AxisMind looks to bring meditation mainstream

Could you imagine what it would be like to wake up each morning and have the energy to accomplish all of the professional and personal tasks on your `to-do' list, and still feel a strong sense of calm?

According to Jonathan Lieberman, founder of AxisMind, LLC, this state of relaxation is not only easy to attain but, in fact, beneficial to our physical and mental well-being.

A native of Westport, Lieberman recently founded AxisMind to help people relieve daily stresses, gain more focus and concentration in their work and manage chronic pain. He also hopes to give adults and children the tools through a specialized meditation program to slow down and enjoy each moment of their daily lives.

Lieberman resides in South Norwalk with his wife, Julie, a teacher in Fairfield, and three children, Lauren, 11, and twins, Caitlin and William, 9.

"These benefits are all inherent to us as human beings," Lieberman explains. "Meditation is the practice of revealing these qualities and learning how to access them with less and less effort."

Moreover, Lieberman noted that meditation is becoming increasingly more recognized by the medical community as a necessary part of achieving health and wellness. However, although doctors, psychiatrists and health care professionals now recommend that their patients meditate, they do not usually tell them how to do it.

This is where Lieberman could offer help.

His role is that of a "contemplative personal trainer." In his practice at AxisMind, Lieberman will tailor a program designed specifically to clients' needs and then guide them through the meditation process during weekly or bi-weekly sessions.

A licensed child and family counselor, Lieberman holds a master's degree in contemplative psychology from Naropa in Boulder, Colo. During his studies, he ventured on several meditation retreats lasting several days in the mountainous terrain.

"Sometimes we spent eight hours in meditation," Lieberman said.

What he learned firsthand is the powerful impact of silence and how much this time spent in being mindful to the present moment, away from the pressures of outside stimuli, could do for one's overall attitude.

Much of this personal philosophy was gleaned, too, while pursuing an undergraduate degree in social work at Ithaca College.

"I have had a lifelong interest in both psychology and religion; however, it's interesting that I discovered the benefits of meditation more through my studies of psychology than religion because of its profound effects on the brain and the body," he said.

And yet Lieberman would be the first to acknowledge that there are many skeptics out there.

"Meditation still has a stigma attached to it," he noted. "People tend to picture people in funny robes chanting. However, this is far from the case. I cannot think of anything more ordinary than just sitting with yourself and your mind and generating peace and calmness."

And, meditition is joining therapies such as acupuncture, massage and yoga as a complementary alternative medicine (CAM) program.

"I'm pleased to see that it's becoming a more acknowledged form of treatment," Lieberman said.

After meeting with a new client, Lieberman would recommend a personalized meditation program. He explained that there are "infinite ways to meditate," although these specific methods usually fall into two major categories. The first involves focusing on a specific object, such as wellness.

"The second way to meditate has to do with focusing on nothing at all," he continued. "You are basically just present in the moment."

In addition, Lieberman noted that children, too, could benefit from taking the time to meditate on a regular basis.

While working as a therapist at a nonprofit agency in Norwalk, Lieberman has observed the positive effects of meditation on youth who have severe psychological issues. "We have had quite a lot of success," he said.

Using guided imagery, Lieberman helps children to relax during weekly sessions that last for about 30 minutes.

Although he has seen numerous success stories of how meditation helped children cope with their personal issues, he recalls an 8-year-old girl's reluctance to come out of "the meditative pose." Although the meditation had officially stopped, and the children had to "move on," she was enjoying her state of deep calmness and peace.

Lieberman said that he brought her a glass of water and gently coaxed her into making the transition back to the realities of her life.

The best part, for Lieberman, was when she told her young friends: "'I'm going to do that now whenever I need to." Children with attention deficit disorder, self-esteem, anxiety and depression could also benefit from this practice, he said, adding that anyone facing stressful situations could lessen the debilitating effects on their physical and emotional well being through regular meditation.

"Stress comes from not having the capacity to handle all of the many thoughts, feelings and energies that we have in our bodies," Lieberman said.

Lieberman's goal is to train clients to optimize the numerous opportunities for quiet reflection that occur throughout the day.

"I'm really excited about sharing this with people," he said. "I want to use the extensive experience I've had with meditation to make it accessible in a tangible way with people in this area."

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