Nurses: Earn 28 CE's While Managing Holiday Stress Through Mindfulness

September always feels like a time of renewal as the leaves are changing and kids are returning to school. It is often a time to get grounded after summer activities and prepare for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas and Chanukah. The holidays can often feel stressful for many people. I am offering my 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Course again, from October through mid-December. While the idea of being mindful sounds good to most people, most of us would like to pop a mindfulness pill or read a book and wake up all Zen. It doesn’t exactly work that way. In fact, this class requires a lot and is not easy. Let’s break it down.

Watch Oprah's interview with the founder of MBSR, Jon Kabat-Zinn

It’s a time sucker  The weekly classes are generally 2.5 hours in length; there is a full day of silent group practice -that's 28 hours right there. Then we really hit the tipping point with the home practice. We ask participants to practice a specific assigned mindful practice for 45 minutes each day. Between the home practice and class time, we’ve got about 76 hours of time sucking. Do you know anyone with that kind of down time? This must be the kind of thing only retired people can do, right? Well, not exactly. Participants of all ages, races, gender, sexual orientation attend. Busy people are particularly appreciative of taking this course as they learn the benefits of mindfulness.

MBSR dusts off your glasses (and it’s not always pretty)  As awareness builds, we start seeing aspects of ourselves that we have denied, suppressed or been too busy to notice. We may not always like what we see. It can be humbling and painful to see that we’ve been irritable, demanding or alienating others.

You discover you may want a mind transplant  When we are alone with out thoughts, it can get pretty loud and busy, lost in perseverating. Comparing mind and judging mind show up all the time in life, particularly in the digital age when immediate gratification is available. Meditation allows us to neutralize our thoughts so that we can manage the highs and lows of our thought patterns. You might find you want to trade your mind in for one that is not lost in constant thought.

If Anderson Cooper could find the time, you probably can too! Watch an interview about mindfulness on 60 Minutes here.

You remember you have a body (and it doesn’t always feel good)  If you have lived with chronic or acute pain, you may know that the body can communicate loudly. We often do everything we can to move away from this discomfort. MBSR asks us to stay and “be” with our body with all of its sensations. This can be challenging for people feeling pain, restlessness or boredom.

So why would anyone subject themselves to this?  Participants show up week after week because they discover that even if they didn’t love doing the home practice, they saw positive changes in their behavior and were inspired. Many report changes in communication -  being more present when listening to others and interrupting people less often. Participants found they became more compassionate towards themselves and were kinder to others. Everyone found they were better able to respond to stressful events by recognizing they have a choice to respond rather than react with the habitual, auto pilot, out of control stress reaction. To top it off, the nurses are psyched to receive a certificate of 28 hours of continuing education (also available for LCSW and MFTs). Here’s the kicker, after all that, they want more. Some students repeat the 8-week course to bring it to a deeper level and others attend daylong retreats.

So when is the next 8-week MBSR course?  There will be a free introductory class on Monday October 5th from 7pm-9pm at The Swedenborgian Church. You can register here.  The 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course will start Monday October 19th and run for 8 consecutive Mondays until December 14th, with a daylong retreat on Sat December 5th. You can register for the 8 week course here and save $50 if you register by the end of the day 9/14. It may seem early to think about that time of year but if the holidays trigger your stress, perhaps you could do this year differently and this course could be the ticket to support you.

 

WOOHOO, WE DID IT!

Congratulations to the participants in my Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. We met in early January and spent nearly every week together. While the idea of being mindful sounds good to most people, most of us would like to pop a mindfulness pill or read a book and wake up all Zen. It doesn’t exactly work that way. In fact, this class requires a lot and is not easy. Let’s break it down.

It’s a time sucker

The weekly classes are generally 2.5 hours in length; there is a full day of silent group practice -that's 28 hours right there. Then we really hit the tipping point with the home practice. We ask participants to practice a specific assigned mindful practice for 45 minutes each day. Between the home practice and class time, we’ve got about 76 hours of time sucking. Do you know anyone with that kind of down time? This must be the kind of thing only retired people can do, right? Well, not exactly.

MBSR dusts off your glasses (and it’s not always pretty)

As awareness builds, we start seeing aspects of ourselves that we have denied, suppressed or been too busy to notice. We may not always like what we see. It can be humbling and painful to see that we’ve been irritable, demanding or alienating others.

You discover you may want a mind transplant

When we are alone with out thoughts, it can get pretty loud and busy, lost in perseverating. Comparing mind and judging mind show up all the time in life and meditation is no exception. We yearn for the neutral mind or a mind that doesn’t feel the highs and lows so deeply. You might find you want to trade your mind in for one that is not lost in constant thought.

You remember you have a body (and it doesn’t always feel good)

If you have lived with chronic or acute pain, you may know that the body can communicate loudly. We often do everything we can to move away from this discomfort. MBSR asks us to stay and “be” with our body with all of its sensations. This can be challenging for people feeling pain, restlessness or boredom.

