My life is not this steeply sloping hour in which you see me hurrying."
- Rainer Maria Rilke
("The Brain is Connected to the Heart" article included below)
An Invitation to Learn
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Photo by Sandy Renna
Learn to live with greater vitality, health and well-being at an
eight-session Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. Presented by
the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center of New Jersey, the program
offers powerful methods for reducing stress in your everyday life.
Diane Handlin, Ph.D. is the only instructor in New Jersey and one of the few in the world (not just trained) but actually Certified by Jon Kabat-Zinn's and Saki Santorelli's Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School.
To commit oneself
to too many
to want to help
is to succumb to
the violence of
- Thomas Merton
Arthur Rubinstein was once asked by an ardent admirer: How do you handle the notes as well as you do?
The pianist answered,
"I handle the notes no better than many others, but the pauses -- ah! That is where the art resides." 1
early autumn wind
to be counting
Free Introductory Talk
Wednesday, November 13, 2012
Temple Sinai, 208 Summit Ave, Summit NJ
All are Welcome
Reservations are required.
January 2014 Course in Summit NJ
For more information or to reserve a place for course, please contact Dr. Diane Handlin at 732-549-9100 or firstname.lastname@example.org
June 2014 Course in Edison NJ
For more information go to
(Please note that MBSR is an educational course
and not psychotherapy. If you suspect that you have medical or
psychological issues, please pursue appropriate treatment.)
|Worthy of Note
12th Annual International Scientific Conference
Investigating and Integrating Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society
with Jon Kabat-Zinn, Saki Santorelli
and the top researchers in the field
April 2 - 6, 2014
at the Four Points by Sheraton, Norwood MA
Videos with Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses MBSR and the stress of modern life, YouTube.
Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses the significance of MBSR for leading a healthy life,
Google talk, YouTube, Oct 11, 2007.
Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses the scientific research on MBSR and its relationship to health,
Google talk, YouTube, March 8, 2007.
Jon Kabat-Zinn's most recent book Full Catastrophe Living; Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness
(Just released, thoroughly updated
and has the most recent research
Selected past issues of The Living Moment
The Brain is Connected to the Heart: Worth Thinking About
At the beginning of this beautiful fall season, which can be a time of
reflection and new beginnings, I find myself between two stools. Part of
me wants to reside in the stillness and deep sense of contentment and
well-being that I have experienced practicing and teaching Jon
Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction during
the last decade.
However, another part of me believes that I should comment a bit on the
influx of the latest research and the related "buzz" that has surfaced
in the mainstream media related to the phenomenal scientific research
that has arisen on the brain and more recently on its relationship to
the heart. (It is worth noting that in Asian languages the same
character/word that is used for brain is also used for heart.)
Many of you who are reading this newsletter, are probably quite
familiar with much of the lively research and popular press about the
plasticity of the human brain. There have been significant studies based
on MBSR's capacity to actually change brain structure,
including Sara Lazar's earlier neuroimaging studies which found
structural differences between the brains of experienced meditation
practitioners and non-meditators, including thickening of the cerebral
cortex in areas related to attention and emotional integration.
In her 2011 Study, Britta K. Hölzel, working with
Sara Lazar, James Carmody of the Center for Mindfulness and others, was
able to document that participating in the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program
(meditating 27 minutes a day and practicing mindfulness exercises)
resulted in increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to
be related to learning and memory, as well as in structures associated
with awareness, compassion and introspection. Self-reports in reductions
in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in
the amygdala which plays an important role in anxiety and stress.
In addition, significant findings have emerged out of studies on how
changing the brain through the practice of meditation can also
positively affect your heart rate and over-all health and well-being. At
the most recent Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Scientific Conference (March, 2013), Dr. Barbara Frederickson, author of the book, Love 2.0.
spoke engagingly about her research into what she described as the
"science of emotions" (as opposed to "relationship science.")
In her talk she spoke about the broaden and connect response which she contrasts to the fight or flight response which has been frequently studied in the research on stress. In
her work, she talks about how the biological consequences of moments of
positive emotions actually shift your awareness and the way you
perceive, think about and respond to things, having the potential to set
off "upward spirals in your life, creating self-sustaining trajectories
of growth that can lift you up to become a better version of yourself."
Dr. Frederickson describes how the hormone oxytocin, the vagus nerve
(which connects the brain stem to the heart as well as the digestive
organs) and the brain can all interact to create moments of what she
describes as "positivity" and "love." Fredrickson found that vagal tone
(which had often been considered to be as stable an attribute as a
person's height) improved significantly with mindfulness training.
It is important to note that higher vagal tone, the way in which a
person's heart rate is patterned by their breathing rate, positively
affects internal bodily processes such as glucose levels and
inflammation as well as behavioral and interpersonal indices of
attention and emotion, increasing flexibility, physically, mentally and
socially. In the integrative medicine world, there is currently
considerable interest in something called "heartmath," which explores
the potential far-reaching benefits of increasing vagal tone. (A
recent article on vagal tone is even entitled: "Coherence: Bridging
Personal, Social and Global Heath: the Coherent Heart Rhythm of Positive
Dr. Frederickson's work has convinced her that through the use of
certain meditation practices a person's brain which registers
ever-changing circumstances can positively influence the flow of
biochemicals, enhancing a person's over-all physical and psychological
well-being and resilience.
