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Summer Newsletter: Reflecting on Ups & Down, Tassajara, Summer Events, Fall Retreats

4 Jun 2015 10:59 AM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

June 2015

Dear Friends,

I crashed yesterday. I was tired, uninspired, not up to anything. Instead of writing this newsletter or updating our website, or preparing materials for our upcoming teaching training program, I moped around the house. I watched some TV. I grazed in the kitchen. A took a nap.

I didn't like it. I like being steady, even, and active. I like being fully on my game, strong, capable, smart. A leader in my field.

But yesterday I wasn't. I was tired, I needed recovery time, integration time. Just time. I needed permission to rest.

The day before yesterday was also the last mindfulness class I'll teach this season. This half-year. We've been engaged and growing this year. Using six teachers, Mindfulness Northwest offered nine 8-week classes, seven 4 & 5 week classes, nine workshops and staff development trainings, and a weekend retreat during that time.

It's been a lot.

But what's the tone in my mind and heart when I say "it's been a lot"? That's what's caught my curiosity.

What did you hear just now when you read "it's been a lot"?

Is "a lot" too much? We've overdone it. We're being foolish. It's a lot of stress, it's too much. We should manage things better, do less, relax?

Or is "a lot" a lot of activity that we chose. A lot of engagement? Is it a lot of challenge, a lot of learning and growth? Perhaps a lot of joy? Can "a lot" be a wonderful period of fullness? Of wholeheartedness?

When a friend tells me "it's been a lot" what do I offer back? I think my habit is to offer the assumption that a lot is too much and offer sympathy, and maybe time management advice. "Oh…sounds like too much, you should rest, take it easy. Don't do so much. Learn how to go slower."

That might be good advice. Sometimes a lot is too much.

But what if a lot, for a period of time at least, really is a good thing? What if it's a time of challenge and growth that galvanizes us, that encourages us to bring our best self forward. Maybe sometimes a lot brings more from us than we thought possible? Sometimes maybe a lot lifts us to a new level, supports our moving into that deeply satisfying "flow state" that Csikszentmihalyi talks about? (details on him and his flow theory here: http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow).

In his middle school, my son has been taught about having a "growth mindset". And a teacher of mine has recently published a book called The Upside of Stress. (http://www.amazon.com/Upside-Stress-Why-Good-You/dp/158333561). Maybe the way we think about activity and stress, our mindset, our understanding of our life, is as important as how much we do? Is stress good? Is it bad? Is it all about how we interact with it?

There is no doubt that continued ongoing stress with worry and fatigue and all of the related states and symptoms is extremely harmful. Stress can be very bad for us. Our response to stress can be very bad. Deeply unhealthy. Our lives are shortened and diminished by this interaction with stress. This is true. And mindfulness training is such a help there. We can increase our self-awareness, see new choices that function in tiny and huge ways. We can become more resilience in the face of unhealthy stress. MBSR has been exploring this idea for 30 years now.

But sometimes stress is good. Sometimes stress is that encouragement we need to engage in our life fully.

But then we do need the down with the up. That's the thing.

 We need times of reflection, integration, healing even. We need seasons. We need the full cycle. Not just the, not just the down, not trying to flatten the curve and avoid all ups and downs.

It might be our continuous year-round 24-7 engagement isn't damaging just because it's fast and busy. Some fast and busy may be healthy. It's damaging because we're not allowing ourselves that pause, that rest day, that rest week, that rest month, or that rest season. Our ancestors of course had much more season-oriented lives before industrialization, modern capitalism, and electric lighting. Maybe we can give ourselves back a sense of seasonality in some way.

Maybe instead of using mindfulness or other practices and techniques to try to even everything out, these practices can help us to engage even more fully, be even more present and engaged with "up" when it's time to be up, but importantly, critically, maybe the increased self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and inner balance these practices support can help us to let go and drop into "down" when our work is done. When our season turns. When the project ends. Maybe these practices can help us be engaged without being addicted to engagement. To include release. To be more true to our cyclical, seasonal natures.

This is the theme we'll be exploring deeply at our wonderful 4-day retreat at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in California coming up at the very end of this month June 29 - July 2nd (Info on our website, andTassajara's). There is still room in this retreat. Tassajara is truly one of the most amazing places on the planet, a beautiful isolated valley inhabited with deep care and mindfulness by the Zen community that has made it a place of practice for nearly 50 years. Plus there are the hot springs baths and the award winning vegetarian cuisine! It's a spacious place to explore up and down, opening and closing.

