Use the Mindful practice of STOP anytime to keep daily stress from building up, and anytime you are feeling extra pressure.
Welcome to the Fall Season. It may be helpful to remember that this is a transitional time …and a Jimmy Buffet song that packs a profound mindfulness message.
Awareness and Kindness are both integral to the development of mindfulness; and while I am being poetic, you are probably reading this because you have heard some of the science. Mindfulness is a mind/body skill that measurably benefits us in a variety of physiological and psychological ways.
With awareness of the present moment, your busy mind will not be an obstacle. I heard this poem read in a meditation class, early in my mindfulness journey, and it has always stayed with me.
Mindfulness is sometimes referred to as self – recollection. I offer a few simple examples of how this can work, and benefit you in profound ways.
- You are lost in thoughts (a form of virtual reality) and you realize that you are gone, and then direct attention to the feeling of body and breath, room and present moment reality. This is a basic self-regulation skill, it helps to keep the nervous system from unnecessary activation.
- You are talking about something and realize it may not be that appropriate or useful and come back to the point and the attempt to express yourself or dialogue with others. This is a basic relational skill, it helps us build respectful connection.
- You are doing something and notice that it may be a diversion and pause and consider, is this the best way to spend my time right now? This is mindful time management.
- You realize you are anxious or agitated by something or someone and you give yourself permission to acknowledge it, make space for it and make intentional choices regarding it. This is basic emotional intelligence, our emotions provide vital information.
- You realize that persistent memories come to mind and create emotional upset in your body and mind, you notice and breathe and honor what is arising naturally this is the skill of restoration, integrating the past into the present as it is tolerable.
The space of infinite awareness
See with clarity
Silver edged space
Vast open awareness
The rhythm of space
Burning up the seeds of fear
To be who you are now and now and now
That dissipates all raw emotions
And the space
That releases denial and coverup
And the space
That is awareness breath clarity
I was introduced to MBSR over 20 years ago by a colleague who had just completed his psychology doctoral dissertation on MBSR. I was already teaching yoga so I thought I knew what mindfulness was, but as I began to notice through my own practice, mindfulness was different. It was more bare bones, it helped me rest and it helped me see and be in a new and powerful way.
So I came to appreciate the practice of mindfulness itself, which MBSR fosters in a secular and universal way. And I was also deeply moved by how it was being taught in the MBSR curriculum. The way the teacher positioned themselves in the circle as a guide rather than an authority, the way participants were invited to speak about what was real for them and come to their own insights, the way the Eastern origins of the meditation practices became tools for looking deeply at our humanity.
Integrative Restoration or iRest is a newer mind/body method pioneered by Richard Miller, a clinical psychologist with a deep interest in Eastern meditation models. Like Jon Kabat-Zinn (MBSR’s pioneer) who blended his personal experience with Buddhism and Hatha Yoga with his scientific training to create a curriculum that met a powerful need in health care; Richard Miller has done the same. One notable difference that is that iRest’s foundation draws more from the Yoga paradigm than the Buddhist paradigm.
iRest’s origins are less academic and clinical, in that it is not embedded in a university medical center where its development was documented from the beginning. Yet, iRest has developed into a protocol that now qualifies as evidence based and is the subject of numerous studies for its treatment potential for trauma, pain, addiction relapse, compassion fatigue, insomnia, memory, and learning. There are currently over 30 iRest programs in VA’s and Military settings across the US.
For me personally, I find the 2 methods distinct yet entirely complimentary. For several years I have taught both MBSR and iRest, and have seen students benefit from the combination. If I were to sum it up I would say that MBSR is an amazing tool for grounding us, for helping us connect to the moment and learn from what is right here and now. We only have moments to live. iRest is deeply relaxing and expansive, it gives us tools to see our difficulties and distractions as pointers towards a deeper clarity and a healthy resolution.
We have two free Mindful Meditation practice offerings in December.
December 8th we will honor the mindfulness methods of Thich Nhat Hanh.
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment: Experiencing Mindfulness
December 15th a mindful practice related to the change of seasons.
The Fruitful Darkness: An Evening of Mindfulness Practice
All are invited to attend either or both classes:
No experience is necessary.
January 5th we will have the free Introduction session for the MBSR Program . If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness or registering for the Winter 2015 MBSR program please register and join us.
