The Living Moment
Fall 2020, No. 24
"My life is not this steeply sloping hour in which you see me hurrying."
-Rainer Maria Rilke
("Still We Rise” article by Diane Handlin included below)
An Invitation to Learn
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Still Standing — Photo by Kyo Morishima
Learn to live with greater vitality, health and well-being through Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.

Presented by the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center of New Jersey, the program offers powerful methods for reducing stress in your everyday life.

Diane Handlin, Ph.D., is one of the few instructors in New Jersey and in the world not just trained but actually Certified by the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School (founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn). She, and her husband, Jim Handlin, Ed.D., who is also Certified by the CFM, often teach together.
Still We Rise
(with a deep bow to Maya Angelou)
"Be still long enough, I thought and the trees would take no notice of me and continue whatever it was they were doing or saying before I happened upon them. For nothing was more certain, to my mind, than that they lived a busy and communicative life which ceased—as at a command given—whenever I appeared."
(Pamela Travers’ impression of the Australian Bush as a child-where she would stand for hours, "listening to the silence” as quoted in Lively Oracle: A Centennial Celebration of P.L. Travers, Creator of Mary Poppins, ed. Ellen Dooling Draper and Jenny Koralek)

“I spoke to an old therapist friend and finally understood why everyone is so exhausted after video calls. It’s the plausible deniability of everyone’s absence. Our minds are tricked into the idea of being together when our bodies feel we’re not. Dissonance is exhausting. It’s easier being in each other’s presence, or each other’s absence, than in the constant presence of each other’s absence. Our bodies process so much context, so much information, in encounters, that meeting on video is being a weird kind of blindfolded. We sense too little and can’t imagine enough. That single deprivation requires a lot of effort.”
- Gianpiero Petriglieri, as quoted in Steve Hickman’s "Zoom Exhaustion is Real"

Dear Reader,

It is more than 6 months since I shared my reflections about facing into the pandemic with you, and now as I write at a different point in the lifespan (if I may call it that) of our journey together.  In addition to the seriousness and too often tragic global medical consequences that serve as the underpinning of all of our lives, there was the unsettling reality in America of the current election, which happily is now in another phase. And, of course, there is the exhausting new way many of us are living in which we are challenged by both the benefits and the downside of the electronic world. So, for this newsletter, I have been wrestling with how to offer something worthy of your time and energy. 

This past summer I was fortunate to attend a world-wide Zoom event for teachers of MBSR led by Jon Kabat-Zinn which he opened with the same clear-eyed ferocity (in my experience of it) with which I have heard him speak many times before. This time, in the age of Covid-19, he urged: “This practice is not about self-improvement,” (despite it having many empirically beneficial health effects).It is not simply a cognitive-behavioral intervention. We need to remind ourselves that this practice we do is about life and death.” He added, “It is a reminder to let go of attachment to any outcomes, and to give ourselves over to the silence that is never not here, despite the endless number of thoughts streaming through our minds. And a call to take a stand through staying in contact with our bodies—so as to be here and not miss this precious moment of our lives.”
Last spring as we were entering this challenging time, I wrote about a robin sitting in the cherry tree outside the second  floor window watching me as I was writing to you, but I realized in approaching writing to you today that I forgot to tell you about the cherry tree itself which has stood by steadfastly through every season and every newsletter I have written to youOn this fall day, it is actually sporting two scolding blue jays who have shown very little interest in me. It is a grand tree that had been knocked down in a hurricane 20 years ago, but refused to die! Every spring it sports the most lush, white cherry blossoms, cradling the song-birds that arrive unfailingly each spring. And every fall, as it gracefully ages, readying itself for winter, it sheds its leaves, while becoming more and more bejeweled with rich green moss. You can see a photo of the tree at the opening of this newsletter.

Also, last spring, Jim and I realized that if we were going to try to continue to share what we’d learned from MBSR we were going to finally have to “turn toward” and adapt ourselves to the electronic world (which those of you who have been reading our newsletters know that I have had, to say the least, an ambivalent relationship). Over the years, I have been quoting Linda Stone who wrote about our living in a time of  “Continual Partial Attention” and I’ve written about my personal exploration/struggle with wrestling back a sense of agency from my electronic devices. However, much to our surprise, we found a meaningful way to share via Zoom what we’d learned from a lifelong meditative practice and MBSR training with a large MBSR class this past summer.
Happily, one of the students from last summer’s Zoom MBSR class shared the following with me: “What I got out of the class is—that everything I need is in myself—right here—inside me.” She added that she realized that she had begun to  more deeply value a daily practice that she had developed before going to work. She shared that each morning, when she went outside and got into her car, she had begun sitting there for a few minute before putting the car into gear, taking stock of herself, deeply valuing the silence, the deep pause, before moving into the activity of her day, and that it had come to have great meaning for her. It reminded me of how often I have told our classes how powerful “beginning again,” and “starting small” can be.

