Mindfulness is not just a fad or a trend. It has been around for more than 2500 years, and it is here to stay. Over thirty years of research has documented the benefits of this “inner technology” that helps us to deal with life’s challenges. From these ancient practices we are learning new applications to deal with the stresses and anxieties of modern life.
The Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts has been instrumental in bringing this work alive in the world through its annual conference. The foundational work of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn has inspired practitioners across the globe to integrate mindfulness into medicine, mental health, education, business, sports, prison reform, addictions work, and even the military. Click here to listen to Krista Tippett interviewing Jon on her acclaimed radio show On Being.
At the annual conference, which begins this year on April 2 in Norwood Massachusetts, it is exciting not only to hear the cutting edge scientific presentations at the John and Tussi Kluge Research Symposium, but also to learn the many creative ways in which mindfulness is helping reduce suffering for people of all ages, across all walks of life. For me personally, being part of this community of diverse practitioners who believe that meaningful change in this world is possible, and that it begins within each one of us, is heartening and encouraging.
You may be curious about how this work translates from academic presentations and research projects into the lives of real people. My own work in Baltimore has continued to focus on this very practical question, as I bring mindfulness to underserved populations.
Here’s a story about a young mother who participated in one of our programs last year:
After 8 months living in a shelter, one SHINE family had recently moved into their own apartment. The two children were playing when a struggle began over a toy. The young mother, in the next room, overheard her two-year-old child say to her three-year-old brother, “You need to stop and take a breath. Like this.” Then the toddler raised her arms slowly on an inbreath, and lowered them on the outbreath — just like her mother, who had learned how to do this in SHINE, had taught her to do. The mom said, “When I got into their room, they were hugging.”
This mom assisted me in teaching an Introduction to Mindfulness workshop to 60 professionals. As she urged them, “Please, just do it. It really works.”
This same mom told another story about visiting her partner’s family over the holidays. One of his siblings remarked, “What’s up with you two? You used to bicker and fight all the time.” Her partner, who also participated in SHINE replied, “Let me tell you about this program we’re in. It’s called SHINE.” The mom said the best part of the visit was when her partner turned to his father and, using his Keys to MindfulnessSM, taught him the basic practices he had learned. (These keys are the informal practices we teach in SHINE, and may be purchased on our website).
He also shared a story: “You know, my brother’s in jail right now. If he’d had these keys, I don’t think he’d be there. I can’t wait for him to get out, so I can teach him, too.”
We all have the capacity for change and growth, to learn new ways to respond to the “ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows” that life puts in our path. May learning about and practicing mindfulness help make your way a little easier.
To what one breath can do,