"My life is not this steeply sloping hour in which you see me hurrying."
- Rainer Maria Rilke
("The Purple Violet: Reaching for the Sun
during this time of facing the Coronavirus"
An Invitation to Learn
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Daisies Reaching -- 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
by the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School (founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn). She, and her husband, Jim Handlin, Ed.D., who is also Certified by the CFM, often teach together.
Little Dog's Rhapsody
in the Night
He puts his cheek against mine
and makes small,
And when I'm awake,
or awake enough
he turns upside down,
his four paws
in the air
and his eyes dark and fervent.
Tell me you love me, he says.
Tell me again.
Could there be a sweeter argument? Over and over
he gets to ask it.
I get to tell.
~ Mary Oliver ~
Down by the rumbling creek
and the tall trees -
where I went truant from school three days a week
and therefore broke the record -
there were violets
in their lives
as anything you have ever seen
or leaned down to intake
the sweet breath of.
Later, when the necessary
houses were built
they were gone, and who would
to their absence.
Oh, violets, you did signify,
and what shall take
~ Mary Oliver ~
(Mary Oliver: Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver)
~ Summer 2020 Course ~
in Edison NJ
(Online if needed)
begins Tuesday, June 23
100 James Street
Edison, NJ 08820
(Sliding scale if needed)
All are Welcome
Reservations are required
~ Winter 2021 Course ~
in Summit NJ
(Online if needed)
(Sliding scale if needed)
more information or to reserve a place
for the talk or course, please contact
Dr. Diane Handlin
or Dr. Jim Handlin
Current private telehealth instruction with Jim Handlin, Ed.D. (see bio on our website)
(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.)
The Purple Violet:
Reaching for the Sun
during this time of facing the Coronavirus
Sssh the sea says
Sssh the small waves at the shore say, sssh
not so violent, not
so haughty, not
say the tips of the waves
crowding around the headland's
they say to people
~ Rolf Jacobsen ~
March 29, 2020
Dear MBSR Friends,
Do this as if your life depends on it for it surely does.
In 2016, in response to notes from a number of our students, I wrote what
I called my Election Letter. Today with the morning sun streaming in onto my hands as I began to write, I found myself wishing to re-connect with all of you and to write something about the current shock we as one world have received. The Coronavirus is serving as a reminder for me of the fragility and beauty of our planet and of we beings who inhabit it--something we seem to forget all to easily at our own peril. Those of you who have taken one of our Mindfulness-Based StressReduction classes or who have journeyed with Jim and/or me along your way,
know that I like to tell stories.
Now tonight, as dusk settles and I sit working on a refinements of the letter I began writing to you this morning as the robin sitting on a branch of a cherry tree at eye level with me outside my window eyes me with curiosity as it has been doing every evening at 6 pm since the human world quieted down, I am revisiting a moment in my life that occurred many years ago. This memory is my touchstone for this letter to you. I was living in a graceful, old carriage house at that time, renting a space from an artistic family, who became like a second family to me. I was home after teaching school on a day not unlike today's sunlit day, briskly jogging with my gentle, black German Shepherd, Circe, down a long black asphalt driveway that ran through a wooded area and out onto the main road. She, the gentlest of beings, never needing a leash, was trotting a little way ahead of me and I was moving along at a rapid clip enjoying Spring about to burst upon us when my eye, suddenly catching something right in front of me, led me to jump over it. When I caught myself and turned around to see what it was, I realized it was a tiny purple violet that had pushed its way up through the asphalt and appeared to have actually cracked it open as it reached for the life-giving sunlight...In that moment, time seemed to stand still, just as today I've chosen to let time stand still as I feel our connection and write this message to you.
Sadly, the nature of our current challenge seems to be distancing many people from each other emotionally as well as in other ways. Relative isolation can lead us in unhealthy directions-one of those being fear, and another being anger. In light of that, I am including a moving and empowering video with practical advice about how to stay safe during this time. It is from
David Price, M.D.
