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What it Means to Be Mindful

Posted by Jerilyn G. Kadison, MA, CCC-SLP, Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Instructor, The Center for Healthy Living, Cancer Support Community at Holy Name Medical Center on January 29, 2019

Jerilyn G. Kadison, Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Instructor Holy Name Medical Center's Cancer Support Community

"Why did I say that?…Did I start the laundry?…I think my boss was looking at me funny…What should I make for dinner?…I need to leave a little early to pick up the kids…My back hurts…I wish my sister would get along better with my father…Oh no, I have that scan and blood test next week.."

Racing thoughts, they flood the mind, creating a loop in the brain. You probably know the feeling, most of us do. And while it may seem normal, even rational to replay past events and/or worry about what could happen in the future, doing so actually generates a tremendous amount of anxiety that is both harmful to our health and difficult to escape, says well-being and stress management coach Jerilyn Kadison, MA, CCC-SLP.

"These constant, worrisome thoughts cause a physiological reaction within the body known as ‘fight or flight,' which results in a flood of adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones," she says. "For our ancestors, the ‘fight or flight' reaction protected them from danger, like a wild animal attack. Today the perceived danger is probably more of an annoyance, like sitting in traffic, anticipating or receiving a barrage of emails and texts, and having too many things to do in a day. But our body's response is still the same."

"When these daily stresses and difficulties take over our thoughts, too often we become reactive. This not only drains our energy, it impairs our ability to work, sleep, and perhaps most importantly, it stops us from enjoying and living in the present moment," says Jeri.

In the morning, you probably look forward to that first cup of coffee, but how often do you take the time to really smell it brewing, savor the first few sips in your mouth, or think about how good it feels as it warms the body? Maybe on a random Saturday, if everyone else is still asleep and you're snowed in.

When we rush through these daily rituals, we tend to ignore our senses; especially our sense of time. This is why we feel as though time is being stolen from us. "We're always thinking about the next course of action, a regret from yesterday, or a concern about tomorrow - instead of just being in the present," explains Jeri.

Think it's difficult, costly, or impossible to change? "Living in the moment is achievable," she says. For Jeri it started with learning to practice mindful meditation. "Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose in the present moment, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program in 1979," she says. Since then, substantial research has proven that mindfulness meditation can improve physical, mental, and emotional health; reduce pain, anxiety, and depression; and boost immunity and a sense of well-being.

"Mindful meditation has helped me personally, so I know the benefits first hand," she says. Now Jeri teaches clients - including athletes, CEOs, healthcare professionals, people living with chronic health problems, busy moms, and so many more -- how to do it! "It's not magic and it's not religion," she explains. "It's an ancient practice that has been proven in studies by major health organizations to have multiple benefits, and it couldn't be simple."

So how do you get started?

  • Take a good seat on the floor or comfy chair.
  • Let the chair or wall support your back.
  • Roll your shoulders three times to warm up.
  • Rest your head in a neutral position and let your gaze fall gently.
  • Start to feel your breath by slowing inhaling through your nose, then exhaling out through your nose.
  • Follow the flow of the inhaled and exhaled breaths through the nose.
  • You may want to think of it as a wave; so your attention is gently directed to riding the wave.
  • And when your mind starts to wander, which it will, gently guide your attention back to your pattern of breathing.
  • No judgments.
  • And Jeri directs her students to keep a smile on their faces!

That's it, that's mindful meditation!
"It's inevitable that your thoughts will start churning, but that's ok," explains Jeri. "This is a practice, don't force it; don't chastise yourself. Simply notice and gently bring your attention back to your breath, in and out, which keeps you in the moment."

She suggests starting off slow, practicing for just five minutes, then gradually increasing the time to 10 minutes. Studies show people who meditate no less than 20 minutes a day have more vitality, clarity, and patience. They suffer less from insomnia and fatigue, and they feel content coping with life's ups and downs.

Mindful meditation has also been proven to help improve heart health, lower blood pressure, reduce stomach problems, and headaches. Jeri says it's also better than any anti-aging cream because it helps with the flow of oxygen in the body, aiding in cell repair.

"Someone who starts meditation will continue to meditate as the changes of being mindful and experiencing relaxation become more pervasive throughout the course of daily life," says Jeri who teaches mindfulness meditation classes in coordination with The Center for Healthy Living and the Cancer Support Community at Holy Name Medical Center. All classes are free, but registration is necessary (see below for details).

Upcoming Classes

"Mindfulness Meditation"

Wednesday, March 27, 7:00 - 8:00 PM
Teaneck Creek Conservancy
Open to the public

Transition to spring! Put pep in your step! Look brighter and feel lighter as you learn the simple technique of mindfulness meditation – a spring cleaning for your mind, body, and soul. Discover the secret of how to combine gratitude and happiness with your meditation practice to look younger, boost immunity, reduce pain, and increase vitality and well-being.
To register: The Center for Healthy Living at 201-833-3336

To learn more about The Center for Healthy Living's programs, call 201-833-3366 or visit: holyname.org/HealthyLiving

To learn more about the Cancer Support Community, call 201-833-3392 or visit holyname.org/PLCancerCenter.