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