"My life is not this steeply sloping hour in which you see me hurrying."
- Rainer Maria Rilke
From Eggplant to Einstein: A letter to Jon Kabat-Zinn on
"The Trouble with Maps"
article by Diane Handlin
An Invitation to Learn
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Fall Eggplant -- Photo by Sandy Renna
Learn to live with greater vitality, health and well-being through Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.
Presented by the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center of New Jersey, the program offers powerful methods for reducing stress in your everyday life.
Diane Handlin, Ph.D. is one of the few instructors in New Jersey and in the world (not just trained) but actually Certified by Jon Kabat-Zinn's and Saki Santorelli's Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School. She, and her husband, Jim Handlin, Ed.D., who is also Certified by the CFM, often teach together.
I become part of it.
The herbs, the fir tree...
I become part of it.
The morning mists,
The clouds, the gathering waters...
I become part of it.
The sun that sweeps across
I become part of it.
The wilderness, the dew drops, the pollen...
I become part of it.
~ Navajo Chant ~
Some luck lies in not getting
what you thought you wanted
but getting what you have
which once you have got it
you may be smart enough to see
is what you would have wanted
had you known.
~ Garrison Keillor ~
Free Fall 2017 Talk in Summit
Wednesday, November 15, 7:30-9:00 pm
Grand Summit Hotel
570 Springfield Avenue
Summit, New Jersey
~ Winter 2018 Course ~
in Summit NJ
begins Tuesday, January 16th
All are Welcome
Reservations are required.
~ Summer 2018 Course ~
For more information or to reserve a place for the course, please contact Dr. Diane Handlin at
(Please note that MBSR is an educational course and not psychotherapy. If you suspect that you have medical or psychological issues, please pursue appropriate treatment.)
From Eggplant to Einstein: A letter to Jon Kabat-Zinn on
"The Trouble with Maps"
(This issue of the newsletter is dedicated to all the people
suffering from our earth's recent hurricanes and earthquakes.)
"A human being is part of the whole, called by us "universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such attainment is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security." (Albert Einstein, New York Times, March 29, 1972)
Periodically Jon Kabat-Zinn writes an article for either a major research journal or for a high level academic journal. His purpose in writing these types of articles is to update the scientific and academic communities on the impact of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and to open up dialogue and interest in what might lie ahead for MBSR. In an article entitled, "
Some Reflections on the Origins of MBSR, Skillful Means, and the Trouble with Maps
," he states his purpose is "to further dialogue concerning the meanings and essence of mindfulness, its value and promise ... and the challenges we face individually and collectively in the future for moving the bell curve of our society toward greater sanity and well-being."
Right from the beginning of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center(1979), Jon Kabat-Zinn talked about his eight week MBSR course as "a way of being" and "a way of seeing." What had become clear to him was that what was occuring in healthcare and medicine had become a kind of "entrainment," in which the entire healthcare system was functioning on automatic, as if on some kind of medical conveyor belt. What he was after in creating the MBSR course, as an adjunct to the current system, was nothing short of a re-vamping that would reflect a re-visioning and re-educational approach to healthcare designed to meet the needs of patients more holistically. So, he designed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a curriculum to bring about in participants a reconnection to themselves, which could lead to a new way of seeing and experiencing themselves in the world. In Jon Kabat-Zinn's words, "The program taps into the deep interior resources and reservoirs of the heart, mind and body intrinsic within us all by virtue of being human, for learning, growing, healing and transformation, as well as for social connectedness and learning from each other."
Not surprisingly, from our pre-course interviews with prospective participants, the overt events that bring people to our door are often physical symptoms such as sleeplessness, heart or blood pressure concerns, digestive, or pain management problems. Seeking relief, they have heard from healthcare professionals or friends that taking an MBSR course could help them restore their health and potentially improve the quality of their lives. People who stay beyond our initial two-way interview process are generally a highly motivated, diverse, cross-cultural group from every walk of life, which includes among many others, neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and other helping professionals, artists and musicians, attorneys, educators, "stay at home" moms or dads, and a recent museum curator, as well as Wall Street and IT professionals.
