5 things to practice during a mindfulness course

Here are five things you may want to practice as you go through a Mindfulness-Based intervention (MBSR, MBCT, MB-anything):

1 – Practice!  Try your best to do the “homework”.  We play around with the word, calling it “homework” may lead to feelings of being back in school.  So we call it “home practice”, “gifts”, “suggestions”, and so on.  But let’s get real – it’s work you have to do away from the clinic.  So the first thing to do as practice is to notice what happens when this work is called what it is.  This is a great chance to practice seeing things for what they are and watching our habitual reactivities arise.

2 – Old understandings.  We have a wisdom that we’ve cultivated over time.  These are mental models of how we understand the world and its impact on us.  It’s normal to try and fit this new information into those models.  At the same time, we run the risk of missing out on learning how to develop a new model of the world.  Try to come at the material in the course as if you’re a young child at your first practice (soccer, football, music, dance).  See if you can just do the steps and routines without pulling back into the old understandings – which may actually just be old stories of how you want the world the work.

3 – Where’s the Buddha?  More and more of our participants are coming to the clinic with an awareness that mindfulness is based in Buddhism.  This is terrific because it means there’s an educated consumerism growing.  Like buying a car, it’s important to know what you’re getting!  You may feel surprised or even disappointed however when there’s no talk about Buddhas, Buddhism or spirituality in the program.  Often people will leave the course because they wanted “something more spiritual” than “learning how to meditate.”  Although there’s nothing wrong with wanting something different, take a look at what’s motivating your desire.  Even in the most dedicated of Buddhist centers, all practice begins with meditation.  And, practice is only ever about knowing ourselves.

4 – No Heroes.  The facilitators can seem like they are the experts.  Certainly they have a level of training and psychological understanding of how the process of mindfulness unfolds.  You, on the other hand, are the real expert in knowing what you’re feeling in each moment!  You might say, we’re the screen and you’re the film.  This is a chance to know You. 

5 – Listen deeply.  Every course has a different format.  If yours includes sharing your experience, don’t stop listening when the awareness shifts to someone else.  The interaction between the facilitators and participant has a richness that is applicable to everyone, not just the participant in the dialogue.  Listen deeply to what is being shared.  It helps to cultivate openness to the perspective of others.  It also gives us insight to our knee jerk tendency and a chance to practice generosity when our hot buttons are pushed.

Enjoy your practicing!

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