Evan Genest's Learning Log

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Booknotes - Recapture the American Spirit

Review of Mindful Nation by Tim Ryan

Full title of this book is A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit by Congressman Tim Ryan, foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Library note
: A prior reader of my copy of this book highlighted it with pencil marks. So these notes are just of that person's marked highlights.

Chapter 1: You can get there from here

Our country is not in good shape. We wont' do better by following the same paths that got us here.

Patient: It hurts when I do this.
Doctor: Stop doing that.

The pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of our nation, and yet America as a whole is far from a happy place right now.

Like many who have tasted the benefits of increased focus (from meditating) , along with the quieter mind and decreased stress, I was motivated to share it with my family and friends. Given my work as a US Congressman, I was also motivated to see its benefits shared on a much larger scale.
I recognized its potential to transform our core institutions:

I felt it would help my constituents face the challenges of daily life:

Complex systemic problems cannot be solved by any one segment of our society -- by public officials, experts, professionals, or pundits. We need everyone working together. As Reverend Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine and a passionate evangelical advocte for a new politiocal order, hassaid, "We don't need to go further to the left or further to the right. We all need to go deeper."

Discovering Mindfulness

Happiness is found by deeply experiencing the exact moment we are in. Happiness is being totally alive. Obsessing about the future and worrying about the past rips us out of the only place where we can find true happiness: the present moment.

An increase in self care not only makes us feel better, but it also costs our system less, allowing us to focus more of our resources on illnesses beyond our control. When we bring mindfulness into education, we help our students inrease their attention, decrease their stress, and work more creatively with their social emotions. And teachers find they pay better attention to the real needs of all their students and foster a better classroom atmosphere.

The stress that causes so many diseases could be greatly diminished and save our society billions of dollars. Everyone in our country is on the treadmill. Scrambling, working, pulled in a million different directions. Mindfulness won't eliminate the responsibilities and pressures that cause us to become so scattered, but it can arm us wth a way of being that allows us to deal with them more effectively.

Improve our health and our health-care system

One of the health care practitioners and leaders I have had the pleasure to meet is Dr Susan Bauer-Wu, associate professor of nursing at Emory University in Atlanta. She studies the effects of mindfulness practice on the health and quality of life for people living with serious illness, especially cancer. She has written the book Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully with Serious and Life Limiting Illness through Mindfulness, Compassion, and Connectedness.

Our body is always talking to us, but we don't always listen. It's like we're a child who tunes out negative messages. "Everything is okay, Mom. Don't worry about it. I'll be fine."

Dr Bauer-Wu says that an increased awareness of our body can help us detect problems much earlier. We can be our own best diagnostician. Instead, we suck it up. W play hurt, toughing it out lik an athlete. We go to work when we ought to stay home. We add another thing to a schedule that is bulging like ten pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag.