Bruna, Bartels launch Mindful Life Program

THE SOPRIS SUN,Carbondale’s community supported newspaper • May 22,2014 • 13

Sopris Sun Staff Report –  Former Buddhist monk/counselor/teacher John Chophel Bruna has partnered with long-time local Laura Bartels to create the Mindful Life Program, offering practical and transformative courses, retreats and re- sources in mindfulness. Based in Carbondale at the Third Street Center, they offer pro- grams locally and throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia to help participants live a meaningful life according to their own values, and learn to respond skillfully to life’s events, said a press release.

Bruna is the director of the Way of Compassion Foundation and co-founder of the Mindful Life Program. Not unfamiliar to the Roaring Fork Valley, Bruna, who was a Tibetan Buddhist monk for more than six years, used to tour with his fellow monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery through Aspen and Glenwood Springs. Having moved to Carbondale last summer, he now has a steadily growing number of people from the area studying with him and attending weekly groups, retreats and trainings.

Bruna’s journey to Carbondale is un likely. When he was growing up amid poverty, drugs and violence in Los Angeles, one of nine children of a widowed mother, he had one goal: to not go to prison like family members and friends.

Despite stealing alcohol from liquor stores at age 10, becoming an alcoholic, a drug addict, homeless and a father at 20, Bruna managed to achieve that goal, according to a press release. But at 22, as his life spiraled out of control, he decided to get clean and sober and set a new goal: God’s will be done, not mine.

“My will always got me in trouble,” he said. “For me, it translates into: How can I be of benefit?” Fifteen years into recovery, another pivotal event came when he started to meditate and follow the Buddhist teachings of the Dalai Lama.

John Bruna

John Bruna

“I realized that much of the suffering in the world is unnecessary,” said Bruna, who in 2005 became an ordained Buddhist monk in the Tibetan tradition. “To have real peace in life, you have to have peace with yourself. Meditation allowed me to quit reacting to the world and to be able to respond skillfully with intention. I was able to go inside and look at the patterns in my life that led to unhappiness and ask myself: What will help me lead the life I want, a beneficial life?”

Today, Bruna travels the United States and Canada giving workshops and leading retreats designed to help others lead happier lives. He is currently teaching a four- week mindfulness course in Carbondale. He also leads a weekly Mindfulness Group, and a weekly meditation and dharma talk. “The quicker we identify our emotions, the more skillfully we can respond to them instead of simply reacting to them,”

Bruna said. Bruna said he believes that one of the best ways to become aware of one’s emotions and respond appropriately is through cultivating mindfulness throughout one’s daily life, which is an integral part of his teachings. Mindfulness, even practiced for a few weeks, can transform lives, according to Bruna. The key to mindfulness is training the mind, which is done through meditation. “Meditation settles the mind, bringing it back to its natural state,” he said.

At the end of 2011, Bruna said he transitioned from the life as a Tibetan Buddhist monk to a layperson because he felt he could be more effective, reaching more people as a layperson than as a monk. In 2012, he founded the non-profit Way of Compassion Foundation, with the mission of helping people live meaningful lives according to their own values and spiritual beliefs. The foundation operates on donations he receives from his workshops and public talks and from sponsors. Desiring to offer mindfulness training that was practical, accessible and universal, Bruna, along with Australian colleague Mark Molony, created a curriculum for a comprehensive mindfulness course that is adaptable to all types of specific audiences from the general public, to educators, therapists and recovery programs among others. The goal is to help participants live a meaningful life according to their own values, while cultivating emotional and “attentional” balance.

For more information about the weekly groups of both organizations see and, or call 970-633-0163.

Three Ways Mindfulness Reduces Depression

By Emily Nauman | June 2, 2014 | 0 Comments – Greater Good Website

Research says that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is an effective treatment for depression. A new study finds out why.

Sixty percent of people who experience a single episode of depression are likely to experience a second. Ninety percent of people who go through three episodes of depression are likely to have a fourth. But help is available: The 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) program been shown to reduce the risk of relapse.

How does it work? To find out, researchers in the United Kingdom interviewed 11 adults who had experienced three or more episodes of severe depression, and had undergone MBCT within the previous three years.

They analyzed the interviews to create a model, published in the journal Mindfulness, to demonstrate how MBCT enables people to relate mindfully to the self and with others. The key, it seems, lies in the way MBCT enhances relationships: Less stress about relationships in turn helps prevent future episodes of depression. Three specific themes emerged from the study:

1. Being present to the self: Learning to pause, identify, and respond

Mindfulness practices of MBCT allowed people to be more intentionally aware of the present moment, which gave them space to pause before reacting automatically to others. Instead of becoming distressed about rejection or criticism, they stepped back to understand their own automatic reactions—and to become more attuned to others’ needs and emotions. Awareness gave them more choice in how to respond, instead of becoming swept up in escalating negative emotion.

2. Facing fears: It’s ok to say “no”

Participants also reported that they became more assertive in saying ‘no’ to others in order to lessen their load of responsibility, allowing them to become more balanced in acknowledging their own as well as others’ needs. The authors speculate that bringing mindful awareness to uncomfortable experiences helped people to approach situations that they would previously avoid, which fostered self-confidence and assertiveness.

3. Being present with others

Study participants also described having more energy, feeling less overwhelmed by negative emotion, and being in a better position to cope with and support others. Getting through difficulties with significant others through mindful communication helped them feel closer, and having the energy and emotional stamina to spend more time with family members helped them grow together.

Many participants said that as time went on, the benefits of MBCT permeated their whole life. “Through relating mindfully to their own experiences and to others, they were feeling more confident and were engaging with an increased range of social activity and involvement,” write the authors.

The researchers write that in the future, interventions could be place a more explicit focus on approaching relationships with mindfulness. This focus could reinforce the benefit of MBCT, and perhaps lead to even better outcomes in reducing the risk of relapse for people with chronic depression.

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