On March 4, Kosha Yoga teachers Elizabeth Perryman and Jill Zastko exchanged happy congratulations with our newest Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction graduates. The effects of eight weeks of commitment and practice were evident through the smiles and tears (many joyful!) of our participants, as well as in the insights and sharing exchanged, not only during the final class, but all the way through the entire course. What a delight it was to spend quality time, fully present to each other. A common reflection of many participants is that there is truly something to taking on mindfulness meditation practice with a group, that cannot be replicated in solo practice.
Many of our MBSR course participants begin a course with no prior meditation experience. Some join us because of health concerns, or their self-awareness that they need to try something different to help keep the negative effects of stress from overwhelming their personal, family, or professional lives. As each week goes by, and the cumulative effects of the daily practice are sensed, a growing knowledge of one’s innate wisdom and resilience begins to emerge. Along with this, a sense of being part of something bigger than oneself, especially through the group process.
While having the guidance of a well-qualified and embodied teacher is beneficial, one finds that the body of the teaching and learning is shared with the participants. Every MBSR class is moored in trust and confidentiality, allowing everyone to share in a way that is respectful and recognizes the experience of each individual as an integral component of the whole. What makes MBSR unique in many respects from other meditation practices is the process of inquiry and mindful listening and speaking that is part of every class.
Over the eight-week course, participants receive guided meditation instruction, learn to re-connect body and mind through body scan meditations, and practice other tools for self-care. We also learn additional tools for awareness, such as mindful walking and movement. We practice yoga in terms of uniting the wisdom of body and mind. In this way, the physical signals often perceived as “stress” in the body, become an awakening to greater awareness and agency in meeting difficult moments, communications, and even illness. In this way, participants learn to take greater control of their ability to perceive and respond to stress in a more balanced, nourishing way.
Grounded in the attitudes of mindfulness, such as patience, non-striving, and beginner’s mind, we begin to learn the power of our attention and practice. The teachers encourage participants with an approach that is unlike other modes of learning, modifying and responding to the reality of what is brought to the class each week through the real-life and real-time examples of practice in daily life.
One of the real turning points for many participants is the experience of the all-day silent retreat, held on a weekend day, between Class 6 and 7. We call this a “Day of Mindfulness” and while every person brings her or his own ideas of what the experience might be like before the day, many find they have a much different impression after. As a true act of self-care, we hold aside an entire morning and afternoon of silence to support, strengthen, and deepen the commitment and intention we began the course with. We even encounter a few surprises and many “ah-ha moments” along the way.
As one of our participants commented at the final class: “If this is what can happen in eight weeks, what might my life be like with a lifetime of practice?” We encourage you to come find out for yourself.
Check out the “Workshops” page for more information on how to register for a free “Taste of Mindfulness” orientation session. Our next MBSR course begins in April. We look forward to seeing you there!