Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Contemplative Practice Workshop Primer for Public Health Congress

 So here is a primer for the Contemplative Practice in Public Health Workshop I will be running at the Public Health Congress in Hobart on Tuesday morning next week.

Hopefully this will help prepare everyone so we can get the maximum benefit from the workshop time together. The workshop will be approximately 1/3 theory and 2/3 practice.  Theory - how are the roots of contemplative practice found in Buddhism, Greco-Roman philosophy and Christian medieval practices relevant to the academy today? And what have I learned as a convenor of an undergraduate course on contemplative practice over the last 2 years.  But at least two thirds of the workshop will be experiential contemplative practice (starting with basic meditation which is the "container" that provides a safe space for potentially challenging contemplations).   The traditional contemplative practices have mostly been lost from western philosophical schools but were once the very basis of the academy - they have application in any professional field.  Public health practitioners have found the practices valuable for examining ethical issues, overcoming interpersonal conflicts in teams, and reflecting on the values they bring to public health.  I am happy to take any questions about the workshop via email (craig.dalton

So here is what can you do to prepare for the workshop (in order of importance):
  1. Watch this video by Mingyur Rinpoche on "What Meditation Really Is".  This video helpfully dispels many of the western misconceptions about meditation. Try practicing any simple meditation practice such as just watching your breath for 5 minutes per day based on the advice in this video.
  2. Choose a "problem" or challenge to use during the contemplation sessions - what's a good problem? Something that causes recurring discomfort - a problem with a coworker, a partner, an area of indecision, an ethical challenge in public health practice or conceptual conundrum. Bring it to the workshop.
  3. Consider reviewing the evaluation of the pilot program in 2012.
Look forward to meeting you in Hobart!

Brief one page description of the program I ran for our local population health unit:

Contemplative Practice in Public Health
This program was inspired by the incorporation of contemplative practice into programs at the Royal University of Bhutan observed by Dr Craig Dalton during his secondment to Bhutan in 2010.
There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening – Marshall Mcluhan
Public health practice is a highly complex and busy undertaking. We “do” many things that have far reaching societal impacts and make choices among an almost infinite number of public health activities. Rarely do we have the opportunity to stop and step back from the sweeping flow of this activity and reflect upon our role in it.  While contemplative practices are rooted in the religious and spiritual traditions, they have an important place in intellectual and ethical inquiry.  

The Contemplative Practice in Public Health at Hunter New England Population Health teaches practitioners:

·         Mindfulness based meditation as a support for contemplative practice

·         Analytical and Resting contemplative practice that alternates between conceptual and non-discursive contemplation

·         A practice to arouse and affirm our altruistic motivations as public health practitioners

·         A method to contemplate and explore the role of our own cognitive biases and ego-centric habits that create further complexity in an already complex world.

Feedback from participants of the program:
“After my first session I felt different, it gave me a different perspective on some things and I really found the concept of mindfulness (without wanting to sound over the top) life changing. I have enjoyed the “mind game” of stepping out of myself and watching how I am acting or speaking and thinking “would I like/ agree” with myself right now. I think this has altered my behavior both at home and at work. It has really helped me understand some colleagues and family members behaviours and altered how I interact with them, with I think, some really positive outcomes.” 

 “I am now looking at journal articles with an eye for underlying values, whether they are explicitly stated or not. The contemplative practice program has helped me to start to draw together the bits that have intrigued and bothered me over the years, it is another (large) step in the journey.”
“An excellent course. I think that it offered a taste test of a lot of complex issues and I would like to   spend more time on these topics/issues in the future.”

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