Reflections on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction from Sarah

This summer I gleefully signed up for Gina Sager’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction 8 week Class (aka MSBR). As I did I was thinking, “How wonderful! I will have homework, and a chance to develop a meditation practice, and an exposure to new tools on how to balance my life. I can’t wait.” I hope you too are grinning as you plan to take Gina’s 8-week MSBR workshop. I can promise you one thing: you may not get exactly what you want. I love taking classes and if like me, this change of weather and the promise of Autumn makes you crave filling a back pack and sharpening your pencils, and if you like taking classes that help you grow you will love this experience. But I don’t recommend you think of it as a learning experience, more as a growing experience.  

Let me explain: In most classes what changes from the beginning to the end is what I have learned –it is in my brain or in a notebook I usually won’t re-read. For me what shifted was how I am. Or rather, how I “be” to use poor grammar and a wonderful way of wording this shift. How do I “be” in my heart, in my body, in this conversation, just with this breath. By being present.

There is no grade. There is no getting “it”. For the first time in my life I didn’t take notes. This alone was a huge transformation for me. What I experienced: sometimes growing and delving more deeply is painful.  Each week Gina presents powerful and deeply penetrating concepts. Yes, weekly homework is given, and daily meditation practices are part of homework. Some of the weekly topics of homework (that you are encouraged to write down to record your experience but no one else is reading them) are practices such as: “Do not give advice unless it is asked for” or  “Begin to notice when you are on automatic pilot” to name a couple. Some of my journaling looked like this: Wait? What! How do I just stand there when advice should be given, err well it’s a practice. Where did my lunch go? I was on the computer and I looked down at my plate: I swear, someone else ate my lunch!

The biggest awakening for me was early on. In the first week, Gina with a completely delighted expression, and as though she was sharing it for the first time ever said: “Do you know that you get to choose what gets your attention?” To me this is (actively breath by breath) mind-blowing, or perhaps “stress releasing”. So now, I get to notice when my thoughts have been de-railed and then pause, come back to the realization that the choice is mine. I am forever grateful to not spend so much time with so many fictitious worries.

I learnt a lot about myself (that my family and friends probably could have told me long ago!) One crafty trait of mine I am now more careful to use intentionally: my passion for problem solving often has me in a distracted state. I will even strive to solve a problem that may not even exist! While in Gina’s class I realized that a lifetime of that focus means I am missing seeing that which is under my nose. Thus, that I am letting life pass me by when I am in my head and not my body.  I can’t wait to hear how her workshop enhances your life too.


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