Keith Upchurch, the Herald-Sun: Thirty people are sitting in a wide circle, and no one is talking.
But that’s the way it’s supposed to be. This is a one-hour session on mindful meditation, offered at Duke Integrative Medicine off Erwin Road.
The session’s leader is Jeffrey Brantley, a psychiatrist and founder-director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at the Duke center. He’s been practicing meditation for more than 30 years, and teaching programs in mindfulness meditation for more than 20 years.
As the session continues and participants enter a 20-minute silent phase, Brantley advises the group to stay in the moment, to pay attention to the thoughts the mind is producing. Don’t fight the thoughts, even negative ones, but acknowledge them, he says.
The period of quiet is in such sharp contrast to the noise of everyday life that it’s almost shocking, but in a good way. Thoughts were whirling around my brain, but I tried to let them come and go without fighting them.
When the session was over, I felt that toxins had been released from my body. I felt much less stressed.
Others said they felt the same way.
Jane Lamm, a Chapel Hill artist, said she’s taken several classes on mindfulness and stress reduction. “It just makes you stop and enjoy the moment,” she said. “My favorite saying of his [Dr. Brantley] is that the waves are going to come, but you learn to surf. Or, to visualize that you’re a stone in the river, and the current is coming, but it’s going to go. And it’s good to just sit down and enjoy what you’re doing now.”
Lamm said the stress reduction classes have brought down her blood pressure.
“I’m an artist, and I wasn’t finding time to paint [because of stress],” she said. “I was letting my life outside of what I would like to do control me, and this is helping me get control.”
But she said that the $10 classes, which are offered to the public on Wednesdays at the center, have made a big difference in her life.
“It really helps to have someone guide you through it,” she said. “I see mindfulness as a state that I’ve wanted to be in, but didn’t know how to get there, and these classes are giving me a roadmap to get there.”
Another participant, Katie Stoudemire, 29, has been attending classes with Brantley for two years.
“It has helped me a lot in dealing with difficult people, and difficult situations at work,” she said. “So, being mindful of my own emotions and having compassion for my own distress helps — taking a minute to see how I’m feeling, and to acknowledge that, and to have compassion for how I feel. It gives you a chance to get unstuck from those feelings, so you’re not just reacting to these other people — that’s been super helpful. And I think it’s helped in my personal relationships, too.”
After the sessions, she said, it feels like there is more space in her mind.
“It’s been fantastic,” she said. “I suffer from an anxiety disorder, and this helps me with that, and gives me hope for the future, because maybe I can get to the point where I can be aware that I’m anxious, and can choose to not continue to be that way.”