The Mindfulness Center

Mind-Body Week, D.C. 2015 Speakers

Research Conference: Friday, April 17, 2015


Sara Lazar, Ph.D., Keynote Address: Self-care Practices to Alleviate Pain: Neuroimaging Techniques to Study Changes associated with Meditation.

Sara Lazar is an Associate Researcher in the Psychiatry Department at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her research focuses on elucidating the neural mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of yoga and meditation, both in clinical settings and in healthy individuals. She has collaborated with the Institute for Extraordinary Living at the Kripaulu Center for Yoga and Health as well as the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School. She is a Board member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy and has been practicing yoga and mindfulness meditation since 1994. Her research has been covered by numerous news outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, CNN, and WebMD.

Chenchen Wang, M.D., M.Sc., Keynote Address: Tai Chi/Qigong: Self-Practice Mind-Body Therapies.

Chenchen Wang is an associate professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and the director of the Center for Integrative Medicine Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Her research focuses on epidemiological and clinical studies of complementary health approaches and their use as treatments for chronic rheumatic conditions, particularly osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and systematic lupus erythematosus. Dr. Wang serves as principal investigator on a number of NIH-funded clinical trials evaluating tai chi mind and body therapies for chronic rheumatic conditions and publishes extensively in this field.


Deborah Norris, Ph.D., ERYT200  Welcoming Remarks and Introduction to "Managing Pain: Clinical Findings, Mechanisms of Action and the Standardization of Self-Care Mind-Body Therapies."; focus on Meditation, Yoga and Tai Chi/Qigong.

Deborah Norris is the Founder and Executive Director of The Mindfulness Center. She is the Director of the Psychobiology of Healing Program in the Department of Psychology at American University where she is Psychologist-in-Residence. She has a research appointment at the D.C. Veteran's Affairs Medical Center, and also conducts research at the Children's National Health Center. Dr. Norris previously taught in the Psychiatry Department at Georgetown University Medical School, and in the Health/Fitness Department at American University. Her research focus is on the use of mind-body practices in the treatment of mental health and pain in under-served and special needs populations.

John R. Glowa, Ph.D., Clinical Biomarkers and Pain.

Dr. Glowa was formerly the Senior Program Director in the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at NIH, where he oversaw a portfolio of grants proposing novel, integrative approaches to treat a wide variety of disorders. Prior to joining NCCAM, he served as Scientific Review Officer at the National Center for Research Resources (NIH), a senior research advisor at Pfizer Global Research & Development, a Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry at the LSU Medical Center, and as an intramural scientist at NIH. Dr. Glowa’s academic background includes a Ph.D. in behavioral pharmacology from the University of Maryland and a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Glowa has published over one hundred research articles, and served on numerous NIH and VA review panels and editorial boards. He now serves as a consultant to government, the pharmaceutical industry and academia; his expertise includes both pre-clinical and clinical research, with a special interest in the requirements of rigorous clinical trials and the development of biomarkers.

Luana Colloca, M.D., Ph.D., Experimental and Clinical Research on Pain Management: What we can Learn from Placebo Effects.

Luana Colloca is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Schools of Nursing and Medicine. Prof. Colloca holds a MD, master degree in Bioethics and a PhD in Neuroscience. She has over 12 years of research experience in the area of pain modulation and placebo effects. Her research focuses on how expectations and different types of learning mechanisms shape experience-driven placebo and nocebo effects. Prof. Colloca has authored more than 55 original articles, well-cited in the biomedical literature and published in journals such as Pain, Nature Neurosci, JAMA, J Neuro, and BMJ. She also co-edited three books on placebo effects for Elsevier, JHP, and Lambert Press respectively.

Cynthia R. Gross, Ph.D., A Novel tMBSR Self-Care Program Delivery Format to Reduce Symptoms of Pain and other Symptoms for Kidney Transplants.

Cynthia Gross is a Professor of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Gross obtained her Ph.D. and Masters from Yale University and Bachelors from Tufts University. Her research interests lie in evaluating quality of life outcomes for persons with organ transplants or other chronic conditions, and she conducts clinical trials to test the impact of non-pharmacologic therapies on insomnia, symptoms of stress and quality of life in persons with chronic conditions. Her current study is an NIH-funded clinical trial called "Journeys to Wellness: A Kidney Transplant Patient Study." This study compares a mind-body approach, called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), to a support group for kidney transplant candidates. Both interventions are conducted in a novel workshop-teleconference format.

