My life is not this steeply sloping hour in which you see me hurrying."
- Rainer Maria Rilke
("The Brain is Connected to the Heart" article included below) 

An Invitation to Learn
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Photo by Sandy Renna



Learn to live with greater vitality, health and well-being at an eight-session 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 the only instructor in New Jersey and one of the few in the world (not just trained) but actually Certified by Jon Kabat-Zinn's and Saki Santorelli's Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School. 




To commit oneself

to too many


to want to help

everyone in


is to succumb to

the violence of

modern times.


- Thomas Merton




Arthur Rubinstein was once asked by an ardent admirer: How do you handle the notes as well as you do?


The pianist answered,

"I handle the notes no better than many others, but the pauses -- ah! That is where the art resides." 1







early autumn wind
   it seems
        to be counting
   each leaf.

           jim handlin

Upcoming Events



 Free Introductory Talk

Wednesday, November 13, 2012

7:30-9:00 pm
Temple Sinai, 208 Summit Ave, Summit NJ 

 All are Welcome

Reservations are required.  


January 2014 Course in Summit NJ  

For more information or to reserve a place for course, please contact Dr. Diane Handlin at 732-549-9100 or 



June 2014 Course in Edison NJ  

Monday evenings

For more information go to  


(Please note that MBSR is an educational course and not psychotherapy. If you suspect that you have medical or psychological issues, please pursue appropriate treatment.) 

Worthy of Note


12th Annual International Scientific Conference 

Investigating and Integrating Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society

with Jon Kabat-Zinn, Saki Santorelli

and the top researchers in the field 
April 2 - 6, 2014
at the Four Points by Sheraton, Norwood MA  



Videos with Jon Kabat-Zinn


Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses MBSR and the stress of modern life, YouTube.


Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses the significance of MBSR for leading a healthy life,
Google talk, YouTube, Oct 11, 2007.


Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses the scientific research on MBSR and its relationship to health,
Google talk, YouTube, March 8, 2007.

Jon Kabat-Zinn's most recent book
Full Catastrophe Living; Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness Revised Edition
(Just released, thoroughly updated
and has the most recent research

Selected past issues of The Living Moment

Fall 2012     Spring 2012     Fall 2011     Spring 2011
Fall 2010     Spring 2010     Fall 2009 

Dear Reader,

The Brain is Connected to the Heart:  Worth Thinking About

     At the beginning of this beautiful fall season, which can be a time of reflection and new beginnings, I find myself between two stools. Part of me wants to reside in the stillness and deep sense of contentment and well-being that I have experienced practicing and teaching Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction during the last decade. However, another part of me believes that I should comment a bit on the influx of the latest research and the related "buzz" that has surfaced in the mainstream media related to the phenomenal scientific research that has arisen on the brain and more recently on its relationship to the heart. (It is worth noting that in Asian languages the same character/word that is used for brain is also used for heart.)


     Many of you who are reading this newsletter, are probably quite familiar with much of the lively research and popular press about the plasticity of the human brain. There have been significant studies based on MBSR's capacity to actually change brain structure, including Sara Lazar's earlier neuroimaging studies which found structural differences between the brains of experienced meditation practitioners and non-meditators, including thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas related to attention and emotional integration. In her 2011 Study, Britta K. Hölzel, working with Sara Lazar, James Carmody of the Center for Mindfulness and others, was able to document that participating in the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (meditating 27 minutes a day and practicing mindfulness exercises) resulted in increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be related to learning and memory, as well as in structures associated with awareness, compassion and introspection. Self-reports in reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala which plays an important role in anxiety and stress.


     In addition, significant findings have emerged out of studies on how changing the brain through the practice of meditation can also positively affect your heart rate and over-all health and well-being. At the most recent Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Scientific Conference (March, 2013), Dr. Barbara Frederickson, author of the book, Love 2.0. spoke engagingly about her research into what she described as the "science of emotions" (as opposed to "relationship science.") In her talk she spoke about the broaden and connect response which she contrasts to the fight or flight response which has been frequently studied in the research on stress. In her work, she talks about how the biological consequences of moments of positive emotions actually shift your awareness and the way you perceive, think about and respond to things, having the potential to set off "upward spirals in your life, creating self-sustaining trajectories of growth that can lift you up to become a better version of yourself."


       Dr. Frederickson describes how the hormone oxytocin, the vagus nerve (which connects the brain stem to the heart as well as the digestive organs) and the brain can all interact to create moments of what she describes as "positivity" and "love." Fredrickson found that vagal tone (which had often been considered to be as stable an attribute as a person's height) improved significantly with mindfulness training. It is important to note that higher vagal tone, the way in which a person's heart rate is patterned by their breathing rate, positively affects internal bodily processes such as glucose levels and inflammation as well as behavioral and interpersonal indices of attention and emotion, increasing flexibility, physically, mentally and socially. In the integrative medicine world, there is currently considerable interest in something called "heartmath," which explores the potential far-reaching benefits of increasing vagal tone. (A recent article on vagal tone is even entitled: "Coherence: Bridging Personal, Social and Global Heath: the Coherent Heart Rhythm of Positive Emotions.") Dr. Frederickson's work has convinced her that through the use of certain meditation practices a person's brain which registers ever-changing circumstances can positively influence the flow of biochemicals, enhancing a person's over-all physical and psychological well-being and resilience.