I was first introduced to the idea that mindfulness can be about letting myself open and close, engage and release from this bit of Rumi which we took the title of the retreat from. May you too allow yourself to open and close your wings as we continue the journey towards are fullest expression as human beings.

 Rumi - Birdwings

Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror 

Up to where you’re bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead, 

Here’s the joyful face you been waiting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes. 

If it were always a fist or always stretched open, 

You would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence is in every small 

Contracting and expanding,

The two as beautifully balanced and coordinated 

As birdwings.

Best wishes,

Tim Burnett
Executive Director, Mindfulness Northwest

 p.s. I'm feeling much better today.

 Summer Events with Mindfulness Northwest

Seattle: two MBSR classes starting next week

There are still spaces left in our 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class taught by Jonas Batt in Kirkland. Monday evenings starting June 8thClick here for information and registration. (Note to Seattle residents: it's easier that it sounds to get here weekly if you can access the 520 floating bridge easily from Seattle: get off on Lake Washington Blvd before the 405 and slip over to the lovely church site we rent for this class near downtown Kirkland).

Mindfulness Northwest teacher Lisa Hardmeyer-Gray is also offering MBSR at the Samaritan Center on Tuesday evenings starting June 9thDetails here. Register soon if you'd like to join!

Our usual summer drop-in classes will be available again on Monday evenings in July and August. This year we're going to use the small classroom adjacent to Mindfulness Northwest's offices. Mondays 7pmstarting July 6thDetails here (and an option to pre-pay online).

Very happy to announce that our summer day retreat will be held at the gorgeous Semiahmoo County Park, near Blaine, WA, this year on August 22ndDetails here.

Semiahmoo Sunset


Join Tim at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center (near Monterey) for a wonderful retreat "Opening and Closing Like Birdwings, Training in Zen and Mindfulness" June 29 - July 2nd.

Mindfulness Teacher Training Program (MTTP) 

October 1, 2015 - June 5, 2016

An 8-month cohort-based intensive training in the fundamentals of teaching mindfulness programs, workshops and trainings. The program includes 3 retreats, 4 distance learning blocks, 4 weekend study meetings, a practicum project and support throughout the 8-month period to engage deeply with mindfulness practice. Leads to a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Mindfulness Teaching. 

Application Deadline for the 2nd wave of applicants: June 30th
Discernment Option for Potential Teachers:October 1-4
We've received a wonderful set of applications which we are in the midst of processing now but there are still a few more spots available. 

Information about this exciting opportunity for 2015-16 can be found on the MTTP page to go directly to the application click here.

Apply by June 30th to be considered please.
We're opening the initial MTTP retreat to those who want to explore future participation in mindfulness teacher training. You'll be able to practice alongside this years trainees as we discern our motivations and values around teaching mindfulness to others.

The retreat will be a mix of silent practice and reflection exercises with lots of community building. Come dip into the trainee community and get a feel for whether this might be a part of your future path.
Mindfulness Northwest Included in a Network of Teacher Training Institutes

An effort led by the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness and supported by the U Mass Center for Mindfulness and many other organizations across the U.S. and Canada has emerged to help Training Institutes across North America support each other in developing teaching training programs with high standards and inter-agency cooperation. We're excited to be a part of this effort to make mindfulness teacher training more accessible while insuring high standards and rich opportunities for trainees.

Plan Ahead for the Fall Retreat Options
In addition to our usual Fall weekend mindfulness retreat at the lovely church camp we rent on Samish Island in the Skagit Valley, there is this year an option to practice for a full week in the Roots of Mindfulness retreat. This retreat is included in the Mindfulness Teacher Training  Program and open to all who wish to deepen their practice and learn more about the Buddhist roots of mindfulness.

The Fall Weekend Retreat option is Friday November 6th 4pmthrough Sunday November 8th at 2pm

The full week Roots of Mindfulness Retreat runs Friday November 6th 4pm through Friday November 13th at 3pm

Registration is open now, we will update you as we get closer to the time about how much space is left in these two retreat.
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