Spring Conference Day 1

This is the first of two blog posts detailing the Iowa Psychological Association's two-day Spring Conference, which occurred April 28-29, 2023. 

The morning of IPA’s Spring conference likely had two “kick offs.” One was occurring being the scenes, where the conference planning committee headshot for Dr. Barazanjiwas creatively pivoting to respond to unforeseen challenges related to the resort’s amenities. My hat goes off to all those incredible individuals as they managed that kickoff with grace and innovation in order to deliver what was promised to attendees.

The second kickoff occurred when Dr. Nic Holmberg gave an opening statement, acknowledging this unexpected turn of events while also encouraging attendees to open their hearts with grace and patience. It was as if these external circumstances provided us all with an opportunity to immediately put the philosophy of the presentation into application, calling on us to practice loving kindness, acceptance, and detachment
from our rigid expectations. 

Dr. Fadel Zeidan immediately followed Dr. Holmberg with statements of sincere gratitude and excitement to be together for the day. We started our conference with an introductory breathing practice which would put us in the right headspace for multiple mindfulness opportunities throughout the day. 

Friday’s presentation was entitled, “The Neuroscience of Mindfulness-Based Meditation: An Integration of Science and Practice.” As a psychologist myself I ironically find my greatest challenge is to clearly define terms I use almost everyday (e.g., What is trauma?; What is mindfulness?; What is pain?). Dr. Zeidan was so effective at simplifying these concepts in a way anyone could understand while also intertwining those definitions with sophisticated scientific research. Dr. Zeidan was a very compelling presenter. He had endless information and knowledge to share and could seamlessly pivot and transition to respond to a variety of questions from the room. His lab’s research spans multiple topics, and this left me wishing we could have three more days to learn about all he had to offer.

Dr. Zeidan taught us about state versus trait mindfulness. He provided exciting research-based conclusions that one can teach trait, dispositional mindfulness through cultivating small contemplative practices in one’s day. Attendees learned about the Default Mode Network in the brain and how mindfulness can alter this and other networks in ways that reduce stress, depression, immune functioning, etc. A large portion of his research centered on the utilization of mindfulness as a treatment for pain, which has major ramifications for our society as it grapples with the opioid crisis.

There is a certain kind of magic that occurs when you attend a conference where the presenter is both a prolific scientist as well as genuinely interpersonal. This, paired with the content of the presentation, the “set and setting,” and the cooperative weather all intersected to create a memorable day of connection amongst colleagues. The intention behind IPA’s Spring Conference was to provide practitioners with an opportunity to
engage and connect through self-care while learning evidence-based practices. Simply put, the intention was beautifully executed.


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