Last night of MBSR class: Always moving, never the same.
Friday night marked the end of our most recent 8-week MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) class, here in Monterey.
We arrive as strangers in this class, and over eight weeks of learning and practice, we discover (or re-discover) our shared lives, and we come to know parts of ourselves that may have gone unnoticed or unseen before. We come to learn how to live our lives differently and more fully, and to know more deeply what was there for us all along.
And we come together. On this recent night, along with practicing mindfulness in stillness and gentle movement, we celebrated our time together with a light meal, an exchange of favorite poetry -- some written by participants -- and an activity involving tossing a ball of twine across our human circle. We each caught it and threw it, until the twine created a pattern connecting each member of the circle. Bracelets were then cut from the twine, to be decorated with beads we each brought. The finished bracelets became souvenirs of our precious moments of shared time, and of what we had learned here.
Mindfulness practices have been around for thousands of years, so what we teach in this class has its earliest seeds in nothing new! In the '70s, Jon Kabat-Zinn created the MBSR program to carry these age-old practices through the doors of modern science, down the corridors of medicine, technology, and neuroscience research, to a secular audience of westerners seeking relief and/or solace. Students of the MBSR program he created now have access to powerful teachings that offer ways to manage many of life's "heart-breaks," ranging from anxiety and fear to chronic pain -- to life's "full catastrophe." **
A not-coincidental side effect of the program is the sense of camaraderie and connection we experience after 8 weeks of in-class and at-home practice. We discover ways to open our hearts and minds non-judgmentally and compassionately, through guided practices that originated thousands of years ago.
In the re-discovery of stillness, breath, and body wisdom, 'individuals' in our classes find their connection to one another -- as well as themselves. Through a structured series of practices, readings, and discussion, MBSR participants begin the simple and most challenging skill of simply Being, with moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness of their own unfolding lives.
* The quote up top comes from an old Hasidic tale. As retold by Gina Sharpe in On the Cushion, when a student asked a rabbi why teachings should be held on the heart instead of in the heart, the rabbi said it's so that "when the heart breaks, the teachings fall in."
* * Kabat-Zinn named his book,"The Full Catastrophe," after this phrase quoted by Zorba in book-became-movie, "Zorba The Greek."