In Introductions to both Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness for Financial Advisors, I occasionally get asked: "How do I apply this in my life? Where does it fit? When do I do it?"
I'm Doing It Wrong
If someone is asking me that question during an intro, that's fine, but if they ask it during or after a class, I'm doing it wrong. Teaching, that is.
"Mindfulness is a Way of Being, In Relation to Everything"
This is one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and began offering it in 1979. Mindfulness classes involve experiences of the formal practice of mindfulness. During class, you learn the formal practices. I assign daily home practice of at least 10 minutes in addition to some activity, like maybe brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, mindful movement, or mindful eating.
When you do the daily practice, in earnest, even though some of it strikes you as weird or boring, something some call "magic" happens. It suddenly occurs to you to pause more and check in on what's happening in your body. Your behavior starts to shift. You notice things you didn't notice before. Your relationships develop an ease to them (although some get bumpy as a result of your newfound awareness). You have a new relationship with your body and what is involved in its movements. You have an appreciation for how you construct emotions and stress in your body.
It's Not Magic, Though
Mindfulness class and the formal practices you learn while in class prepare you for . . . the rest of your waking life. They prepare you for meeting moments in a more skillful way. And I say it's not magic because, as you have read dozens of times if you read this blog, we become what we practice. When you attend mindfulness class and commit to the home practice, you are changing your brain. You are creating a brain that predicts you will be more aware, regulated, receptive, and equanimous.
Mindfulness Doesn't Tell You What To Do
When we say that mindfulness is a way of being, that means once you have a stable, consistent practice, how you are changes. How you see, how you listen, what you attend to, and how you are able to handle difficult emotions in your own body as well as those coming from someone else. There's no if/then or when/then. All we have is the practice. And that is plenty. We constantly pause, gather information from our own nervous systems as well as those around us, assess the entire situation, and then trust our practice enough to know that the next move that arises from within us--that comes from our practice--will be the most skillful.
WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN?
It means that although there are plenty of books on mindfulness, the way to mindfulness is by practicing mindfulness. There's no way around it.
Lifetime Access for Everyone Who Takes a Course
This isn't your regular lifetime access to materials. It means that once you take a course, you can keep taking it. It's different every time because you're different every time. If you want to keep going with it because that guarantees you will actually practice at least once a week, have at it! All I ask is that you dedicate the time for the classes and the retreat, as the people in the class come to bond from the shared experience and they want to be surrounded by others equally committed.