Rebecca Lehto, Ph.D., R.N., O.C.N., Symptom Management of Pain among Cancer Patients using Mindfulness as Self-Practice.

Rebecca Lehto is a faculty member in the School of Nursing at Michigan State University. Her research interests include: lung cancer, chronic illness conditions, psychological adaptation, mindfulness therapy and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Dr. Lehto has developed and is concluding feasibility and efficacy testing  of a home-based mindfulness intervention for patients undergoing treatment for advanced cancer.

Thomas H. Nassif, Ph.D., Teaching Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury to Practice i-Rest Yoga Nidra: How Mindfulness Meditation may Influence Perceived Pain and the Structure of the Brain.

Thomas Nassif is an Adjunct Professor at the American University and George Washington University. Dr. Nassif is a Co-Investigator and Yoga Instructor in the Neuroimaging Research Assistant at D.C. Veteran's Affairs Medical Center. With a Ph.D. in Behavior, Cognition and Neuroscience, Dr. Nassif's research focuses on the evaluation of the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation (MM) for managing chronic pain in U.S. Military veterans, in particular those who sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during deployment in Afghanistan (OEF) or Iraq (OIF), at the D.C. Veteran's Affairs Medical Center. His work has been part of War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC-DC).

Nora Stinley, M.A., ATR, Teaching Mind-Body Therapies for the Treatment of Pain in a Pediatric Population

Nora Stinley is a Ph.D. candidate in the Behavior, Cognition, and Neuroscience program at American University.  Her dissertation thesis focuses on studying the effects of fast-acting mind-body therapies on pediatric acute pain, an often undertreated and undermanaged health condition.  She is a part-time faculty member of the Graduate Art Therapy Department at George Washington University.  Ms. Stinley is the lead art therapy consultant on the Museums in Medicine project for the creative and Therapeutic Arts Sciences department at Children's National Medical Center (CNMC), Washington, DC. Ms Stinley began her career in arts and healing as an undergraduate at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. While receiving her Bachelor's degree in psychology, Nora joined the Creative and Therapeutic Arts Services team at CNMC.  She obtained a Master in Art Therapy from GWU in 2006 and another in Psychology in 2014 from American University.  Ms. Stinley has presented at national conferences and symposia regarding the effects of art as a tool for healing and in therapy.

Joe Miller, E-RYT500, Willow Street Yoga - Yoga Tools for Healthy Neck and Shoulders

Join Joe Miller at Willow Street Yoga (a two-minute walk away*) for a special therapeutic class exploring the biomechanical relationships of the nervous system and common neck/shoulder pain during a lunch break yoga. This relaxation-based, experiential class is street-clothes-friendly and offers simple yoga tools to support ongoing neck/shoulder health. Everyone welcome.
* LOCATION: Willow Street Yoga, 8561 Fenton Street

Workshops: Saturday, April 18, 2015:

Ben King, Armor Down "Stay Alert, Stay Alive" Mind and the "No Pain, No Gain" Body

Ben King deployed to south Bagdad as a member of a tactical psychological operations team during the early days of The Surge. Ben returned home from war proud of his service and confident in his future. Things didn't go as planned. Sleepless nights and constant pain in his knees, back, and neck, led Ben into moments of black despair. The path forward began to illuminate itself when Ben started to directly address his military training by taming his military mindset and retraining his no pain no gain body with mindful meditation. During Ben's talk he will discuss how the use of the Armor Down mindful meditation technique can help any warrior create a foundation that can been used to maximize the effectiveness of mind-body therapies. Ben will also discuss many of the therapies he has used since returning home to thrive as a civilian.

Master Nick Gracenin - D.C. Tai Chi: Fangsonggong, the art and science of relaxation

Master Nick Gracenin has a 35 year career as a teacher of Qigong, Tai Chi, Chinese Yoga (Dao Yin) and Chinese Martial Arts. One of the first foreigners to study in the People’s Republic of China in the 1980‘s, Nick has apprenticed to many of the foremost Grandmasters in China and North America. An elite athlete, he won medals for US Teams at 6 World Championships for Chinese Martial Arts. In 2012, he was awarded his 10th degree Black Belt from the International Wushu Research Federation. He is recognized as one of the first non-Asian Masters of his art. Inside Kung Fu named him in 1999 as one of the 100 people who have "made the greatest impact in martial arts in the past 100 years" and 2005 "Man of the Year.” In 2008, he moved to Washington and founded DC Tai Chi, where he continues to study and share the Chinese martial and healing arts.

