MBSR: Week 6

by mandy lipka

The class opens with standing yoga to wake us up and then we move to a 45-50 min meditation, our longest to date. Before we dive into our reactions, A let’s us know after reading our mid-course evaluations that the teachers purposely do not assign any reading or provide and specific background info so that students rely on themselves. I actually provided that feedback myself in the evaluation that it surprised me to not have been given any history or background on John Kabat-Zinn. We hadn’t so much as talked about any modern discussions like the recent New York Time’s piece on mindful eating. A says thoughtfully, We want you to read your own life experience, very directly.

Reflecting on the last week of practice, folks discussed mindful driving and how it combats monotonous drives. Some even turned off the radio and focused on breathing. Though we are instructed not to listen to the CDs in the car, one classmate admitted to it and mentioned he enjoyed the guide and then letting go during long periods of silence. Not filling ever moment with media was refreshing, he recalled.

This is exactly how we translate our practice into everyday life. Another classmate recalled the experience in her own classroom. Even her kids noticed her change in disposition, her increased attentiveness, and in turn, they became more engaged. Another classmate recalled a very upsetting moment during the week when she thought someone had broken into her home. The cops showed up, the dog was frightened and she just couldn’t seem to access her mindfulness practice in the moment. Regardless, to calm herself down after all the commotion, she listened to the guided meditation. This helped calm her fight or flight response to the threat allowing her to fall asleep soundly that night.

A explained to us that fear comes, anxiety comes and it can rip the doors of our heart. There are many ways to keep the cycle of fear going, whether real or not (hello, media influence), whether it’s our perception of a threat or reality, we can interrupt our thoughts to draw on mindfulness and use our breath as an anchor just as our friend did when the cops left. Even with unexpected or unwanted events, we can keep going. As A always says, another word for mindfulness is remembering.

Sometimes it can feel like nothing is happening. But more is happening than we realize. Sure it may happen after the fact, but regardless, you remember. This remembering gives us options. For example, one classmate recalled letting the dogs out one morning as she did every morning and noticing their emotions. They are reacting differently to this changed woman. Her practice is working. Another woman told us she was walking her usual route to work from the parking lot and she noticed a woman crying. On most days, she would’ve just passed the woman and kept going since she was running late. This time, she stopped and helped the woman find where she was going. This opening up is an example of us becoming present, whether it brings pleasure or pain.

Being kind to ourselves in the presence of pain isn’t something discussed often. In fact, most of us feel selfish when we do so. But in reality, we all want to be calm and happy, and for us to be calm and happy toward others, this time for ourselves is crucial. However, this can also make us feel isolated as A says when I recall some reactions to my practice. Some people in my circle think I’m mad when I’m taking time to reflect and absorb a situation. Friends and family often don’t know how to relate. Another classmate was called a “zombie” when the same person would’ve had her “committed” in the past. A quality of spaciousness comes when we’re not stretching ourselves too thin. When we take some of our time for ourselves, by not scheduling all of the meetings we could and instead making the best use of our time, we project onto the bigger picture and realize our limitations. Then, we open up to the world and to the present moment.

Stress Hardiness


A took some time to introduce us to another Benson gem explained below.

Control –> Commitment –> Challenge –> Connection

Control: Taking charge of life (stopping to notice) – observe, check-in to see if plan makes sense before becoming a “lunatic”

Commitment: To life life with awareness – making best efforts we can – bring intention to living lives with balance

Challenge: “How we meet the moments in our lives makes all of the difference” – we need to take care when we are experiencing impatience, frustrations, losses

Connection: Our connection to ourself reflects onto our kids, mom, students, dog, husband – creates greater harmony (especially self!)

Difficult Communications

We briefly reflected on our difficult communications from the week and then moved into pairs to discuss. I delighted to finally get some one-on-one time with O. I told her about my wild brunch experience with my now ex and how I managed to keep to myself, throw back a few mimosas and NOT make a scene. She responded so perfectly. She clapped and then asked how I planned to tell him I saw him with another woman. She appreciated my response. We turned the tables after a giggle or two and she shared an anecdote about her own family disfunction and her efforts to not meddle. Gold stars for us both!

As expected, the class discussion was just as entertaining. One discussed productive and proactive reactions to a situation with his father and staving off of procrastination. Another had a scuffle with her aging mother about eating chocolate– in the end, despite her mother’s attempts to stop her, she ate the chocolate! Others mentioned body reactions to difficult situations– churning stomach, dry throat, heat throughout body. Another mentioned he didn’t want to be a firefighter any more – he has many fires burning at once and as you can imagine (I think we’ve all been here at one point), stuff can get out of control. He reminded us that sitting with a situation can be tough– ignoring it isn’t helpful, but being aware can be difficult. As A always says, we may not always like what we see when we take time to sit with ourselves.

To emphasize this she says, when we shine a light on awareness… we see it all. When you shine a light on a piano, you see the beautiful keys and the dust. Ain’t that the truth.

Homework:

  • Sitting Meditation every other day. On alternate day, do Yoga or Body Scan.
  • Bring attention to breath sensations 1-5 min at least once per day at different time from practice. Allow to happen several times per day, if possible.
  • Be aware of your attention as you communicate with others. Are you fully present? If not, where are you? Try using sensations of breath to bring your attention to present moment.
  • Be aware of what you take into your mind and body this week and how influences your life– food, drink, television, movies, conversations, books, magazines and the internet

Photo courtesy of: Yuya Tamai

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