On Wednesday, February 1, I will travel to the Vipassana Meditation Center in Onalaska, WA for a ten-day Goenka meditation retreat. I am a bit overwhelmed and intimidated, but these are the folks who focus on the body scan, and that has become the foundation for my practice. It helps that we have a friend here on Whidbey Island who has been facilitating these retreats for about 30 years, though he will not be at this one. I notice a process leading up to this, but do not want to intrude on it by blogging about it! Will report back Feb 12!
Archive for the ‘Mindfulness’ Category
No, I have not studied with the Dalai Lama or even with Jack Kornfield. I have not become a millionaire or a celebrity through my magnetic presence – Oprah has not called. I do not even sit every day.
My start with this practice/subject is Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The Miracle of Mindfulness.” My original copy, purchased after coming back from France in 1995, is falling apart, filled with dated highlights. At least once a week, I open the office copies (two offices, two copies) for some harried soul who complains of not having time for self. Usually, I show them the defining example of Allen realizing that “all time is my time.”
A couple of observations on this book. One, it starts with the idea that we practice mindfulness all day long, that we should not divide our time into “parts.” Then it lays out the critical importance of having a day of mindfulness every week, no matter how urgent our work. This practice seems much more do-able for someone saving the world than it does for someone like my son and his wife, with four young kids.
Another observation. The Miracle of Mindfulness is a resource, but it is not a manual. While NOT exhausting the field of all possible variations, I am most impressed by Terry Fralich’s new book, “Cultivating Lasting Happiness, a 7-Step Guide to Mindfulness,” as a real how-to book for beginners. I attended Terry’s workshop several years ago and retained two things. The power and importance of the soothing exhale. And Terry saying it took him 12 years to be able to sit daily!There is hope for the rest of us!
Back to Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the things I keep from his book is an awareness that mindfulness is bigger than the version that has filtered to the west, which mostly focuses on sitting. Both Terry and Ron Segal, whose wonderful workshop I recently attended, separate “formal” and “informal” practice. “Formal practice” is sitting while “informal” is what one does throughout the day. Could just be me, but maybe they should separate it into “practice” or “preparation” and “performance” or “real life.”
Four or five years ago I spent several half-days in Monterey with Ron Alexander,PhD, who is about to publish the book he was talking about then. His workshop was experiential and powerful, though he butchered his PowerPoint by trying to combine slides from at least two different presentations. He kept getting lost, which I find validating in my own life-long struggle to defeat and/or accept absent-mindedness.
I also attended another PESI workshop on mindfulness, as well as one on Byron Katies “work” which incorporated and emphasized mindfulness. Heard Eckhart Tolle in Seattle, love his descriptions of mindfulness, though he refuses to use the word. My copy of “the Power of Now” is as marked up as my copy of TNH, though I am somewhat disenchanted, for reasons to be addressed in another blog. Most recently, I attended Terry Real’s two-day workshop on “relational mindfulness.” Dynamite! Probably the best workshop I have ever attended. Terry thinking on his feet in one clinical scenario after another. As my British wife might say, Terry was consistently “spot on.”
We are at 500 words. This gives you some idea of my background in “mindfulness” as such. I have not related it (yet) to my clinical training and experience or to my understanding of the Twelve Steps, which cultivate mindfulness in ways implicit and explicit. One blog at a time!