54 South Bay Accent
COURTESY OF CHADE-MENG TAN; OPPOSITE: COURTESY OF INWARD BOUND MINDFULNESS EDUCATION; PREVIOUS SPREAD: SHUTTERSTOCK
“Jumping in and out of different time zones and erratic food
habits were taking a toll on my body and mind,” Patel, 31, explains.
“Stress at work worsened it, and my dream job became
a bit of a nightmare.” He now makes it a daily habit to practice
“The effect is immediate. Half an hour of meditation is equivalent
to three to four hours of sleep,” says Patel, whose company,
Google, prides itself on being socially conscious.
Offering employees substantial benefits and perks, including
more than a dozen mindfulness courses, the
search giant’s mindfulness programs teach emotional
intelligence, which helps employees better
practice begins with just one
breath,” says Chade-Meng Tan.
understand their colleagues’ motivations. The programs also
boost resilience to stress while improving mental focus.
Resilience is essential for keeping Kerry MacDonald’s schedule
on track. A Belmont-based structural engineer and mother to
two young girls, MacDonald balances building projects with
strengthening parent-child bonds by coaching her 7- and 9-yearold
daughters’ soccer teams.
“Sometimes I’m so busy that the day seems to just go by in a
blur,” she confesses, “but I really don’t want to miss a thing, especially
with my daughters growing up so fast.”
Simple breathing exercises remind her to let go and take in the
moment. “Sometimes it’s as simple as a breathing session to focus
on my internal rhythm, clear out the anxiety and center myself
after a hectic day.”
Both Patel and MacDonald are practicing versions of mindfulness
customized to their individual needs and schedules. They are
hardly unique in their commitment. Although rooted in ancient
Eastern philosophies, mindfulness has become a quintessentially
California concept, as well as a trendy buzzword. Meditative
practices are cropping up in corporate environments, and medical,
educational, sports and even military settings, all the while
gracing the covers of magazines and best-selling books.
In theory, mindfulness could not be
simpler. It describes the mind-body
state of being fully present in the moment.
That requires recognizing and
shedding distractions, be they sensory,
emotional or cerebral. The process
usually takes time to acquire, not unlike
muscle-toning at the gym. For
many, regular meditative practice can
develop into a transformative experience.
In Buddhist teachings, the selfknowledge
and wisdom that accompany
it gradually lead to enlightenment
or freedom from suffering.
But you don’t need to be an Asian
monk in a monastery to benefit from
the practice of mindful attention
founded on vipassana, one of India’s
most ancient techniques of meditation.
In fact, many cultures, under
many different names, have followed
a similar path. A research team led by
Dr. Kirk Warren Brown of Virginia
Commonwealth University found
that mindfulness “shares a spiritual
kinship” with Greek philosophy, existentialism,
and American humanism—all
of which emphasize self-awareness and rational, benevolent
actions. In the “me” decade of the 1970s, mindfulness was popularized
by Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of a stress reduction clinic at
the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Kabat-Zinn’s
studies with Buddhist teachers, including famed monk Thich
Nhat Hanh and Zen Master Seung Sahn, inspired him to explore
whether hard science could (or could not) back up the benefits
linked to meditation.
Since then, many have followed in his path.
The Medicine of Mindfulness
Today, there’s ample evidence that behaving in a mindful manner
creates an impressive range of positive effects on our health. Ac-