The Mays Landing branch of the Atlantic County Library System hosted Linda Schwartz — a certified yoga and meditation instructor — for a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class last week.
The University of Massachusetts Medical School — where Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was developed in the late 1970s — defines mindfulness as “the intention to pay attention to each and every moment of our life, non-judgmentally.” The technique is often used as a part of the treatment plan for a variety of conditions including — but by no means limited to — anxiety, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
The class was aimed at helping participants foster awareness of their thought patterns and be compassionate to themselves. “It’s a way of self-regulation and to learn the process and patterns of your mind,” said Schwartz about the technique.
Schwartz, who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The College of New Jersey, started meditating in college. In 2003, she received professional training for the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction technique and has become an advocate for the practice.
Schwartz started the class by having participants introduce themselves and their intentions for the practice. “The mind affects the body and the body affects the mind,” said Schwartz before moving the class into a body scan, where participants took several minutes to focus on various parts of the body, becoming aware of where they were holding tension or stress.
The class then moved onto a walking meditation. For the walking meditation, Schwartz had participants walk slowly around and focus on their movement. Throughout the class, participants were working on focusing on their breath. Many commented on how their thoughts drifted during the practice, but they did manage to bring them back to focusing on their breath with some effort.
Schwartz made it clear that there is nothing wrong with having various thoughts pop into your head during a meditation; just acknowledge them, she said, and then refocus on your breath.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction can help people focus on the present and become more aware of their thoughts and emotions in the moment: “Most people walk around living in the past and the future. Neither exist — only the present does.”
Schwartz teaches throughout South Jersey, often teaching at libraries, Stockton University and Egg Harbor Township Recreation. For more information on her classes, please call her at 609-214-4042 or email her at Yoga With Linda Yogini @ yahoo.com.