What that invoked in me was a memory of the time we were down-sizing from our beloved home of 20 years with its lovingly cultivated white garden (so we could enjoy it at night) with its beautiful stone patio, designed by a sculptress friend of mine. One hot summer night, exhausted from sorting through boxes and boxes of papers in preparation for moving out of our home, (and having only the screen door between me and the intoxicating fragrance of the white lilies in the garden), I literally fell back onto the couch feeling unable to move. Near my feet lay our dear black Standard Poodle, Saki, who had followed me from basement to attic all day and evening long. On the glass coffee table in front of me was a large crystal, cut glass vase in which there were many of the elegant, long stem white Casablanca lilies I had brought in from the garden. As I looked at them, I was so still that I was able to witness one of the lilies gracefully opening as I followed the entire movement, as if we were participating in an adagio pas de deux. I knew as it was happening that it was a miraculous moment of which I had been invited to be a part.  

As I write to you now, the memory of that beautiful moment, invokes another memory from several years earlier. It was a time when I had first learned to use a PC and had been working for months on an MBSR presentation for a group of NJ psychologists. Just as I finished the document, the computer crashed, stunning me into silence. I still can go back to that moment, and re-experience its full dimensionality. After a little while, very still, I went out onto the patio and sat down in the late afternoon sun on a swing which looked out onto the garden and began swinging ever so slowly. And as I sat there quietly swinging, wordless, I was still enough to be present to that moment when the light changed as day turned into night. It is not really possible to describe the experience of being that still, of feeling part of something so quiet, and yet so much more expansive than the small, partial, disconnected, busy me, and what I had experienced as such pressing concerns. I sat there for a long time quietly swinging as evening continued to descend. For that moment, nothing else in the world mattered. It was as if on the cusp of loss of home, of months of creative work, of the past, I was being shown a doorway to something much larger of which I was a clearly a part. And, what it also evoked in me was the realization, that even though our life was about to change, all I ever really needed was a swing and a small patch of late afternoon sunlight, along with a tenderness of connection to myself and the world, and I could be wholly at peace.

The question I am wrestling with as I write this to you is whether it is possible to intentionally cultivate a sense of wholeness and well-being, that sense of being wholly at peace, as we live in this time of Covid where much of our overt connection to each other is occurring through the digital world. And, in a time when Zoom exhaustion is a reality in so many livesSteven Hickman, in Zoom Exhaustion is Real, Mindful, April 6, 2020, reaffirms the very helpful insight that, “On Zoom we are living in the constant presence of each other’s bodily absence.” To this, Dr. Alexandra Solomon responds, There’s no solution, really. Just acknowledgement. Thank goodness for the technology that allows us to...connect with people who mean the world to us. But let’s extend ourselves the utmost kindness when we feel drained...and let’s extend that kindness to each other too.”

In a similar vein, in terms of my psychology practice, this time of Telehealth has led me to wonder what it is about speaking about psychological issues in person (or even on the phone) that makes it less enervating than having also to maintain screen contact at the same time. Then, I realized that on the phone my eyes could rest, which led me to remember that in originally setting up my psychology practice I had intentionally arranged my office so my chair faces both my patient and out onto the patio where we have a small Japanese garden and a small Japanese maple as well as that graceful, wounded, cherry tree, not to mention the occasional birds and squirrels that constantly appear and reappear. This, of course, is in direct contrast with my engagement with Zoom which tends to force my eyes to be taken into, and my attention automatically narrowed, to the image on the screen. So, I realized that to be more comfortable with using Telehealth with a client or Zoom to teach MBSR, what I needed to explore was what kind of physical cues I could be in touch with within myself and in the other person in order to experience what often is the rich texture and multi-dimensionality of the experience.

For me, personally, the work that has attracted me most as a health professional has been body-inclusive. Similarly, in terms of being with a mindfully-oriented group on Zoom, I have found that if I can prepare myself, there is a way to soften the gaze when looking at the screen so that it is possible to be receiving a more open-hearted impression of other and self. A poet might call it “seeing” rather than “looking,” the latter often suggesting a narrowing or one- dimensionality. Softening the gaze calls for the kind of seeing that might occur when looking at a tree, a flower, a lake, a mountain, or a beloved grand-child or pet—a looking with more of one’s whole being—where what one sees is nourishing and more expansive, including the experiencing of oneself as well as the other. Some have described it as an opening of the heart, rather than a narrowing—almost like a feeling heard which is sometimes described as a feeling seen, wherein both subject and object are included.

