5 years of Mind the Moment

Harvard Pilgrim's Tara Healey on the organization's groundbreaking mindfulness program and her own mindfulness practice.

This year, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care will celebrate five years of its "Mind the Moment" program, which encourages people to practice mindfulness so that they may better tap into their own strength to manage stress, increase focus and stay healthy. There's even a Mind the Moment program for your workplace, "offered in a variety of formats, ranging from a one-hour introductory session to a seven-week course."

Here Tara Healey, founder of the MTM program, discusses why she does it, and introduces Harvard Pilgrim's new mindfulness "e-Learning" class. (Healey was also a presenter at last Fall's Creating a Mindful Society conference in New York.) Read on and follow the link to e-Learning below for more.

When did you first become interested in mindfulness and/or meditation?

In high school… I was curious about why some kids were happy and others struggled. My interest was in human behavior and how the mind worked, although I wouldn't have used that language then. Little did I know that I was on to something that would become a lifelong endeavor.

What happened from there?

Fast forward to 1987. One day while browsing a bookstore in Boston, I ended up buying Seeking the Heart of Wisdom, by Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. This book had a big influence on me. I practiced meditation following instructions in the book, but found it incredibly difficult because my mind was so busy. I realized I needed more formal guidance and a community to practice with.

So how did your practice evolve?

In the late 90's I began sitting nine-day annual retreats at the Retreat Center, a division of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. In 2006 I increased retreat practice to twice yearly and at that time began practicing at the Forest Refuge, also a division of IMS. In 2009 I sat a one-month retreat at Spirit Rock in California. Retreats have been extremely beneficial and continue to be integral to my practice. I sit daily for 45 minutes.

What advice do you have for people who are new to this?

Establish a daily practice. Start small—even setting aside five minutes every day is a good way to start. Find a time that's convenient and make a commitment to do this for three months and just see what happens.

Life presents us with opportunities to practice informally all day long. The idea is to practice seamlessly throughout the day. Try to see every encounter, every challenge, as an opportunity to practice. "Grist for the mill," so to speak. Ask yourself, "How am I responding to and engaging with the world?" This is considered informal practice… applying mindfulness to our day-to-day encounters with the world around us.

Tell us about Harvard Pilgrim's new e-Learning program—Who is it for, and how did you develop it?

We developed the e-Learning course as a simple way to introduce the basic principles and practices of mindfulness to a wide audience. It's secular and jargon-free, and easily accessible, so it's also a nice way to introduce family and friends to the practice and benefits of mindfulness.

A second goal was to offer a follow-up program for people to access once they had already learned the basics through live instruction, giving them an opportunity to refresh what they heard. And also, we wanted to create something that could help build a broadly accessible online community, one that feels welcoming and informative to anyone, whether they are exploring a new interest in mindfulness, or have been practicing for years—or anywhere in between.

Click here to try e-Learning for yourself.

And to follow Mind the Moment on Facebook, click here.