When pressed a little further during the initial interview process, however, people often begin to expand and refine their formulations (and perhaps even their understandings) of why they've come. Some typical examples of what prospective class members say are:
- "I am ready to establish a real meditative practice to get more centered and strengthen my spirit, my heart and my head."
- "My life mostly consists of what I call the 'Have to's' and very seldom the 'Want to's.'"
- "I hope the course will help me find inner peace and joy."
- "My general goals are to increase self-awareness, enhance my meditative practice, monitor, reduce and respond differently to stressors, return to my joyful self and live more care-freely, with more focus and less worry. Ideally, to age gracefully."
- "I hope to gain a better understanding of who I am and learn to love myself and take responsibility for my actions and reactions. I need to do this first in order to help others."
- "I am looking for peace of mind. I'd like to reduce my knee jerk reactions to the myriad of things that happen throughout the day and choose how to respond."
- "I want to figure out what to do with the remaining portion of my life."
- "I believe that taking this class can provide a potentially pivotal experience in a life that needs significant change."
- "I gave up a career in banking to devote myself to helping people. I am trying to give back to the community. I think this course can help me to do this."
- "I am interested in the brain research and the changes that mindfulness meditation can make in the brain."
- "I am motivated by the idea that conventional life is marked by dissatisfaction both when you don't get what you want, or you get what you don't want."
- "My partner and I are spread so thin that we are not able to honor ourselves or each other in the way we wish to do."
- "Bittersweet transition in my life. I just kept ploughing ahead. The way I've been living is not sustainable. I'm in fast forward."
- "I hope this time of life gives a gift. I can jump into something and end up just as unhappy or make a real change."
- "I'm excited by all the research on mindfulness but I need help stopping long enough to formulate my own practice."
- "I work in Information Technology where there is incredible pressure to be connected at all times. I am interested in exploring ways in which to create space in my life for more reflective thought, relaxation and presence. My company is a bad third party in my marriage. I feel like I'm working all these hours with nothing accomplished."
- "I'd like to take better care of myself and learn how to create healthy boundaries. I would like to be able to sit with my thoughts and to be in control of or at least aware of the information coming in. Once you get a big house and job, you realize they're not everything."
- "I have two young children and I recently got hurt physically and everything changed in an instant. I want to learn new skills to bring to my work and family life."
- "I believe I cannot look for happiness outside of myself. I know it is within me. I am looking for inner peace and balance."
So, the question becomes how do we get from the reasons that people initially give as to why they begin MBSR, to the healing and transformation that Jon Kabat-Zinn so eloquently speaks and writes about.
In terms of the un-ease that so many enrollees have identified, there is popular agreement among evolutionary psychologists that what favors survival in a species is something known as "natural selection." According to this theory, one of the unique attributes that has contributed to human survival is our mind. Unfortunately, in human beings, the very attribute which may have helped us to survive, and even thrive, may also have come at a price because the mind, left to its own devices, rarely rests. In addition, evolutionary psychologists postulate that as a result of having to avoid danger, humans tend to remember and dwell on a negative experience more frequently than a positive experience. Often during the day we can find ourselves thinking about what went wrong in the past as well as what might go wrong in the future. This can give rise both to great anxiety and painful emotions.
It cannot be emphasized enough how startling the actual experience of their mind's busyness and distractibility can be for students. Sam Harris, author, philosopher and neuroscientist offers the following on this topic: "People who haven't tried to meditate have very little sense that their minds are noisy at all. And when you tell them that they're thinking every second of the day, it generally doesn't mean anything to them. It certainly doesn't strike most of them as pathological." However, one of the first realizations that many students come to is that living more mindfully doesn't mean learning how to "stop thoughts." With experience, participants are often startled to realize that mindful meditation is best described, not as "learning how to sit quietly without moving and without thinking," but rather as the Tibetans put it so eloquently, "developing intimacy with one's own mind."
