The Mindfulness Journey
Kate’s Story: How Mindfulness Changed My Life
When Kate Rope first met her husband, she really liked him except for one thing. She told a friend, “I met this guy. I think he’s perfect for me, but he meditates.” At the time, Kate didn’t know much about meditation and thought it was a little “out there.” She gave it a try anyway but found even 20 minutes of sitting practice excruciating.
Fast-forward 20 years to when Kate came down with stress-induced shingles on a family vacation. The incident was a wake-up call to better manage her stress and focus on self-care. Mindfulness turned out to be the answer.
Kate is a busy writer and author whose work focuses on science and health topics. Interestingly, a last-minute assignment for Time magazine writing about mindfulness was likely the final stressor that triggered her shingles. Thanks to that same assignment, Kate was armed with the latest mindfulness research and knew where to look for help. She Googled, “MBSR Atlanta” and discovered Atlanta Mindfulness Institute.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
MBSR, short for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, is an eight-week course designed to reduce stress, alleviate a range of mental and physical health problems, and increase joy and kindness. It appealed to Kate because it’s the most scientifically validated mindfulness practice, with nearly 40 years of research behind it. Kate also appreciated the course’s gradual introduction to mindfulness—which helped her overcome her prior difficulties with meditation.
“It started with body scans and guided meditations for about the first two weeks,” she explains. “It was like someone was holding my hand through it.”
Stephanie Swann, PhD, LCSW, and co-owner of Atlanta Mindfulness Institute, was Kate’s teacher for the eight-week MBSR course. Kate remembers, “I valued Stephanie as a teacher. Her science is sound, and her acceptance of the human experience made it a very safe, comfortable place to explore mindfulness.”
Benefits of Mindfulness
Kate started seeing benefits right away. “I felt less stress, I was more present with my family, and I remembered people’s names better,” she recalls. “I noticed myself paying attention to conversations more and being aware when my mind wandered off. My patience as a mom skyrocketed. There were months where I didn’t raise my voice at my kids.”
Kate noticed mental health benefits as well. To help manage her anxiety, Kate takes medication and has used psychotherapy in the past. Adding MBSR was a breakthrough. “This was the next step in managing my anxiety and really seeing it for the story that it is and not the foreboding truth that my brain wants to think it is.”
Continuing the journey
After eight weeks of MBSR, Kate wanted to continue her mindfulness practice. She enrolled in AMI’s 16-week “Beyond Mindfulness” course to go deeper. The participants in that program found so much value in being part of a mindfulness community they created the Atlanta Secular Buddhist Sangha. This group meets every Tuesday at the AMI office for a 30-minute sitting meditation, a brief Dharma talk from Stephanie, and informal discussion.
Today, Kate is a true believer in the power of mindfulness and encourages others to try MBSR to address their own challenges. She concludes, “For me it wouldn’t have worked to use an app or try to do it on my own every day. In an MBSR course, you have a group, structure, a community, and step-by-step guidance from a trained professional. It’s some of the best money you can spend. It’s a real investment in a better quality of life.”
You can read more about Kate’s mindfulness journey in her own words on The Well. For more information about the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course offered by Atlanta Mindfulness Institute, visit the MBSR page.