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Mindful : June 2014
Pam Nelms commutes year round, 7.5 miles each way, from St. Paul to her job with the city of Minneapolis. “I’m completely in the world when I’m on my bicycle,” she says. “If there’s something around me, I see it, hear it, and enjoy it.” Minneapolis is one of the country’s leading cities for cycling, with almost 10,000 bicycle commuters and 177 miles of bike lanes. Since 2007, bike counts have increased 76%, especially with women, who make up approximately 40% of the cyclists, higher than the national average. The city makes cycling appealing by increasing safety; using barriers to keep cars away. The city plans to build 30 more miles of protected bikeways by 2020. “If I’m up ver y early, sometimes I’m the first person to bike through a quiet area of the state fairgrounds,” says Nelms. “If it’s been snowing, my bicycle headlight makes the snow look beautiful, like glitter, iridescent blue and red. When I tell my coworkers, they’re ver y suppor tive. And I think maybe they slow down and pay more attention, too.” ● Finding a Better Balance on Bikes It’s Never Too Late to Learn to Meditate “Old age is no place for sissies,” cautioned Bette Davis. Given the challenges of aging, she offered sage advice. Rita Johnson, an 84-year- old former speech pathologist from Southern California, understands that sentiment. She struggled with anxi- ety and thought maybe she was having heart trouble. “I wasn’t,” she says. “But I seemed to find ease when I took Wisdom Wednesdays.” Johnson was visiting her daughter in Chico, California, when she attended Steve Flowers’ weekly mindfulness class. He’s a psychothera- pist who teaches “Wisdom Wednesdays,” a program for seniors that often has more than 200 people per session. He’s seeing positive results in reducing loneliness and improving mood in his stu- dents. He says the answer to aging gracefully isn’t denial, but acceptance. Maybe even celebration. “We’re looking to give seniors a chance to connect with one another, to cultivate mindfulness skills in their own lives,” says Flowers, who has been teaching Mindful- ness-Based Stress Reduction for well over a decade. “They recognize their age instead of trying to be ageless and embrace where they are.” One of the challenges Flow- ers has seen in treating older people is getting them to let go of their internal narratives. “You hear them talking about being a welder, a pilot, or a doctor, but all these identi- ties can be very limiting to a person,” he says. “Who are they if not this old story? While they’re discovering mindfulness, present-ness, they’re discovering whole new dimensions of themselves.” In that discovery, Flowers finds the seniors wind up teaching him more than he does them. “I’m with people in their 90s. They are beautiful, bright, and present. What opens up is a possibility for being authentic in the world. It’s something maybe we couldn’t quite manage when we were young and trying so hard to be liked, worthwhile, and successful.” At 65, Flowers is officially a senior himself, and sees nothing to be ashamed about. “Some of us have walkers and wigs. It’s all OK as we find our- selves in a non-judgmental and non-striving place. It’s a com- munity simply coming to terms with things as they are.” ● 2014 Mindful Calendar of Events Upcoming conferences, festivals, and symposia of interest MAY 7–10 Mindful Practice: Enhancing Quality of Care, Quality of Caring, and Resilience • Batavia, New York Hosted by the Center for Contempla- tive Mind in Society. Chapin Mill Retreat Center. contemplativemind.org/event/mindful- practice-enhancing-quality-of-care- quality-of-caring-and-resilience MAY 9–11 Disconnect to Connect: A Wisdom 2.0 Retreat • Garrison, New York Hosted by Garrison Institute. garrisoninstitute.org/component/ civicrm/?task=civicrm/event/ info&reset=1&id=477&Itemid=534 JUNE 8–13 ALIA: Summer Leadership Intensive • Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington Hosted by Authentic Leadership In Action. aliainstitute.org/summer2014/ JUNE 27–JULY 2 The Greater Good Summer Institute for Educators • University of California, Berkeley, Clark Kerr Campus, Berkeley, California The GGSC’s six-day Summer Institute equips educators with social-emo- tional learning tools that benefit both students and teachers. greatergood.berkeley.edu/news_events/ event/summer_institute_for_educators OVERHEARD “There’s a lot of hype around mindfulness and we need to be cautious because it doesn’t serve our science or patients well if we’re overenthusiastic. We have to make sure the science catches up with the enthusiasm.” Mark Williams, MBCT pioneer and director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre 12 mindful June 2014 now Illustration by Gavin Potenza