April 30, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

On any given Monday evening or Saturday morning in the heart of Dundee, you might find a small group of people, hands folded, heads slightly downward, walking barefoot in slow and deliberate circles on a small patch of grass, seemingly undisturbed by the city noise surrounding them. Leading these barefoot walkers is silver-haired Dan Weidner, mental health practitioner, professional counselor, and mindfulness meditation guru.

The barefoot walkers are learning the walking meditation in Weidner’s Basic Mindfulness workshop.

Weidner, who has studied and practiced mindfulness for over 30 years, has been leading basic mindfulness meditation classes at The Center, formerly The Center for Mindful Living, for five years. Weidner believes that people are tired of feeling stressed out and anxious. “We’re on this roller coaster, rushing to get things done, and it wears people down,” Weidner explains. “I think people are seeking meaning to their lives, and that’s what mindfulness is all about.”

Mindfulness, the ancient Buddhist practice referring to a state of active attention on the present, dates back over 2,500 years. Now, the practice has been rapidly gaining mainstream attention. Mindfulness programs have been incorporated into schools, the military, and professional sports teams, such as Super Bowl champs Seattle Seahawks. Major corporations like General Mills, Intel, and Target now have mindfulness programs for their employees.

“Most people that come to the workshops are looking for a way to manage and deal with emotions, to change their relationship to suffering, both physical and mental. Meditation and a practice of mindfulness can do that,” Weidner says.

Research seems to back this up. Study after study has shown that mindfulness meditation is more effective for anxiety and depression than drugs. Recent research has shown it can even change the chemistry of the brain. “We’ve had anecdotal evidence for over 2,500 years; now we have empirical evidence that it works,” Weidner says. Even Time magazine devoted a recent cover story to “The Mindfulness Revolution.” It seems to be a revolution that’s here to stay.

Though mindfulness meditation sounds simple, it’s not always easy, and it’s not a quick fix. “Changes are subtle and gradual,” Weidner explains. “Hopefully, even just creating an awareness and learning how to observe your own life, learning the value of respecting your own opinion as opposed to always seeking the opinion of others, is a huge benefit.”

The one thing Weidner says most people take away from the class is what he refers to as equanimity—a balance of emotions. “It’s not that you don’t have good days and bad days, but the bad days don’t seem so bad; there is more of a balance and a calmer approach to life.”

“There is what happens to you, and there is what you do with what happens to you,” Weidner says. “What your mind does with what happens to you is often actually worse than what happens. Mindfulness can teach us to let be and let go.”

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