Sunday, April 17, 2011

Engaged Mindfulness From the Heart

Dr. Allen Power, my partner for the Presence Care Project was in town this week, and our time was spent in many meetings and presentations to various elder care communities. The Presence Care Project is about developing a mindfulness-based approach to training care partners of persons living with dementia, with the hope that both greater well-being will result in both care partners and the ones in their care. I felt a great sense of accomplishment as we made great inroads into the development of the project. And I could not help but think back on the time nine months ago when the idea arose for the project, all because of this person:

My Mother
and also this place:

Zen Hospice
and this man's work:

Jon Kabat-Zinn
To my mother, I owe the experience of being with her since the beginning of her forgetfulness, and the ability to notice what a difference mindfulness practice made in our relationship. From feeling only grief, to a growing acceptance of her in the moment, even appreciating new aspects of her personality that have been freed as a result of her condition. From my experience at Zen Hospice, I became further convinced of the power to heal the forgetful ones with a mindfulness-based approach to caring. Many times at the Laguna Honda Hospice ward, I saw a dramatic difference, between the way forgetful residents happily responded to us, the Zen Hospice volunteers, and the way they would become agitated when interacting with the regular staff. Last, with his now well researched Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, Jon Kabat-Zinn showed me that it was possible to successfully bring mindfulness into a mainstream institutional setting, and gave me a foundation upon which to solidly stand.

Then it was only a matter of a few months before a team was formed, first with Dr. Allen Power, author of the book 'Dementia Beyond Drugs', and more recently Dr. Leslie Ross, a researcher with UCSF. We have received enquiries from many places, including Singapore, Australia, the UK, France, and of course various communities in the U.S. And we are gearing up to implement the training in several elder communities in the Bay Area. We want this to be an evidence-based research project that can been easily replicated in communities everywhere. 

Amazing the places the heart can take you . . . 


  1. Marguerite, this is truly amazing - an inspiring lesson to "follow your heart" - and who knows where next? Thanks for sharing this story.

  2.'s beautiful that you share your experience with us. Fantastic work, keep it up.

  3. Can I share a story ?- At the hospital that I work we had a Veteran that was a run-away risk and as such he was equipped with a Radio Frequency ID bracelet that would trigger doors to lock so he wouldn't run away. One day he was right at the door and everything locked, as it was supposed to, except that now visitors and staff couldn't exit until he was a minimum distance from the door. A nurse and orderly kept arguing with him and he settled in for the long haul. Holding the door frame and refusing to budge. When I approached him I quitely asked him "Where are you going ?" He looked at me surprised that I asked and said "To visit the pope in Rome" at which time I suggested that getting a blessing from the padre on call before he left would beneficial. He agreed immediately and left , changed his mission. His nursing staff had stopped treating him at that point and just viewed him as a hindrance. I have had a lot of opportunities to approach and interact with dementia patients since then and have never forgot to show respect and love and it always pays dividends

  4. David, Aniel, thank you for your kindness. And may you be well.

  5. BD, thank you so much for sharing your story. People with forgetfulness are some of the most powerful spiritual teachers I have ever met.

  6. they are two wonderful stories...mindfulness is such a simple yet powerful tool. Thanks for sharing :)

  7. Thank you Beverley. Yes, two both 'simple' and 'powerful'. And I will add, 'not easy'.