MBSR: Mindfulness Week #1

mbsrWe all have a default mode.

Mine is definitely to keep moving. Keep thinking. Pour my mind and attention into what am I doing next? What do I need to work on next? I have a bit of work-a-holic-ism in me, and it often winds up (pun intended) as an overload of anxiety. I get burned out, my low back starts aching, and I can’t quite seem to focus on any ONE thing enough to get ANYthing done.

Classic burnout. Which is why activities like yoga and breathing exercises (and singing) have always been so helpful for me. They change my focus and attention into something physical, giving my brain a much-needed break.

MBSR, or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, has gotten some buzz in recent years. It’s been in our culture since 1979 with the writing of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Full Catastrophe Living,” With the increase of tension, stress, anxiety, depression, social media, yada, yada, yada… the use of MBSR is growing in recent years. And there is research upon research upon research that this stuff works in a very VERY universal way. It’s been used for people with chronic insomnia, depression, anxiety, organ-transplant recipients, care-takers of cancer and Alzheimers… the list kind of goes on forever.

So first a flashback:

Through my yoga practice over the years, I have dabbled with meditation plenty. It can be a challenge if the mind is still wandering… you’re stuck trying to lie still, and meanwhile your mind is racing through what you have to do, should do, should have done, don’t want to do, really want to do… the first time I did an extended sitting (30 minutes) I remember having waves of discomfort, then pain, sometimes numbness… and then I’d remember that while it was TOTALLY FINE TO BE FOCUSED ON MY DISCOMFORT, STOP FREAKING OUT… I was also allowed to gently say “oh well,” and return my focus to my breath… and every time I did that: relief. My pain would seem less intense. My discomfort would melt into this big cloud of air in my lungs… I remember being mesmerized by this whole process in realizing how much attention, how much power I was actually GIVING to the very things causing me pain and discomfort. And when I managed to send my attention toward my breath instead… more specifically to wherever my breath felt free, and full, and comfortable… a sense of power, and well-being followed. Stat. After years of being medicated for physical ailments of allergies, I felt better using this breathing stuff than any drug the doctor gave me…

MBSR gives gentle verbal reminders of where your attention could be. It allows for people to have something to wrap all that breath and attention around. And damned if it doesn’t feel GOOD to be that present with your breath. With the very thing giving you LIFE moment after moment.

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Pardon the drama, but it kind of felt like this to me!

So, here I go, on a 9-week adventure into my own mind… We’ll see what comes up. So far, I’m just feeling grateful to be a part of this movement of wellness, mindfulness, and the study of how we all interact with ourselves, in order to better interact with the world around us…

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