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August Practice Letter - "Whenever two or more of us..."

10 Aug 2017 1:00 PM | Ed Wayt (Administrator)

Whenever two or more of us...

Dear Friends,

No matter what our religious and spiritual beliefs and inclinations (including the inclination against anything called religion or spirituality) there is something deep for us humans around being together with others with a shared intention.

Last night in the final class of a 5-week series for medical providers one of the participants noted something important. She said, "Even though we've only talked to each other a little, I feel so supported by everyone here. It's like we've done something together that's bigger than I could have done on my own."

There's a kind of "special power" to being in a group of people with a shared intention, isn't there? This is something that I am regularly amazed by and just as regularly forget all about.

As I packed up the car to go teach that class, for example, I was feeling uneasy. I felt unprepared and uncertain. I knew this wasn't particularly rational - I've taught this class many times and it always seems to go fine - and yet there was that feeling. So I tried to be mindful that there was an uneasy feeling here but I didn't have to get too worried about it. Uncomfortable to be sure, but it need not be debilitating.

When the participant offered that reflection on the power of our shared experience together I realized that the root of my dis-ease was that old persistent idea that it's all on me. That I alone have to make the class happen. I was forgetting that it was a group enterprise supported by everyone who came.

In a very different context just the day before I'd had a similar experience. Twenty-four members of my family were gathered on a boat off the coast of San Diego. We were there to scatter the ashes of my beloved grandmother, Fran, a central figure in that branch of the family for decades.

Because of my background as a Zen Buddhist priest (an unlikely thing to me, even now) the family had invited me to officiate and organize a set of celebrations, remembrances and, finally, the moment of letting go and saying goodbye.

I've performed many rituals with many different groups in the overtly religious mode of Zen Buddhism with my robes on, inhabiting that role, and also simple rituals in the guise of a mindfulness teacher - standing in a circle to appreciate each other or a moment at the end of a class or a retreat for example.

And this seemed, on the face of it, different. I was there both as a member of the family, and a mourner, and a leader. And I'd never officiated at a burial at sea before. The captain of the boat - they do this regularly for families - asked me some helpful questions about how long I would speak, who would scatter the ashes and so on which gave me some clue and her obvious respect and caring helped me relax. I didn't have a clear plan beyond a poem in mind to share with the family.

As we were bobbing in the slight swell off Point Loma, I realized that simple was the way forward. We gathered on the wide bow of the boat and I shared a poem on the mystery of death and life (see below) and then we went quietly to the stern. There, Fran's children and grandchildren in turn went down to the water's edge to release the ashes.

The crew had guided me in preparing the ashes for release. We covered each basket with rose petals. This made for an amazing visual: the ashes sinking into the depths and the rose petals floating on the surface. By the end the wind and waves had somehow arranged the floating petals all around the boat. We stood in silence together - no need for me to be the "officiant" and suggest this - and watched the petals floating as the captain rang the ship's bell. It was a moment together. A moment with shared intention - although it might be each of us would have used different words to describe that moment - and yet it was not a separate moment for each of us, but a shared moment.

Motoring back to the harbor with the wind in our faces somehow Fran's spirit or memory or maybe just the feeling emerging from that rich moment in time was deeply with us.

May we all remember the importance of sharing moments with others. Whether they are dear (and at times complicated) family members, or colleagues, or just other human beings we've never met before, there is always something so important about these gatherings. And every meeting can be such a gathering whether it seems extraordinary, like releasing cremated remains at sea, or ordinary, like a staff meeting. Every moment we are meeting. And the meeting can open us to a bigger vision of what this is.

Wishing us all happiness and peace,


Tim Burnett,  Executive Director 

Someone you know looking to get started with mindfulness?

