Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan has just published a new book, A Mindful Nation, in which he presents an inspiring and hopeful view of our country’s future. Although in recent times people across America are feeling squeezed, exhausted, and like they are running faster while falling farther behind, Ryan observes that many are beginning to take action in a new way: they are slowing down, paying attention, and gaining an awareness of the inner resources at their disposal. In the book, he discusses a number of ways in which the Garrison Institute is contributing to this transformation:
“[Garrison Institute] is a magical place: a sprawling former Catholic monastery that sits on the palisades of the Hudson River across from West Point. Just walking onto the property, you relax and open up. I’m sure the monks felt it too…
“Garrison has been sponsoring conferences like the one I attended, ‘Climate, Cities and Behavior”… in which we combined… discussions on our thorny economic, environmental, and energy problems with times of quiet reflection and mindfulness. It makes for a good combination. A key question explored… is whether we can generate more pro-environmental and pro-social behaviors through better understanding of our innate cognitive makeup and how our brains function…. Jonathan Rose invites people with a strong interest in how our brain functions… to present the latest understanding of the enormous capacity our brains have to change and adapt.
“What does mindfulness have to do with energy? For one thing, by increasing our awareness of our daily habits, mindfulness can make us more attentive to not wasting energy. Also, as I learned from the environmental activist Paul Hawken, it can help us to be honest about where we are as a society, the challenges we face, and what we need to do.”
Ryan also describes his conversations with Garrison Institute’s Director of the Contemplative Teaching and Learning Initiative Tish Jennings at another forum:
“Tish was talking to me about how challenging it can be for teachers to face students with emotional difficulties…. Sometimes teachers can… begin to resent and reject the children because their own amygdala has gone rogue. But when they can interrupt that with a moment of mindfulness and return to awareness of the present moment, they may see what’s actually going on with the child…. We need to support our teachers with this kind of help. As Tish says, ‘If teachers can notice the emotion within their body, they can stop and make choices. Instead of seeing children with challenging behavior as problems, they can experience them as suffering human beings who need compassion. Over time, that will change how they lead their classrooms.’”
Packed with examples of insights and actions like these welling up across America, this is a book work reading – you can learn more at www.amindfulnation.org.