Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
It all starts with a simple raisin.
I recently finished an 8-week (weekly) course on meditation. Meditation was one of those things that I had always wanted to do but it was just not high enough on the priority list to rise to the top. It was one of those things that I wasn’t going to begin in ernest with just a book or even a not-in-person class. I needed real humans on a regular basis to make it all happen.
There were quite some skeptics in the room of 18-or-so people when we started with the raisin. I won’t spoil the surprise, but if you stick with the class beyond the raisin opener, you’ll probably be in it for the long haul. If you can associate, relate to, and see that raisin, you can go beyond what you thought you were capable of.
In fact, I might even stop there. I was going to do an elaborate review of the course, but it comes down to that, really:
Can you clear out the clutter and focus on a single thing?
The raisin or your breath or your left foot. Can you brush aside all of of the goings on in your mind and bring it down to a single thought or focus? It’s so incredibly difficult that even after eight weeks and almost daily meditation, I feel like I’m about in third grade. Yes, I’ve progressed beyond kindergarten, but I’m nowhere near graduating even from elementary school yet. But I’ll get there. In fact, I not-so-secretly like that it’s difficult. It’s one of those things:
If it were so easy and provided such results, everyone would do it.
But it’s not so easy. Sure, anyone can lie down on their back for 42 minutes and think of their right forearm. But what does that get you? This is the point and it’s the one that I have a hard time grappling with: it’s a bit of a Non Goal. The goal is not to have a goal. The class clown would jump up and say, “Great, class dismissed! We all get an A!”
Here’s an analogy I appreciate and maybe can help explain.
- You want to lose weight.
- You think you need to go on a diet.
If your “goal” is actually to eat healthier, which you can do every meal of your day quite easily, you will probably lose weight. Your original goal is no longer your goal and thanks to this, you might actually achieve it more easily. With meditation, if you lie there and say 47 times, “I need to be less stressed, I need to be less stressed.” don’t hold your breath that your stress will diminish. But if you, for example, and this is the simplest of tools we learned–but perhaps the most powerful–can just focus on your breath and only on your breath, chances are your thoughts of your 92 stressful events will diminish. It’s hard to bring it down to the single thought (just the focus on the breath), but if you try, you can do it. It just takes practice. You’ll get better. Stick with it. You’ll be better.
I think the best part of the MBSR course is that I feel it wasn’t 8 weeks and done. It was 8 weeks and now it’s just the beginning of something that will be with me for the rest of my life–and my life will be all the better for it.