Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
Nadine Stair, eighty-five years old, Louisville, Kentucky
Are you living your moments? I am trying to live mine more consciously, though I still have days when I look at the clock and cannot for the life of me figure out where that day’s precious moments went.
The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program offered by the University of Minnesota taught me how to access the most effective resource we can all use to be present for our moments: the breath. Our bodies contain, always within reach and free of charge, the single best tool we have for improved health and for living in the present. Even when we cannot find the words to pray, the motivation to dial the phone, or the clarity of mind to solve a problem, we can breathe. This is a gift we take for granted every day.
Of course this seems deceptively simple (who, after all is alive and not breathing?) But how to breathe…mindfully, consciously, deeply…these are things we can and must be taught, because we forgot it early in life, as the noise and activity of the world crowded in on our natural sense of calm. The shape of our breathing is unfortunately dictated most often by our actions and thoughts. It should rather be the other way around, because our breath can dictate the pace of our lives.
I really benefited from the enforced practice and support of the MBSR program as I sought to bring mindful breathing (and silence) more solidly into my life. A wide variety of people participated in my particular session. We all had our own reasons for wanting to live more in the present. The founder of the program, Jon Kabat-Zinn, refers to mindfulness as falling awake, and that is what we were seeking to do. We acknowledged that we had been living our lives as sleepwalkers. I knew that I was made to live with more intention and purpose. Arise, oh sleeper, awake! (Ephesians 5:14). Learning to be more mindful gave me the opportunity to connect with my life and my true self.
Our breathing has the virtue of being a very convenient process to support ongoing awareness in our daily lives. As long as we are alive, it is always with us. We can’t leave home without it. It is always here to be attended to, no matter what we are doing or feeling or experiencing, no matter where we are. Tuning in to it brings us right into the here and now. It immediately anchors our awareness in the body, in a fundamental, rhythmic, flowing life process.
Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., is founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also the founding director of its renowned Stress Reduction Clinic and Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He teaches mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in various venues around the world. He received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT in 1971 in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Salvador Luria.
He founded the MBSR program originally to work with chronic pain and heart patients who were not benefiting from any other type of medical treatment. The results were astounding. If you want to find out more, you can watch John Kabat-Zinn speak here:
The most precious gift you can give to the one you love is your true presence. What must we do to really be there?
…Meditating is above all being present: to yourself, to those you love, to life.
So I would propose a very simple practice to you, the practice of mindful breathing: “Breathing–I know that I am breathing in; breathing–I know that I am breathing out.” If you do that with a little concentration, then you will be able to really be there, because in our daily life our mind and our body are rarely together.
Our body might be there, but our mind is somewhere else. Maybe you are lost in regrets about the past, maybe in worries about the future, or else you are preoccupied with your plans, with anger or with jealousy. And so your mind is not really there with your body.
Between the mind and the body, there is something that can serve as a bridge. The moment you begin to practice mindful breathing, your body and your mind begin to come together with one another. It takes only ten to twenty seconds to accomplish this miracle called oneness of body and mind.
With mindful breathing, you can bring body and mind together in the present moment, and everyone of us can do it,
Even a child.
Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart
University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program http://www.csh.umn.edu/programs/Mindfulness_Based_Stress_Reduction_MBSR/home.html
Classes are offered in quite a few different locations around the Twin Cities and at different sessions throughout the entire year. Scholarships are also available if the fee is an obstacle to your participation.