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UB mindfulness conference to explore education, health care

Do doctors spend too much time on the physical part of the body-brain connection? Do schools look to teach through a uniform process that can stifle personal growth and creativity? How can education and medicine both take a more holistic approach when it comes to human wellbeing? That’s the big picture of a “Mindfulness and Health Conference” coming next month to the University at Buffalo North Campus in Amherst.

“One of SUNY’s strategic goals is to create a healthier New York,” and the gathering will dig into that, said Dr. Lisa Napora, visiting scholar in the UB Department of Learning & Instruction, professor at Daemen College, and conference co-director.

Q. In its simplest terms, what is mindfulness?

A form of awareness that’s cultivated through paying attention to oneself in a particular way, nonjudgmentally, in the present moment. It enhances awareness, attention and the ability to bring mental and emotional processes under greater voluntary control. Mindfulness covers the gamut: physiological; psychological; social; in terms of treatment and all aspects of wellbeing.

Q. What are some of the ways people can plug in to themselves more meaningfully and change some of their habits?

For someone, it might be yoga. For someone else, it might be formal meditation. For someone else, it’s walking and connecting with nature. Then there are more formal programs like mindfulness-based stress reduction. That foundation has been taken into psychology, into MBCT – mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

Q. This is the first conference of its kind and has become quite popular.

There are 64 SUNY schools across the state. Twenty-four are represented already, as well as another 14 colleges and universities, for a total of 38 institutions of higher education. In addition to the higher ed, there are three local school districts so far represented – Williamsville Central, Cheektowaga and Ken-Ton – more than 20 different businesses and organizations, five different hospitals and people from other states wanting to support the initiative: Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

– Scott Scanlon

The conference is open to the public and will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 4. Register for the event – which costs $20 by Monday, $25 after that and $30 at the door, at bit.ly/1PMjhjo; email mindful@buffalo.edu for more info. Read more about the conference at refresh.buffalonews.com

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