On a recent flight, I was seated in front of the dreaded screaming infant. My old ways would have been to cop an attitude, bitch, and throw some looks at the parents. In other words, generally making the situation worse and ensuring that my experience would get no better.
The funny thing about this experience was that I wasn't agitated or aggravated. I really was just going about my business. Don't get me wrong, I noticed the continual kicking to the back of my seat, mixed with the whaling of an unhappy sole.
About two thirds of the way through the 3 hour flight it dawned on me; this poor unhappy boy had been sitting on his father’s lap the entire time. This had to have been such a struggle for the father, as the child was fighting him for the majority of the flight.
Toward the end, I couldn't help but feel loving kindness toward the son and his father. For the son who was so unhappy, frustrated and anxious; with no other way to express himself than to anxiously wrestle about for hours. And for the father, who stood strong and patient, acting with dignity. Through his actions, I imagined him silently saying to his son, “I'm here, I'm not going anywhere, we are in this together.”
Mindfulness teaches me to experience situations like these differently. Through a frustrating situation, I was able to look at it from another point of view, and experience the depth of a touching human experience; of loving kindness.
In the end, as we were waiting to get off the plane, I was rewarded with a simple thank you from the father. Through mindfulness and my practice, I am realizing that there is more to an experience then just my self-absorbed take on a situation. When I experience a situation with mindfulness, there are many priceless rewards to be had.
For the past few weeks I have had the honor to represent the South Florida Center for Mindfulness at two outings and have met up with so many interesting people with amazing questions.
At the East Coast Alliance conference and trade show I had the opportunity to work side by side with Sharon. For me, it is a joy to watch her speak so passionately about Mindfulness and the MBSR program. Sharon inspires me every day to pursue a more balanced inner peace through Mindfulness. She teaches me so many amazing things about life and living, in addition to all the cool things she knows about neuroscience and the brain.
The second event was offered to us on short notice from our friends at Blue Sol Yoga in Weston. Natalie, the studio director contacted me and asked if the center wanted to set up a table at their open house last weekend. We were honored and humbled by their offer and couldn't miss the opportunity.
This was a great opportunity to share information about our programs in the Weston area. For this event, I was joined by Libby Andress, our MTT (Mindful Tools for Teens) instructor. It was a very nice, casual event where we met many people and the interest in our programs was very exciting. Libby did a great job and it is a pleasure to watch her speak about Mindfulness and how applying the techniques to adolescents can be amazingly beneficial. Adolescence is such a tough time and with Libby’s experience and extended training in Mindfulness though Mindful Kids Miami with Valerie York-Zimmerman, she is extremely knowledgeable in applying a Mindfulness practice to children of all ages as well as adults.
I am so fortunate to have met up with Sharon and Libby. I am honored and proud to be participating and helping them to grow Mindfulness in South Florida. I'm so excited to see our futures unfold with such a quality team of people.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce two additional team members who will be regular contributors to our blog: Libby Andress and Joe Hood.
Libby is the director of our child and adolescent programs. We are very proud to have her on our staff, not only because of her years of experience counseling children, adolescents, and adults, but because of her passion for mindfulness. Please see more about her credentials under Our Instructors.
The second member is Joe Hood, our Director of Outreach Services. Joe is an MBSR graduate who has quickly become a valuable team member. Working in the manufacturing industry as a business manager, he brings many general business and marketing experiences to the center. With his deep passion for Mindfulness and its benefits, Joe is committed to growing the center and helping the team educate the community on the benefits of Mindfulness to those willing to embrace it. In addition to maintaining a daily meditation practice, Joe is an avid runner who practices yoga regularly.
This is a picture of a very excited me with JKZ, taken in 2012 when I attended the MBSR in Mind-Body Medicine training. One of the many things I learned from that training was something he said to our class, "Bloom where you are planted".
He was referring to all of us who desire to teach mindfulness. We come from all walks of life, including the fields of medicine, psychology, business, psychiatry, rehabilitation, and education. The list is endless! We can bring mindfulness to virtually every walk of life, and he was recommending we spread mindfulness in our own areas of expertise.
For me, these areas include the fields of psychology and physical fitness. Over the past 15 years, I've treated individuals with food related issues, incorporating a 3-pronged approach that includes diet, exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy. How exciting to find that I could incorporate mindfulness into my treatment approach. In the area of compulsive overeating, it is so important to help people to eat mindfully; slowing down to appreciate every tasty morsel. I also believe that aspects of mindfulness-based relapse prevention, where we can learn to ride the waves of our cravings, can be so helpful for people who overeat emotionally.
Last week, I spoke at ECA, an international fitness convention, on "Mindless Eating: Are We Addicted to Certlain Foods?" I spoke to a group of about 45 fitness instructors and personal trainers. Although I've spoken about food addiction in the past, adding the mindfulness component very much enhanced the presentation, and those fitness professionals were truly open to recommend meditation to their clients who struggle with compulsive overeating. How rewarding it was for me to share this nonjudgmental approach to this group of people! I am grateful for the ability to combine my passions for mindfulness, psychology and fitness. Thank you for your support. I feel the South Florida Center for Mindfulness is getting ready to bloom!
Our first adult MBSR class is behind us now, and I am so happy to be guiding you all on this new journey of self-discovery! I am very impressed with the courage and conviction of each and every one of you to grow and evolve. I truly feel privileged to be in such wonderful company.
In class one, we learned about how often our minds are on "automatic pilot", without really being aware of what we are doing. This makes us more likely to "react" versus "respond" to life. By doing our homework this week, and practicing the body scan, we will be working on increasing our awareness so that we will begin to respond to sensations with choice, rather than acting automatically. We also will become more aware of our "Monkey Minds", and how frequently they jump around from thought, to thought, to an emotion, etc., etc. SEEING what is happening in our minds, in the moment it is happening, is the first step towards change.
Please feel free to share your observations of doing the homework this week, but please remember to use your first name ONLY, to preserve confidentiality! I have asked a lot from you, and the support may help us keep the pace!
After weeks of development, welcome to my first blog post on our brand new website, South Florida Center for Mindfulness! I am hoping that this website will be informative, allowing you to learn more about mindfulness and how it can be applied in our daily lives. I also hope this website will serve as a support for the South Florida mindful community, with updates of upcoming mindfulness classes and events.
As a neuropsychologist who has studied the effects of different types of brain injury on behavior, it has been very exciting over the past few years to see the abundance of research coming out that suggests the beneficial effects of mindfulness on the brain. Not only is there evidence to suggest that an 8-week MBSR class can increase grey matter density in certain regions of the brain,
but participation in an MBSR class can also boost your immune function!
Although the evidence to suggest the benefits of mindfulness based meditation on cognitive abilities is mixed (e.g. some studies report significant improvements in attention and executive abilities, others do not), we are still in the infancy of this research, and more information will quickly be forthcoming. What an exciting time to be practicing mindfulness!