I had the opportunity to travel to Ft Lauderdale, FL last week for a residential 9-day practicum in MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). This is one of the major milestones to be qualified to teach MBSR in Des Moines. I joined 80 other people that were taking the condensed version of the 8-week course, during the first 5 days. Then approximately 30 of us stayed an extra 4 days afterward and completed the teacher training.
It confirmed my notion that this is the next major public health movement. There were people attending from 16 different states and countries like Canada, Switzerland, Lebanon, France, Spain, Ecuador and Colombia. Professionals, mostly from healthcare and education: MD’s, psychologists, psychiatrists, professors, and then people like me, who are in the business world and seeing that there needs to be a change in our societies – healthcare, education, government, and the workplace. A group coming together, of like-minded individuals that are passionate about spreading mindfulness throughout our communities, mostly because of how it has completely affected our own lives.
My experience was unique and peculiar, much like my Vipassana training in March (more on that here). However, in full mindfulness way-of-being, it was all about self-care and compassion for yourself and others, so it was MUCH more gentle and enjoyable. It meant really taking GOOD care of yourself – fully knowing what your body needs at that particular moment. Some of the foundational attitudes of mindfulness is: Beginners Mind, Non-Striving, Patience, Non-Judgement, and Acknowledgement. So it was much more gentle and emotionally stimulating than 10 days of sensory deprivation. 🙂
What really made the whole experience so memorable were the people I met. Literally, from all over the world. I can’t even begin to explain the absolute depth that we opened ourselves up. I experienced a giant amount of patience, vulnerability, kindness and acceptance from this group of individuals. We were COMPLETE strangers, yet sitting down with nearly everyone, I felt a such an immediate connection and it was effortless to open up and show my true self. Ultimately, it was our group of three wise teachers that built a container to allow us to feel safe enough to continue this journey of self-discovery.
I was completely surprised at the fact that I got choked up, pretty much right after opening my mouth during introductions. (There was a lot of tears by many throughout the program – it was encouraged to air your laundry through the filter of mindfulness, non-judgement, and self-compassion.) The smaller group of us teachers-in-training met before the program started. We went around in a circle, introducing ourselves. Looking back, I was bringing with me an enormous amount of nervousness, excitement and realization that I was *finally* materializing my dream and passion. The question offered was: “Why are you here?”….Then probing deeper: “Why are you really here?” On the surface level, my answer was: I came to learn to teach mindfulness. At the root, I came to find deeper peace, health, be a better wife, mother, friend, daughter, and when I got right down to it, to find myself…..insert waterworks in front of strangers and utter embarrassment. 🙂
Lastly, this style of learning was so foreign, but fascinating. Adult experiential learning is by far the way to really digest mindfulness instead of just being lectured to. One our teachers said, “If you’re not willing to be undone by this experience and this way of teaching, then this may not be the right fit for you.” She was exactly right – teaching mindfulness is a delicate undertaking. It requires an enormous about of courage and guts to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Which, ultimately, that’s how we heal ourselves.
I never knew how much power and strength there is in vulnerability, “a radical act of love” as Jon Kabat-Zinn coins. As Saki Santorelli, Executive Director of the UMass Medical School, Center for Mindfulness explains, we need to “soften the moments of uncertainty instead of harden to our small armored resources.” There is an illusion in our culture that if we constantly protect ourselves that we’ll be less hurt. Teaching this is soul work, it’s meeting fear with calmness and sitting with being uncomfortable, embracing the unwanted, and as a result, we break open. This deep, human connection is what we’re craving.