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Mindfulness for Peace and Well-Being: Buddhist and Therapeutic Applications Symposium  

This symposium brings together experts in East Asian and Buddhist Studies as well as the professions of social work, urban planning, journalism, and psychiatry to explore the uses of mindfulness in contemporary societies. Mindfulness has become a popular Buddhist-originated practice to promote peace, happiness, and well-being; to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and other health and mental health concerns; and to support activism for social justice. Presenters examine ways this is happening in South Korea and North America, considering many positive contributions of mindfulness as well as cultural and ethical questions about appropriation and transfer of Buddhist originated practices into therapeutic settings and the general public.

The morning portion features a keynote presentation by Mark A. Nathan, PhD, Associate Professor of History at University at Buffalo-SUNY on Lay Buddhist Meditation, Mindfulness, and the Happiness Crisis in Korea. The afternoon portion features a keynote presentation by Michael Yellow Bird, PhD, Professor and Dean at Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba on Neurodecolonization, the Medicine Wheel, and Mindfulness: A Holistic and Traditional Approach to Indigenous Wellness. Morning and afternoon sessions also include interdisciplinary panel presentations spanning Korean Studies, Journalism, Social Work, Psychiatry, and Urban Planning.

September 14, 2019
8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Jayhawk Room, level 5, Kansas Union, University of Kansas Lawrence campus (1301 Jayhawk Blvd, Lawrence, KS 66045)

Free and open to the public. Please register in advance. However, walk-ins welcome. If you are interested in social work CEUs, a total of 6 free CEUs are available (3 CEUs for the morning session from 8:30 to noon and 3 CEUs for the afternoon session from 1:15 to 5 p.m.)


Morning Session:

8:30 to 9:00 a.m.           Registration

9:00 to 9:15 a.m.           Welcome and Introduction

9:15 to 10:30 a.m.         Keynote Address

Buddhist Meditation, Mindfulness, and the Happiness Crisis in Korea, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Samsara

Mark A. Nathan, PhD, is Associate Professor of History at University at Buffalo-SUNY. His research specializes in Buddhism in Korean history, law and religion, transnational religious developments, and religious participation in Asia. Dr. Nathan’s books include From the Mountains to the Cities: A History of Buddhist Propagation in Modern Korea (University of Hawaii Press, 2018), Buddhism and Law: An Introduction (co-edited, Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Over roughly the past quarter century in South Korea, Buddhist meditation has become increasingly accessible to lay people and others, and a variety of mindfulness practices have gained popularity in the twenty-first century. This talk explores these phenomena in the context of a so-called Happiness Crisis in Korea and then asks what the implications are when therapeutic objectives and outcomes (happiness and well-being) replace religious and spiritual aspirations (awakening and liberation) as the goal of Buddhist meditation.

10:30 to 10:45 a.m.          Break

10:45 to Noon                   Panel Presentations

The Temple Stay Program as a Happiness Industry

Kyoim Yun, PhD, Associate Professor, KU Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultures
The Temple Stay Program, a short-term retreat for the laity at Buddhist monasteries, has become popular in South Korea. This presentation examines the nature of the services and participants ' experiences. It also explores where it fits in the country’s burgeoning happiness industry at this troubling yet promising moment of heightened self-reflectivity.

Mindfulness Movement in the Media: What Did the Coverage Reveal?

Yvonnes Chen, PhD, Associate Professor, KU School of Journalism and Mass Communications
Mindfulness meditation activities have entered into the American mainstream lexicon with its share of attention in media coverage. Headlines from “Meditation exercise helps students focus” to “Enjoy a party with yoga and color” highlight the integration of mindfulness practices into college students’ lives. This session will discuss the role of media in popularizing and representing mindfulness meditation practices in student media coverage. 

Ethically and Culturally Appropriate Applications of Buddhist Based Mindfulness in Social Work and Other in Human Service Settings

Edward R. Canda, PhD, Professor, KU School of Social Welfare
Mindfulness related therapeutic practices, such as DBT, ACT, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, are commonly inspired by Buddhist originated traditions of meditation and mindfulness, but they are usually presented without reference to Buddhist contexts or purposes. This presentation explores what is gained and lost by doing this and it provides ethical considerations for culturally appropriate transfer of mindfulness practices from Buddhist to human service settings.

