SUDBURY -- Gary Petingola discovered the practice of “mindfulness” over 10 years ago, while he was working as a social worker in the dialysis program at Health Sciences North.

“I thought it might be a useful practice for my clients. It was also useful for me as a professional and useful for a lot of people that I worked with as far as helping them to be resilient to the stress and the pressures of the hospital system,” said Petingola.

From there, he went on to study at the University of Massachusetts to be able to teach the concept to others.

Petingola decided to leave his job at the hospital so he could start his own business called Mindfulness on the Rocks. It offers a stress reduction program through the local health unit.

He says mindfulness is best described as "the awareness that arises by paying attention to the present moment purposefully without judgement."

“Mindfulness is really paying attention to what you’re doing when you’re doing it. And there are formal and informal practices," said Petingola. “So, the informal practices really are about indulging in using all of your senses when you’re doing a task at hand. There have been studies about doing dishes. So, when you’re practicing doing dishes in a mindful way, then you are paying attention to the sensation of the water touching your hands, maybe the lemon lime scent of the soap. Then there are the formal practices, like sitting meditation, walking meditation.”

Mindfulness isn’t just for adults.

After a successful pilot program between 2016 and 2018 that saw the local health unit partner with the French public school board to offer an in-school program to grade 7 and 8 students. Now, it is something taught in all schools in the city, and it shows students things such as coping skills, breathing strategies and what mindfulness  is.

“Those are all skills to help them reduce their stress, their anxiety to more attentive, focused so they learn better in school,” said Francine Pinard, from Public Health Sudbury and Districts.

Petingola has taken all that he has learned about the practice and put it into a new book called The Response: Practicing Mindfulness In Your Daily Life.

A book launch will be held at the Taphouse Northern Grill and Pub this Saturda, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m.