A huge “Learning Curve” started for me in the 1970’s.
I read a book called the “Relaxation Response” by Dr. Herbert Benson which presented itself again in an updated, more researched version in 2011.
The catalyst was the desire to teach expectant mothers how to mange labor “pain” using relaxation methods in particular – meditation.
Mindful meditation was circulating around and lots of indisputable medical research gave the green light to apply it to childbirth. It made sense and we planned to implement it into our classes at a local hospital where I still teach.
The only thing was neither myself or my colleague really understood meditation and how to “DO” it (I know now that we all know how to do it because we already do it). How could we teach something if we din’t know or experience it ourselves, right?
We signed up for a week long seminar with Jon Kabat Zinn. He is well known, if not famous, for his work in stress management and pain relief using meditation. He coined the term “Mindful Meditation” and this is what we wanted to learn and teach in our classes.
The seminar cost a small fortune! But, short of robbing a bank, and getting a perplexed look from my family, off I went to spend a week away from home (Oh how delightful) and with my colleague, Christine.
Looking back, It was one of the best experiences in my life. However, major learning experiences were coming towards me with no escape…
My friend and I arrived on a rainy day far into New York State country side – beautiful country. The landscape was massive. It included a “Mess Hall” where we had our meals. Near by was a huge garden filled with fresh vegetables that were plucked daily for meals.
There were several small buildings where classes were held on the arts, writing, yoga, and so on. Small cabins lined a narrow paved road where golf carts drove people to and from their cabin. There was also a section where you could camp-out instead of using a a cabin – it was cheaper and more rugged living.
It looked like a tiny village with an “artsy” feel, complete with a cafe, a gift shop and even a spa. Oh, this place was heaven – beautiful and serene.
Our first order of business was to settle in our cabin, go to sleep, as we were expected in the “Great Hall” by 6:00 AM the next morning, and the morning after, and the morning after that.. and so on for a full week.
Awake at 5:00 AM, showered, dressed, and walked the path to the Great Hall as we heard the early chirping of birds singing to the rising summer sun.
When we reached the Great Hall, a rather large building and hollow inside, we were instructed to remove our shoes before entering. When we walked inside to my surprise there were about 200 other people there for the same reason – to learn meditation. We all sat on the floor and Jon Kabat Zinn sat on the stage and began his lecture.
Our week long schedule was this:
Rise at 5:00 AM
Great Hall at 6:00 AM
Meditate – 7:30 AM – 8:30 AM
Breakfast – 8:30 – 9:30 AM
Great Hall – 9:30 – 12 noon ( Meditation, lecture, meditation)
Lunch – 12 noon – 1:00 PM
Great Hall – 1:00 – 5:00 PM (Meditation, lecture, Walking meditation, movement, lecture)
Dinner – 5 – 6:00 PM
Great Hall 6 – 7:30 PM (Meditation
The whole week was like this!
The first day I was restless. I sat on the hard, wood floor with flat cushions that did absolutely nothing to support me my back … and so the mental complaining began. I must have looked serene and relaxed to those who were doing the same as I – peeking to see what everyone else was doing (as they looked serene and peaceful to me).
Little did I know that internally they were having the same issues and mental complaints that no one heard: “I can’t get comfortable …”, “I paid all this money to sit on the floor…”. “I’m not doing anything but sitting ….”, “This is boring …” and so on. The mind chatter blossomed like fireworks – a never ending stream of crazy, useless thoughts twirling around in my head like lit sparklers.
For two days this went on. Mixed with the unpleasantness of eating tofu for a week cooked in every way possible .. I did not know why I came.
By Wednesday, I knew what I was learning: To see and experience how my mind works and how much stress our thoughts cause that contribute to our decisions, choices, life experiences, and health. And there was one simple thing that broke it in an instant.
A single slow, breath….
The lessons were many and emotionally deep. Too many to write about here. But such a profound learning curve to learn how can control my thoughts, I can “let-go” of worries – or worrying about things that haven’t happened yet or never will happen. Of living in the moment. ..
Since this seminar I’ve been able to help so many people by showing them how their minds work and what control they have over their thoughts. Just through a simple practice we all do – we just were never taught how to make it a “skill” to use to develop mental and physical wellness. It’s a wonderful thing.
By the end of the week I had developed an accepting mindset of myself and my life – it was life changing. My whole perception of life, living, relationships, my profession, all changed. A new awareness flowed within me that oozed into everything I did and and would do – my teaching, my family, being a mom. There is a certain peace I experience now and when I get nervous or “up-tight” I can ask questions about what’s happening instead of emotionally reacting.
Whatever learning curve comes your way, let it. It’s temporary and you only benefit from it anyway, what ever it is. You suddenly become what you’ve learned and better.