ANN HITCHINS

When did you first start practicing mindfulness and why were you motivated to do so?

I think mindfulness is part of our nature. In my teens I had some exposure to meditation and eastern thought. Members of my family were interested in that as well, but I didn’t really start a practice. I developed some skills in mindfulness by doing art, and by studying tai chi, just after college, though I wasn’t calling it mindfulness. I learned to meditate in my late 20s in response to a personal loss.

Did you take a class? If so, what sort of a class did you take?

I learned to meditate at a retreat. Later, I took a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. I was in a period of great stress in my life, and wanted to learn multiple techniques for meditation, since it was hard for me to just sit at the time. I learned mindful movement (yoga, stretching, walking), and other techniques there, that were very helpful. Later I took several graduate courses in MBSR. I have met a lot of other people who practice mindfulness through a nonsectarian sitting group. The more experienced people teach the less experienced people about practice and techniques, but in reality, we all teach each other.

How has mindfulness made a difference in your life?

It has made a profound difference in my life. The MBSR classes I took, taught me to be better able to integrate mindfulness into everyday life. I have a formal practice now, and have had one for many years. It has helped me in recovering from some injuries that depended on my being very mindful in my movement. Mostly, it helped me be more resilient in the face of both the small irritants in life and some major turbulence (single parenthood, financial and emotional stress). It allows me to see more choice points in daily life, even in sticky situations. It is currently a great resource in communicating with an adolescent daughter. It has made me less reactive, and more open (though there’s always room for improvement!).

What do you do for your livelihood (e.g., homemaker, teacher, firefighter) and does your practice of mindfulness affect that?

I have been a teacher, full-time mom, and therapist since I began practicing mindfulness. I have also been a practicing artist. Mindfulness has enabled to be more present in all these settings. I notice a great deal about other people, simply because there is less noise in my head. I see more clearly the uniqueness of each situation, and that helps me to respond to things as they arise. I’ve developed trust in my ability “to attend,” and therefore to “tend to,” others. I am now studying to be a teacher of mindfulness, and learning to incorporate more mindfulness into my therapy practice, as well. I feel really lucky to be alive at a time when so much good work is being done to integrate mindfulness more into therapy, and into other settings as well.

Is there anything else you would want people to know about mindfulness and you?

I’ve weathered some real crises in my life. Mindfulness has helped with that, by deepening my resourcefulness and my resilience. But the main thing is that no matter what is happening, I feel that I am really present. The feeling of the wind in my hair, or my child’s unconscious grace—I really am present for more of my actual life as it is happening. I feel very grateful for that.

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