When did you first start practicing mindfulness and why were you motivated to do so?
I first started practicing mindfulness in June 1989. I attended a four-day Stephen Levine workshop entitled “Conscious Living, Conscious Dying” at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. Beforehand, I truly had no idea who Steven Levine was or that mindfulness meditation was part of the workshop. I simply had done my own personal grief work and wanted to attend the workshop as a way of preparing to leave my job as a clinical social worker at a child guidance clinic and then do hospice social work. After the workshop I began meditating 10 minutes a day and have continued meditating ever since.
Of note, the following year in 1990 I joined a group of spiritually minded therapists and attended a week long workshop on “Holotropic Breathing” given by Stan and Christina Grof. They were accompanied by some guy named Jack Kornfield, of whom I had never heard. As in the previous year, I had no idea that mindfulness meditation would be part of the workshop. I was grateful it was....Jack's presence and mindfulness sittings proved to be the “container” for the week!
Did you take a class? If so, what sort of a class did you take?
In 1993 I “interned” in an MBSR class at the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Clinic at UMass Medical Center so that I could teach MBSR, which I began doing in 1994. I followed this up in 1997 by taking the Teacher Development Intensive at the newly created Center for Mindfulness at UMass.
How has mindfulness made a difference in your life?
Mindfulness has made a big difference in my life as it has assisted me in dealing with whatever arises, essentially through being present. It has helped me deal with any anxious or depressed feelings by seeing them as moods that come and go. In particular, it has assisted me in public speaking. Mindfulness has helped me appreciate the moment, no matter what it is. Moreover, it has enhanced my spiritual life, as I see compassion (a cornerstone of mindfulness), the breath (the most common focus of concentration in mindfulness practice) and inner peace (where the practice leads me) as all being facets of the divine.
What do you do for your livelihood (e.g., homemaker, teacher, firefighter), and does your practice of mindfulness affect that?
I am a psychotherapist and MBSR instructor. My mindfulness practice indeed affects my work. It is what I teach in an MBSR class, and it informs my psychotherapy practice by helping me to be fully present, while utilizing such mindfulness concepts as non-judgment, patience, acceptance and letting-go. I also teach my clients mindfulness meditation if they are interested in learning it.
Is there anything else you would want people to know about mindfulness and you?
I would say that much more than a technique mindfulness is a way living one's life. And if one is like myself, believing that “The breath is God” (Thomas Keating), then the practice is a most spiritual practice, the word “spirit” actually deriving from the Latin word “spirare” meaning “to breathe.”