So why would anyone subject themselves to this?

These cool cats showed up week after week because they discovered that even if they didn’t love doing the home practice, they saw positive changes in their behavior and were inspired. Many reported changes in communication -  being more present when listening to others and interrupting people less often. Participants found they became more compassionate towards themselves and were kinder to others. Everyone found they were better able to respond to stressful events by recognizing they have a choice to respond rather than react with the habitual, auto pilot, out of control stress reaction. To top it off, the nurses were psyched to receive a certificate of 28 hours of continuing education (also available for LCSW and MFTs). Here’s the kicker, after all that, they want more. Some have expressed interest in taking the 8-week course again or doing more daylong retreats.

So when is the next 8-week MBSR course?

Due to my travel and retreat schedule, I won’t be offering the next course until October for the holiday MBSR course through December. It may seem early to think about that time of year but if the holidays trigger your stress, perhaps you could do this year differently and this course could be the ticket to support you.

What about the rest of us?

For those of you who do not live in the SF Bay area, I have heard your requests and am looking into creating an online option. Please email me if you have any specific requests regarding time of day or day of week that may work best for you and I will try to accommodate.

For Bay Area Nurses, check out a great way to restore yourself and your career May 8-10th The Sacred Art of Nursing Retreat

 

ARE YOU CHECKED OUT OF YOUR LIFE?

If you are new to meditation, you are probably like most people and need a little nudge to get a routine established before it becomes part of your life. Like an exercise routine, we benefit from support from others, such as a running buddy or a co-worker to join yoga class immediately after work. Sometimes the lull of the couch and the TV can have paralyzing effects once we are home, particularly if you are experiencing a snowy, frigid winter.

The MBSR course I am teaching is approaching the eighth and final class this week. After almost two months of mindfulness practice, some participants are ready to go solo, while others prefer the support of guided meditation. An area where we all could use a little assistance (including myself) is in bringing more awareness into everyday life.

How can we keep the mindfulness channel on? When the bell rings, it implies the meditation is over. For some, the bell may come too early, while others may have wanted the bell to ring ten minutes earlier.

What if the meditation is not over when the bell rings?

What if you didn’t turn off your awareness of the current moment?

What if we brought the intention to be attentive to each moment?

Awareness is always available to us. I don’t pretend to be aware 24/7. I check out from time to time even under supportive conditions of silent retreats. Mindfulness is simply bringing our attention to the present moment and we don’t have to make it more work than we need. It is a simple as right now, knowing you are reading this blog and feeling your body connecting to what it is in contact with. For me, it’s simply knowing that my fingers are pressing the keys to the laptop, and I’m aware of spooning steel cut oats into my mouth and sensing the taste of the oats, the almonds and the dried fruit. Throughout the day you can ask yourself the question:

WHAT AM I AWARE OF IN THIS MOMENT?

If you are running, you could be aware of your arms swinging by your side, the quality of the air as it meets your mouth and nose, the feet striking the ground or beads of sweat forming on your skin.

Think back over the last 24 hours. Were you functioning on autopilot or present when you were driving, showering, eating or communicating with others? Were you lost in planning the next scheduled activity or replaying something from the past?

What can you do today to bring more awareness to your day?

Are you a good communicator?

Have you ever found yourself regretting the words that have just been uttered from your mouth? Moments after we say something, we can see the impact on others. Our communication, both verbal and non-verbal has the ability to heal or harm, to create connection or divide.

 

In our fast paced world, it seems nearly impossible to be aware of every word that comes out of our mouth. It is challenging, but let’s see what happens if we sprinkle a little bit of mindfulness into our world of communication. When we are stressed out or met with a difficult conversation, our natural reaction is to want things to be different.

Take a look at your work or home life. Are there challenging conversations that you are putting off, complaining about, using sarcasm or arguing with others about? You don’t need to be an Aikido master to communicate effectively but we can learn from their principles. The Japanese martial art of Aikido translates as the way of unifying with life energy. It is an art that defends the practitioner while also protecting their attacker from harm.

Mindfulness allows us to sense our own body sensations, thoughts and emotions prior to reacting from a place of defense or stress. Here is an example: Your anxious patient has been ringing the call light all day. You just left her room and the light goes off again. You have a choice to react on autopilot or respond from a place of awareness.

Depending on the circumstances and the inner and outer resources, you may have the opportunity to notice frustration arising as an increase in heart rate, heat, flushing or tension. You can then name your thoughts or emotions, such as frustration or anger. This awareness gives you the choice of a different approach.

Before you put your foot in your mouth, reflect on whether what you have to say passes the Buddha test.

Is it true?

Is it helpful for this person to know this?

Are you saying it from a compassionate heart with empathy?

Is now the right time to share it?