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JFS offers new mindfulness workshop
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JFS offers new mindfulness workshop

Learn how to ‘pause,’ focus on the present

Beth Sandweiss, director of the Center for Mindfulness at the Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ, said “most people don’t take time during the day to pause.”
Beth Sandweiss, director of the Center for Mindfulness at the Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ, said “most people don’t take time during the day to pause.”

Mardi Berman of Bloomfield said she was “seeking balance” in her life when she signed up in January for a six-week course in mindfulness. 

Barbara Sabin of Morris Township wanted to be able to “remove myself from every day distractions and be able to achieve some peacefulness.” 

Carol Marcus of Bloomingdale hoped it would help “stop time from racing so fast.” 

It was reasonably effective. “The clock didn’t stop, of course, but I was guided to focus more on each precious moment, so I didn’t have the feeling of, ‘OMG how did it get to be autumn, winter, spring already?’” 

Berman, Sabin, and Marcus were three of the 32 people who spent six weeks in workshops at either Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills or Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange to learn how to meditate, achieve positive emotional states, reduce anxieties, and develop techniques for coping with intense emotions. 

They studied under Beth Sandweiss, director of the Center for Mindfulness at the Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ (JFS). Thanks to a $62,600 grant from the NJ Healthcare Foundation, she is offering a second session of her mindfulness workshop starting on April 25. The new program, which will run until June 6 at B’nai Jeshurun, is open to Jewish and non-Jewish participants; each class is 90 minutes long.

The grant was provided to support the staffing, programming, and marketing expenses to help JFS launch its Center for Mindfulness.

“Mindfulness is an awareness that comes from paying attention in the present moment,” said Sandweiss, a social worker with professional training in mindfulness-based stress reduction. “It is a way of bringing attention to what is happening now with feelings, thoughts, and body sensations, and a way of training your mind to pay attention to the present moment. We are constantly having thoughts and distractions. This is a way of training the mind not to get lost in those thoughts.”

Sabin, a participant in the first mindfulness workshop, said it was important to her, “Just being able to concentrate on me — sort of like being able to wake up and smell the roses.”

Sometimes it’s important for an individual to be able to pause. 

“We are a very hurried and rushed society, so most people don’t take time during the day to pause and just see what their experience is,” Sandweiss said. 

Being able to focus requires training and commitment, but participants find they are able to respond to situations with coworkers and family members with more equanimity and ease. 

“In six weeks, people feel more at ease. They are able to relate to pain — even chronic pain — in a different way,” she told NJJN. “We do a body scan in which you move through your body in which you recognize sensations and practice being with them without reacting to them.”

For Sabin, completing the course has enabled her “to feel different bodily sensations — to become more aware of them and not be distracted.”

Berman said she now tries “to focus daily on clearing my mind, and trying to take deep breaths and be kind to myself.” She said the class gave her “the opportunity to talk in a group and share ideas on how to express yourself and learn from one another ideas on how to be mindful in all aspects of life.”

The course enabled Marcus to concentrate on “where I was walking and what I was doing, thereby avoiding tripping, wondering if I had done something or other and remembering the reason I walked into a room and where I had put things, especially my glasses and keys.” 

It’s also helped her appreciate the positive aspects of her life. “I am more fully reveling in the moments spent with my husband, children, grandchildren, and friends.”

Sabin said she recommends the workshop to anyone wishing “to spend more time with oneself, to become more aware of what life is all about.”

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