My work focuses on advanced mindfulness theory and practice, with applications in business, health, sports, education, the military, and religion. In addition I publish in the areas of critical thinking (as applied to paranormal claims) as well as stress management. My current projects include three books: Mindfulness Reinvented: A Toolkit for Trainers, The Mindfulness Reinvented Trainee Guide, and Critical Thinking in a World of Pseudoscience and Paranormal Belief.
I earned my doctorate in psychology in 1975 from Michigan State University and obtained my license as a clinical psychologist. Since 1976 I have taught at Roosevelt University’s Psychology department and continue full time as a tenured full professor. I have taught and supervised undergraduate, MA, and doctoral students in scientific psychology, dissertation work, clinical psychology, assessment, stress, mindfulness, and critical thinking.
In the 1980’s I served as Psychology Department Chair and created Roosevelt University’s doctoral program in clinical psychology. In addition, I am Founding Director of the Roosevelt University Stress Institute. The Stress Institute, and its sister Institute at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, has fostered over three dozen student publications and is known world wide for its advancements. The Institute is in the process of evolving into an expanded mindfulness initiative.
My publications include 21 books and more than three dozen articles. In addition, I have served as expert outside reviewer for PsycCRITIQUES, Perceptual and Motor Skills, The Brain, and Psychosomatic Medicine. I have published invited chapters as “guest expert” in eight textbooks and encyclopedias. My book publishers have included Aldine, Guilford Press, Macmillan, Oxford University Press, Plenum, Praeger, Prentice-Hall, Research Press, Springer, and Wiley/Blackwell. My personal and professional materials on critical thinking as well as mindfulness and relaxation are positively regarded (two have been reviewed by the American Psychological Association’s PsycCRITIQUES as “best” in the field). Internationally I have served as consultant for doctoral students, business, and professional agencies in Spain, China, India, and France.
In 2014 I retired my practice as a Clinical Psychologist to work full time developing and teaching effective science-based approaches to mindfulness. My latest series of books, “Mindfulness Reinvented,” is scheduled to be released late 2015. I share my ideas, techniques, and findings in training programs and workshops for health professionals and the general public.
A comprehensive and practical textbook of stress management techniques integrated through mindfulness. Approaches to stress management include: problem-solving, brainstorming, time management, setting priorities, procrastination, cognitive stress and irrational thinking, desensitization, relapse prevention, assertiveness, shyness, anger, aggression, job stress, and crises and catastrophes. Relaxation and mindfulness approaches include: progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, breathing, autogenics, imagery, and meditation/mindfulness. 5 mindfulness and meditation exercises are presented. The reader is guided through the worlds of stress management, returning again and again to the basics of mindfulness. Mindfulness becomes a lens through which one views stress and stress management.
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“Mindfulness for the Rest of Us”
Although mindfulness training has been around for centuries, it is often a difficult and monotonous ordeal. Typically one learns a rigid sequence of breathing and stretching exercises followed by long sessions of mindfulness practice. Traditional models are often influenced by religious doctrine and applied “one size fits all.” As a result, those who learn mindfulness often quit. Trainees face three great barriers:
- Frustration due to distraction and mind wandering,
- Boring practice with few immediate rewards, and
- Few signs of progress.
Training is especially difficult for those who do not already have a preexisting talent for mindfulness.
My approach to mindfulness is different. The Mindfulness Reinvented System. is based not on religious doctrine and tradition, but sound psychological principles. It draws from decades of work with major approaches to relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness. Put simply, we explore a rich range of techniques, experiment with them in a dynamic variety of settings, and develop an individualized mindfulness program that fits personal needs and interests. We treat mindfulness not only as a serious undertaking, but an opportunity for fun and exploration. The Mindfulness Reinvented System is for those who do not have a preexisting talent for mindfulness. It is mindfulness for the rest of us.