, a NYC pulmonary and critical care physician from Weill Cornell who has an up close and down to earth perspective. In it he describes how to protect ourselves and our loved ones so as not live in overwhelming fear. One of my teachers once reminded me during another challenging time that, "Only love can cast out fear." (And for me that includes re-learning how to love ourselves as well as each other.) Similarly, E.M. Foster at the end of his moving novel,
Passage to India
concludes by admonishing us to remember to "Only Connect." For me, this New York doctor's video is a classic example of the power of love and connection, as he personifies the heroism of our health care workers. And it raised the question for me of how we might use this time to re-consider how to better love ourselves, each other, and our planet. Margaret Renkl, has written about it this way in:
One Tiny Beautiful Thing: When the big picture keeps getting darker, it helps to zoom in
Recently, before sitting down to write, I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine who has a demanding job and lives on her own in New York City. In this particular conversation we found ourselves eager to explore what means we might initiate to lessen our chances of contracting the virus. As the conversation progressed, we found ourselves (full disclosure...she had taken our MBSR class long ago) agreeing that one of the most important things all of us could do, is to
try to build a healthier immune system
for ourselves and the planet. We agreed that our East coast lifestyle can get out of control, requiring working nights and on weekends (if we have work at all), over-entangling us with modern technology, and now especially, listening to too much news. And this is happening even as we try to figure out how to get supplies, how to adapt to this moment's way of life, and how to take care of our families. Allison Glock addresses the latter in her piece:
Now I Finally Understand What My Grand-Parents Knew
Too often we are not eating well or getting enough sleep as our lifestyles carry us farther away from the healing power of nature, exercise and good food. In terms of food, along with air, sunlight, and the food we eat, we agreed that the impressions we take in from the constant (but to a limited extent necessary) news feed is too often the worst part of our diet.
Some of you may well remember that a favorite quote of mine from Thich Nhat Hahn is part of a story he tells about how when the Vietnamese people were frantically trying to escape from the Vietcong. He said that as they were trying to get their family, their friends, even their pets, onto anything that would float whether a small leaky boat or even a door,
"If one person in the boat could remain calm it meant the difference between life and death for everyone in the boat." In thinking about how this ties into the wish to
strengthen our immune systems, I thought about how learning to deeply relax is a key to this. Regarding practicing
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, there has been serious research validated by the National Institute of Health which has demonstrated its impact on reducing levels of stress-related hormones and inflammatory compounds, suggesting that subjects' bodies had become physically better at handling stress.
And, of course, there are many other important things that can positively affect our immune system and are within our power to do, such as connecting with Nature. Exercising (whether inside or outside)also has important benefits.) If you can walk outside, even a short stroll in the woods or a park has been shown to be beneficial. A small study in
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that urban residents who walked for 90 minutes in nature had lower self-reported scores on rumination-overthinking or hyper-focusing on a negative situation than those who walked in a city. (And walking in a park in a city has beneficial results as well...preferentially without being distracted by electronic devices, and remembering to keep your distance.) Since not everyone can do this so easily,
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction which has long been empirically validated for its numerous health benefits, can be an invaluable adjunct to any wellness program you may undertake. One might consider the benefits of mindful walking, even around a small apartment, if that is all that's possible.
Another study in the journal
Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine even found that people who sat and looked at a forest for 15 minutes, then spent 15 minutes walking in it, showed lower levels of salivary cortisol, a lower heart rate, and lower blood pressure than people who walked in an urban environment.
In addition, I have written before about the Nobel prize winner, Elizabeth Blackburn, (with Elisa Epel, MBSR instructor's, help) provided research revealing that practicing MBSR resulted in increased telomere length at the end of the chromosomes of highly stressed parents who were caring for handicapped children. (Telomere length has been shown to be significantly correlated with length of life.) Also, recently, I heard Dr. David Agus, speak about the health benefits of not eating (mindlessly-my word) between meals and also of our walking each day, even around a small apartment, because, as he put it, "the rhythmic contractions of the muscles in your legs actually contribute to making the rest of your body and organs work."
By now, most of you dear readers know that MBSR calls us to turn toward the moment, the way I turned toward and was so deeply struck by the purple violet's pushing right through the black asphalt to reach toward the energizing power of the sun. We who are in a place on the globe where we can be in touch with the miracle of life awakening this Spring, and perhaps are even able to take walks outside, have the capacity to be touched by the beauty of the natural life of which we are part even if we are only able to stay mainly within the bounds of our own yard or neighborhood. Many of our MBSR students have shared how the attending to something small "in the moment," in our homes, even something as simple as the handwashing we're all doing, can be energizing.
The first student shared the following:
In terms of getting grounded in, and opening to one's life, an art historian and music teacher, after practicing mindfulness for only a few weeks, commented that a mindful approach to living had some very unexpected and tangible benefits. She said that practicing mindfulness had helped her realize that she had become entrained to the automatic rhythms of her life. Now while walking through her neighborhood, she suddenly found herself noticing details of homes that she had just been passing by for many years. She also described as exquisite an experience of holding a bar of Dove soap in her hand (something that she had been doing for 20 years) and suddenly receiving a new impression of its shape, softness, whiteness and foaming bubbles in her hand, as if for the first time.
