear that they are good friends, and I noticed how happy I felt just witnessing their interactions.  As they spoke about relationships, work, school, sports, and their trip out west together, they were kind, playful, and non-judgmental.  They disagreed with each other at times, but they also took those opportunities to really understand and support each other despite their differences.   Their friendship was clearly beneficial and meaningful to both of them. It was beneficial to me as well: simply being around these two young men made me feel relaxed and happy. 

    As I reflected on why their interactions moved me so deeply, I realized that this friendship conveyed four things very strongly.  Without ever saying it, these two comrades were communicating to each other:  I see you, I accept you, I care about you, and I support you.    

     Perhaps you’ve experienced someone like this in your life:  A good friend, a teacher or mentor, a grandparent or other family member who saw you for who you are with acceptance, communicating in some way that they cared for and supported you.  Or perhaps you simply understand in your heart how great it would feel to be seen clearly, without judgment, and to be cared for and supported with kindness.  Regardless of who we are or what our life experience has been, each of us can learn to offer these gifts of genuine friendship to ourselves through Mindfulness and Self-Compassion practice. 

    Mindfulness practice cultivates greater awareness that helps us see ourselves more clearly.  We learn to observe our bodies, our physical sensations, our feelings, and our thoughts in a new way.  We develop a greater intimacy with ourselves, and we may begin to notice thought patterns and feelings we did not see before.  We learn to stay more present for ourselves and learn to offer ourselves the gift of “I See You.”

    As we cultivate this greater awareness, we can also practice the intention of being non-judgmental toward what we see.  Even though judgments arise in our minds over and over again, the practice of intentionally looking for and seeing our judgments helps to weaken our judgmental habit little by little, over time. 

    We may also begin to observe how our thoughts, feelings, and sensations arise on their own.  Seeing this, we blame ourselves less and are more accepting of our experience and of ourselves.  We learn to let ourselves be as we are, and we offer ourselves the gift of “I accept you”.  For me that is sometimes more of an “I accept a little bit more about myself than I did before” or “I accept this aspect of myself a little bit more in this moment” but it is the gift of acceptance, nonetheless.

    Sometimes when we bring mindfulness to our experience we notice we are in the midst of difficulty.  When we notice that we are suffering in some way, sometimes just being with the experience allows it to soften.  At times the experience or emotion we see is stronger than our ability to just be with it. Times like these are when Self-Compassion practice can be helpful.

    The seeds of self compassion are within each of us.  We regularly do kind things for ourselves and often don’t realize it.  Eating food and sleeping keep us alive.  Brushing our teeth is an act of self-care.  And reading this article or taking a Mindfulness class is motivated by the wish to be happy.  Self-Compassion practice helps us get in touch with the often unseen part of ourselves that genuinely cares about our own well-being, the part of ourselves that wants us to be happy and free from suffering.  It helps us to see and feel our natural capacity for self-care, to hear the part of ourselves that says, “I care about you deeply.”

    Self-Compassion practice also gives us tools with which to meet and support ourselves when we are facing difficult situations or emotions.  Rather than trying to fix ourselves, we learn to be kind and supportive.  And we learn to do this not to get rid of our difficulty, but simply because we are having difficulty.  It’s like how we would tend to a young child with the flu; we are not kind and supportive because we are trying to drive out the flu, we are that way simply because the child doesn’t feel well. 

    By making the space to let ourselves be exactly as we are, and by offering kindness to ourselves when things are difficult, Self-Compassion practice teaches us how to be our own best support, and ultimately our own best friend.  And just like my nephew and his friend in the car that day, our friendship with ourselves helps us to see, accept, and care about ourselves just as we would a dear friend which benefits not only ourselves but those around us as well. 

  • Awe

    1 Jun 2019 9:27 AM | Catherine Duffy (Administrator)

    Dear Friends,

    I'm at the closing retreat of our nine-month Mindfulness Teacher Training Program (MTTP).  This cohort-based intensive program is such a joy for me to facilitate. The students have worked hard and are very close to each other. We've all learned so much about mindfulness. More importantly: they've all gone through various levels of personal transformation as we've investigated deeply what mindfulness is and how one might share it with others with integrity.

