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Mindful : October 2013
At NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, 3,800 employees work on future technologies—every- thing from a new launch-abor t system for space capsules to developing technologies for aircraft to fly at hypersonic speed to studying the Ear th’s atmosphere in order to better understand global climate change. High-stress, cutting-edge work, indeed. It’s no surprise, then, that for Langley’s best and brightest, health and well- ness is important—now includ- ing mindfulness meditation. That’s where Mike Verano comes in. He’s a psychothera- pist and longtime student of mindfulness, and for the past two years he’s been leading a popular weekly mindfulness meditation class at Langley. “Sometimes 30 people show up,” says Verano. “People are adver tising it through word of mouth, saying, ‘You have to go check this out.’” Verano also meets with NASA staffers on balancing work/life needs, from family concerns and financial affairs to substance abuse and stress. His monthly At NASA, Meditation Is Rocket Science lunch-and-learns tend to include mindfulness elements, too, regardless of the topic. “Ultimately, NASA looks at health and wellness from the perspective that a healthy employee is going to provide a much better product for the government,” says Randy Cone, the occupational health contracting officer at Langley. “It’s about self-maintenance of the mind and the body.” Working with that mandate, Verano has been invited to talk about mindfulness at other NASA facilities. He’s been to Wallops Flight Facility in Vir- ginia to talk about stress man- agement, with mindfulness a central par t of the training. This spring, he presented Launch- ing a Mindfulness Practice at the NASA Occupational Health Conference held at Kennedy Space Center. As for the future, Verano says he’s happy to travel any- where to share information or teach a class for NASA. Well, almost any where. “I’ll probably stop short of actually going up into space, but right up until the launch pad, I’m there.” ● October 2013 mindful 13 October 2013 mindful 13 Illustration by Gavin Potenza