This is the title of one of the chapters in John Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness for Beginners. It’s also a concept that I’ve been struggling with these past few days. Wholeness. Specifically, not knowing and understanding my purpose in life.
Within any turmoil and fragmentation that we may be feeling when we begin to examine our lives and our minds with greater clarity and inquisitiveness, we may also find a long-ignored and frustrated yearning – a longing to live a more integrated life, to experience non-fragmentation for a change, to be at home in our own skin. Who doesn’t long for that kind of peace and well-being? – John Kabat-Zinn
I’m a creature of habit. I think I’ve mentioned this before. And when I’m not in my usual environment it’s so easy for me to get out of my normal routine. In the past eleven days, I’ve only been at home for three of them. Between my trip to Texas and my MOACAC conference for work, I’ve been in unfamiliar environments and locations, making it difficult for me to find my normal. I’ve only exercised three times (once outside my cabin with a couple of students), I fell asleep without praying on Monday when I finally checked into my hotel room, and I haven’t done any meditation in two weeks.
Today was my fifth MBSR class. Each week we take time to check in and see how each other’s practice and homework went the week before. Because of spring break, we haven’t seen each other since March 22nd and that was the last day I practiced. When it was time for me to report on how things were going, I simply said that they weren’t. Of the students in our class, I definitely talk the least. I mentioned to my instructor that I had a lot going on during spring break, this week at work, and I just couldn’t find the time. She told me there was no need to judge myself and that there wasn’t a deadline for any of us to complete our assignments. While the course may only last for eight weeks, the materials and resources are useful for a lifetime.
You might have already noticed this, but I was originally skeptical about this course. I still was until today. I just didn’t know if I believed in all of this mindfulness mumbo jumbo. Yoga? Sure. I do yoga every Sunday, courtesy of Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube, and it makes me feel great. But these ideas of focusing on the breath and sounds to calm your body and to make you slow down, not so much. Isn’t that what God is for? Can’t I pray for those things?
So today when she asked us to complete a meditation of our choice for fifteen minutes, I thought I was going to go nuts. I chose a sound meditation and I was focused on every sound around me and nothing on what I was feeling in the present moment. My mind was wandering all over the place. The sound of the people in the room next door, or the people doing sound check down the hall for a talent show, or the stomach growling of the lady next to me, or the ticking of the clock on the wall, etc. On the other hand my classmates were talking about how they were focusing on the breath, four counts in and five counts out, reciting loving-kindness meditations for themselves and others, feeling the tension in their shoulders release as they exhale. And it was in that moment when I realized something.
Maybe I’m not in this class for me. Hear me out for a minute. I don’t feel like I’ve learned much during this course, but I’m also a firm believer that you get out what you put in, so that might have something to do with it. I don’t feel like I’ve grown much over these last five weeks or have a better understanding of mindfulness, but my classmates have. Maybe I’m meant to gain this better understanding through their experiences and observations before I can through my own. Listening to them share what they’ve learned and how they’re applying the practice to various stressful and emotional situations in their lives, makes me less skeptical. Trust me, these people are going through some deep stuff from depression, to cancer, deaths of family members. It gets deep. And maybe that’s what I need first? To see how someone else can be transformed before I can become transformed myself.
My pastor likes to remind us that if the Bible repeats itself, it’s usually important. Or if we hear something repeatedly from God, that’s also usually important. The word that I was given at the end of class this week was non-striving which was the same word that I was given at the end of our first week. Like my instructor mentioned today, there’s no deadline. I need to stop trying to set one. I need to loosen up expectations for my meditation practice and stop straining and forcing a result. The materials and resources that I’ve been given are useful for a lifetime.