Friday, October 31, 2014

Taking a Mindfulness Class

 I’ve been stressing out lately, playing scary scenarios in my head, rehashing conversations that went badly, even my dog quickly bored of playing with me.

I decided to take the Mindfulness class offered at a nearby hospital.  Jon Kabat-Zinn has a good reputation, as a man who was trained as a Buddhist meditator who figured out how to teach meditation without the Buddhism.

I’ve meditated before, on a regular basis, but this program was reputed to offer something gentler.

I’ve heard the words: be kind to yourself, before.

But then there was always the strict set of instructions: how to sit, how to breathe, how to think about thinking. Yes, when I can get it all together, it does feel like a vacation from stress.  I was looking for a gentler way to get the same or better effect.

The program has this, and it has its own stresses. I’ve got a personality clash with the teacher. Plus, as a long time yoga student, I resent the mechanical yoga script that the teacher uses.  I think she got it from headquarters – this is a franchised program – which makes the poor yoga class even more wrong – it’s not just my teacher messing up, but teachers all over the world messing up. Yoga is so much more than getting into various postures. It is a way of being in the postures, feeling the body, the areas that tighten up and the areas that relax. 

I get it – Kabat-Zinn is a trained meditator – not a trained yoga teacher.  But I wish he’d hired a yoga teacher to write that script.  When I mentioned this to the teacher, she gave me “permission to do your own yoga routine.”  I wasn’t asking for permission.  I was pointing out that the class could be improved with a yoga script prepared by a real yoga teacher. I even found her two good routines on YouTube, and sent her the links.

Anyway, the course has ways to deal with being upset, disappointed, angry, frustrated, and all the other emotions.  I particularly liked the week in which we were asked to write down one unpleasant event each day, and then write how it felt in our bodies.  The goal is to be able to notice the physical sensations that come with emotions, and recognize what is happening – maybe in time to avoid yelling at somebody.

These feelings come and go – the program helps students get used to the changing terrain that is our bodymind.

I've been taught be-kind-to-others forever.  Don’t accuse other people of cheating or lying. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Even if they are cheating and / or lying, they’ve got stresses, they are doing the best they can.  Be nice to them. 

But I’ve always been under strict instructions that I must never cheat or lie or do any number of “bad things.”. And it seemed to me that I was not allowed to be kind to myself.

I’m finding that if I take the time to approach an angry disagreement while keeping in mind that we're just two people getting upset -- then it’s not such a scary big deal.  We can deal with this, and get on with our lives.

This works way better for me than, I’m-supposed-to-be-kind and they’re supposed-to-be-scary.

I like the mindset of this program – explore what it is to be human, have likes and dislikes, fears and joys, and recognize that everybody else has these, too.  

There is no need to pay for a class at your local hospital. I wish I’d known that before I signed up. The class is available free online: http://palousemindfulness.com/selfguidedMBSR.html

The only reasons to seek out a class is if you want other people to practice with, or if you want the pressure of homework assignments to make sure you do the work. 


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