Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We feel more alive. We also get immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.” describes Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.

 

I had such a profound experience of just being during my 10 days’ meditation retreat that I wanted to go deeper into the experience.

 

I would often read about a method developed more than 30 years ago by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

 

One day I was thrilled to find out by sheer chance that this course was offered near my home at the Department of Medicine of the McGill University as a Whole Person Care Program http://www.mcgill.ca/wholepersoncare/mindfulness-based-programs/wellness.

 

So without any hesitation I jumped into this next experience!

 

It is a method that helps us fall in love with the present moment!

 

Several attitudes are the foundation for mindfulness meditation according to

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn:

 

Non-judging: becoming aware of the constant stream of evaluative and judging thoughts that we have – then step back. Things are seen as neither good” nor “bad” – but simply present or absent.

 

Patience: understanding and accepting that things have their own time for unfolding. The mind has a “mind of its own” and patience allows us to simply observe the unfolding of the mind and body over time.

 

Beginners’ mind: seeing everything as if for the first time. Find the joys of the world as it unfolds around us, as if we are all children – freed from our old expectations based on past experiences.

 

Trust: you are your own best guide. It is far better to trust your own feelings and intuition than to get caught up in the authority of “experts”. If at anytime something does not fell right to you, pay attention, examine our feelings, and trust your own inherent wisdom.

 

Non-striving: meditation is different form all other human activity. Simply being – not doing. There is no objective other than to be conscious of yourself as you are.

 

Acceptance: acceptance involves seeing things as they actually are in the present. We may not like it, but if that is the way things are, so they are. Acceptance allows us to cease struggling to change things that are beyond our ability to control and is the first step in any genuine process of change. Acceptance frees the mind.

 

Letting go: we put aside the tendency to elevate some parts of our experiences and reject others – simply letting our experience to be what it is.

 

Gratitude: the quality of reverence, appreciation and being thankful for the present moment.

 

Gentleness: characterized by soft, considerate, and tender quality.

 

Generosity: giving within a context of love and compassion, without attachment to gain or thought of return.

 

Empathy: the quality of feeling and understanding another person’s situation – their perspectives, emotions, actions (reactions).

 

Loving kindness: a quality embodying benevolence, compassion, and cherishing, a quality filled with forgiveness and unconditional love.

 

Those attitudes where very new to me!

 

One of them really got through to me and it was a major revelation for me!

One of them planted a seed in me that blossomed by the end of the course.

It was life changing! Can you guess which one? To be continued …

 

Are you aware of your breath, your body, your life? Are you intimate with yourself and with life? 💜

What are the truths of life?

Buddha teaches us there are three universal truths of life.

These three characteristics describe ourselves and our life.

They are: impermanence, suffering and egolessness.

 

To learn about these qualities and see their truth in ourselves and in our life is to learn to relax with things as they are.

Learning to relax in life in general and in the face of a diagnosis like MS is crucial!

 

#1 The first truth of existence is impermanence.

Impermanence in a fact of life.

Uncertainty and impermanence go hand in hand.

http://mouninabounaaly.com/comfortable-with-uncertainty/

 

Our body is ever changing. The body we were born into, where is it today?

Every second 25 million cells die!

Every second 25 million cells are produced!

 

Our emotions flow through us.

As the name implies, emotions are energy in motion.

If we allow them to circulate, they will last only a short amount of time.

 

Our thoughts are ever changing just the same.

We have 60 to 70 thousands thoughts everyday!

90% are the same day after day!

Over time we entertain the same thoughts day after day, which keep us living in the same life.

 

#2 The second truth of existence is egolessness.

It does not mean we let go of our personality.

On the contrary I learned that we need a strong and flexible personality to live a healthy life.

 

Egolessness means we have a flexible personality.

Egolessness means we are curious, open, playful and humorous.

We don’t take ourselves so seriously. We take ourselves lightly.

 

Otherwise our personality can keep us separate from each other and the world around us if it is rigid and fixed.

 

#3 The third truth of existence is suffering.

-We suffer because we resist the first truth of existence: impermanence.

We resist the fact that life is constantly changing.

We expect what is impermanent to be permanent, thus we suffer.

We resist the fact that we change and we will die someday.

 

-We suffer because we resist the second truth of existence: egolessness.

We think we are a solid separate fixed individual, when the truth of our being is openness.

 

-We suffer because “we mistake suffering for happiness” Buddha said.

We think we will find happiness where only suffering can be found.

“We look for happiness in all the wrong places” Pema Chödrön says.

We suffer when we look outside for happiness, while happiness is an inside job!

 

Can you use these truths to learn to relax with things as they are now and help soothe your nervous system? 💜

This too shall pass!

Vipassana meditation is one of the oldest meditation technique of India.

Vipassana literally means to see things as they are in reality.

It is a process of self purification by self observation.

 

So there I was with uncertain health and the life I knew destroyed by MS.

I decided it was the perfect time to try again a silent 10 days’ meditation retreat.

 

That was my first meditation marathon!

This time I went an hour away from Montreal to the Goenka Vipassana meditation center https://www.suttama.dhamma.org/.

 

We would wake up at 4h in the morning to begin our first meditation.

We would meditate for more than ten hours every day.

We were not allowed to talk or read or write.

We were not allowed to do any physical exercise.

We ate very little.

 

This time I was able to sit in meditation for hours everyday.

It was everything but easy!

