Kids ages 7-12 are invited to join us next Saturday for the Fall Fun cooking workshop. Details are below.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” – Exodus 20:8
Many balk at the idea of observing a biblical commandment. In fact, a recent Pew study showed that most Americans are becoming less religious, choosing not to affiliate themselves with any one particular faith. While many have developed skepticism towards the Bible and monotheistic religions in general, I can’t help but view the Bible’s essence as spiritual – a spiritual expression of ancient peoples attempting to explain their world.
Viewing the Bible as a spiritual book rather than a doctrine allows us to incorporate its wisdom into our daily lives. One of the teachings that I often reflect upon is the separation between ordinary and holy, work and rest – doing versus being. Exodus 20:8-11 teaches us that we observe the Sabbath, “to keep it holy”, by refraining from work. The definition of what constitutes work has resulted in volumes of biblical commentary. It isn’t so much the work aspect that is of any interest, nor a particular day of observance. Rather, in an increasingly hectic world, how do we define what is holy? How are we creating sacred spaces for ourselves?
Prior to discovering meditation, my own answer to the above question would have included occasionally going to synagogue, lighting Sabbath candles, or journaling. While all of these activities do create a sacred space, I never felt truly rested or separate from the activities of daily life. Going to synagogue or making a Sabbath dinner was always a mad dash from work to the next activity. My journaling always seemed to focus on what wasn’t working, lacking perspective for all of wondrous blessings of my life.
It is only through regular meditation and MBSR that I discovered my own interpretation of Exodus 20:8. If I interpret the text through my Jewish experience, I use the Sabbath to refrain from social media, news, comparisons, and other activities that do not promote mindfulness. Instead, I may begin the day with breathing and meditation. I can choose to read a spiritual satisfying text, create a piece of art, or savor the delicious flavors of a Shabbat meal. I may listen mindfully to my husband, friends, or family.
MBSR has also taught me that this holiness can be carried with me throughout my week. I can intentionally carve out a sacred space for each day. Through meditation and mindfulness practice, I am able to strengthen my own religious practice. I meditate, often reflecting on Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, Adonai, my strength and my Redeemer.” MBSR allows me the space to reflect on what is holy in my own life, and to live with gratitude.
We have lots of fall excitement planned at Sacred Treehouse! We are pleased to announce the following dates:
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
Begins Saturday, September 26, 12:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Free Introduction & Orientation sessions will run throughout September:
Wednesday, September 9th, 5:30 p.m.
Friday, September 11th, 1:00 p.m.
Tuesday, September 15th, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 19th, 11:30 a.m.
Wednesday, September 23rd, 5:30 p.m.
CALM: Teen Mindfulness Workshop
Starting Saturday, October 24th, 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Orientation Required – call for details
Eat Happy Cooking Workshop for Kids presents Fall Fun!
Saturday, October 10th, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
If you would like to register, please click here or call 561-278-6033 for more information.
Our MBSR group is varied. Represented are retirees, professionals, a graduate student, and yours truly. Dr. Shutt encourages us to practice non-judgment with ourselves. Unlike other social situations, MBSR doesn’t focus on titles or achievements. In a world that is driven by seeking external approval, we are taught to go inward, truly feeling whatever comes up for ourselves.
At times, MBSR feels like a voyage to Shambhala. I can hear Three Dog Night playing in my mind and I think to myself, “Yes, this is it. I have found the answer.” Meditation sometimes makes me feel as light as a feather. I feel empowered to surrender, relax and go with life. Other moments come with greater difficulty. I go inward and see my character defects, my incessant striving, and disappointment with myself. I get trapped in the narrative of past failures, missed opportunities, and constant comparisons.
Four weeks into the class, I find myself comparing and striving during meditation and discussion. I feel inadequate. My shared thoughts feel so cumbersome in comparison to my classmates’ insights. I’m not in graduate school. I have neither produced children nor achieved any kind of success valued by our society. I have often felt like I am going nowhere in life.
As I began my descent into the darkest corners of my mind, one of my classmates brought me back to the present with a clever anagram. He shared that meditation refocuses you from nowhere to now here. Everyone stares ahead or looks behind; each generation strives for perfection. The thinking and wishing and regretting leads us nowhere. The solution is to settle the mind, connecting to the here and now.
How is success measured? Many have written books and dissertations on the subject. Although I may never measure up to what society has deemed as successful, on most days, I feel fairly confident that my greatest happiness will be obtained by learning how to live with great compassion and connection to the present moment. Antoine de Saint-Exupery writes in The Little Prince:
“Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, ‘What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?’ Instead, they demand: ‘How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?’”
Mindfulness is teaching me how to look beyond the figures. The “essential matters” are the entirety of mindfulness – sounds, colors, feelings, sensations, etc. By anchoring ourselves to the present, we can learn how not to live as grown-ups, but truly grow up.
I am biting back laughter as I walk conscientiously down the stairs. If I were witnessing this spectacle, I would be taking pictures and texting my husband.
OMG. I just saw six people walking around outside. Just like ZOMBIES. Only in Florida.
Dr. Shutt has introduced us to walking meditation. Our practice consists of being mindful with each step. Each step is taken with care, noting the ground beneath our feet. While walking, we softened our gaze and focused on the ground. We start inside, taking slow steps back and forth on our yoga mats. It’s unusual, but who cares? We all signed up for MBSR. That’s all that matters. The yoga mat feels squishy. The pace is painfully slow and I soon realize slow walking is as frustrating as being caught behind a slow driver. A few more paces and we can get to the good stuff – sitting meditation.
