My life is not this steeply sloping hour in which you see me hurrying."
- Rainer Maria Rilke
("It Takes Work to Be Happy" article
by Diane Handlin included below)
An Invitation to Learn
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Hastings Pond, Warwick, Ma.
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 now also Certified by the CFM, often teach together.
Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes
deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
Praise what little there's left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees.
Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer.
Praise the blue sky
hasn't cracked yet.
Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy
fallen world; it's all we have, and it's never enough.
~ Barbara Crooker ~
Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,
the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back
from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere
except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle
of unobservable mysteries - roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This
I try to remember when time's measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn
flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay - how everything lives, shifting
from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.
~ Mary Oliver ~
Free Fall 2016 talk in Summit
Wednesday, November 16, 7:30-9:00 pm
Grand Summit Hotel
570 Springfield Avenue
~ Winter 2017 course ~
in Summit NJ
begins Tuesday, January 10
All are Welcome
Reservations are required.
~ Summer 2017 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.)
It Takes Work to Be Happy
In the midst of the pre-election turmoil in this country and the diet of "media junk food" that so many of us find it a challenge not to watch, I find myself thinking about a favorite old story of mine: A long, long time ago, God decided he wanted to give humanity a very great gift. He called his favorite angel to him and asked his advice. He said, " I would like to give human beings a very great gift, a soul, but if I give it to them to easily, they are such strange creatures that they will not appreciate it. I need your help. The angel responded, "We could hide it at the top of a very tall mountain." God responded, "Man is courageous. He will find a way to climb up there and get it. That is too easy. It won't be appreciated." Then the angel said, "We could hide it on an island far out at sea." God responded, "But man is clever. He will build a large ship and go and get it." God thought about it for a while as the two of them sat there reflecting on the best plan.
Then, God said, "I have an idea. Let's bury it deep within man himself so he will have to truly search to find it."
And so, with the hope that perhaps this letter to you could offer a little change in diet, I am writing to you about my understanding of what true happiness might be. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle said that for human beings, "happiness is the goal of goals" and he described it as
eudomania or well-spiritedness or well-being. We have a paucity of language to denote what we mean by happiness, but since the absence of human happiness seems to be what is flavoring this Presidential election, I thought it would be worth my trying to at least take a stab at exploring a potential antidote.
Long before the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election, Linda Stone, a Microsoft researcher was quoted by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times as describing our present state of mind as one of "continual partial attention". Friedman says, "I love that phrase. It means that while you are answering your e-mail and talking to your kid, your cell phone rings and you have a conversation. Now you are involved in a continuous flow of interactions in which you can only partially concentrate on each." Stone adds, "If being fulfilled is about committing yourself to someone else, or some experience, that requires a level of sustained attention. And that is what we are losing the skills for, because we are constantly scanning the world for opportunities and we are constantly in fear of missing something better. That has become incredibly spiritually depleting."
In addition, those of you who have read my bi-annual newsletters before, know that I wrote in the Fall of 2015 about the research of Sherri Turtle on the deleterious effects of technology on modern life. Turkle, a Professor of Science, Technology and Society at MIT (see my
Fall 2015 MBSR newsletter
at the bottom of the
). She believes that re-learning "unitasking"(including the art of sustained conversation) will increase performance and decrease stress. She is not asking us to give up our devices but to "carve out sacred spaces" where our relationship with ourselves and others can deepen and flourish. In the same article I mentioned the research that had been done by a group of scientists at Harvard who used an iphone app called trackyourhappiness and found that "a wandering mind is an unhappy mind."
Happiness has been defined by Jonathan Haidt, author of
The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, as a byproduct or result of the state of FLOW. Csikszentmihalyi defined FLOW as the total immersion in a task that is challenging, yet closely matched to our abilities. There has also been research that has revealed that there is a kind of SET POINT (David Lykken, picked up by Haidt) for happiness. That research found that if a person is living above the poverty level, and if that person won the lottery, or became a quadriplegic, within a year, they would be at a level of happiness near where they were before either of these extreme events occurred. Apparently, happiness is not about going somewhere or getting something.