However, as exciting as some of the research on the brain has been,
there has been a tendency for believers and skeptics to both jump to
political and reductionist views of some of these findings. Adam Gopnik
in the September 9, 2013 issue of The New Yorker, reviewing
some of the books on the latest research on neuroscience refers to the
critics of this work as "the new neuro-skeptics." He quotes Patricia S. Churchland in Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain
as being appropriately "contemptuous of the invocation of "scientism"
to dismiss the importance of neuroscience to philosophy,
seeing the resistance as identical to the Inquisition's resistance to
Galileo, or the seventeenth century's to Harvey discovery of the pumping
a wonderful example to suggest that the findings (the discoveries as
well as the critiques) on both sides of brain [and I would add "heart"]
research are too often reductionistic. He suggests that: "For a better
analogy to the way your neurons and brain chemistry run your mind, you
might think about the way the light switch runs the lights in your
It's true that the light switch in the corner turns the lights on in the
living room. Nor is that a trivial observation. How the light switch
gets wired to the bulb, how the bulb got engineered to be luminous-all
that is is an almost miraculously complex consequence of human
ingenuity. But at the same time the light switch on the living-room wall
is merely the last stage in a long line of complex events that involve
waterfalls and hydro-power and surge protectors and thousands of miles
of cables and power grids. To say the light switch turns on the
living-room light is both true-vitally true, if you don't want to bang
your shins on the sofa sneaking home in the middle of the night-and
wildly misleading." The New Yorker, September 9, 2013, p. 88.
As I'm reflecting on all of this today, and sharing some of Dr. Barbara Fredrickson's research using mindfulness meditation to enhance physical and psychological health, I would like to make two points regarding tendencies toward over-simplification:
(1) any reductionist approach to the mystery of the human being and
human well-being is doomed to miss the boat.
However, (2) let's not throw out the baby (this ground-breaking
research) with the bath water. Dr. Fredrickson, herself, in a recent
talk at the MBSR 2013 Scientific Conference at UMass Medical School's Center for Mindfulness, said
that despite her findings on positive emotions, she remains
"particularly suspicious of people with just a little knowledge of the
research on positive emotions. It can be a dangerous thing to claim more
than we understand."
This was best exemplified for me by an exchange I had with one of my
students in a recent MBSR class (my students being my
best teachers!). We were about half-way through the program and this
very committed student told me that her adolescent-age children were
telling her that she should tell her MBSR teacher that
the course wasn't working because she still got angry at them. After
pausing to roll this around in my heart and my mind, I found myself
responding, "The beauty of MBSR is that it helps us
create more "spaciousness" in ourselves so that we can, as Jon
Kabat-Zinn likes to put it, honor our feelings and choose to "respond
rather than to react."
There is definitely healthy, appropriate and motivating anger, anger
which can be clarifying rather than blinding, if we are agents rather
than victims of our own feelings.
case you would like to know more about Dr. Fredrickson's research, I am
including an article about it with the caveat that the aim as I see it,
is the attempt to understand by what means people can develop
skills for developing more "moments" of "positivity, synchronicity and
connection," so that they can get anchored in a broader experience of themselves and others. To read the full article, "The Science of Love",
. Pain and its concomitant automaticity, with its psychological
and physical consequences can cause us to contract into a very small
version of ourselves. Dr. Frederickson says that moments of what she calls "positivity" function as biological nutrients
which act the way the sun acts on a water lily, causing it to open
during the day before it closes into its resting state in the evening.
Such openings or expansion of our awareness can allow us to choose to be
more appropriately caring for self and other.
Although not specifically addressed by Dr. Fredrickson's
study, I would like to add here from my own experience practicing and
teaching MBSR, that the strengthening nutrients which can arise from
practicing mindfulness meditation can heighten the capacity for greater
connectivity to self and other by both leading to and allowing us to
benefit from an expanded emotional repertoire. Human emotions are
complex and the phenomenon Dr. Fredrickson describes as micro-moments of love or positivity
may be akin to what we know about anxiety--there is harmful anxiety,
but also optimal anxiety. In the practical study of all of this in our
own lives, we may want to follow the powerful admonishment of Jon
Kabat-Zinn about MBSR, "Please don't make this a dime store remedy!"
Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
NJ Lic. #3306, NY Lic. #015840
1. From "Entrainment and the Rhythm of Life," in Timeshifting by Stephen Rechtschaffen, M.D.
2. Fredrickson, Barbara. "The Science of Love", Aeon magazine, March 15, 2013.
The Living Moment
There is a stillness at dawn
asking for me
I hear the note not played
I see the line not written
I understand the word not spoken
I am in stillness
I am the Living Moment
(with Stephen Damon)
|Diane Handlin, Ph.D.|
to the value of the course, I would note that the group workshop
designed to work through Jon Kabat-Zinn's curriculum is very effective.
The workshop / course added a great deal of depth and opened my mind to
a different way of looking at things and fostered exploration. When
mindfullly present, time seems to expand for me. I relax, freed from
thinking about the next place I have to be or the next thing I have to
do ... I have discovered that if I hold off, I usually do not act along
the lines of my first reaction. I've realized that I almost always have
time not to act immediately. I've also rediscovered my happy me, what I
remember from soooo long ago ..., and that is really
wonderful." - Jane Dobson, Corporate
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Although Dr. Handlin is a licensed psychologist and has a separate psychology practice, please note that this is an educational course
and not psychotherapy. In addition, information contained in this
document is informational and not to be construed as medical advice. If
you suspect you have medical issues, please pursue appropriate
treatment. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a separate educational course
for those interested in developing mind-body connections. MBSR is a
non-psychological service offered apart from Dr. Handlin's psychology
practice and is not meant to substitute for personal or professional
psychological advice which must be received from a licensed mental
NJ Lic. #3306, NY Lic. #015840
|Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center of New Jersey™
328 Amboy Ave, Metuchen NJ 08840