SPECIFICS OF THE MINDFULNESS REINVENTED SYSTEM
Mindfulness is a core brain-based skill. To be mindful is to focus — fully, in a way that is accepting and undistracted. To be mindful is not to be bothered or preoccupied by self-centered thought or mind-wandering. As such, mindfulness is not just another set of mental health tips or spiritual guidelines. Mindfulness is a tangible practice-based skill centered in brain physiology, or in terms of the exquisite jargon of science, “neuroplasticity of prefrontal cortical, amygdalic, and localized alpha activity”). Translated, to learn mindfulness is quite literally to develop “mindfulness brain muscle.” We might even consider mindfulness as “brain fitness.”
Mindfulness is a tool for effective and focused living and spiritual exploration. However, it is ideally introduced outside of organized religion, where it is often contaminated and constricted by ancient doctrine and dogma. My vision is that mindfulness is best taught in a nondogmatic, ever questioning, science-based, and spiritually attuned educational environment.
At the heart of this system are three inventions:
1. The Eye of Mindfulness
Our core mindfulness exercise is not a simple instruction to pay attention. Instead it is a sequence of three commonly used mindfulness techniques: body scanning meditation, breath scanning meditation, focused attention (mantra) meditation, pure mindfulness meditation. I recommend using the Eye of Mindfulness in whatever program one devises.
2. Mindfulness Boosters
Mindfulness works best when preceded by or incorporated in powerful approaches to self-relaxation. There are five universal scientifically validated approaches used by health professionals: breathing exercises, yoga stretching, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic suggestion, and imagery (Smith, 1985, 1986, 1988, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2012 — see my “Publications” tab). Boosters aid in the development of mindfulness preparatory skills of adequate Sleep, Body Relaxation, and Mental Relaxation. They also assist in extending the benefits of mindful positive energy and emotion. Although all approaches combat interfering distraction and mind wandering, and develop mindfulness focusing skills, each works in a different way for different people. We select which boosters or combination of boosters work best for each individual.
One way of boosting the benefits of mindfulness is to combine it with various everyday activities. We call this pairing. We learn how to participate in work, fun, sport, learning, and interpersonal relationships in a mindful way.
3. The M-Tracker and M-Lexicon
Tracking is a simple checklist tool for identifying signs of progress in mindfulness training. Our Trackers provide immediate reinforcement for success. We also use tracking to compare the relative effectiveness of different strategies to determine which to emphasize and which to abandon.
The M-Tracker is based on a comprehensive and unique list of 15 mindfulness related states expressed by practitioners to describe experiences that emerge related to mindfulness. These can come before, during, or after practice. The 15 states form our Mindfulness Lexicon an invention that provides structure to training. Each of the 15 mindfulness states is a door to further understanding of a different aspect of mindfulness.
The M-Tracker and M-Lexicon are the products of nearly two decades of research involving 6077 participants and over 40 types of activities and exercises (Alexander, 1991; Smith,1985, 1986, 1988, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2007; Smith, Amutio, et al., 1996).
BECOME A CERTIFIED* MINDFULNESS REINVENTED TRAINER
The Mindfulness Reinvented Trainer Certification* program is designed for those who wish to teach our approach to mindfulness to others. The program is limited to health professionals, graduate students training to become health professionals, or graduates of serious programs of yoga, mindfulness, meditation, or prayer. The Certification Program lasts eight weeks plus plus ongoing supervision and upgrades. Certified Trainers are independent practitioners who are free to offer their services for free or for appropriate compensation. They are completely free to modify the Mindfulness Reinvented training format to fit client or student needs. However, all instructors of are required to use an authorized edition of the Mindfulness Reinvented Workbook and honesty and fully present the nature of their training and Certification*.
THE CHICAGO MINDFULNESS PROJECT
The Chicago Mindfulness Project (CMP) is a new venture dedicated to the professional exploration and instruction of mindfulness skills to health professionals and personal seekers. The CMP seeks to work with and learn from all professional, religious, and spiritual groups seriously committed to exploring the promise of mindfulness. If you are interested in exploring this project, and the promise of mindfulness, feel free to contact me at the following address:
* Mindfulness Reinvented and the Certificate are in no way affiliated with Roosevelt University. Roosevelt University faculty websites provide university faculty the opportunity to describe all their professional activities that may be of interest to students and may contribute to or enhance instruction at the University. These include activities both inside or outside the University whether it be work as a: psychotherpist, private consultant, author, artist, performer, or any other from of entrepreneurship.