In this brief workshop, Master Gracenin shares one of the treasures of modern life - the ability to relax. Discover the science behind the art of letting go, and open the doorway to serenity, better health, and a deep and abiding calm.

Lenore Mullin, PhD, Chopra Center - Ayurveda: Pain Management and Ayurveda

Lenore M. Mullin BS, MS, PhD, physicist, educator, scientist, and NSF Presidential Faculty Fellow, now Emeritus Professor, completed her Ayurvedic training and certifications (Perfect Health Instructor and Ayurvedic Consultant) with Drs. Deepak Chopra and David Simon at Chopra University. These credentials complement her deep understandings of physics, mathematics, and computer science, especially quantum physics, quantum computation, and quantum algorithms. Her practice, based on Ayurveda, incorporates all her experiences. By explaining how physics validates the wisdom of Ayurveda she believes, through metaphor with dynamical systems, signal processing, etc., she can motivate, educate, then coach the mindful awareness needed to obtain, maintain, and enjoy a life of health and happiness, implying a life where physical and emotional pain is minimized. When you think like a physicist you’ll understand that a mind-body connection can be viewed in similar ways in which we understand the fields of physics (e.g., electromagnetic fields, gravitational fields, etc.): the Chakras, Nadis, Marmas, etc. are sub-fields, heat is viewed as friction, toxins are viewed as altering a density function, etc. Dr. Mullin is an Ayurvedic Nutrition and Life Style Consultant/Coach/Educator in Arlington and Alexandria, VA.

Lauren Chelec Cafritz, TBF, IBF - The Power Of Breath: A Self healing practice

Lauren is the founder of  She is a DC-based professional Breathwork therapist who is passionate about helping people achieve optimal health, mental clarity and joy using the power of breath. She is trained and certified in Integrative Breathwork, Transformational Breathing tm and has studied many other breathing modalities. In addition to her private practice, Lauren leads group breathwork classes and workshops at The Mindfulness Center in Bethesda, MD and has conducted breathwork retreats and workshops throughout the U.S. Lauren brings a passion to her work and clients through her life experience as a Breathwork therapist, businessperson, wife, mother, photojournalist, nonprofit advocate and a past sufferer of chronic pain. In addition to 10 years of breathwork training, Lauren holds an MA in Journalism from the University of Missouri and a BA in Business from Syracuse University. 

Please join Lauren Chelec Cafritz for a talk and an experience of the self healing power of our own breath. Hear how our breath patterns could help to alleviate pain on a physical level while also bringing more peace and ease on a mental and emotional level. Please dress in comfortable clothes for the 30 minute breath session.

Sarah Wheeler, MSN, MPH, CRNP, RYT200, Usui & Karuna REiki Master - Self-Care and Healing Through Restorative Yoga Practice

Sarah is passionate about the healing power of yoga and Reiki. She strives to create a nurturing environment where students can experience the restorative aspects of yoga practice both physically and emotionally. She completed her formal training in yoga and energy work at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine. Sarah is also a Hopkins trained Nurse Practitioner who has worked in the area of employee health and wellness over the past decade. She is grateful to be able to utilize her background to provide holistic care for her patients and students every day. 

In this experiential workshop, students will be led through a gentle warm-up followed by a yoga nidra session that will include a combination of breathing techniques, body scanning, and guided imagery. This type of practice is often found to be deeply relaxing & restorative -- it is estimated that an hour of yoga nidra is equivalent to 4-6hrs of sleep. Students are encouraged to dress warmly (layers, socks, etc.) and may choose to bring extra blankets or supportive props to use during the class.

Erica Marie Wigley - The Basics of Self Reiki

Erica Marie Wigley is a spiritual visionary and wisdom trailblazer. Her journey has taken her from a registered nurse/reiki master to corporate America to becoming a Professor of Wisdom and the founder of Plush Skin, an echo chic skin care product sold at Whole Foods.

In this workshop, Erica will provide a brief introduction to Self-Reiki. She will discuss The Reiki Story, What is Reiki, and provide an introduction to Reiki Healing Session.  Erica will also share with us hand positions for Reiki I on the body chakras and the associated organs targeted. Participants will not only have an opportunity to know what is a Self-Reiki healing session, they will also have the chance to sign-up for an attunement in Reiki I, II, and/or III. 