Panel Discussion

Noon to 1:15 p.m.              Lunch and Mindfulness Break

Art related to Mindfulness:

The KU Spencer Museum of Art, just behind the Kansas Union, is available for visitation during the lunch break.
Located directly behind Kansas Union (to the west), 3101 Mississippi St.
Guided tour at 12:10
Self-guided anytime

Nearby restaurants include:

The Bird Dog Bar at Oread Hotel, 1200 Oread Ave (about 7 minutes walking distance, just north of Kansas Union)
PTs Coffee Oread, 1101 Indiana, Suite A (about 7 minutes walking distance, also north)
McLain’s Market, 1420 Crescent Rd (12 minutes walking distance, near water fountains)
Various on Massachusetts Street (about 17 minutes walking distance)


Afternoon Session:

1:15 to 1:30 p.m.                Welcome

1:30 to 2:45 p.m.                Keynote Address

Neurodecolonization, the Medicine Wheel, and Mindfulness: A Holistic and Traditional Approach to Indigenous Wellness

Michael Yellow Bird, PhD, is Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba. Dr. Yellow Bird is a citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes, (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara).  He became Dean at University of Manitoba in August 2019. He has held faculty and/or academic administrative appointments at the North Dakota State University, University of British Columbia, University of Kansas, Arizona State University, and Humboldt State University.
Dr. Yellow Bird’s work focuses on Indigenous Peoples’ health, leadership, and cultural rights; the effects of colonization and methods of decolonization; decolonizing social work approaches such as neurodecolonization and mind body approaches; mindfulness and contemplative practices; and the Rights of Mother Earth. His books include Decolonizing Social Work, co-edited, Ashgate Publishing, 2013); For Indigenous Minds Only: A Decolonization Handbook (co-edited, Santa Fe Press. 2012); and Indigenous Social Work Around the World: Towards Culturally Relevant Education and Practice (co-edited, Ashgate Publishing, 2008).
Neurodecolonization is the use of Indigenous and western mind-body practices that are aimed at decolonizing and liberating Indigenous Peoples from the effects of settler colonialism. The Medicine Wheel is an ancient symbol used to represent wholeness, balance, well-being, and the natural cycles of life. It is a circle with four quadrants that incorporates traditional teachings about the mind, body, spirit, and emotions. This presentation shares evidence-base and practices regarding the following: (1) The Mind Quadrant: how lifestyle factors can decolonize and improve the function of the mind and body; (2) The Body Quadrant: connections between diet, the human microbiome, and mental and physical health; (3) The Spirit Quadrant: linkages between contemporary mindfulness research and traditional Indigenous contemplative practices; and (4) The Emotions Quadrant: genetic and epigenetic inheritance related to the effects that trauma has on our molecular processes and ways contemporary and traditional Indigenous mindfulness practices can heal these systems.

2:45 to 3:00 p.m.                  Break

3:00 to 4:15 p.m.                  Panel Presentations

Mental Health Applications of Mindfulness in Clinical Social Work Practice

Michael Riquino, PhD, Assistant Professor, KU School of Social Welfare
Mindfulness techniques are often utilized in clinical social work practice to address diverse forms of human suffering, from depression and anxiety to chronic pain and self-harm. This presentation describes mechanisms by which mindfulness creates therapeutic change and explains the utility of applying these techniques across diagnostic categories.​

Cultivating a Mindful City

William Hale, MD, Psychiatrist, Mind-Body Health Professionals, Lawrence KS
This presentation describes how leaders across the community of Ottawa are bringing about a mindful city in an unlikely place: socially and politically conservative, rural Kansas. Already 1% of the population are trained in mindfulness. Leaders in government, health and mental health services, and other community sectors are actively engaged.

Who Cares? The Emotional Paradox of Public Service and the Role of Compassion and Mindfulness in Fostering Sustainable Communities*

Ward Lyles, PhD, Associate Professor, KU School of Public Affairs and Administration in Urban Planning
This presentation explores a challenge many public service professionals face in their work to promote the public interest. We care deeply about our work, but we are often artificially constrained by professional norms, education, and training in our abilities to develop authentic relationships with the people with whom we work. We discuss emerging currents in research and education about the role of compassion and mindfulness in supporting public servants as they aim to do good work and find meaning in that work.

Panel Discussion

4:15 to 4:30 p.m.                   Break

4:30 to 5:00 p.m.                   Conclusion of the Symposium



Sponsored by The University of Kansas Center for East Asian Studies and School of Social Welfare & The Center for Compassionate and Sustainable Communities

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