Zen scholar lectures on mindfulness

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On the first official day of fall, light trickled into the high arched windows of Ira Allen Chapel.

The modest crowd gathered there had come to see Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in the United States, talk about his practice.

Kabat-Zinn, known for making mindfulness practices more well-known throughout the U.S., has written over 10 books and founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical school in 1979.

Jim Hudziak, founder and director of the Wellness Environment (WE) at UVM, accompanied Kabat-Zinn onto the stage during his talk.

Hudziak introduced Kabat-Zinn, claiming that without his mindfulness meditation work, the WE at UVM would not exist.

Kabat-Zinn explained that he came to Vermont to see if WE lives up to all its hype, but stated that the program proved to be far beyond his expectations.

Kabat-Zinn spoke in beautiful and descriptive prose, using words and phrases like “riding the waves of your own breathing.”

He asked us to “drop-in,” or pay attention to our body and our breathing.

Collectively, 200 people all began to meditate together, guided by the leading expert — possibly the only true expert — in mindfulness meditation.

“[I enjoyed] the way he talked about the importance of accepting and inhabiting ourselves, ‘who I am’, starting with the body [and] feeling at home there,” Jeff Rettew, associate director of the WE said.

“[This is] important for everyone: the impact [it has] on community and worldwide, not just about your stress, but important for you and the world,” Kabat-Zinn said.

He had a specific peace and beauty about him; it was easy to tell he spends most of his time in the lotus position.

Without knowing it, the audience had participated in one long group meditation.

He left us with simple and inspiring instructions: “Be real, be you. And not who you think you are.”

After the talk, Hudziak spoke on how grateful he was for Kabat-Zinn’s visit.

“The most important guy in mindfulness, saying WE has it right…” he said. “[I feel] courage going forward,” Hudziak said.