One of the things that Jim and I learned from participating in the MBSR class this summer was that besides the importance of trying to set up a space (if at all possible) that is free from work associations during a time chosen to be meditative, or when meditating with a group, is that it helped to push a little bit away from the computer and even (when appropriate) to close one’s eyes or at least let one’s eyes wander restfully, in order to take some concrete measures for distancing from the technological world. Friends who spend long days on the computer have shared that even at work, having a desk which allows them to alternate standing as well as sitting is helpful in this regard.

This reminds me of one of the most important lessons I took away from my psychology doctoral education—that more problems arise in families and relationships from too much closeness than too much distance—and that the most important work that often needs to be done is to help people build healthy boundaries. (And, importantly, this also allows a health care provider to stay more centered and grounded.) On a related note, when the question arises in MBSR classes of how mindfulness can be a help when dealing with difficult communications, what often comes up is that if a person can get grounded, in the body and the breath, and not be so immediately reactive (symbolically, this is potentially also helpful when physically pushing away from being lost in the Zoom screen) our human proclivity as Kabat-Zinn describes it, for “reacting rather than responding,” which too often results from not being able to access  the inner spaciousness needed to allow for more degrees of freedom, or a more fulsome responding to what is occurring can again bring forth fruit or blossoms like those that arise on our beautiful patio cherry tree that got knocked down, but seemingly against all odds, still stands, thriving, and bringing such beauty into the world.

Since the beginning of the COVID lockdown, the Wall Street Journal estimated on Oct. 30th that Americans working at home spent an extra 22 million hours on their primary jobs each workday.

“Generosity is another quality which like patience, letting go, non-judging and trust, provides a solid foundation for mindfulness practice. You might experiment with using the cultivation of generosity as a vehicle for deep self-observation and inquiry as well as an exercise in giving. A good place to start is with yourself. See if you can give yourself gifts that may be true blessings, such as self-acceptance, or some time each day with no purpose. Practice feeling deserving enough to accept these gifts without obligation-to simply receive from yourself, and from the universe.” 
- Jon Kabat-Zinn
Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist

NJ Lic. #3306
Diane Handlin, PhD
Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
Founder and
Executive Director
Jim Handlin, Ed.D.
Educational Consultant
Selected past issues of The Living Moment
On the cusp of the next chapter of the time in which we are living when there have been so many challenges that have been met with so much courage, this newsletter is dedicated first and foremost to Dave Kapferer, without whose artistry, skill and huge heart it could never have been brought to fruition. Also, of course, to our dear son, Triston, who made it possible, despite the demands of his life, to send this out to you, and who helped us successfully make the huge leap to offering the MBSR class online. And, let us not forget all the Health Care Workers who have given their all during this time, as well as all the individuals who have shown, whether small or large, oh so important kindnesses, to others and to us. And, lastly, but oh so importantly, all the brave and tireless individuals like my cousin, Gerry Bogatz, who, like all the incredible Poll Workers and Local officials who were in the trenches, worked toward protecting the integrity of our beautiful democracy.
"As to the value of the course, I would note that the group workshop designed to work through Jon Kabat-Zinn's curriculum is very effective. The workshop / course added a great deal of depth and opened my mind to a different way of looking at things and fostered exploration. When mindfullly present, time seems to expand for me. I relax, freed from thinking about the next place I have to be or the next thing I have to do ... I have discovered that if I hold off, I usually do not act along the lines of my first reaction. I've realized that I almost always have time not to act immediately. I've also rediscovered my happy me, what I remember from soooo long ago ..., and that is really wonderful."      - Jane Dobson, Corporate attorney
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Although Dr. Handlin is a licensed psychologist and has a separate psychology practice, please note that this is an educational course and not psychotherapy. In addition, information contained in this document is informational and not to be construed as medical advice. If you suspect you have medical issues, please pursue appropriate treatment. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a separate educational course for those interested in developing mind-body connections. MBSR is a non-psychological service offered apart from Dr. Handlin's psychology practice and is not meant to substitute for personal or professional psychological advice which must be received from a licensed mental health professional.

NJ Lic. #3306
Acknowledgement for Photography:
Kyo Morishima at
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center of New Jersey™
Tel: 732-549-9100,