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Natural Awakenings Boston

Patricia Howard and Be Awake at Work: Bringing Mindfulness to the Office and Beyond

Jun 24, 2013 06:55PM ● By Kim Childs

Patricia Howard worked as a software developer for many years before becoming fascinated by energy healing. Her curiosity led her to the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, in Florida, where Howard became certified in Brennan Healing Science. Unable to locate any teaching positions upon graduating, Howard found her way to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Today, she teaches this comprehensive program in hospitals, wellness centers and the workplace, while also teaching and seeing clients as an energy healer. Natural Awakenings spoke with Howard to learn more about MBSR and the benefits to those who practice it.

What brings people to your MBSR classes?

The program originally began as a pain clinic, so some people come because of chronic pain and illness. Others come because they know that they’re not showing the best of who they are in relationships or at work; they’re getting overwhelmed by stressful situtations; and they can’t cope the way they used to. Additionally, some people come for spiritual practice.

How does the program help them?

MBSR helps people become more aware so they can witness themselves in situations instead of automatically reacting or overreacting. It helps them understand themselves more. People also become less controlling and more kind, while learning to trust, take more ownership of themselves and grow curious about relating effectively to others.

What does the program involve?

Each session features a topic, such as perception, communication and stress reactivity, all of which are applicable to many environments in life. There’s also a mindfulness practice, the first of which is a body scan in which people lie on the floor, similar to savasana in a yoga class, becoming aware of sensation in the body. The more centered and present you are in your body, the less fearful you are in the mind and the more you have a deeper understanding of your own experience, which can bring more openness to your relationships. Other practices include gentle yoga and sitting meditation, all of which people also do at home, and there’s an all day meditation experience for program participants, too.

Are corporations receptive to this program?

Yes, because MBSR can reduce their health insurance costs. The program is a kind of participatory medicine for employees as they take part in their own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health through the practices. This can result in fewer sick days, more productivity as people learn to collaborate better, and more creativity as stress is reduced. In this era of downsizing and layoffs, many people work in a state of fear, which zaps energy and limits their perspective. MBSR helps people to live with uncertainty in a more comfortable way, allowing them to find creative solutions to the challenges they face. It also builds self-confidence.

What are your students reporting about the benefits of MBSR?

One man told me that he’d become so much less reactive at work that his colleagues came up to him and asked, “Don’t you care anymore?” because he wasn’t panicking in the way he used to. He told me he felt his heart open to his colleagues in that moment, which was very sweet. Another man said that he’d recently attended an important client meeting in which he didn’t speak as much as he usually would. He said, “I didn’t try to convince them, which gave my clients the opportunity to ask questions and trust me because I was so present.” So all of a sudden, this man realized that he was conducting business in a new way. A woman in my current class reported that she typically rushed through the evening with her children, serving dinner and doing homework. After practicing MBSR for three weeks, she started to enjoy helping her son with his homework. She says that there’s generally more laughter in her home now, which led her husband to register for my next program. Other students say that they no longer rush to fix so many things in life, letting things resolve more naturally and realizing that their personality needn’t always be in charge.

For more information about Patricia Howard’s MBSR classes and energy healing, call 617-524-7628 or visit