Location: Eagan, Minnesota
When did you first start practicing mindfulness and why were you motivated to do so?
I took a mindfulness-based stress reduction course about 10 years ago in St. Paul, Minnesota. I was at a low point, dealing with a father in the throes of Parkinson’s, my own young children, and a very complicated work schedule. Stress and anxiety were daily companions, and nearly overwhelmed my life.
Did you take a class? If so, what sort of class did you take?
The MBSR course I took was modeled after the classic 8-week course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I have since taken many follow-up classes on mindfulness and related topics, and have also done short retreats, anywhere from a half-day to a full day. I love meeting with other people and continuing to grow in my understanding of this practice.
How has mindfulness made a difference in your life?
I met Jon Kabat-Zinn at a conference a few years ago, and told him he had saved my life. He graciously pointed out that it was my own efforts that really made the difference. I have had a consistent mindfulness practice now for 10 years, and I can’t imagine not doing some sort of practice each day. I have also found loving-kindness practice, and other “cognitive” approaches very helpful. Mindfulness has given me the gift of stability, of presence, and the power to direct my attention where I want. It has provided me with a powerful tool to “be my own physician” as the title of a current book relates.
What do you do for your livelihood (ex: homemaker, teacher, firefighter) and does your practice of mindfulness affect that?
I am an artist and public school teacher, focusing on the arts and humanities. After practicing for a few years on my own, I began sharing mindfulness practices in my classroom, as well as with our staff. Since then, our entire school has initiated a short “brain break” after lunch, which is essentially a short mindfulness practice. I created sound files which teachers have on their computers, which they can play in classes. Most of the staff also have bells which they use to remind kids to be present.
Is there anything else you would want people to know about mindfulness and you?
Mindfulness has also taught me about acceptance, and being gentle with myself, lessons it has taken me a long time to learn. I will never forget that first taste of real peace and stability from that original class 10 years ago, and of the hope it gave me.