My life is not this steeply sloping hour in which you see me hurrying."
- Rainer Maria Rilke
("Mindfulness: A Quality of Being" article
by Diane Handlin included below)
An Invitation to Learn
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
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. was the first instructor in New Jersey and one of the few 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.
The Living Moment
There is a stillness
asking for me
I hear the note not
I see the line not w
I understand the word not spoken
I am in stillness
I am the Living
Stephen Damon) from The Living Moment
Every day, priests minutely examine the Law
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind
and rain, the snow and moon.
~ Ikkyu ~
(Ikkyu and the Crazy Cloud Anthology, trans. by Sonya Arutzen)
Free Spring 2016 talk in Edison
Tuesday, May 10, 7:30 - 9:00 pm
JFK Conference Center
70 James Street
Summer 2016 course in Edison NJ
begins Tuesday, June 28
All are Welcome
Reservations are required.
~ Winter 2017 Course in Summit ~
For more information or to reserve a place for course, please contact Dr. Diane Handlin at 732-549-9100 or
(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.)
Mindfulness: A Quality of Being
I am writing to you today in the midst of a spring season that appears to not want to give up winter. It seems like March and April are out of order. During this time of transition, I've been thinking about how many of you who have taken our class and others who have been interested in the topic of Mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in particular have commented on the fact that mindfulness seems to be everywhere. This has raised the question of whether this powerful teaching, which as far as we know had its origin 2600 years ago, may be being watered down so much as to eventually render it almost unrecognizable. Jon Kabat-Zinn (the founder of MBSR) himself has implored, "Please don't make this a dime store remedy."
Fortunately, those of you who may be reading this newsletter and who try to actually practice living mindfully, and have reaped valuable results, know that this is a skill that requires practice and commitment, and that the watering down phenomenon that is occurring does not undermine the efficacy of the actual practice or the exciting scientific validation of its health and wide ranging other benefits.
Recently, David Gelles wrote a timely article on this topic for The New York Times Sunday Review entitled, "The Hidden Price of Mindfulness, Inc." Gelles writes about how the Golden State Warriors, the Seattle Seahawks and the Boston Red Sox, among other athletic teams are all practicing mindfulness, along with employees of Google, Black Rock, Aetna, McKinsey, and many other companies. To read the full Gelles article,
please click here. The Harvard Business Review has actually even stated that: "Mindfulness should no longer be considered a "nice to have" for executives; it is a "must have:" a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities and to protect ourselves from toxic stress." This emphasis has often become suffused with the aim of "getting more from employees" which may be fine as long as we don't lose the baby with the proverbial bath water.
Gelles goes on to document some of the ways in which, while recognizing mindfulness as a good thing, our culture has commodified it. This has reached the point where one has to wonder if the resulting commodification has anything to do with the actual practice. He expresses his concern about the possibility that "a race to the bottom" seems to be underway, and that one company has suggested that it has found the "minimum effective dose of meditation necessary to change your life." Gelles reminds us that, "It can be easy to forget that mindfulness is a quality of being, not a piece of merchandise."
For those of us who have taken the plunge, and for me, who has meditated for over fifty years, we know that this practice is a skill that deepens and yields more and more with ongoing commitment, and that it is about a journey into living a life of greater wholeness and well-being and perhaps most important of all, of greater resilience.
During our most recent class, students brought up the difficulty of putting their mindfulness experience into words. As teachers of MBSR, we also struggle with this. For example, we use the terms, "turning toward the moment," "allowing," and "letting be" when discussing the role of thoughts during meditation practice. I have at times pointed out that the Eskimos have many more words for snow than we do, because their lives depend on an accurate assessment of weather conditions. On the other hand, the Tibetans, because they are interested in the inner life and meditation, have 250 different words for different states of being while we in the West have many more words for the material and technological world.
The search for relevant, helpful language took me back to an exchange I had with a young engineer in one of our earlier classes. The theme of the exchange was the role of thoughts in meditation and in our lives. Cultivating a new relationship with our thoughts is an essential part of the meditative process. The discussion centered on an exploration of the meaning of the words we were using to talk about what we meant by "turning toward."
This bright young student asked if "turning toward" meant "going along" with what he labeled, "the tangent of my thoughts." He said that his first tendency was to go wherever his thoughts were taking him, but becoming more and more curious, he realized his thoughts were beginning to seem just like random repetitive noise in his head. Another student added, "When I really pay attention, I find myself just repeating and repeating my "to do" list, and then I start a narrative about my "to do list, and so begins a kind of circular repetition that doesn't ever really get anywhere."
