MBSR Mindfulness Week 4: Discipline

mbsr-week4This week’s class reminded me that even if you have been practicing yoga, mindfulness, breathing, meditation, etc. for a number of years, WOW if we don’t still have ingrained patterns. Mine? Issues with discipline…

Which also reminded me that the point of this stuff is not to “fix” something. (Which seems counter-intuitive, I know.) The point of this specific class, and these tools, is purely to bring awareness around that which already is. (MBSR is based on Vipassana Meditation which means to “see things as they are.”) Ok two soap boxes right off the bat —

  • #1) This is the reason I took this particular class, (MBSR) instead of any number of other workshops, classes, info-sandwhiches that I could have spent time and money on this fall. There has been a pervasive theme in my teaching and practice this year around OBSERVATION. The pure and simple act of not trying to change something, but just look at it. Spend time observing it, noticing it, assessing it. Which leads me to the second soap box.
  • #2) This is why practice never becomes something you don’t have to do anymore. OBSERVATION is not meant to deliver the win, the goal, the sudden “I’m all better.” Which is a very challenging concept for our minds that have been attuned to a culture of  “I want to achieve X,” and “I want to have Y,” and “if this, then that.” The point of this stuff is to expand what you know – what you are aware of – by observation. THEN you can make a more informed decision about how to act.

It’s a tricky little step that we like to skip over. We are so concerned with gettingif-this-then-that someplace the fastest way possible, that we forget the incredible value and learning potential of taking time to stand still and just watch what is already happening.

Amazingly, I’m four weeks into this course, three years into teaching this kind of thing, and thirteen years into practicing it…. and this week I was reminded that my old habit of trying to skip over and take the fast track has been winning my attention without me realizing it. What does this mean? It means, I tend to go with where I want to be, instead of practicing discipline to go through the steps that someone has laid out for me (with mountains of research to show that this process is important.) Here’s how this has played out for me:

I have a silent meditation practice that I very much enjoy. I get to take time to breathe, and bring breath and energy into the places of my body where I think I need it, when I feel that I need it within the time frame of sitting. MBSR asks the participant to listen to a 30-minute body scan every day. A voice slowly guides your attention to different parts of your body, feeling your breath, noticing this and that. Personally, I tend to find the recording distracting, and not nearly as pleasant as my silent meditation. And I have been justifying the prioritization of my silent meditation over the body scan because I strongly believe that we all need to do a better job of listening to our bodies, and I found it easier to listen to my body in silence……… ahem, and I’m also incredibly stubborn and struggle with focus and discipline.

I suddenly saw that my patterns – which I am theoretically aware of, due to former “yoga-piphanies” (realizations) during practice – were keeping me from fully engaging in THIS process… from choosing discipline which is required to try a new process, over what I know and am comfortable with. Gulp. Humility, you’re such a stubborn bitch sometimes.

Now does that mean my silent meditation practice is bad, and this other practice will be better for me? No. It means I became aware of a pattern of mine rearing its head again. Even when I was trying to be proactive, or thought I was being proactive. I am going to have patterns – we are all going to have patterns – and that is ok (and in fact good) because our patterns help us to have structure and be comfortable. On a very primal scale, our patterns help us to survive by defining when we are hungry, when we are in danger, when we need sleep, etc. But being aware of our patterns allows us to try on something different. It gives us options, and sometimes we find that our patterns are actually not serving us always, every time.

What is does mean is that we’re always going through life, so as long as we want to stay current, and have our greatest capability and potential to evolve and be present, we must must must must practice…


We often think that when we have completed our study of one, we know all about two because two is one and one. We forget that we still have to make a study of “and.”

– Arthur Eddington, Astrophysicist

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