MBSR: Week 4

by mandy lipka

We opened the class with a light standing stretch. It felt great after a vigorous yoga practice and a stressful day at work. Then we moved into a silent sitting meditation which lasted ~30 minutes. At first, I felt the immediate effects of drinking coffee shortly before class– it felt as though my heart would jump through my chest as my breathing intensified. During my meditation, I had this awful tickle in my throat and then had to sneeze. In preventing panic, I dreamt of grabbing my water bottle to relieve my throat but knew I’d disturb someone. In an effort not to “cheat,” I managed to breathe the tickle and sneeze away. Once I conquered that and felt like I was on top of the world, I realized that my thoughts started to jump and caused tension in my face. This was a first. I kept having to check-in and relax my face when A’s guidance triggered a thought (often about my current relationship). It felt very familiar to what my best friend and I call savasana brain after a wild yoga practice— that heavy, foggy mind.

When then moved into pairs and discussed how it’s going in our practice. Thrilled to talk to L, we briefly small-talked about SU hoops and how his sleeping has been. As we discussed how we were doing, L joked “I’m doing it perfectly,” because we all felt we had some room for improvement. A opened the floor to discussion and folks talked about how powerful silence is compared to meditating with sound or music. One classmate mentioned it’s almost a sacramental practice because he meditates in his daughter’s room. Many spoke about making more progress in that it is less about what’s good/bad and others noticed a preference for yoga over the body scan. We all felt a little less judgmental on days that we’re not practicing and focus more on integrating the practice, keeping in mind that it often can “just show up” as A says. A asked us what barriers prevent us from keeping our daily practice and many classmates talked kids, time, longer days vs. others, feelings of failure if we can’t fit it in. A jumped in and let us know that this proves we are noticing our lives– maybe more than usual and this leads to the fact that we will still have life experiences. The important part is that we’re in these eight weeks together and as long as week keep our intention, we’ll succeed.

How we meet the moments of our lives, makes all of the difference

A reminded us that this is the real core of our practice. It’s about self-care, not judgment. For some, it was a great learning experience spending more time alone and taking time to be with ourselves and enjoy it, especially as many folks wished for the opportunity to “get back to the old me.” It’s up to us to keep practicing, respect our own limits and our own lives– keep that intention at the forefront and see what we notice. Where are the moments we can make some choice? Where in the mind or body can we see it and see it without judgment? Believable thoughts are exceptionally powerful and can rule our lives. These stressors made the perfect segue into postures and stress reactions. A emphasized the importance of creating conditions for our practice (home, time of day, chair, cushions) and how that will affect our expectations. She mentioned it helps to have three anchor points when we meditate– like when you use blocks or blankets in a “pretzel” pose. These anchors help us stay grounded as we combat the stresses in our lives.

STRESS

  • is a perception of physical or psychological threat and the perception that our resources are inadequate
  • is a perceived demand or challenge physically, intellectually, psychologically or emotionally when we feel a sense of no choice (backed into a corner)

Stress as A mentions, can be unconscious until we bring attention to it (ie. reacting to coworkers). The feeling that we “can’t cope” is key to this reactivity. We develop patterns and these patterns can rule our lives. Imagine this pattern as a triangle: Sensations <—> Thoughts <—> Emotions

For folks more on the “thoughts” side – tasks are important to helping pay attention to sensations. These can turn into a stop light, adding layers of overwhelm. It’s important to get back to our direct experience with tasks and see if we may find a new way to approach them. It helps to give permission to have a thought, allow it to pass and it allows us to stop.

Stress Reactions

Examples: tension, palpitations, clenching, loud voice, road rage, anger, overeating, crying, short fuse, chest pain, trembling, diarrhea, sweating, sleeplessness, sleeping too much, substance abuse, headache, nail biting, workaholicism, procrastination

Our homework this week is to notice these reactions and bring kindness and compassion to ourselves as we notice.

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