Participants are often surprised to discover that if they can slow down enough, they often become aware of experiencing their mind in a new way. One of our students described this experience as being, "...as if I were sitting beside a calm lake and watching my thoughts go by as if they were sailboats on the lake." In this sense, "developing "intimacy with one's own mind" comes to mean not just attending to what they have thought of as cognitive functioning, but also to becoming aware of messages from the heart as well as bodily sensations. If these can be approached freshly and incisively enough through turning toward themselves "non-judgmentally and with affection" this can be enormously freeing. This experience of attending has even been illustrated in some meditative traditions through the metaphor of a beloved adult or nanny suddenly opening a door, looking in upon squabbling children in a nursery, and just by her mere presence, having a deeply calming effect. Thus, as a result of several weeks of regular sitting and body-centered practices like gentle yoga, MBSR participants begin to become no longer certain that they are only their minds and what they think. Who am I? often begins to become the more enlivening question.
Formal practice reveals another aspect of the mind as the course progresses.
Mark Twain late in life commented, "I am a very old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never happened." Kabat-Zinn had learned from his early work with patients that a significant contributor to their experience of physical pain, no matter what the initial cause, was the story they told themselves about the meaning of their pain. Often, it seemed, the story that they told themselves was as debilitating, if not more so, than the actual physical pain itself. For example, no longer was someone a human being who had had a tumor, but now they too often had become, "a cancer patient," perhaps branding themselves as that for life. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the MBSR program so that his patients could experience and explore the nature of their own minds and be able to honor, but separate from the story of what had happened in the past and might happen to them in the future. As he likes to remind us, "We humans are miraculous beings who as long as we are alive, have more right with us than wrong with us, and we need to do this as if our life depends on it, for it surely does."
Socrates was considered the wisest man in Athens by the Delphic Oracle because, as he figured out, he was, "the only one who knew he didn't know." He taught that the most vital task for a human being was to "know thyself."
And, surely he didn't mean this in a superficial sense. This approach in mindfulness is sometimes described as developing beginners' mind. The journey can be thought of as similar to learning a new skill like how to ride a two wheel bicycle with training wheels and then suddenly being able to experience the exhilaration of what it feels like to remain upright. Because any human experience is potentially intrinsically vivid and vivifying, if it is held in awareness, participants often experience that just being alive can be experienced as extraordinary.
For example, one of the students in our most recent class came to our door because she had been diagnosed with a serious heart condition. Her cardiologist had recommended she take our class, and by following his medical advice and committing to the MBSR program, her health improved dramatically by the end of the eight week class. To her great surprise, after a week's mindfulness practice, she had the following experience:
"Today I embarked on a new journey, and I know for sure that the newness that I experienced was so much more than I would have experienced had I not done the body scan last night and then another body scan for my morning meditation! For the first time, I made my very own, homemade Baba Ganoush! The recipe called for baking a whole, unpeeled, one and a half pound, beautiful purple eggplant in the oven for 45 minutes.I was able to do my body scan while the eggplant was baking.Once I took it out of the oven, I had to wait for the eggplant to cool before I could peel it and that's where the adventure began!.... By the time I was finished peeling my eggplant, I felt as though I had actually gotten to know this beautiful fruit in a very intimate way.
The beginning of my relationship with that eggplant had taken on a world of its own and I was truly filled with awe and wonder by the experience of just baking and peeling it! As I chopped it up and placed in into the blender, I noticed the hundreds of beautiful seeds that existed within. I thanked it for the job it was about to do once I had blended it with the other ingredients. Its job was to exist within me and nurture my body with its wholesomeness and goodness. Not only had that eggplant nurtured my soul, but it was about to nourish my heart...."
To conclude, this attempt to explain what is somewhat inexplicable except perhaps through art, poetry or metaphor, there is a story about a Zen master who when asked by one of his students about what the nature of his teaching was, replied "I am selling water by a river." His point is that each of us is already an incredible being and as Jon Kabat-Zinn is fond of reminding us, as long as we are alive there is more right with us than wrong with us" because we have all the possibilities of wakefulness itself inside of us right now. There is another Zen expression, "they came thinking they would buy iron only to find they had bought gold." After eight weeks of practicing, participants usually report that they are finding new and more skillful, we might even say wiser, ways to meet the actualities of their lives, no matter what their lives might be. Many report that, in addition to improving their health, adding mindfulness to their daily lives has been transformative.
Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
NJ Lic. #3306
|Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
|Jim Handlin, Ed.D.
if you move carefully
through the forest
like the ones
in the old stories
who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,
to a place
whose only task
is to trouble you
but frightening requests...
...Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
to stop what you
while you do it,
that can make
that have patiently
waited for you,
that have no right
to go away.
~ David Whyte ~
(Everything is Waiting for You)
You Reading This, Be Ready
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now?
Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
All that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life-
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around
~ William Stafford ~
"You Reading This, Be Ready"
Somehow a door opens
and we are invited in.
The mind puts down the luggage
the body's been carrying
Time to catch the breath
of who we are
and what we are becoming.
This is the place
beneath the pain
beneath the joy
where the heart is open.
~ Jim Handlin ~
Be strong then, and enter
into your own body;
there you have a solid
place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don't go off somewhere else!
Kabir says this: just throw
away all thoughts of
And stand firm in that which you are.
~ Kabir ~
A haiku is like a finger
pointing to the moon.
If the finger is bejeweled,
we no longer see the moon.
~ Matsuo Basho ~
(a monk in the Later Liang Dynasty --
907 - 23 AD)
The Living Moment
There is a stillness at dawn
asking for me
I hear the note not played
I see the line not written
I understand the word not spoken
I am in stillness
I am the Living Moment
~ Cliff Woodward ~
Worthy of Note
Watch for another
Mindfulness in the Workplace All Party Parliamentary Report
From London, Fall 2017 (Jon Kabat-Zinn is speaking there.)
Too Early to Tell: The Potential Impact and Challenges-Ethical and Otherwise-Inherent in the Mainstreaming of Dharma in an Increasingly Dystopian World (2017)
The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smart-phones to Love - Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits, a new book by Judson Brewer
with a forward by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness and Education
at Newark Academy in the Fall of 2015 (for further information on Jim Handlin's college guidance work, visit www.strategiccollegeplacement.com)
Nobel prize-winner Elizabeth Blackburn and researcher Elissa Epel
who have demonstrated how the telomeres at the end of chromosomes have the capacity to lengthen as a result of lifestyle changes and the development of stress reduction skills, resulting in enhanced health and increased longevity.
Additional valuable interviews
from 60 Minutes Overtime
"A Necessary and Vital Moment,"
Jon Kabat-Zinn's Science of Mindfulness,
Opening to Our Lives:
Healing from Within
from the series
Healing and the Mind
Selected past issues of The Living Moment
As always, so much gratitude goes to Dave Kapferer, our steadfast Technical Artistic Director who jumped on board after appearing in our life when we needed him most, and graces this newsletter with his best attention and to Triston Handlin, our Technical Project Manager, without whose deep caring it would not be possible for us to share this newsletter and so much else with you.
"As to the value of the course, I would note that the group workshop designed to work through Jon Kabat-Zinn's curriculum is very effective. The workshop / course added a great deal of depth and opened my mind to a different way of looking at things and fostered exploration. When mindfullly present, time seems to expand for me. I relax, freed from thinking about the next place I have to be or the next thing I have to do ... I have discovered that if I hold off, I usually do not act along the lines of my first reaction. I've realized that I almost always have time not to act immediately. I've also rediscovered my happy me, what I remember from soooo long ago ..., and that is really wonderful." - Jane Dobson, Corporate attorney
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Although Dr. Handlin is a licensed psychologist and has a separate psychology practice, please note that this is an educational course and not psychotherapy. In addition, information contained in this document is informational and not to be construed as medical advice. If you suspect you have medical issues, please pursue appropriate treatment. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a separate educational course for those interested in developing mind-body connections. MBSR is a non-psychological service offered apart from Dr. Handlin's psychology practice and is not meant to substitute for personal or professional psychological advice which must be received from a licensed mental health professional.
NJ Lic. #3306
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center of New Jersey™
328 Amboy Ave, Metuchen NJ 08840
Tel: 732-549-9100, www.mindfulnessnj.com