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Mindful : August 2017
Along with the weekly classes, the MBSR course also hosts a daylong silent retreat devoted to the formal practices taught up to that point. At our retreat last weekend, we were guided through yoga done standing and on the mat, walking and seated meditation, the body scan, and a buffet lunch consumed mindfully. It was all capped off with instruction in one last major course skill: “loving-kindness” meditation, a breath-focused ritual intended to help cultivate feelings of con- cern and compassion for oneself and others, be they loved ones or those presumably undeserv- ing of our affection. In hindsight, most participating in this intense day of mindfulness felt like it had nudged forward their meditation practice in subtle but positive ways—even if the sentiment of loving-kindness aimed at the likes of the president-elect and his minions was a bridge too far. I had similar misgivings, but the overall experience nevertheless paid me rich dividends: I was again plagued by insomnia just prior to the retreat (another reminder that there’s no straight line to success), but since then I’ve reac- celerated my march toward full, restful nights of sleep, together with the benefits that conveys. Learning to pay special attention to the wide range of stimuli we encounter daily, from food and conver- sation to news and entertainment. WEEK 07 Pause and Affect And as the course heads for its final ses- sion, I’m noticing other positive changes, both in the meditation practice and in my life in general. My time devoted to MBSR, which has become an indispensable part of my day, is more enjoyable and, as a result, keeps expanding. The once-baffling Full Catastrophe Living now provides me clear insights. I choose my words more carefully in conversation, so as to project empathy instead of snarkiness or dismissive- ness. I’m less affected by what once were minor annoyances. Eating is a far richer experience. I strive to be more forgiving and less judgmen- tal: the driver who nearly clipped my car in a parking lot wasn’t a jerk, as I used to reflexively think, but merely someone who didn’t see me. In fact, this ever-developing trait of respond- ing to stressors rather than automatically react- ing has been nurtured along over the last week by the “sacred pause”—a newly learned adjunct to our practice that helps to purposefully recon- nect throughout the day to the present moment. A few well-timed breaths, it turns out, deliver the pause that truly refreshes. Try a practice from Bob Stahl's MBSR workbook at mindful.org/MBSR 52 mindful August 2017