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A workshop explores the benefits of mindfulness

In recent years, the role of mindfulness has been shown to benefit people’s physical and emotional well-being in a variety of ways. Islanders will have a chance to learn about this field and its benefits when Dr. Marcie Hamrick and therapist and attorney Sevilla Rhoads offer “An Afternoon of Mindfulness Retreat” next week.

The afternoon will be a mixture of mindfulness exercises, sharing of thoughts and experiences and information on mindfulness from a scientific perspective.

The retreat is open to a variety of people, the organizers say: those who want to have a restorative afternoon, people looking for an introduction to mindfulness and those who already have mindfulness practices and want to deepen them.

“It will be enjoyable for itself with take-aways for those who need them,” Rhoads said. 

Hamrick, a physician at Vashon Women’s Health Center and a yoga instructor, will lead the group in mindfulness movement exercises centered on the body, including some gentle yoga and an eating meditation. Rhoads will offer exercises more tuned to the mind — exercises, she said, “to see more clearly what is happening for us and around us.”

One of the leaders in the field of mindfulness is Jon Kabat-Zinn, who defined mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” It has its roots in Buddhism, Taoism and yoga, he noted, but is also found in the works of Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman and in Native American wisdom.

Kabat-Zinn established the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine at the University of Massachusetts and developed an eight-week program countless people have taken, called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The program is offered at several major medical centers throughout the country, including at Swedish Hospital, according to Hamrick. The techniques participants learn and practice in that program have been shown to benefit people suffering from a variety of chronic health conditions, including insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, anxiety, depression and pain of any kind. 

Both women have had their own mindfulness practices for years, they said, and both have also studied its uses and benefits as health care providers. 

Hamrick has begun the MBSR training for professionals, and Rhoads has studied Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention, both of which have been shown to be helpful. The first was recently found to prevent relapses of depression as well as pharmaceuticals do, Rhoads noted, and the latter is proving useful in treating people with addictions.

All the exercises they will teach at the retreat will be “evidence based,” meaning they are tried and true and have been found to be beneficial.

Both women note their enthusiasm for the retreat and what might come from it. “Mindfulness has changed the way I live, and I am excited to share it with people,” Hamrick said. 

For her part, Rhoads noted that people often face barriers to wellness, and she and Hamrick intentionally set a sliding-fee scale and kept the day short to fit with people’s schedules.

In preparation for the retreat, the women sent a letter to Island health care providers, asking them to invite any patients who might benefit from the techniques.

As a physician herself, Hamrick said, she believes many of her patients would benefit from adding a mindfulness practice to their lives. 

“I think of it with every patient I see,” she said.

She also knows that physicians and patients alike grow frustrated with the limitations of conventional medicine when it comes to chronic disease, but mindfulness techniques — simple tools people can readily use — hold a great deal of possibility. 

“It’s like opening the window and bringing in fresh air,” Hamrick said. 

 

The class will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at the Mann Studio, at 20406 Chautauqua Beach Rd. Registration in advance is requested; call the Vashon Women’s Health Center at 463-2777. The class costs $25 to $75, on a sliding fee scale. Registration is limited to 15 participants. 

For more information, visit www.presenthealthandwellness.com and hit the “retreats” tab.

 

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