The second student was from our winter class this year, which we were graced to be able to conclude just before we began to shelter in place. Hers is a more current tale of what she discovered when washing our hands:
I press down on the soap pump to put a small amount of soap in my hand. I bring my hand to my nose and smell the soap and let some of it drip down my hand. The water pressure is perfect as is the temperature as I put my first hand under the water. I now gently rub both hands together and small bubbles appears. As I continue to rub my hands together the bubbles became larger. I smell my soapy hands and continue to move them together, cupping them and crossing my fingers throughout. I continue to do this for about a minute as the bubbles grow larger and the scent of the soap continues to reach me. I now begin to rinse my hands as a small waterfall forms and removes the soap... now the back and front of my hands are gently rinsed. I carefully shake the extra water off and now gently tap my hands dry with one last smell of the soap. The whole experience becomes a delightful surprise.
Another student, an anesthesiologist, shared that she had, in rushing off to work each morning, customarily run by the koi goldfish pool in her garden as she hurriedly tossed some fish food into it. She shared that since practicing what we call the body scan regularly and experiencing the slowing down of her own habitual rhythms, she had begun to discover the power of pausing at the pool for even five minutes each morning and just simply sitting and watching the fish after she fed them. She was startled by the renewal she experienced from this daily brief visit with her fish and herself.
Lest I close with you, gentle reader, thinking that I am suggesting that we all simply try to meditate away our challenges at this moment, let me conclude with some thoughts I shared with our most recent MBSR class which completed its customary eighth sessions just before before shelter in place went into effect. I spoke about knowing full well that this is not a time for "kidding around," or making light of the challenges we as a species face. What I am remembering is that pain and fear can too easily lead us to contract into small parts of ourselves and that we are each a miraculous being...and that our greatest peril is to forget that, as well as to forget that we are all part of a larger world where everything and everyone is inter-connected.
May we recognize that our minds can too easily tell us many unhelpful stories about the meaning of the challenges that arise in our lives as well as about us ourselves, but that, like the Samurai in the Japanese film, The Seven Samurai, we need now more than ever to be true warriors--ready for anything. Yes! This is not a time for kidding around! May we be skillful warriors...in the sense of knowing when to soften, save our energy, restore ourselves and step aside, and when and where to strike or take serious, intelligent action...all the time allowing our hearts to open so that our senses may become clear...and our actions skillful.
We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For
(The Hopi Elders' Prophecy, 6/8/2000)
You have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour,
Now you must go back and tell the people this is The Hour.
And there are things to be considered...
Where are you living? What are you doing? What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation? Where is your water?
Know your garden. It is time to speak your truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for your leader.
Then he clasped his hands together, smiled and said, "This could be
a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great
and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold
on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer
Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go
of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open,
and our heads above the water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment
that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word
'struggle' from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we've been waiting for.
Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
NJ Lic. #3306
|Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
|Jim Handlin, Ed.D.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath-
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another's hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love-
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
~ Lynn Ungar ~
With Thanks to
the Field Sparrow
Whose Voice is So
I do not live happily or comfortably
with the cleverness of our times.
The talk is all about computers,
the news is all about bombs and blood.
This morning, in the fresh field,
I came upon a hidden nest.
It held four speckled eggs.
I touched them.
Then went away softly,
having felt something ... wonderful ....
~ Mary Oliver ~
(Mary Oliver: Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver)
I worried a lot.
Will the garden grow,
will the rivers
flow in the right direction,
will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not, how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong,
will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am,
Is my eyesight fading or
am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up.
And took my old body
and went out
in the morning,
~ Mary Oliver ~
(Mary Oliver: Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver)
I Said to the Wanting-Creature Inside
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 ~
(The Kabir Book: Forty Four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir,
Translation by Robert BIy. Beacon Press, Boston, 1993)
soft spring wind
even the maple in my bureau
~ Jim Handlin ~
Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,
between "green thread"
and "broccoli," you find
that you have penciled "sunlight."
Resting on the page, the word
Is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend
and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning-to cheer you up,
and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing
that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember that time and light are kinds
of love, and love
is no less practical than a coffee grinder
or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,
but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children.
--to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.
~ Tony Hoagland ~
The Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
~ Wendell Berry ~
The Living Moment
There is a stillness at dawn
asking for me
the note not played
the line not written
the word not spoken
the Living Moment
~ Cliff Woodward ~
Worthy of Note
Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the world-renowned
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979 and the
Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society (CFM) in 1995 at the University of Mass Medical School. Jon's excellent foundational book,
Full Catastrophe Living, 1990, describes the exact program which is still the touchstone for this work, and Jon's inclusion in Bill Moyers Healing and the Mind on PBS in 1993 sky-rocketed his work into the public domain.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, March 30, 2020
Recorded March 25, 2020 at
The Pandemic Book Club, Mar
Recorded meditation sessions
with Jon Kabat-Zinn
garet Renkl, New York Times, March 30, 2020
"How to get through this cataclysm even halfway calm: Enter a slower world"
Brown University's Mindfulness Center:
The Brown Center's mission statement related to research states: "We are at a time in history when mindfulness research is rapidly expanding, and mindfulness has become a $1 billion industry in the United States alone. There is great need for methodologically rigorous research to help determine whether reported impacts of mindfulness on health are fad or fact. The Mindfulness Center at Brown leads initiatives in this area. Our researchers include experts from medicine, public health, and humanities to examine mindfulness from all angles."