Then, our engineer reminded me that I had said to him the week before that thinking is great. It is useful. It helped bring us here to this exploration, but for the really big things in life, by itself, it can only take us so far. He remembered that I had shared with the class that Einstein once said that for the really big discoveries he had made, it was not reason, but inspiration, that had revealed them. This bright young fellow added, "I am able to think and think over the same thing. I've identified myself as a thinker, an engineer, an intellectual, but I am realizing it is not enough". He concluded, "When I was driving to class tonight, for the first time, I turned off the radio because I realized I was trying to solve the problems of the world with my mind. I suddenly realized I was listening not just to my same thoughts, but also to the same news, over and over again." At that point, I responded, "Yes, and it's interesting that we even call that "the news."
Understandably, the conversation then turned toward how infrequently the students let anything really "new" into their experience of themselves and their world and how much of the students' energy was being used up by either replaying the familiar or "by trying to have the moment be what I thought I wanted it to be." One of the class members remembered that Thoreau had suggested that we need to try not to miss, "The bloom of the present moment."
What followed then was a rich exchange about how much of our thought process and our energy is taken up either by replaying the familiar, or by wanting something to be different. The conversation moved toward the realization that too frequently we are playing "re-runs" of the past or the future, and not "turning toward" the actuality of our how our minds are working in the present moment. It seemed to the class that almost paradoxically, this subtle "orthogonal rotation" as Kabat-Zinn would name it, of becoming aware of what is happening within us in the present moment, helps make it possible for a door to open into the freshness and the multi-dimensionality of ourselves and our lives.
What grew out of this exchange was important for both the student and the class. Through the engineer's clear description of his experiencing of not tasting the full dimensionality of himself or his life by simply re-playing the so-called "news" in his head or on the radio, or as someone else in the class put it, "the same old song," he had given us a great gift. The class realized that our attention tends to become like a kind of "fly paper" which causes us to "stick to" and replay things, contributing to our missing the everchanging reality and richness of our lives in the present moment. By the way, this student's experience of his own mind turns out to be a pretty good working definition of mindfulness.
Remembering this class and the rich exchange that we had that evening was for me an antidote for what the Gelles article had me thinking about and for my occasional despair that we were going to "dumb down" mindfulness so much, to commodify it, so that it wouldn't have any meaning anymore. I realize that while the world is getting busier and things seem to be moving faster and faster as so much is getting more commodified and turned into sound bites, there will always be wonderful people willing to search for authentic practices which can support their reclaiming the dignity of living a fully human life, or as Kabat-Zinn has so eloquently put it, "becoming a
human being rather than a
Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
NJ Lic. #3306, NY Lic. #015840
|Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
|Jim Handlin, Ed.D.
Somehow a door opens
and we are invited in.
The mind puts down the luggage
the body's been carrying for years.
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.
Finest of all the things I have left is the light of the sun,
Next to that the brilliant stars and the face of the moon,
Cucumbers in their season, too, and apples and pears.
(trans. Bernard Knox) Praxilla of Sicyon 5th Century B.C.
Greek Lyric Poet
Almost a Conversation
I have not really, not yet, talked with otter
about his life.
He has so many teeth, he has trouble
Wherefore our understanding
is all body expression -
he swims like the sleekest fish,
he dives and exhales and lifts a trail of bubbles.
Little by little he trusts my eyes
and my curious body sitting on the shore.
Sometimes he comes close.
I admire his whiskers
and his dark fur which I would rather die than wear.
He has no words, still what he tells about his life
He does not own a computer.
He imagines the river will last forever.
He does not envy the dry house I live in.
He does not wonder who or what it is that I worship.
He wonders, morning after morning, that the river
is so cold and fresh and alive, and still
I don't jump in.
~ Mary Oliver ~
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 is dedicated to my steadfast friend of 50 years -
Joel Remde - without whom this newsletter could never have been possible, and to
Dave Kapferer, our artist in residence, who stepped up when it seemed like everything might fall apart, and despite his demanding life, with intelligence, grace and artisty, made this newsletter possible, and to our dear son,
Triston, who always gives his all, and
Irene Bobbins, gifted in so many ways, who appeared as if by magic and whose deep friendship and talents helped us tack into the wind of Joel's loss.
"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, NY Lic. #015840
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center of New Jersey™
328 Amboy Ave, Metuchen NJ 08840
Tel: 732-549-9100, www.mindfulnessnj.com