A Quiet Revolution

A Quiet Revolution

Therapists Are Learning a New Way to Be With Their Clients

By Jerome Front

January/February 2008

It's only 9 a.m., but the coastal haze is already dissolving on this cold December morning in the Malibu hills. In the spacious room where I'm leading a retreat on relational mindfulness, several dozen therapists sit with their eyes closed, silently attending to their breathing. Some relax in chairs, while others sit cross-legged on the floor, pulling blankets around themselves for warmth. I'm feeling excited and hopeful, but I notice, too, a touch of nervousness diffused throughout my chest and belly. Today we may be venturing into uncharted territory. As the guide, am I open and ready? Closing my eyes, I notice that the momentum of these musings has carried me away. I take a deliberate breath, acknowledge the thoughts, and let them pass. In the silence, I relocate my body via the waves of my breathing.

This scene may call to mind the opening moments of any mindfulness workshop--the inviting silence, the attentiveness to breathing, the catching oneself in the midst of a familiar story line. But the therapists in this room for a daylong retreat are here for something more: to explore relational mindfulness--qualities of presence, receptivity, empathy, and attunement--and to learn a process for directly kindling these qualities to life in our encounters with clients.

Renowned meditation teacher and researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as "the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and…

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