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Mindful : October 2013
46 mindful October 2013 community Denise Lemen, a K-9 officer who has also taken the depart- ment’s mindfulness class, says, “I ’ve been taught that my stress runs down-leash to mydog.Ifmydogisa little calmer, maybe I’ll be a little more successful. Maybe because I’m doing this mindful stuff, maybe that will help me not be so amped up.” “In our culture, we’re supposed to suck it up and not be impacted.” Sergeant Deborah Case A rail-thin 6-foot-8, he had the idea severa l years ago to offer a yoga class for police a nd firefighters. “I figured I’d just put it out there,” he says. “I didn’t know if anybody would show up. “And sure enough, nobody showed up.” Cops and firefighters, it turned out, were not interested in yoga. Except for one: Goerling. A mem- ber of the Coast Guard reserves with an MBA, he’s a little bit unusual for a cop. “I’m a contrarian in the business,” he says. “Because somebody needs to be.” Some years back, Goerling began noticing how many of his colleagues were suffering from low- er-back pain. He knew that elite athletes, including Shaquille O’Neal, were practicing yoga and thought it could help. So he went to Rogers for lessons. Then he started “sneaking in plugs for yoga” when he talked to his aching colleagues. As he got to know Rogers better, he learned more. Rogers is an instructor of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), the program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts, which bega n in 1979. From the moment he and Goerling began talking, Rogers recalled, they were “on the sa me wavelength.” Goerling took Rogers’ MBSR course and bega n a practice of mindfulness, which he continues today. With a busy lifestyle, he found his four-times-a - week swimming habit to be a great place to practice. “ You’re focused on sliding through the water, the sound of your breath in the water,” he says. “ You find moments to be present in the moment you’re in.” Goerling found that his mindfulness practice helped him be more patient at home, that it helped him deal with the stressors of his management posi- tion as a watch commander supervising two teams of 24 officers in total and as leader of the newly formed crisis intervention team, which focuses on responding more effectively to the needs of the men- tally ill in crisis. It didn’t take long for him to begin to wonder how this could apply to policing itself. For instance: could mindful breathing help officers when they had to drive “code 3” to a call, with lights and sirens? Would being “present ” help them handle calls involving people with mental illness? Would it help them with their own stress level? He was certain it was worth a try. “I bega n looking into how we build resilience so police officers ca n go through trauma—whether it’s →