MBAT Firefighter Training, Session 1

3819501-7657300004-luke-MBAT–Mindfulness Based Attention Training, is a University of Miami study funded by the Department of Defense to determine if mindfulness training can impact firefighter stress and resiliency in a positive way.  My department, Miami Dade Fire Rescue, is the guinea pig.  I first wrote about it in my blog Jedi Mind Training, but my crew and I had yet to participate.  Now that we have taken the first step, which was a computerized test to measure our baseline concentration level, here’s what happened:

 

Part One of our MBAT experience was visiting UM one evening and waiting in a conference room with over a dozen firefighters all staring at their phones in perfect unison.  Occasionally we chatted and asked each other about the study, but no one knew much.  We were a diverse bunch:  women, blacks, Latins, gringos, and firefighters up to chief.  Eventually two college interns appeared and ushered us into separate rooms lined with computers and chairs.

 

We were each assigned a number that corresponded to a computer and were told not to place our feet over the red tape on the floor.  I wasn’t sure what that was about, but I complied.  I was hoping to hear more about the study, but it didn’t come.  It was a little frustrating.  Where was the communication?  Was this intentional?  Were they trying to keep us in the dark, unsettle us, to create a baseline?  I couldn’t help feeling like I was in a  CIA experiment.  Our very polite intern described the upcoming test and asked that we remain silent.  Then the games began.

 

I don’t think I should go into the test here.  I don’t want to sabotage any future classes by throwing off their baseline.  Needless to say, all you really need to know is that the test is boring.  Deeply boring.  And incredibly, immensely, unbelievably, astoundingly repetitive.  Seriously.  I had no idea how I was even going to write about it.

 

For the first five minutes it was novel and interesting, but then it quickly became tedious, which I think is the point.  It’s one thing to focus when you’re watching Game of Thrones.  There’s dragons!  Women!  Sword fighting!  It’s another thing to maintain lazer-like focus when all you’re doing is clicking on colors, numbers, and letters for almost two hours with no apparent reward.  That’s how long it took me to finish after clicking on number after number after number, over and over and over and over—are you getting bored yet?  I definitely am.

 

At one point, I almost laughed out loud thinking of my three crew mates I’d hi-jacked into this.  All Engine guys in love with technology.  Oh god, I thought, they probably hate me right now.  Damn!  I’m drifting.  I need to FOCUS!  I’m being MEASURED!  By the DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE!  My paranoid left-wing/right-wing friends would be questioning my sanity about now.  Slide far enough to the outer end of a spectrum and you end up running into your opposite.  Sh*t, I’m drifting again.  Every second is being measured.  Every.  Second.  Counts.

 

Focus!

 

The room felt smaller as the night wore on.  It actually became a bit claustrophobic.  No windows.  Narrow.  Ugly fluorescent lighting.  Why can’t human beings come up with better lighting?  I was beginning to fidget.  I thought I was fast, what a total ego maniac, but the test dragged on and on and on.  By the time we stumbled out into the night, bleary eyed and dazed, at 2100, we’d all had enough.  I felt like I’d run a mental marathon.  My driver, Candy Crush aficionado, walked down the steps and let out a relieved “wheeew”, before shaking it off.

 

My next adventure will be visiting the Mindfulness Lab and Dr. Amishi Jha at UM .  I’m expecting a little more excitement than sitting in front of a computer screen, and I’m hoping that when I leave, I’ll be a tad more in the light.  And then it will be on to the mindfulness training itself.

 

I will keep you posted!  Until then . . .

 

Get Radical

&

Be Here Now!

 

For an introduction on MDFR & the MBAT study read Jedi Mind Training here.

2 Comments

  • David Gillespie says:

    Hi Gea,
    Interesting work there FFF. I like your piece on MBT.

    You came recommended to me by a FF in Minnesota, Becki White, and one of your colleagues @ MDFR – Bob Carpenter. We are working on a textbook on Resiliency and would like to talk with you. Can you email me in Canada. or FB me. Can reach out on Sunday or Monday. Thanks

    DG 705-875-5512

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