As a holiday treat for those that have been to our classroom in the Library of the Ada Peirce McCormick Building, we all know what a great influence Moses is on our mindfulness practice. For those that have not had the pleasure to meet him yet, he has a new video out.
Our message is first and foremost a nonverbal one; our message is our own action. –thich nhat hanh.
Thank you for your support.
A documentary film exploring the mind and bodies connection and its missing link in healthcare. With Andrew Weil, MD, Jon Kabat-Zinn …
Tucson premiere is Monday 29th September 2014 at 7:00pm at the Gallagher Theater, Student Union Memorial Center, U of A
There will be a panel discussion after the film with Dr. Esther Sternberg ( U of A Center for Integrative Medicine ) and director Shannon Harvey.
Shannon Harvey created the documentary after an autoimmune disease diagnosis and a worldwide search for the missing Mind Body link in Healthcare. In the search there are interviews with recognized leading researchers, scientists, physicians and of course the folks actually living with and recovering from severe pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis.
Featured in the film, are: Alice Domar, PhD; Andrew Weil, MD; Craig Hassed, MBBS, FRACGP; Damien Finniss MBBS, PhD, MSc Med, BPhty, BExSc; David Spiegel, MD; Dean Ornish, MD; Esther Sternberg, MD; Herbert Benson, MD; Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD; and Sara Lazar, PhD.
Free to attend with the code: MBSRTucson
or if you wish to make a small donation of $6 and simply pay as profits are being donated to
The July series of classes was a wonderful interlude for me personally this summer. They were designed to stand alone each week, so people could come even if vacationing some part of the month. And they were intended to both support alumni and welcome people exploring mindfulness anew. It was a different experience than the MBSR program which gradually unfolds over time; and each week’s subject could have been its own seminar, but we put our toes in some healing water nonetheless. Thank you to everyone that participated.
Here are a few gems from each class to contemplate for yourself:
Deep Listening: Listen with the intention to understand rather than help, fix, change, or even respond….
Mindful Speaking: When I’m quiet and solid as the ground, then I talk the low tones of thunder for everyone –Rumi
Group Dynamics: To understand true self- which knows who are in our in-wardness and whose we are in the larger world- we need both the intimacy that comes with solitude and the otherness that comes with community –Parker Palmer
Grief & Loss: Only other wounded people can understand what is needed, for the healing of suffering is compassion, not expertise –Rachel Naomi Remen
Presented as 4 classes
Mondays July 7th – 28th 2014.
The cost is $20 per class and there is a $15 discount available for attending the entire 4 week series, making your cost $65 for the series.
The first three classes explore, The Mindful Communication of:
Deep Listening / Clear Speaking / Group Dynamics
The fourth class of the series is: Bringing Mindfulness to Grief and Loss
Ada Peirce McCormick Building, in the Library. 1401 East First Street at Highland Underpass on the UA campus. Free parking available next to the building, in any space after 5pm.
Directions to the Ada Peirce McCormick Building
Thank you, Natasha!
After being able to discuss things in class, the meditations have been even more enjoyable. It is nice to let go of my fears and welcome the experience.
I am finding myself already noticing being almost in a trance like state at times, even when I am not in a meditation. I also feel what seems like physical sensations within my forehead. This feels calming and peaceful. It seems surprising that I would have such a quick and significant benefit from starting eight days ago, but it sure feels like I am. I have been doing two to three meditations per day and have been doing both the body sensing and the yoga nidra from the start. I am loving it! Thanks for all if your help.
The Spring seems to be coming fast. At the recent Day of Mindfulness practice it was almost 80 degrees.
It made for lovely walking meditation and fresh air in the room, yet I found myself fielding weather anxiety. If it is this hot now, what will it be like in June?! Come back to now, feel the sun on your face… It is so warm we could almost use air conditioning! Noticing the feeling of warmth in the body… Something is terribly wrong on the planet! Breathe, be where you are, this moment matters… This is the practice, staying present, checking the tendency to be carried away by thoughts- as rational and noble as they may seem.
As the 12th century Zen master Wu-Men reminds us: If your mind is not clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.
There will be another opportunity for alumni to attend the Day of Mindfulness May 17th. I’ll send out an invitation closer to date.
There is a new 4 week Integrative Restoration course beginning March 3rd.
John Kabat-Zinn will be speaking at a public forum Friday, March 7th.
And the Spring MBSR program orientation on March 31st.
