Irene Atkins Addresses Penn Medicine Professionals On Her Start in Mindfulness

There are thousands of research articles touting the benefits of mindfulness. It reduces stress, it decreases anxiety, it increases creativity, and also improves overall physical and mental wellness. Now I actually remember the first time that I learned about mindfulness, and its benefits. I was an overachieving, high-spirited, 20 something year old at UCLA. And as I sat in a class of 75, listening to my communication studies professor really just give us insight and introduce this new concept to us, it seemed as if everyone just remained still. Yet me, I actually sat up on the edge of my seat because for the first time ever It was as if all of my lived experiences beforehand, instantly clicked and made that much more sense. Mindfulness as an academic concept deeply resonated with me. But little did I know that some scientific concept that I just learned about in one of my courses would literally go on to save my life. Now a lot of people don’t know that I’ve actually battled with anxiety and depression since I was 14 years old. And as an adult, it actually had gotten worse. During the time that I was an 11th grade teacher, that’s really when my depression and my anxiety had reached its ultimate peak. I absolutely loved my students, but it was the working conditions that I really just couldn’t stand. And I felt as if that was really the leading primary cause of my unwellness. So I desperately, desperately wanted to get better. For myself, for my students and, for the job that I had to do right in front of me. And so I remembered that academic concept that reduced stress, combatted anxiety, and improved overall wellness. And so I sought out mindfulness courses in the city, in…right here in Philadelphia. I sought out mindfulness courses and literally sought…searched high and low and could not find one. Couldn’t find a space. I could not find a mindfulness course that I could actually afford as well (audience laughing). And so that’s when I decided to create the space. So I literally had five actual adults enroll in my mindfulness course that I was going to facilitate. And so every Sunday we’d meet at my studio loft apartment in Philadelphia and that is in the space that we all healed. And it was so incredible because as a facilitator, I really had to live and breathe mindfulness. I had to learn, I had to push myself I had to stretch, I had to grow to really master mindfulness. And so, as I became more mindful, right because mindfulness is a skill that we learn and we grow into which is really exciting. As I started to master mindfulness, that’s when I realized how much my life had changed since then. And so I do not simply advocate for mindfulness simply because it benefits my consulting business. I advocate for mindfulness because I know firsthand and very intimately how impactful, how transformational mindfulness and becoming a mindful person can be on someone’s work experience, and on someone’s entire life trajectory, for their families, and for generations to come.

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