Mindful Dexter: Slowing Down the Runaway Train

Things don’t seem to be slowing down for us. Life doesn’t seem to get less hectic. As a result, more and more attention is being given to the practice of mindfulness in response to the increasing input and demands from our world.

Mindful Dexter is an initiative of the Dexter Wellness Coalition promoting the health benefits of mindfulness. Jeanette Brooks is spearheading the Coalition’s effort to organize classes where folks can drop in for some intentional practices designed to bolster their mental health.

What exactly is mindfulness?

“Mindfulness meditation is focusing the awareness on the present moment, without judgment,” Jeanette says.

“In our society and culture we spend very little time really in the present,” she explains. “Our reward system, our economy, everything about the way we live is wired for us to either ruminate on stuff that has already happened, so we can either learn from it or regret it, or we fret about what’s going to happen next.”

Jeanette has periodically led a 4-week mindfulness meditation workshop at Dexter Wellness Center. When the popular sessions ended, there have been numerous request to make such classes a permanent fixture in the community. With the support of 5 Healthy Towns, the Dexter Wellness Coalition went to work organizing a permanent program to be rolled out later this year.

The sessions will be drop-in classes modeled after the popular sessions held at the Ann Arbor Center for Mindfulness. The classes are simple. No stretches. No yoga mats. Sit comfortably in a chair with the lights on. It’s an hour of guiding participants through exercises to quiet the mind and give it a breather.

Research has shown that mindfulness is not only relaxing, but it changes your brain. Harvard neurologist Sara Lazar conducted a study that compared long term meditators to a control group. They found those practicing mindfulness showed an increased amount of gray matter. Lazar explained in an interview,

“It’s well-documented that our cortex shrinks as we get older – it’s harder to figure things out and remember things. But in this one region of the prefrontal cortex, 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as 25-year-olds.”

“Our brains are like a runaway train,” Jeanette says. “We don’t ever get a break. Our brains never stop running. It only makes sense that if you stop wearing it down, the brain could recover and grow.”

People may think, “Well I can just relax at home” to which Jeanette responds, “Yes, but probably not for too long, maybe a breath or two. The class is being designed with the thought to intentionally remove yourself from all those distractions that have your brain going non-stop.”

Jeanette herself has been certified through the Center for Koru Mindfulness which originated at Duke University. She, along with others, will be leading the free drop-in sessions when they begin.

Right now Jeanette and Dexter Wellness Coalition are asking for your help in designing the class. They are asking you to take a short, 3-minute survey that will help them construct the sessions around what people would like to see happen. The survey is open through the end of April and they would really appreciate your input.

To learn more about Mindful Dexter you can visit their website.

So if slowing down your “monkey brain”, as some people call it, sounds good to you, or at least turning down the volume a little, take a few minutes to fill out the survey, visit the Mindful Dexter website for tips, and stay tuned for the class coming later this year.

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