James Foulkes ERYT500 - Mental Tension - Using Yoga to Access and Calm the Nervous System to Address Pain

James has been involved in the alternative healing arts for more than 13 years and specializes in working with groups and individuals. The modalities he uses include Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Meditation, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Kung Fu and Cranial Sacral Therapy in Washington D.C. and the surrounding region including at The Mindfulness Center. James' approach to Yoga, based on the work of Vanda Scaravelli, is simple and straightforward. His instructions are clear and the healing and energetic benefits are perceived quickly.   For more information, please go to

Clients and students approaching yoga as a a mechanism to unravel their pain in the 21st century are often afflicted with a mind that cannot settle, which is inherently linked to any physical dysfunction they may have.  By working with the body and the various aspects of the nervous system, yoga can begin to have an impact on both pain and pain management.  In this presentation, key concepts and themes will be explored which orient a practice to pain reduction through strategic mental engagement.

The practice will move away from a mechanical approach to yoga, by accessing the central Nervous System and actively engaging the mind/body level to undo stresses. By working intelligently with the tension in the body and directly with the mind and nervous system, an approach to yoga arises that is inherently therapeutic. Principles of work centered around natural forces and freedom are emphasized and rigidity is placed aside. 

Michael D. Basdavanos, Ph.D., Director Dancing Mountain Taijiquan & Taoist Arts - Introduction to Qigong and Taijiquan (T'ai Chi) as Taoist yoga; principles and practices for the everyday wellbeing.

Michael practices Medical Qigong healing techniques with a special focus toward Dao Yin movements that reinforce correct flows of Qi, counter balance and increase Qi in the body. In addition he has been treating clients with Asian Bodywork Therapy* (ABT) since 2000.  He has been teaching Yang Style Hidden Taijiquan (Tai C’hi) since 1982, Taoist energy meditation (Neigong) since 1988, and Qigong forms since 1997. Michael started Dancing Mountain in 1993 to serve as an evolving format for learning and teaching practices that relate to Qi cultivation, Qigong exercises, and the Martial Art of Taijiquan. He has taught workshops in France and the US and continues to teach classes and accept students for training in traditions of Taoist healing arts and Yang Style Taijiquan at The Mindfulness Center. Currently he is looking into the phenomena of force field theory as it applies to Qi cultivation and Qi related healing arts.

The Sinew Channels can play a prominent role in the experience of pain. These channels are wide bands of muscle, flesh, and tendon that link the body from head to toe and internally from tailbone to head. Certain postures, movements and breathing practices can quickly unlock years of discomfort or begin to unravel a complex of levels for deeper release. We will explore acupoints, movement and breathing with an emphasis on the body's natural polarities (Yin/Yang) to rectify Qi flow problems in these channels.

Workshops: Sunday, April 19, 2015

Alan Keith Tillotson, Ph.D., LAC, RH, Tillotson Institute of Natural Health, Master Herbalist and Acupuncturist, Author of The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook - Meditation Qigong and Acupuncture for Pain

REGISTERED HERBALIST Alan Tillotson has been practicing herbal medicine for over twenty-seven years, and is a professional member (R.H.) of the peer reviewed American Herbalists Guild. He holds an accredited Master's degree in Asian Medical Systems (Goddard College), a non-accredited Ph.D. in Integrative Health Sciences (IUPS), and is licensed to practice Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Delaware (L.AC.). He earned a teaching degree in meditation and Qi gong from the Jin Shan School of Taoist Meditation under Sifu Wang Yen-Nien.  Dr. Tillotson is well known in America for his apprenticeship study of Ayurvedic herbology beginning in 1976 in Nepal under Vaidya Mana Bajra Bajracharya and is author of The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook. 

Dr. Tillotson will provide his clinical insights from 30 years treating patients with a combination of acupuncture, qi gong, Ayurvedic, Chinese and Naturopathic medicine. In this workshop, learn more about these healing modalities as Dr. Tillotson shares both his knowledge based and energy based abilities to diagnose and treat patients.

