In our Western culture, we often think of the body’s health and the mind’s health as two distinct things. Back in 1975, Dr. Herbert Benson began to challenge that in The Relaxation Response. Around the same time, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn began helping patients with chronic pain and illness to cultivate mindfulness as a method of finding well-being, even in the presence of distress.
We know now, through experience and science, that body and mind are seamlessly connected. We could easily call them bodymind or mindbody. When we’re upset, it has an impact on the body; and when the body is unwell, it affects our mood, thoughts and feelings, and other mental factors. The bodymind together forms our tool for interacting with the world and being able to cope with the difficulties we encounter in life.
That said, we’re often not aware of mind and body at once. It’s probably fair to say that we spend a lot of our days “in our heads,” moving from one experience to the next without consciously realizing how each thing is impacting the body. When something in our experience is distressing (or even just annoying), we may not pick up on the instant increase in blood pressure and heart rate, or the contraction of our breathing and digestion. Or perhaps we’re aware of a pain in our backs or shoulders, but not conscious of the contribution it makes to depression and anxiety.
Just as the mind and body can cause each other distress or dysfunction, an awareness of their interaction can be used as a tool for healing. This is really the basis for the international success of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course developed by Kabat-Zinn, who played a big role in bringing the healing power of mindfulness and meditation to the western world.
The Gettysburg Hospital Foundation has sponsored mindfulness training in our community for several years now. During the pandemic, the training continued in an online format. Now, for the first time in two years, we are able to offer in-person training, thanks to the Foundation and to the YWCA for providing meeting space.
Mindfulness and Stress Reduction will be offered in a series of three workshops. The workshops will cover the skills needed to cultivate a mindfulness practice, with each workshop building on the skills learned in the previous training—with a month between classes to rehearse and hone the practices at home.
The workshops will be held at the YWCA on Sunday afternoons from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on October 2, November 6, and December 4. You can register through Healthy Adams County by calling (717) 337-4137 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie Falk PhD has been teaching mindfulness in Adams County for more than a decade. She teaches yoga and somatic movement at the YWCA and chairs the Healthy Adams County Behavioral Health Task Force.