Some reflections on being an MBSR teacher
By Freada McGoldrick, April 2019
Mythologist Joseph Campbell has a quote. It suggests in life we “..match our heartbeat with the beat of the universe and that we match our nature with Nature”
When my father was 7, his family moved from inner city Dublin to Clonmel, known as The Valley of Honey, in Co. Tipperary. He said he felt ‘all his birthdays had come together’ as he found himself surrounded with sweeping rivers and the lush country landscape.
My father was not a rocket scientist. He didn’t own a fancy car or live a lavish lifestyle. He was a simple man. He ran a business, loved his family wholeheartedly, enjoyed days off salmon fishing in the river Suir and in the winter months could be found walking across the fields with his dogs. He was known as one of ‘natures gentlemen’ and ‘true to himself.’ Naturally, he experienced the joys and bitter tragedies of life and when faced with life challenges would look to Nature….the salmons strength and energy facing many obstacles to find a way home, the seasons letting go to one another naturally, the many currents of the river, the weather constantly changing as sure as light follows darkness, the animal accepting his pain.
He had a way of ‘matching his nature with Nature, his heartbeat with the beat of the Universe’.
So what does this have to do with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction?
Well, it doesn’t mean we have to up sticks, and move to Tipperary!
The MBSR Programme, at least in this teachers opinion, is a kind of inner road map. It has the possibility of leading us inward to our own true nature, or as Derek Walcott puts it, ‘you will meet yourself at your own front door’ and ‘love once again the stranger who was yourself”
MBSR– An Inside Job
Over the years, teaching and learning in the shared space of MBSR – our humanity, our stresses and challenges, from illness to struggling relationships, difficult life situations, to the exhausted carer, shows up in the room. And of course why would we forget our joy, the wonder of the different personalities, heartfelt connections and the realization that our stress, in its various guises, is a shared experience. All is welcome and we are not alone.
As we take out our inner road map, containing the formal and informal daily practices, we begin to embark on this inner journey of awareness.
People begin to hear and now listen to their own words. ‘Time–short’, (a new expression) information overload, more connected to phones and social media than to themselves”. It seems external distraction with FB, texts and podcasts, appears to be one of the ‘normal’ means of stress relief now.
The idea of going for a walk in the forest, or sitting still to meditate may appear a little frightening at first to some. Escaping to the world of distraction feels somehow safer.
Participants realise how they alienate themselves from their inner world and their true nature, how they have been living life from the ‘outside in’ .
The whole range of human experience reveals itself and once again I am aware how united we all are in our humanity and we are not alone.
As the programme unfolds and participants gently embrace the attitudes and practices, perspective begins to shift. Challenges are viewed as opportunities to learn as grow. We are OK with not being OK. All is welcome and we are not alone.
Over the weeks the formal and informal practices, gently continue guiding us inward to meet perhaps our innate curiosity, our joy, our stress, our patterns and habits that deplete and nourish us and whatever else shows up. As a group, no separation, we explore, experiment and experience the daily practices. This inside out experience revealing itself as we explore our inner environment through our breathing, our senses, how our body reacts and responds to the events in our lives. Again all is welcome and we are certainly not alone.
Over time, while stress will still appear, it somehow softens as we continue to learn and cultivate our inner environment to a more sustainable way of living. Perhaps even matching our nature with Nature, knowing that all is welcome and we are not alone.
Freada lives in The Garden of Ireland, in Greystones in Wicklow. You can visit her page here