Thanks so much, Natasha. The day was wonderful. Surely facilitating groups like these is work you were born to do. You have such a strong, gentle, kind, wise, and skillful hand on the rudder. It’s a joy and a gift to watch you work, even when (I know, I know, I know) “watching you work” isn’t why I’m there. It’s just a fringe benefit.
While considering a holiday message I came across these words of Thich Nhat Hanh, When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love. Isn’t it wonderful to think that we have this capacity within us year round!
MBSR is one method to actualize this capacity. If you have had the training, I hope your mindfulness practice is flourishing and Hahn’s simple words remind you of what you know.
If you are interested in increasing your mindfulness capacity- please join us for one the upcoming introduction and orientation sessions. As these occur during the busy holiday season, we will be sure to offer a few tips for handling holiday stress as well.
In response to alumni requests, we are also introducing a special fee for those that want to repeat the course.
As always, thank you for your support.
May your holidays be filled with acceptance, joy, peace, and love, Natasha
I have one more question I’ve meant to ask in reaction to what you said about meditation and crying several sessions ago – and now that this course is drawing to an end, I better ask it sooner than later: I have heard a number of times that not only is it o.k. to cry during meditation but it is also important and a sign of something deeper happening. I cry a lot. Don’t have an issue with that. However, I never seem to cry in meditation (whether in a group or by myself), or in any group setting – and I am wondering if that means that I am not letting myself experience the full thing? As I am asking the question, the question seems silly to me, but I’ve been through so many meditation sessions with people crying, even or especially the “seasoned meditators” (seems to happen a lot in Shambhala), that I am wondering if I am missing the depth of meditation if I don’t? Not that I *want* to cry while meditating, but sometimes I am wondering if I am somewhat shallow not to… To me it is almost the contrary – when I am really on the breath I can’t cry at the same time. I can rather use meditation to stop my tears and gain composure – if I am remembering to meditate in such a moment. What is your take on this?
Basic Response- You are not missing out on anything necessarily. If you can cry as needed in your life, then you know how to let emotion flow out and through which is what it naturally wants to do. Sadness, Anger, Fear, (even Jealousy, in my training) are natural emotions- if we don’t know how to feel them through, in the right context, they distort us.
And regarding breath concentration- you say “when I am on the breath, I can’t cry at the same time”- that is essentially true. Concentration practices have a way of creating some transcendence. Your concentration on the breath may be too strong to allow emotion to flow?
In this mindfulness training, body and breath are anchors and the bigger practice is awareness- the ability to watch the arising, unfolding, and dissolving of mind phenomena from a place of bare awareness. The ultimate mindful state is non-interference.
So if you cry you cry, if you don’t you don’t. The most important part of the practice on the cushion is that you learning how to work with your direct experience- sensations, emotions, thoughts, impulses in a more conscious way. You are learning how to be with yourself, you are learning how to BE.
There is more to this is all but I think this speaks to your question
What is hard about being present…
Research seems to indicate that when we develop this basic embodied presence, we are integrating brain functions and naturally down regulating emotional re-activity. We are able to align more with present moment reality- what is actually happening now versus what we think is happening now. What is called for right now, versus fight/flight/freeze patterns that take over when we are triggered. This also allows us to be more intentional, to steer our ship where we want it to go, not get thrown off course again and again.
What is hard about being present in this way is that the door to the unconscious or subconscious is more porous. We are aware of more than usual and can be overwhelmed and flooded by unprocessed past material. This is where the crying comes in for instance- you are crying for past hurts and losses, it is a form of release and catharsis and healing actually. Ideally we let it happen, we feel it through and out, we are then more at peace with our feelings and our past experiences, and ready for new and different experiences too.
Yet a lot of us, are afraid of these feelings- afraid to be taken over by them, stuck in them, defined by them. Oddly we are attached to some of them too, they are part of our story of self and we aren’t quite sure of who we would be without them. They come up to consciousness and we reflexively stuff them back away. This is where a rigid concentration practice can be a distorted meditation practice- you are using the practice to hide rather than heal.
With this said, such suppression (conscious or unconsciously initiated) can serve a person if they don’t have the capacity, context, or support to feel it directly right now, or the experience triggers them into a highly reactive or disassociated state. Sometimes this unconscious blocking is actually a survival mechanism. When we see the blocking and make a conscious decision “I can’t go here right now”- that can be a skillful, mindful response.