The making of a mindful city

Written by Laura Roddy

Mike Duxler was first drawn to the concept of mindfulness—in a sense, a nonsectarian form of meditation—by the “robust and compelling scientific findings” he had seen.

Duxler, an associate professor of social work at Newman University, was impressed by the results showing actual changes in the brain, including increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which relates to self-regulation and impulse control, and increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, which is associated mainly with memory.

“But it was my personal experience of increased clarity and focus, improved emotional resilience and an expanded ability to find gratitude in things big and small that has impassioned me to share mindfulness with others,” Duxler says.

Duxler is co-director of the Wichita in Mind movement, which aims to raise the happiness and well-being of the community at large. In less than a year, Wichita in Mind has facilitated, with the help of Mindful Nation’s funding, several programs for local teachers, veterans and children. The local group is now ready to expand its programs and inspire more Wichitans.

Duxler and his fellow steering committee members of Wichita in Mind point to the Mindful Nation Manifesto: “Over the course of our lives we learn to care for the things that matter most. When something is broken, we fix it. When something needs tending to, we tend to it. These things are true of our homes and cars and bodies, but what about our minds? So many people are willing to surrender to the idea that the human brain goes bad. Like passengers at a bus stop, they stand idly by, wait- ing for the inevitable deterioration of age and time. We are not those people. We believe that in a world where most people have their eyes and thoughts fixed on the bend in the road, the next big thing and the continual horizon, setting aside a few minutes a day to exist in the present can greatly improve our lives.”

The goal of Wichita In Mind is to empower community members to lead fulfilled lives by facilitating science-based programs that teach the practices of mindful living. Wichita in Mind is part of the Mindful Nation initiative and locally represents a collaboration of leaders from Friends University, Newman University, Wichita State University, public schools, early childhood educators, social services and local businesses. The program hopes to change the culture of Wichita through a city-system approach and by creating a legacy of personal awareness and civic engagement.

The national movement stems from a book by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan called “A Mindful Nation.” In the 2012 book, Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio, discusses how mindfulness has helped him survive and thrive in Washington, D.C., and posits that citizens can reduce stress, improve performance and regain the American spirit by joining him.

“We believe the best way to start to build a mindful nation is to first build a mindful city,” Duxler says. “My hope is that someday when the question is asked about what a mindful city might look like, the response will be you must go to Wichita to see what is possible.”

Locally, the Wichita in Mind group is addressing five key constituencies: veterans, children, teachers, healthcare professionals and leaders. The ultimate goal is for Americans to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives using contemplative practices.

Naama Marcos, owner of the Visual Fusion Graphic Design Studio, has joined Wichita in Mind as a steer- ing committee member.

“Mindfulness training has improved my personal relationships, sharpened my focus and reduced my stress levels at work,” she says. “There are many simple mindful practices that have been easy to integrate into my busy life on a daily basis. My vastly improved sense of well-being is so pronounced that I feel compelled to share with others what I have learned.”

Event information

Homefront Initiative
A Fundraising Reception for The Veterans Project
June 25th, 2015 | 10:30 a.m
Visual Fusion—623 W. Douglas Ave
Online donations:
Learn about the scientifically-validated mind-body skills our veterans are learning for addressing stress and PTSD. Find out how you can contribute and help this free program.

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