    One of the assignments for this final retreat was to design and deliver a one-hour presentation on some aspect of mindfulness that includes presenting some information, an experiential practice, and an interactive unpacking of that experience using the rich style of dialog we call inquiry.

    One of the students picked the fascinating topic of "awe." Awe is something we don't think about or talk about much. She suggested to us that awe is, well, awesome. She also proposed that having experiences in which we feel inspired (awed) is wonderful, and that dropping into one of those timeless moments of deep connection with a beautiful world much bigger than our busy selves is really important, too.  She also suggested that we can even encourage those moments to arise!

    The student cited some interesting research in which one group of participants gazed up at the canopy of a grove of trees and another gazed up at tall buildings. Guess which group was then measured to be kinder and more generous? You guessed it: the tree gazers. Presumably because an encounter with awe tends to lead to a more positive way of looking at the world. (See our Practice Lab below for a summary of The Science of Awe.)

    Then our teacher training student took us out on a walk. It helped that we were in a beautiful spot: a retreat center on Vashon Island right on the water. But she suggested, and I believe it, that an encounter with awe is also possible anywhere.

    We walked slowly down to the beach. Pausing often. Opening the senses. Feeling our feet on the ground. It helped that we were silent with each other and had done some meditation earlier.

    I was impressed by the softness of the new growth on the Douglas Fir trees. Another participant pointed out a deer walking by. The brighter greens of the new growth on the salal impressed me on the way down the path. Spring is amazing and I was grateful for the support to tune into its brighter greens and softer shapes.

    Then we got to the beach. The tide was halfway in on the rocky shore. It was a warm and sunny day. I sat down right on the edge of the water. And I reached my hands out and draped them into the shallow water and closed my eyes to tune in to the sense of touch. It's hard to describe the feeling but it met the definition of awe:

    An experience that feels vast and transcends our usual understanding of the world.

    The water and I just felt connected. Fluid. Vast for sure. Time felt very slow and rich. I felt so present just sitting there. I reveled in that for several minutes. Breathing. Feeling the sun on my face. The warmish sea water flowing over my hands. The lumpiness of the sun-warmed rocks under me.

    And then - surprise! - something nibbled my fingers. I jumped up a bit in astonishment to find that a hermit crab had just scrambled over my hand and given me a little experimental nibble!

    And then I tuned back in to look: not just one hermit crab, but two, then a group of four, then further to my right six more. This wasn't just a beautiful scene of rocks and shells and sea water and algae, but a home. A community of crabs live here. I was the visitor. Part of their world for the moment, but it was their world not mine. I stared, fascinated, as I saw more and more hermit crabs and watched them go about their morning.

    Would I have even noticed the presence of these little life forms in the water if I'd been with a friend talking? Would I have noticed even if I'd been alone but lost in thought? I think in either case I would have appreciated the beauty and serenity of the beach but I don't think I would have had the taste of awe I had when I first merged with the sea water, and then, to my surprise, discovered my accidental visit to the community of crabs.

    It's surprisingly difficult to downshift enough to truly tune into the awe-inspiring sight and sounds and smells and touches and tastes that are all around us, isn't it? And yet how rewarding that is! And according to the emerging field of study on the experience of awe: how important and healthy it is for us.

    May you go out and feel awe today.


  • 1 Jun 2019 9:00 AM | Catherine Duffy (Administrator)

    by Summer Allen, Ph.D.

    If you’ve hiked among giant sequoias, stood in front of the Taj Mahal, or observed a particularly virtuosic musical performance, you may have experienced the mysterious and complex emotion known as “awe.”

    Awe experiences are self-transcendent. They shift our attention away from ourselves, make us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves, and make us more generous toward others.

    But what is awe? What types of experiences are most likely to elicit feelings of awe? Are some people more prone to experiencing awe? And what are the effects of awe?

    While philosophers and religious scholars have explored awe for centuries, it was largely ignored by psychologists until the early 2000s. Since then, there has been growing interest in exploring awe empirically. This has led to a number of fascinating discoveries about the nature of awe, while also raising many questions still to be explored.

    In September 2018, the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, published a white paper written by Summer Allen, Ph.D., about the science of awe as it's so far been explored. To read more from this white paper, click here: 


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