Gary Kaplan, D.O. The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, Author of Total Recovery - The Brain on Fire: The Role of Microglia in Persistent Pain and Depression

Gary Kaplan, D.O. is the founder and medical director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine and author of Total Recovery. A pioneer and leader in the field of integrative medicine, Dr. Kaplan is one of only 19 physicians in the country to be board-certified in both Family Medicine and Pain Medicine. Dr. Kaplan is a Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and serves on the Advisory Committee to Health and Human Services for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Dr. Kaplan created the Kaplan Center to offer patients suffering with chronic pain and illness a more effective model of medical care. 

Many people who suffer from chronic pain also suffer with depression. In this workshop, Dr. Gary Kaplan lays the groundwork for understanding why we often see both of these conditions in certain individuals. He will explain how inflammatory processes in the brain and central nervous system trigger and sustain chronic pain syndromes. Dr. Kaplan will also explain how diagnostic and treatment protocols need to change if we are going to find solutions for patients suffering with chronic pain conditions. He will discuss the vital role of meditation, psychotherapy and nutrition as part of the treatment plan to help achieve total recovery.

Fadal Zeidan, Ph.D. - Does mindfulness-induced pain relief engage similar behavioral and neural mechanisms as placebo or sham-mindfulness meditation-based analgesia?

Dr. Zeidan is a cognitive neuroscientist and a health psychologist at Wake Forest School of Medicine. His research broadly focuses on assessing the effects of self-regulatory techniques such as mindfulness meditation on pain, anxiety and other health outcomes using functional neuroimaging, psychophysical and psychological methodologies. Currently, Dr. Zeidan is working on determining the specific analgesic and health promoting mechanisms supporting mindfulness-based meditation practices.

Growing evidence reveals that mindfulness meditation significantly reduces pain responses in experimental and clinical settings. Recent neurobiological findings confirm that the cognitive state of mindfulness significantly modifies sensory, cognitive, and affective dimensions of nociceptive processing. However, there are likely nonspecific effects associated with mindfulness meditation-related pain relief that are also consistent with placebo-related responses. For instance, reports of pain relief during meditation may be associated with subjects' expectation of analgesia related to the health promoting reputation of meditation, facilitator attention, report biases, and conditioning/extinction processes. With respect to the recent interest in meditation and the clinical utility of mindfulness-based mental training, it is important to determine if the pain-relieving effects of mindfulness meditation employ distinct brain mechanisms from those engaged by the placebo response. This presentation will disentangle and identify the neural mechanisms of action associated with mindfulness meditation-related pain relief as compared to placebo-analgesia and sham mindfulness meditation.

Jeffrey Greeson, Ph.D. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Chronic Pain: How You Can Use the Core Qualities of Mindfulness to Live More Fully and Feel Better Now

Dr. Greeson is a licensed clinical psychologist and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine. He specializes in integrating mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help clients treat and prevent stress-related health problems, including chronic pain and other conditions that often accompany it, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. Greeson's research on mindfulness, stress, and health is currently funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In this workshop, Dr. Greeson will present some of the key principles and practices for how mindfulness meditation can help people cope skillfully with chronic pain. Based on his recent book chapter on the topic (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Chronic Pain. In R.A. Baer (Ed.), Mindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches: Clinician's Guide to Evidence Base and Applications. Academic Press, 267–292), Dr. Greeson will describe several examples of how being "mindful" of pain can transform one's experience of it, through present-focused attention, non-judging awareness, compassion, and greater connection with oneself & others. Supported by research and clinical experience alike, these core qualities of mindfulness are associated with better physical functioning, psychological well-being, and quality of life.

Thea Elijah, LAC, Perennial Medicine - Who's got your back?

Thea Elijah, LAc, has been a student of Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture for over 20 years. She is the former director of the Chinese Herbal Studies Program at TAI Sophia Institute and the Chinese Herbal Studies Program at the Academy for Five Element Acupuncture. She has apprenticed and studied with some of the most influential Chinese medicine teachers in the West. Thea is also a Master Teacher of the Shadhuliyyah Sufi Order, and a teaching assistant at the University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism.

In this workshop, Thea Elijah will present simple effective exercises for regaining our "back body mindfulness." Many of us walk around as though we only have a front--and this has immediate significant consequences for our posture as well as for our interactions. The first significant consequence is an anxious feeling of being unsupported--and the second consequence is a series of physical compensations that can lead directly to chronic back pain. Back body mindfulness, from our heels up to our occiput, can immediately shift our level of confidence, our sense of personal competency, and many forms of chronic back pain.