Free course to tackle stress, anxiety with meditation and prayer

Yoga and meditation instructor Trey Daman appears outside St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, where he will be teaching a free, 12-week meditation class, starting March 3, 2020, aimed at helping people overcome stress and anxiety. 

ENID, Okla. — A free 12-week course, starting March 3, 2020, aims to help people better handle life challenges through the practices of meditation, prayer and mindfulness.

"Living the Basics of Mindfulness" will be offered at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 518 W. Randolph, 5:30-6:45 p.m. Tuesdays, beginning March 3 and running through May 19.

The class, taught by certified yoga and meditation instructor Trey Daman and lay ministers of St. Matthew's, is based on the book "Full Catastrophe Living — Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness," by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

According to the book, Kabat-Zinn's approach focuses on a "mindfulness-based stress reduction program," teaching "how to use ... mind-body approaches derived from meditation and yoga to counteract stress, establish greater balance of body and mind, and stimulate well-being and healing."

"By engaging in these mindfulness practices and integrating them into your life from moment to moment and from day to day, you can learn to live better with chronic pain, promote optimal healing, reduce anxiety and feelings of panic, and improve the overall quality of your life, relationships and social networks," according to the book.

Daman, who has been teaching meditation courses for more than eight years and yoga for more than 10, said, "Living the Basics of Mindfulness" will not be a yoga class. It will be a meditation class, using some elements of yoga, seated meditation and breathing techniques to teach mindfulness, presence and stress reduction.

And, the class goes beyond Kabat-Zinn's book to integrate an aspect Daman said is integral to inner peace — faith.

"I would like people to know more about Jesus and meditation," Daman said, "and how meditation and intentional practice can enrich your relationship with God on a day-to-day basis, and help us all live up to God's purpose."

Daman said faith is all-too-often left out of discussions of mindfulness and meditation.

"There's a lot of information out there on meditation, but it doesn't include God," Daman said, "and it's easy to just get a meditation practice, and focus on that, and leave God out — but that's incomplete."

Daman said when he started practicing meditation, God wasn't part of the mix for him.

"I wasn't bringing God into it, so it could only help me so far," Daman said. "Whenever I crossed the road to bringing Jesus and God into my meditation, things changed."

Daman crossed that bridge under some hard circumstances.

Adverse childhood experiences, combat service in Operation Enduring Freedom and ensuing PTSD culminated in alcoholism, drug addiction and, finally, time in prison.

It was the combination of a closer relationship with Christ and a deepening practice of yoga, meditation and prayer that helped, and is helping him, climb out of that darkness, Daman said.

Since being released from incarceration, Daman has been participating in the Hope Outreach Transitional Housing Ministry to ease his reentry into society, and has been using his experience as a yoga and meditation instructor to help other inmates overcome their pasts.

Daman also has been helped in his journey by the Humble Warrior Collective (HWC), a Tulsa-based nonprofit that uses "yoga, mindfulness, and self-inquiry to guide our students towards cultivating hope, overcoming obstacles, and achieving their dreams," according to the group's website. Daman is working toward certification with HWC to bring those practices to more prisoners in Oklahoma and beyond.

"A more harmonious meditation practice has helped me recover my mind, body and my relationship with Christ," Daman said, "and that's basically what I want to share with people through this practice."

Each "Living the Basics of Mindfulness" class will be divided into three parts: an instructional subject based on "Full Catastrophe Living" and a correlated teaching from Scripture, followed by open discussion period and a seated meditation practice with guided prayer.

Daman said the Bible-based portion of the prayer-guided meditation will be led by lay ministers from St. Matthew's.

Altogether, Daman said the class elements will help participants live more mindfully in the present moment and to use body posture and breath control to relieve anxiety and stress.

"No matter what happens in life, no matter how bad it gets, the most important thing is to breathe," Daman said. "Controlling your breath can become incredibly powerful, because it puts everything in perspective."

He said the class will be ideal for "anyone who struggles with stress, people struggling with being at peace in their life, people who feel like they're missing something in their walk, or people who want to deepen their spiritual growth — this is a way to create a practice that will bring you closer to God and closer to having an outlet, or a tool, for dealing with life's struggles and life's attachments."

"What I want people to experience," Daman said, "is a practice that will help them achieve mindfulness and presence, and how to stay mindful in the midst of life's catastrophes."

"Living the Basics of Mindfulness" is open to all. There are no physical restrictions in the class, and all levels of physical ability are welcome. Participants need not have any previous experience with meditation.

Child care will be available. There is no cost for the course, but donations will be accepted to help cover cost of child care.

Participants will need to purchase their own copy of "Full Catastrophe Living" by Jon Kabat-Zinn. A limited number of books will be available for anyone unable to purchase their own copy.

To reserve a space in the class, contact St. Matthew's Episcopal Church at (580) 237-4737 or email the church office at stm.enid@icloud.com.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for James? Send an email to jneal@enidnews.com.

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