Our new Getting Started with Mindfulness and Compassion class makes it easy: three classes plus an online retreat. 
Class 1: Core practices
Class 2: Mindfulness
Class 3: Compassion

Bellingham starts 9/11

Seattle starts 9/13

Or try a workshop: 

Meeting Mindfulness is a 2 1/2 - 3 hour hands-onoverview:

Bellingham on 9/9

Seattle on 9/7

Or try deeper dive:

Taking the Path of Mindfulness is a six-class intensive that will help you build a deep and meaningful practice:

Bellingham starts 10/12

Have time for our 8-week gold-standard classes?

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction - available in Seattle, Bellingham, Kirkland, and Everett

Mindful Self-Compassion - available in Seattle and Bellingham

Retreats ahead

Retreat practice is so important and so powerful. Immersing ourselves in the practice and taking a true break for our busy routines is transformational.

Roots of Compassion 5-day Retreat 2017 - August 27 - September 1

Join us for a deep look at the Buddhist roots of our compas-sion practice. On tranquil Samish Island, a mostly silent retreat with meditations, talks, walks and personal time to let it all sink in.

Flying in? Airporter shuttle available.

Teacher Training Discernment Retreat (Samish Island) - September 1-4
Thinking of taking the Mindfulness Teacher Training Program next year? Join this year's cohort in their first weekend together to see what the program is like! 

Plan Ahead!

Roots of Mindfulness 7-day Retreat 2017 October 15-22
Flying in? Airporter shuttle available.

Day of Mindfulness(Bellevue) - October 28

Day of Mindfulness  (Seattle) - November 4

Day of Mindfulness  (Bellingham) - November 5

Mary Oliver - When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn,
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Roots of Compassion Retreat

Samish Island retreat: Roots of Compassion. August 27 - September 1.

Deepen your heart's capacity for compassion during a 5-night mostly silent retreat at a beautiful site on Samish Island. We'll explore deeply the Buddhist roots of our modern compassion practices through gently guided meditations and a series of talks, seasoned with insights from philosophy, poetry, and the sciences.

All that in  a tranquil setting, with great accommodations and excellent food! 

SeaTac Airport Shuttle available!

Fall Class Schedule

Information on these classes and retreats can be found on our site:
Mindfulness Northwest Events

 Seattle Area Classes

 Bellingham Area Classes

NEW! Workshop: Meeting Mindfulness. Seattle. September 7, 6:30-8:30pm

Mindful Self-Compassion for Healthcare Professionals (UW staff/family). Sunday evenings September 10 - November 12.

Mindfulness for Healthcare Professionals  (SCCA). Tuesday evenings, September 12 - October 3.

New intro class!
 Getting Started with Mindfulness and Compassion. Seattle. Wednesday evenings, September 13 - September 27.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Seattle. Mondays mid-day, September 18 - November 13.

NEW IN EVERETT! Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Everett. Tuesday evenings. September 19 - November 14

Mindfulness-Based Stress ReductionKirkland. Wednesday mid-day, September 20 - November 15.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Kirkland. Wednesday evenings, September 20 - November 15.

NEW IN SEATTLE! Mindful Self-Compassion. Seattle. Thursday evenings, September 21 - November 16.

Mindfulness for Healthcare Professionals. The Everett Clinic (open to all). Wednesday evenings, October 11 - November 15
Noontime Mindfulness. At Village Books. September 6th at noon. FREE.

Mindfulness for Healthcare Providers. Thursday evenings, September 7 - October 12.

NEW! Workshop: Meeting Mindfulness. Saturday, September 9th, 2-5pm

New intro class! Getting Started with Mindfulness and Compassion. Monday evenings, September 11 - September 25.

Re-scheduled: Workshop: Tending Relationships with a Mindful Heart.September 16th, 1-4pm

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Thursday mornings, September 21 - November 16.

NEW! Mindful Self-Compassion for Healing Professionals. Friday mornings, September 22 - November 17. Provides CEUs.

Taking the Path of Mindfulness. Thursday Evenings, October 12 - November 16
Copyright © 2017 Mindfulness Northwest (poem, When Death Comes, copyright Mary Oliver). All rights reserved.

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