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Obama Plays the Mindful Long Game

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The President's speech on Sunday night was nothing short of a victory lap, and not just a victory lap to celebrate the passing of an historic health insurance reform bill. When the President said, "This is not radical reform, but this is major reform . . . this is what change looks like," he took a victory lap for the return of the long-view. Obama showed us how to battle hard for a limited win in the short-term, with an eye toward a larger win in the long term. Or to borrow from Kenny Rogers - "He knew when to hold 'em and knew when to fold 'em."

I teach secular meditation to kids and families and at this point in my lesson about Obama and the long view I would like to tell students: "President Obama has been meditating every morning for years and that's how he developed the capacity to balance the long and the short term perspectives - his meditation practice has helped him become a great parliamentarian!" Unfortunately, I don't have a clue whether or not President Obama meditates. But I can and do tell students that classical mindfulness training will help them better understand the interplay between the short view and the long view, and the importance of both.

By teaching children and teens how to spot the infinite connections between people, places and things they begin to see life through a broader lens. Kids better understand the long view by recognizing that all actions have cumulative consequences - another fundamental teaching in mindfulness training. Ever wonder how some kids can be so mean sometimes? It is often because they have completely forgotten (or never been taught) these two basic truths - we are all interconnected and every little action contributes to a larger result. Come to think of it, seems like many of our politicians have forgotten this too.

That is why Obama's leadership over the course of the health care debate - and his ultimate victory - is a meaningful model for kids and important to our future. Kids learn by example. So what did Obama teach them by his actions? He showed that by maintaining focus and being measured and circumspect in the short term - while all around him voices shouted conflicting messages like "Compromise!" Don't compromise!" "Give up!" "Reach out!" - it is possible to achieve impressive long-term results. Bravo, Mr. President. I agree with you - this is what change looks like.