One of the delights of teaching mindfulness is experiencing people’s joy when they see how it can impact their lives.
Two inter-related stories come to mind. Recently, following a 10-minute meditation during a workshop I led with University of Maryland social work professionals, one person commented that she was a “techie”, and so both before and after the meditation, she quickly checked her FitBit. She told the group that her blood pressure had dropped 20 points! I mentioned that this is not uncommon and is in fact supported by research and practice.
I then shared a story with the group from an experience a few years back. The setting was a community health fair for seniors in Cherry Hill, a low-income neighborhood in south Baltimore. This fair was offered by the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, and I was asked to provide a short mindfulness experience to local residents. Working with a group of about 15 people new to mindfulness, I began by explaining what mindfulness was, and then led them in a 10-minute meditation. They participated with various levels of engagement and curiosity. We closed by speaking about the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness, and said goodbye.
As I was packing up to leave, an older woman approached me. She asked, “Do you know what just happened?” I smiled and said no. She went on to say that she’d been in the mindfulness group, and had had her blood pressure taken by the nursing students both before and afterwards.
With great pride, she announced, “My pressure dropped 30 points!” Then, with a broad smile, she followed with, “and you know, I can do that myself!” We talked about how, yes, she could, and how this would help her make a significant contribution to her own health care.
We know from many years of studies, including research on ElderSHINE published in the Journal of Urban Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3324609/ that meditation can lower blood pressure. Yet how wonderful to experience the benefits firsthand, and see how motivating this can be.
So the next time you’re feeling challenged or stressed (waiting at a doctor’s office, stuck in traffic, or having a difficult conversation), pause to find and follow your breath. To paraphrase our wise elder, “You can do this!” And, you can share this with others who can benefit as well.
To what one breath can do,
Amy Bloom Connolly, Founder