I am just finishing my mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) class, and I’m sad it is ending. Once a week for the past two months, I’ve looked forward to the trek downtown on Tuesday evenings (even in the cold Chicago winter, which is saying something!). I knew I’d come away with something each class, and I did. Sometimes it was a morsel of wisdom from our wonderful teacher, Chris. Sometimes it was the words of a poem or a story that was read. And every time it was the peace of the practice, of taking the time TO take the time and just be. In my body, in my breath, and in my head (which is such an oh-so-noisy place!).
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-trained scientist, started teaching mindfulness through meditation to people suffering from chronic pain and illness. That program, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), is now used in more than 700 hospitals worldwide, helping people in chronic pain as well as those of us who are looking for tools, such as yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices to help us cope with the demands of our busy lives.
I did my best to do the daily practices each week – body scan, yoga, siting meditation, and just “being mindful.” Having the group experience (my “Sangha” was such a neat mix of people!) was so important. As a group, we created a space to practice together. When my friend, Jessica Dolce, encouraged me to take the course, she pointed out that when you’re meditating in a group it’s a lot harder to jump up off your cushion and give up. She was right! And it helped knowing that when I was practicing at home and struggling that everyone one else from class was also at home trying their best at doing the practices too.
I had decided to take the class because I thought, ‘If I’m going to be telling my therapy and veterinary social work clients that mindfulness could help them, I should probably practice what I preach!’ I thought this course would be something I’d be doing for my work. At the initial class when Chris encouraged those of us who were “helpers” in the room to first take in this experience and apply it for ourselves first, I hung on to that. And I’m glad I did.
This research says that my brain is better for it, 8 weeks later. And my body, soul, and mind agree. I’m going through some big life changes right now – leaving agency work and going into private practice full-time. My meditation practice has become an important way that I’m learning how to stay present in each moment, through all of the changes and challenges.
I sit on my cushion and I drop into my body, into my breath. Then I take that moment of peace with me back out into the world.