Mindfulness is a quality of attention characterized by being intentional, in the present moment, and non-judgemental.[i] It is typically associated with a specific type of internally-focused attention, though the term can accurately be applied to attention that is either inwardly or outwardly focused. Typically, mindfulness is thought of as self-directed, but it can also be other-directed, e.g., guided. Neurophysiology is the study of the function of the nervous system. In our work, we apply mindful awareness within the context of an understanding of nervous system states, and how they shape behavior moment-to-moment. We do this to facilitate the movement towards self-healing and self-organization that the nervous system will exhibit if given the proper supports. This is the science of the body restoring its own equilibrium.
What is the research that supports this work?
Applied Mindfulness® is a clinical application of research and translational research synthesized from mindfulness science, neurophysiology, neurocardiology, and systems theory. We draw heavily on the theoretical work of Dr. Stephen Porges, Director of the University of Chicago Brain-Body Center at University of Chicago Medical School, which is called polyvagal theory and is based on 40 years of studying the autonomic nervous system. Dr. Porges landmark theoretical work refines our understanding of the neural mechanisms responsible for the ‘accumulation of stress in the nervous system’: i.e., those neural mechanisms that underlie social engagement (connection and relaxation) and threat / emergency response (stress/ trauma) behaviors. Whereas most stress research is focused on the bio-chemical processes associated with the stress response, Dr. Porges’ work points to intentional facilitation of state shifts in the primal physiology. Research from complex system dynamics, as applied to the nervous system (specifically early theoretical work of Dr. Peter Levine, founder of Somatic Experiencing®) supports this methodology, which we accomplish through the training of attention, both in focal (i.e., single-point) and non-focal (refractory) modes, and the effects of which the growing evidence-base of mindfulness science literature speak to. We also have an active Advisory board that includes experts in applied neurophysiology, trauma healing, neuroscience, medicine, evidence-based mental health, and systems theory. You can learn more about the advisory here.
How can Applied Mindfulness help my stress?
Applied Mindfulness is an emerging Evidence-Based Practice, developed specifically to aid in the recovery of resilience at the level of the autonomic nervous system, where stress is accumulated in the body. It was developed to accelerate and deepen the body’s capacity to utilize states of mindful awareness to contact and outflow chronic, toxic, and traumatic stress. By working directly with the body’s underlying neurophysiology, it can support rapid and enduring changes in how a person feels.What can I expect in a group class?
Group classes are a kind of laboratory, in which the instrument of investigation is your own awareness. In a group class you and a small cohort of other participants will learn about your own nervous system as it is functioning in the present moment to create your internal felt sense. Mostly sitting, and working alone or in dyads or small groups, you will practice sequenced awareness-based exercises that deepen your experience of specific aspects of your inner world, such as awareness of sensation, emotion, or thoughts. You will also learn how to track aspects of your internal experience from moment-to-moment. Finally you will learn specific techniques for working with difficult internal states.
What can I expect in a one-on-one session?
We will sit and have a conversation. As we’re talking I may ask you to bring your attention to features of your external environment, such as what you see or hear or smell, or internal environment, such as a sensation, emotion, or movement in the present moment, and then to track that sensation as it changes or stays the same. Sometimes this may feel a little weird. Spontaneous images, memories, or movements may emerge. At the end of the session you will probably feel different and better.
This feels kind of weird.
Many people in the West spend most of their time ‘in their heads’, in the realm of discursive thought. This work is based on bringing attention to aspects of our experience that are typically beneath the threshold of conscious awareness, are driving behavior, and that are accessed through the body. This can feel strange. When we bring attention to this landscape, we often become aware of a variety of sensations and emotions that we didn’t realize were present, and that sometimes feel weird, uncomfortable, or awkward. If we understand these experiences to be access to information that we didn’t previously have– embodied information in the form of sensations, emotions, etc. that was already there, but that we didn’t have the internal tools to perceive, we can understand this as an opportunity to become more familiar with deeper layers of our inner experience. As we become aware of what is happening at these deeper layers, we can build a toolbox of practices for directly addressing what we find. Becoming more adept at navigating this terrain gives us greater freedom to directly experience what is driving our behavior.
What should I wear?
Comfortable non-restrictive clothing. Bring water if you can.
[i] Kabat-Zinn, John, Full Catastrophe Living, Delta, 1990.