Not quite, though. With mindfulness bells in hand, Dr. Shutt tells us that we will walk outside. We shouldn’t stray too far from the building. When we hear the bells, we are instructed to slowly make our way back. She magnanimously offers us the option to stay indoors. None of us take it. With orchestrated movements, we put on our shoes and file down the steps. My giggles begin.
There is something inherently ridiculous about walking at a snail’s pace with five other people. Really, what is this accomplishing? I feel my cheeks turn flush as I turn the sidewalk corner and see neighbors on the other side. I am trying to focus on my steps. I admire one of the many delights of our tropical oasis, a pink hibiscus. Birds are chirping and I use their melodies as my meditation anchor. As I walk further away from my classmates, I begin to enjoy the experience. Just as I am prepared to walk further, I hear the bells in the distance. All of us meander upstairs. I notice my classmate’s muscles flex with each step. The wooden steps creak and bend as we make our ascent.
With levity, we agree that we did resemble zombies. Dr. Shutt is quick to draw the distinction between our zombie apocalypse and the mindfulness activity we have just completed. We are not undead and mindless, searching for delicious, human flesh. Walking meditation allows us to be fully present, focusing on our external surroundings. By pacing ourselves, we can actually begin to notice. It is another way to cultivate mindfulness and break free from whatever has the ability to make us zombie-like. Put down the phone. Turn off the music. Slow your roll. Breathe. Feel. See. Hear. Live.
Free MBSR Introduction and Orientation
This FREE Introduction and Orientation is required to participate in the 8-week workshop. Additional times may become available, please contact us for more details at (561) 278-6033 or email@example.com.
Click here to Sign up online
Inviting the Uninvited
This week, Dr. Shutt asks us to meditate on Rumi’s “The Guest House”. This poem illustrates the importance of inviting the uninvited. MBSR is teaching us to accept all of our experiences. Read and consider:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexepected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
Translation by Coleman Barks
My meditation on Rumi:
Control makes us miserable. We may be grasping for control without any awareness. Other times, control may give us a false sense of calm and comfort. We try so hard to control people, events and ourselves. How well has this worked? For myself, I have felt most out of control when I was trying too hard to predict outcomes, resist moods, or change others.
Mindfulness teaches us to be observers instead of interpreters. By constantly striving to interpret our experiences, we exhaust our greatest resource – the mind. Reacting, catastrophizing, personalizing – all of these thought patterns create a cloudy existence. Every pain could lead to death. Thoughtless, benign slights turn into grave offenses. How many times have we lashed out and overreacted?
Rumi challenges us to invite the uninvited. We are all vulnerable to sadness, pain, grief, and shame. We may choose to ruminate, getting lost in dark pathways of the mind. We cannot control what shows up, but we have an amazing power available to us through mindfulness practice. When we meditate, we allow ourselves enough space to process our experiences without judgment. When we extend an invitation to all of our experiences, we see with clarity our universal experience. When I sit with myself, I am honoring all parts of being. Today, I live with a grateful heart.
“A mind that is fast is sick. A mind that is slow is sound. A mind that is still is divine.” – Meher Baba
A series of intuitive decisions and curious circumstances lead me to this Wednesday morning. This is the first of eight Wednesday mornings where six eager students will learn the ways of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR. Through collating documents, printing flyers, and snooping around on bookshelves, I learned that MBSR is a stress reduction program founded by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Dr. Kabat-Zinn elaborates on MBSR in Full Catastrophe Living – the MBSR equivalent to the Bible. Some core MBSR principles, as identified by Dr. Kabat-Zinn, include:
As a typically impatient, anxious, untrusting of life’s great processes type of person, I knew I had been divinely led to this opportunity. All of my personal progress within the last year and a half had endowed me with enough sense to actually see the opportunity. My own self-growth now included a meditation practice in its infant stages. I would sometimes lie down in silence, repeating affirmations and noting thoughts. Other times, I would go to YouTube for guided meditations that sounded more robotic than human (and usually accompanied by really awful sound effects). I was lucky if I made it through twenty minutes without falling asleep or thinking about some far-off event. My mind had gone from fast to slow-ish. How would it even be possible to experience that divine stillness?
The journey to this divine stillness begins with Dr. Shutt. We sit on our yoga mats, all of us resembling children, as she explains non-judgment and beginner’s mind. After gentle yoga stretches, we return seated onto our mats. We hold out our hands while she pours Craisins into our palms. We are instructed to approach our food with an unknowing mind. We smell, touch, taste, and chew slowly. In a slightly breathy and completely soothing voice, Dr. Shutt guides us through a body scan. Each bone, muscle and ligament is analyzed. Does it hurt? Is it warm? What feels good today?
We are instructed to go home and practice mindfulness through daily use of the body scan, mindful meals, and simply paying attention. I savor my yogurt. I listen to my internal dialogue. I complete Dr. Shutt’s recorded body scans daily. Along the way, I have small moments of realization. Why do I look for only negative sensations during the body scan? What does this say about how I filter all of my experiences? There were larger revelations too. This practice, although solitary, benefits from group learning and exposure. It was through discussion that I realized that we all fall asleep or wander off. Beginner’s struggles are not unique. We all come to this class for various reasons. We share judgments and anxieties, holding on to “stuff” for far too long. We rush and react our way through life.
Those of us who have gathered are seekers. We are hopeful that change is possible. I have read and heard that prayer is speaking to the Divine, while meditation is listening. Using all of our senses, we are now ready to turn inward and listen.