November Practice Letter

2 Nov 2017 9:01 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

November 2017 Practice Letter

See "Practice Resources" section at end

Dear Friends,

One of the most powerful ideas I've learned from mindfulness and compassion training over these last years has been really helpful to me lately: it's the idea of "holding opposites."

The idea here is that our minds are strongly conditioned to divide things into two opposite possibilities and decide that one of the two is the correct option. It's good or it's bad. I like it or I don't. It's black or it's white. Conservative or Liberal.

It's hard for us to accept that both options often have validity. That both can be "right."

Hard but not impossible: our minds can actually deeply accept and allow apparent opposites to exist. We can develop a mind that's more inclusive and flexible and this can really help us to be present for the joys and sorrows of life. We can learn to hold opposites. Things can be both good and bad. Black and white. Happy and sad.

This holding opposites is a key support for what I'm now thinking of as the three key qualities for practicing mindfulness and compassion: willingness, honesty and kindness. If we're willing to be truly honest and look within we may be surprised to find that we are full of opposites. And allowing them to all be true is a great act of kindness and acceptance.

Take ourselves for example.

On the one hand: we have it together. We're competent, skilled and whole. We're a good person. Of course we also have an inner critic who's primed to argue with us about our good qualities, but we're basically doing fine. We're smart and strong and kind. People are glad to see us. Many depend on us and we are worthy of their trust.

And on the other hand, we're not. We're confused. We're self-centered. We have trouble getting up in the morning sometimes. Life is baffling and complex. We are full of self-doubt. Maybe we're deeply a fraud after all. We are, all of us, suffering in deep ways. We have our fears and doubts. Life is tough and we're not sure, really, if anything's going to work out.

Could it really be that both are true? We are doing fine AND we're a mess? That both can be the case?

And then there's the world. 

I don't know for sure if the world is better or worse than it once was, but lately I and so very many people I meet are worried about the world. It seems to be broiling in chaos (and by the way, there are also studies suggesting that on the whole the world has less poverty and less violence than it ever has... holding opposites).

I'm thinking here of our world in the wake of yet another terrorist-style attack on innocent people just going about their lives. How is it even possible that someone could rent the truck from Home Depot that's for driving your lumber for your home repair project home and instead of doing that, go ram into people riding their bikes on a nice Fall day? Kill people. Maim people. Ruin lives. How is this possible? 

Our minds want to avoid thinking about this. This is natural. It's such a horrible thing. I avoided this latest news for a while but then read up on it. I was deeply saddened to learn that five of those killed were a half of a group of guys visiting New York City from Argentina for their 30th High School Reunion. There was a picture of them in the airport back home smiling and vital. They look like such nice people. Kind and warm. Happy to be together. Maybe proud of themselves for pulling off the feat of getting together after all these years to go on a big trip. What fun! Then I was aware of their friendship and commitment to each other and a vast wave of sadness washed over me. A group deeply wracked by tragedy. Half of the group dead. Five families grieving and circle upon circle of friends and colleagues and acquaintances and children and parents and cousins plunged into mourning and loss.

And yet

How is this possible in a world that also has the purity of babies in it? Beautiful sunsets? How can that co-exist with meeting the kind stranger I ran into on the trail on Chuckanut Mountain during a lovely hike on Tuesday?  

The mind searches hard for an explanation. Perhaps we can wall off the horrible things in a mental box we call "evil" or "mental illness" or "terrorism." But what do any of these designations really mean? And can they really hold the horrific and protect us from it?

Our minds so want things to be only one way. We want to be happy and not suffer. And when there's great suffering we think it impossible that there could be happiness. 

This too

But somehow we can learn to mourn deeply and feel the pain of great loss and be moved by the deep suffering and confusion and be curious about it's causes and roots. And still be able to nurture our goodness as people and as a species. To be mindful is to accept what is. Here it is. To be compassionate is to meet it with kindness even when we can't make sense of it all. To still be hopeful. 

May those lost in this and the many other attacks and acts of violence - so many lately it seems - somehow find peace and may those who love and care for them have the strength and fortitude they need to not fall into despair. May we all practice opening our minds to the complexity of holding the opposites in a world that is both wonderful and terrible. 

And little by little, may we nurture the good.


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

Online Retreat - putting them all together

Bellingham starts 1/15Kirkland starts 2/5

Seattle starts 3/6

Or a one-hour intro: 

In Bellingham at Village Books. FREE

Mindful Holidays: 12/6 Noon. Tim Burnett

Mindful Resolutions: 1/6 3-4pm. Joe Arellano

Mindfulness in the New Year1/16 Noon. Tim Burnett

Short retreats coming soon

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

Day of Mindfulness  (Seattle) - November 4

Day of Gratitude
"What if each morning we could put on a set of glasses to help us view the details of our day through a lens of wonder?"
Bellevue - January 13

Free drop-in classes:

Free drop-in classes led by our Mindfulness Teacher Training Program students will be starting February 1st in Bellingham.

Classes will include guided practices and will be suitable for beginners and experienced meditators alike.

It's free, but please do register so we have an idea of how many are coming, and what your background is.

Drop-In Class. Bellingham. Thursday evenings, 6:30-8pm

Come Together, Mindfully

Sing to the tune of the Beatles' "Come together"

wear no shoe shine

She got
Earth-dyed garment

She got
mudra finger

She send
loving kindness

She say, I'm in you, you're in me

One thing I can tell you is you got to be free

Come together, right now,

Modified lyrics from Deer Park Monastery. 

Mindfulness in the Rain Forest

A 7-Day silent retreat on a nature preserve in Costa Rica

Saturday May 26th to Saturday June 2nd, 2018
$200 early bird discount until December 1st

For more information and to register: Costa Rica? I'm in!

Winter Schedule

New on our website: one page access to all classes, workshops and retreats for the coming quarter!

Winter Schedule

 Seattle Area (and Everett)

 Bellingham Area

Day of Mindfulness Retreat. Seattle, Saturday, November 4th, 9am-4pm

Mindfulness for Healthcare Professionals. For UW-affiliated clinicians, family and staff. Seattle, Sunday evenings, 1/7 - 2/11

A Day of Gratitude. St. Mary-on-the-Lake (Bellevue). