There’s a buzz around town – a buzz that was faint a few years ago, but is growing louder. Oddly enough, the sound I refer to is that of silence. It is silence that happens for a few minutes at the beginning of class in every classroom in Flint Schools. It’s the sound of silence being heard before corporate meetings commence all over town. It’s the sound of silence in my own mind as I touch the doorknob to walk into my next patient’s exam room. It’s the silence that comes from being aware of the present moment – working to achieve a mental state of mindfulness.
For several years now, the Crim Fitness Foundation has been developing expertise and teaching the concept of mindfulness. The work began years ago, when Deepak Chopra was brought to Flint and spoke to thousands packed into a room at Downtown’s Riverfront Center about “the power of a rested mind.” Jon Kabat Zinn, a modern “guru” of mindfulness, was here a couple of years ago to expand on that knowledge. Now, we have our own local, professionally trained mindfulness crew teaching others about the utility of a focused mind in our daily lives.
The simple act of observing oneself “from the inside” seems to have a remarkable ability to decrease tension and make interaction with others less likely to be turbulent.
In mid-May, a couple hundred of us took two days off from our regular lives to learn about this from Rich Fernandez and Michelle Maldonado from Search Inside Yourself (SIYLI), a company that was founded and continues at Google. We got them for free, because they were so excited that an entire community was interested in improving ourselves through this activity!
I see so many people who focus on building skills that help them improve their physical being – like exercise, health and nutrition. Of course, these are fantastic and necessary goals. In fact, that has always been at the root of the work of the Crim Fitness Foundation as evidenced by their decades of presence in the race community, gyms and cafeterias of area schools. But what we realize now is that soooo many of the issues that create waves of turbulence in our lives are better dealt with by strengthening our minds. Just as our bodies benefit from physical exercise, our minds benefit from mental ones. Since the two-day mindfulness session I attended, the instructors have been sending participants short, daily exercises to do in order to practice what we learned. Here is a recent exercise:
Three Mindful Breaths (1 minute, 33 seconds)
Before eating your next meal today, complete another Three Mindful Breaths practice.
The simple act of observing oneself “from the inside” seems to have a remarkable ability to decrease tension and make interaction with others less likely to be turbulent. While we live in a town that gets a bad rap too often, with our pioneering work in community-based mindfulness, we are definitely getting the attention of people who live in “fancier” places!
Photos Provided by Bobby Mukkamala, MD