By NFSJ Intern Hannah McWhan
On Tuesday, July 18, NFSJ interns participated in a mindfulness and meditation workshop led by the wonderful yoga and mindfulness instructor, Sharon Marrama. It was an insightful and very well executed lesson on not only how to consciously practice mindfulness in our daily lives, but also how to teach these tactics to others.
We began with learning what exactly mindfulness and meditation are and how to apply them. According to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zin, the widely accepted founder of the mindfulness movement, “mindfulness is …paying attention…on purpose…in the present moment” and focuses on empathy and awareness. The separate, but related, practice of meditation is more about centering our attention inward, to our own mind and body.
Sharon explained three different types of meditation: guided, breathing, and body scan, to see what worked best for us personally. She first made sure we had proper posture (legs folded and back straight), then added the most important ingredient to the meditation: ambient music. Guided meditations almost follow a storyline, where the teacher recites simple sentences that explore all five senses, and put the listener in an environment they feel calm and at ease in. Breathing meditation boiled down to breathing in, holding the breath, and breathing out for measured counts. The pattern that worked best for me was breathing in for 4 counts, holding for 2, and out for 8. This pattern calmed my heart rate, and made it really easy to center my mind. The body scan method began with us lying on the floor and then Sharon narrated how we should focus our minds on relaxing specific parts of our bodies, from our left feet to our elbows, and relax them bit by bit. She also walked us through some mindful actions like daily affirmations and exercises in how to recognize and react to stressful situations.
Overall, the experience was incredible. I left the workshop more confident in my ability to manage my stress with tools like counted breathing and mindfulness, and some brightly colored stress balls!
Leaders for an Equitable Tomorrow (LET) is a joint initiative of SCI and NFSJ that seeks to advance the mental health awareness and engagement of suburban youth within, and beyond, Winchester and Woburn. Funding for LET is provided by Winchester Hospital Community Benefits.