There has been a thirst for books on happiness in recent times, e.g., Dan Harris'
Spring 2015 MBSR Newsletter
),and it seems to me that the most important question is: Is happiness about going out and getting something or reaching some goal, or is it about learning skills to reset our own happiness set point. If so, are there tools or skills that if well honed, could allow us to reset our happiness set point? As Matthieu Ricard, who has written my favorite book on happiness,
Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill
, wrote, "Emotions are fleeting, and without vigilance the risk is that if key triggering of emotions turns into moods, accumulation of moods can build up into traits, and then into temperament."
Ricard likes to point out that we confuse happiness with pleasure. Pleasure can contribute to well-being or undermine it. One large dish of our favorite ice cream can bring pleasure. Two dishes can become boring. Three dishes and we may become nauseous. Ricard likes to quote the French philosopher, Alain, who says the greatest gift any of us can give to others is to embody this deep state of happiness. As a psychologist, I have often thought about Carl Jung's injunction that what has the greatest detrimental effect on a child is "the unlived life of the parent." Ricard writes that in itself being near someone who has honed the skill of cultivating inner peace is nourishing.
Ricard suggests that we need to identify within ourselves "a potential for flourishing" and that the causes of profound well-being, as they deepen, don't exhaust themselves. They become a way of being. Ricard says that too often, "When we seek happiness, we put all our hopes and fears outside ourselves. We imagine that if we could gather a certain number of circumstances, job, house, car, we will have everything needed to be happy." He says that is a "fragile formula," and suggests that, "One of the chief components of genuine well-being is an all-pervasive sense of compassion, benevolence, and un-self-centeredness, and that this is what contributes to the state of mind of true happiness." He adds that self-absorption, self-rumination and too strong a feeling of self-importance is a magnet to attract suffering.
In terms of scientific evidence for what is possible, scientists began the exploration of the neuroplasticity of the brain over a decade ago using neuroimaging. Richie Davidson, at the University of Wisconsin, published in 2004 an early, now well-known, study related to changes in brain function(see Elissa Epel's important work for more recent findings)comparing the brain activity in novice meditators to that of Buddhist monks who had spent more than 10,000 hours in meditation. Subjects in the study were asked to practice compassion meditation which involves generating a feeling of loving-kindness toward all beings. Using magnetic resonance imaging, a difference was seen between the novice meditators and the monks in the study. Sharon Begley summarized Davidson's research in an article published in The Wall Street Journal (2004) entitled, "Scans of Monks' Brains Show Meditation Alters, Structure, Functioning." To quote her, "Activity in the left prefrontal cortex (the seat of positive emotions such as happiness) of the monks swamped activity in the right prefrontal (site of negative emotions and anxiety), something that had never before been seen. A sprawling circuit that switches on at the sight of suffering also showed greater activity in the monks. So did regions responsible for planned movement, as if the monks' brains were itching to
go to the aid of those in distress."
One of the prices we pay for the advantages and the seductions
the technological world offers is a tendency to live with the illusion
that I am connected to the world, myself and others when what I too often
have is a kind of pseudo-intimacy with these aspects of my life. The human tendency toward experiential avoidance exacerbated by the many
technological distractions of our lives today can create challenging
circumstances for living in a state of well-being. It is at a time like this that I remember the words of Thoreau,
"I went to the woods so I could live deliberately, and confront the essential facts of life so I would not discover when I came to die that I had not lived."
Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
NJ Lic. #3306
|Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
|Jim Handlin, Ed.D.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
~ Wendell Berry ~
(The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry)
Ode to My Socks
Maru Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted with
two socks as soft
I slipped my feet
as if they were
knitted with threads of
and the pelt of sheep.
my feet became
made of wool,
...my feet were honored
in this way
And the moral of my ode
beauty is twice
and what is good
when it's a matter of two
woolen socks in winter.
~ Pablo Neruda ~
I am not I,
I am this one,
Walking beside me
whom I do not see,
Whom at times
I manage to visit,
And at other times I forget.
~ Juan Ramon Jimenez ~
(Lorca and Jimenez,
Selected Poems, Trans.
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
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)
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
This issue of
The Living Moment is dedicated to
Selma Rubin, who died on May 1, 2016, a month before her 95th birthday. She served as Deputy Commissioner of Human Services and was Acting Director of Human Services for the State of New Jersey under three administrations. Her guiding principle for Human Services was, "Is it good enough for me?"
She was an incredible mother who taught me to dream dreams and how to make them come true.
"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