Stop the Sickness
Madeline Ebelini says stress less, Do Not Disturb, a mindful pathway
Madeline Ebelini by any measure was a success, practicing law in Fort Myers for 20 years. Yet stress owned her mind and body, with reverberating side effects. “I was having insomnia, chronic pain, anxiety attacks,” Ebelini recalls. “I came down with shingles and was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mind ruminated constantly, rehashing the same issues over and over, with no resolution. “I was making myself sick, but I didn’t know what to do about it.” Fate intervened with a yoga class that ended with quiet meditation, setting her on a newfound pathway. In 2011, Ebelini opened her serene, Asian-designed Integrative Mindfulness studio in Bonita Springs, teaching others how to practice mindfulness, meditation and yoga. She earned a master’s degree in transpersonal psychology, with a focus on mindfulness-based stress reduction. She also became a registered yoga instructor. Today her practice includes a massage therapist and three yoga/movement teachers. “That was a definite turning point for me,” she says of yoga. “I couldn’t remember how long it had been since my mind was peaceful and quiet like that.” After regularly practicing meditation, “my quality of life and health began to improve,” she says, her husband, attorney Mark Ebelini, and their son, Jordan, noticing a marked difference. “I was meditating every day and would hang a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door. My son would ask, ‘What’s mom doing in there?’ and Mark would tell him, ‘I don’t know but let her do it,’” Ebelini says, chuckling. Ebelini, 54, shares her story with Cape Coral Living Magazine. CCL Integrative Mindfulness has grown in the past six years. ME People are realizing they can—and must—take charge of their own well-being. Scientific research and discoveries have taken us much farther than we’ve ever been in understanding how the brain and nervous system are designed to change, based on what we practice and do regularly.
CCL What’s behind the mainstreaming of mindfulness practice? ME First is the science. I’ve read that science has learned more about the brain in the last 15 years than in all of human history. Magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] studies that looked at the brains of people who underwent mindfulness training revealed an increased density in the hippocampus— important for learning and memory—and in structures associated with selfawareness, compassion and introspection. Imaging also showed a decreased density in the amygdala, known to trigger stress and anxiety. Meditation is associated with changes in the part of the brain associated with self-regulation, resisting distractions, and learning from experiences. The brain is an organ designed to change throughout our lives, based on what we do with it. We can proactively change the brain and increase our well-being and quality of life. Another factor is that, today, people can learn these practices in a secular educational setting. You don’t have to go to a monastery in Tibet or an ashram in India to learn how to meditate or practice yoga.
The brain is an organ designed to change throughout our lives, based on what we do with it.
CCL Is there a typical client? ME The majority of our participants are 45 or older. We all have
stress, loss and difficulty in our lives. It’s part of being human. There are many reasons people seek out stressreduction practices: anxiety, insomnia, grief, caring for a spouse or loved one with dementia, divorce, a medical diagnosis, newly retired.
CCL The biggest stressors? ME The things that trigger stress can be external or internal—frequently a combination of both. We have little or no control over what happens externally. How we relate or react to a stressor is a significant factor in whether we escalate or de-escalate our stress. Typically, it feels like we have no choice. Our reactions are so automatic and habitual—learned through a lifetime of repetition—that it seems like we run on automatic pilot. Reactive patterns typically exacerbate stress. Mindfulness training teaches us how to become present and aware in the midst of this bundle of sensations, thoughts, emotions and impulses—to notice what’s happening, what we’re thinking, what emotions are present and what impulsive behavior is arising. It’s this capacity to pause and notice what’s happening that creates breathing room between the stressor and our reaction. This is the space in which we can have a choice about what we do next. This is how we unwind the stressreactivity cycle.
Reactive patterns typically exacerbate stress.
Cathy Chestnut is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to TOTI Media.
Madeline Ebelini is the founder of Integrative Mindfulness in Bonita Springs.