Brown's program is centered around Jon Kabat-Zinn's work and his definition of mindfulness as, "awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally." (And, we have heard Jon in person, add, and "with affection.")
Heart-Based Mindfulness - Kate Mitcheom, MBSR instructor at Brown, is currently offering online free meditations and also a Silent Retreat with Lucia McBee and much more--
Workshops and Resources
At www.jonkabat-zinn.com you can view many videos of Jon speaking and teaching on the About page as well as Anderson Cooper's 60 Minute Interview with Jon on the Home page, as well as much more.
New Books by Kabat-Zinn published by Hachette Books:
Meditation is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why it is So Important; (2)
Falling Awake: How to Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Life, 2018;
The Healing Power of Mindfulness: A New Way of Being;
Mindfulness for All: The Wisdom to Transform the World, 2019.
for Jon's other books
(Please note that any workshop with Jon Kabat-Zinn fills and closes almost as soon as it is advertised, but if you get on their waiting list early enough, you very often will be moved into the class as other people's plans change.)
Selected Viewing and Reading
The Medicine of the Moment: How mindfulness is making inroads in health care through habit change, stress reduction, self-care, and decreasing physical burnout, Barry Boyce and Peter Jaret, 5th Anniversary Issue of Mindful magazine, April 2018
Too Early to Tell: The Potential Impact and Challenges-Ethical and Otherwise-Inherent in the Mainstreaming of Dharma in an Increasingly Dystopian World, Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2017
Trouble with Maps, Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2011
Mindfulness and Education
at Newark Academy in the Fall of 2015 (For further information on Jim Handlin, see Bios page at www.mindfulnessnj.com
Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, Daniel Goleman & Richard J. Davidson, 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
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.
"A Necessary and Vital Moment,"
Jon Kabat-Zinn's Science of Mindfulness,
Opening to Our Lives:
Bill Moyers PBS video
Selected past issues of The Living Moment
Ahh! The Dedication...always the dessert when I complete a newsletter.
(And how fitting that as dusk is falling "my" robin(or am I his?) is sitting on his branch outside the window watching me.) First. let me say that I am so deeply grateful to Dave Kapferer, without whose help, no matter the challenges, this newsletter could not happen! He came into our life after the loss of our lifelong gentle and brilliant friend, Joel Remde, who helped us get MBSR off the ground in NJ, meeting all our artistic and technological needs and so much more as each challenge arose. When Joel passed away, the loss was silencing for us, both innerly and outerly. Shortly afterwards, Dave miraculously appeared in our life, with all his warmth skill and generosity! Without skipping a beat, Dave has been with us ever since. He puts together all the pieces of the newsletter for us, always with top flight technological skill, an artist's superb eye and a true friend's caring heart. In addition, our son, Triston, is the calm center of our program, who with sensitivity and intelligence makes the trains run on time, sends the newsletter out to all of you, runs everything for our actual classes, and trouble shoots whatever challenges arise. And let me not forget our many precious alumni who have helped us in so many ways, not the least of which has been helping us get our Introductory Talks and Classes off the ground with grace, generosity and caring.
But, today, I wish to make a very special
Dedication of this newsletter to my friend of forty years,
Gladys Remde, Joel's mother, who died yesterday at 98 years of age, and to whom, thanks to her two surviving children, I was able to speak on the phone before she died. She was one of the artists whose Carriage House I described living in at the beginning of this newsletter. She taught Pottery classes in Morristown, but she was so much more than that. She was a true artist, a lifelong spiritual seeker, and most of all, someone who generously helped many, many people find their way in life. One of the many hand-painted holiday cards she sent us is framed on my bedroom wall. I have it here beside me. It is a water color of a beautiful bright mandala with the following words included, so perfect for the time in which we are living, and so I share it with you. May she make this last part of her journey with ease:
Beyond the cold, warmth.
Beyond the darkness, light.
Beyond the chaos, order.
And embracing it all, LOVE.
"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
Acknowledgement for Photography:
Sandy Renna's Photography and Woodturning can be found at
and Sandy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center of New Jersey™
328 Amboy Ave, Metuchen NJ 08840
Tel: 732-549-9100, www.mindfulnessnj.com