It was painful at times in my body.

It was boring at other times.

It made me sleepy sometimes.

 

It was also fascinating to spend so much time just observing.

Nothing external could distract me.

I could observe all my internal distractions! And they were unending!

 

This is the perfect place to practice just being!

 

I experienced the first of the three universal truth of life: impermanence. Experiencing this truth was one of the most valuable lessons of my life.

Just sitting still, trying to watch my breath, as the air goes in and out of my nose. I could observe how everything in my field of awareness is constantly changing.

 

Sensations in my body change from one moment to the next.

Emotions flow through me like the waves in the see.

Thoughts come and go at an amazing speed like the clouds in the sky.

Everything is changing. Only my awareness remains unchanging.

I am the observer of all the phenomena that constantly arise and fall away.

 

I came back home with a new mantra to put on my wall: “This too shall pass”.

If something unpleasant is arising, rest assured that his too shall pass! So relax!

If something pleasant is arising, just the same, rest assured that this too shall pass! So relax and enjoy!

 

This teaches us to go beyond duality!

It helps us to develop equanimity: the ability to be with something whatever it is, the ability to go beyond the mental labels of good or bad.

It helps us welcome whatever appears.

 

“Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind.

To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all,” Buddha teaches us.

 

This was the beginning of meeting myself, the beginning of getting to know myself.

 

Do you ever spend some time getting to know your precious self? 💜

Sense of identity

Who am I?

 

My second relapse of MS clearly affected my cognitive abilities.

This time my memory was severely affected.

This left me unable to do my usual work. All my actuarial knowledge had been deleted from my memory!

This is when I knew that the life I knew had ended!

There was no more room for denial!

 

I had to stop working.

This was devastating to me for many many years!

I was really faced with what I was identifying myself with?

 

What we identify ourselves with consists of an endless list.

 

Who am I?

Am I my name?

Am I the daughter of this woman and this man?

Am I the friend of this person and that person?

Am I the wife of this man?

Am I a mother (ok that one does not apply to me: I don’t have kids)?

Am I my body?

Am I a woman?

Am I a Canadian or a Mauritanian?

Am I my thoughts and beliefs?

Am I the voice in my head?

Am I the emotion I am feeling right now?

Am I an emotion I memorized that is stored in my body?

Am I the story of my life?

Am I a disease or diagnosis?

And above all for me in this instance: am I my job?

Am I my title?

Am I my role?

Am I what I do?

Am I what I have?

Who am I beyond all those identities?

 

For many years I suffered from the loss of my identification with my job!

For so long I did not know who I was!

 

Through meditation, through education, through self-enquiry, self-reflection and self-study, I connected with the simple but profound joy of being!

 

I discovered that I did not need any identification to exist.

 

I AM.

 

Just BEING is enough. I exist. That in itself is the miracle!

I started to feel grateful for the miracle of being alive!

 

From this, anything can be added.

I discovered a whole new way of life.

I use to want to have, then do, to finally maybe be.

Now I am learning to BE first, then DO, finally HAVE, even GIVE.

 

Who are you? What do you identify yourself with? 💜

What is meditation?

It is harder to understand our true nature as an infinite spiritual being of the universe with our intellect.

It is easier when experienced.

The best way to experience it is through meditation.

But what is meditation anyway?

Meditation is mind training. Simple, but not easy!

It is a practice to get to know our own thinking mind and to know we are not it.

We are the space between our thoughts, the awareness, the observer of our thoughts.

This first thing we discover is that our mind is ever moving, like the ocean!

It is always in the past or future!

It is full of distractions!

A common name for our mind is monkey mind! We all have a monkey mind!

We need to train our mind so it becomes our servant instead of our master, as Osho said!

The mind exists as a servant of the soul, as Yogi Bhajan said!

It can seem like the most difficult, most boring, most impossible thing to do at first!

It certainly felt that way for me the very first time I attempted such a practice!

I will remember always!!

I was the most unhappy person I knew back then.

I thought if I could only get to know my mind, it would solve all my imagined problems.

So I went all the way to Thailand to a monastery for a 10 days meditation retreat.

The day after I arrived I left the monastery because this meditation practice was the hardest, most difficult, most boring, most impossible thing I ever attempted!! I felt devastated!!

That was quite a radical way to approach this ancient and now scientifically proven practice.

There is a more gentle and gradual way to learn to meditate.

No need to go to the other side of the world to do so.

We can learn meditation right here, right now.

Before meditation, there is concentration.

There are many ways to develop our concentration. I started learning this way:

  • Start in a comfortable position, sitting on the floor or in a chair
  • Close your eyes
  • Keep your spine straight and your body relaxed
  • Start by mentally counting your breath from 1 to 10:
  • Inhale mentally repeating 1, Exhale mentally repeating 1
  • Inhale mentally repeating 2, Exhale mentally repeating 2
  • And so forth all the way up to 10.
  • Then count back down from 10 to 1:
  • Inhale mentally repeating 10, Exhale mentally repeating 10
  • Inhale mentally repeating 9, Exhale mentally repeating 9
  • And so forth all the way down to 1.
  • If you get lost in your count, and you will, perfect, you are normal, no judgment, start over from the beginning
  • This is the process of training your mind
  • Repeat this process. It gets easier with a daily practice. It also gets fun and it is very relaxing!

Are you normal? Do you have a monkey mind? Lovely 💜