Letter from Publisher: Living Mindfully
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose in the present moment and nonjudgmentally. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
I’ve often felt a bit envious when my friend Linda talks about her week-long silent meditation retreats and regular mindfulness practice. I can feel her calm focus whenever she visits; meanwhile, I’m multitasking and jumping subjects, coping with my overscheduled life.
I’ve worked with an array of mindfulness and meditation practices through the years with good success. This year, I was ready to take it to a new level and went in search of fresh support.
During a recent visit, Linda shared why she’s a fan of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that Jon Kabat-Zinn developed in 1979 for chronically ill patients unresponsive to traditional treatments. Soon after, I noticed that local trainer Madeline Ebelini’s eight-week class was starting the next week. Without pausing to weigh the commitment of engaging in new daily practices during the height of Southwest Florida’s busy tourist season, I jumped in with both feet.
Thinking, thinking… breathing; this is what I noticed during Madeline’s guided group meditations, bringing awareness to my busy mind, churning like a machine on autopilot. I’m often not even aware of all the inner commotion. Madeline kept reminding us that there is no need to judge anything, including ourselves; just lovingly bring our attention back to the present with our breath. It was one of several daily practices I’ve been refining since the 1970s, all enhanced for me as the course unfolded.
During class, we practiced cultivating mindfulness while sitting, walking and doing yoga, as well as at home going about our lives, including eating, brushing teeth and unloading the dishwasher. Learning how to be present in our lives helps keep us from being hooked by automatic tendencies to judge, fix or want things to be other than as they are. For more on the class, see Linda Sechrist’s article “The Benefits of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” on page 42 of the print magazine.
I loved the fun and tender rewards discovered in exchanging stories with others in the group about how big and little things were changing in our lives by bringing new awareness to each moment. Our perspectives and responses to everything from irritation with traffic to interactions with mates were shifting.
The highlight for me arrived during the one-day silent retreat at the end of the course. Held primarily outdoors in a beautiful nature setting, the luxury of shutting out the busy world for calm silent observation all day allowed new kinds of insight and understanding to emerge. I closed the session revitalized on all levels, as refreshed as if I’d been on a perfect vacation.
I am continuing these daily practices and now feel more present in my life from moment to moment, which I count as my real meditation. I expect my deeper awareness will enhance my experience while visiting Egypt’s pyramids this month; look for highlights in next month’s letter.
Here’s to being present in your life so you don’t miss it!