     However, as exciting as some of the research on the brain has been, there has been a tendency for believers and skeptics to both jump to political and reductionist views of some of these findings. Adam Gopnik in the September 9, 2013 issue of The New Yorker, reviewing some of the books on the latest research on neuroscience refers to the critics of this work as "the new neuro-skeptics." He quotes Patricia S. Churchland in Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain as being appropriately "contemptuous of the invocation of "scientism" to dismiss the importance of neuroscience to philosophy, seeing the resistance as identical to the Inquisition's resistance to Galileo, or the seventeenth century's to Harvey discovery of the pumping heart."


   Gopnik uses a wonderful example to suggest that the findings (the discoveries as well as the critiques) on both sides of brain [and I would add "heart"] research are too often reductionistic. He suggests that: "For a better analogy to the way your neurons and brain chemistry run your mind, you might think about the way the light switch runs the lights in your living room. It's true that the light switch in the corner turns the lights on in the living room. Nor is that a trivial observation. How the light switch gets wired to the bulb, how the bulb got engineered to be luminous-all that is is an almost miraculously complex consequence of human ingenuity. But at the same time the light switch on the living-room wall is merely the last stage in a long line of complex events that involve waterfalls and hydro-power and surge protectors and thousands of miles of cables and power grids. To say the light switch turns on the living-room light is both true-vitally true, if you don't want to bang your shins on the sofa sneaking home in the middle of the night-and wildly misleading." The New Yorker, September 9, 2013, p. 88.


   As I'm reflecting on all of this today, and sharing some of Dr. Barbara Fredrickson's research using mindfulness meditation to enhance physical and psychological health, I would like to make two points regarding tendencies toward over-simplification: (1) any reductionist approach to the mystery of the human being and human well-being is doomed to miss the boat. However, (2) let's not throw out the baby (this ground-breaking research) with the bath water. Dr. Fredrickson, herself, in a recent talk at the MBSR 2013 Scientific Conference at UMass Medical School's Center for Mindfulness, said that despite her findings on positive emotions, she remains "particularly suspicious of people with just a little knowledge of the research on positive emotions. It can be a dangerous thing to claim more than we understand." This was best exemplified for me by an exchange I had with one of my students in a recent MBSR class (my students being my best teachers!). We were about half-way through the program and this very committed student told me that her adolescent-age children were telling her that she should tell her MBSR teacher that the course wasn't working because she still got angry at them. After pausing to roll this around in my heart and my mind, I found myself responding, "The beauty of MBSR is that it helps us create more "spaciousness" in ourselves so that we can, as Jon Kabat-Zinn likes to put it, honor our feelings and choose to "respond rather than to react." There is definitely healthy, appropriate and motivating anger, anger which can be clarifying rather than blinding, if we are agents rather than victims of our own feelings.


     In case you would like to know more about Dr. Fredrickson's research, I am including an article about it with the caveat that the aim as I see it, is the attempt to understand by what means people can develop skills for developing more "moments" of "positivity, synchronicity and connection," so that they can get anchored in a broader experience of themselves and others. To read the full article, "The Science of Love", click here . Pain and its concomitant automaticity, with its psychological and physical consequences can cause us to contract into a very small version of ourselves. Dr. Frederickson says that moments of what she calls "positivity" function as biological nutrients which act the way the sun acts on a water lily, causing it to open during the day before it closes into its resting state in the evening. Such openings or expansion of our awareness can allow us to choose to be more appropriately caring for self and other.


      Although not specifically addressed by Dr. Fredrickson's study, I would like to add here from my own experience practicing and teaching MBSR, that the strengthening nutrients which can arise from practicing mindfulness meditation can heighten the capacity for greater connectivity to self and other by both leading to and allowing us to benefit from an expanded emotional repertoire.  Human emotions are complex and the phenomenon Dr. Fredrickson describes as micro-moments of love or positivity may be akin to what we know about anxiety--there is harmful anxiety, but also optimal anxiety. In the practical study of all of this in our own lives, we may want to follow the powerful admonishment of Jon Kabat-Zinn about MBSR, "Please don't make this a dime store remedy!"



                   Diane Handlin, Ph.D.
                   Licensed Psychologist   

  NJ Lic. #3306, NY Lic. #015840 



1. From "Entrainment and the Rhythm of Life," in Timeshifting by Stephen Rechtschaffen, M.D.   


2. Fredrickson, Barbara.  "The Science of Love", Aeon magazine,  March 15, 2013.   



The Living Moment 


There is a stillness at dawn
asking for me

I hear the note not played

I see the line not written

I understand the word not spoken
I am in stillness

I am the Living Moment

           Cliff Woodward
     (with Stephen Damon)

Diane Handlin
Diane Handlin, Ph.D.

Founder and

Executive Director

"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, NY Lic. #015840

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center of New Jersey™

328 Amboy Ave, Metuchen NJ 08840

Tel:  732-549-9100,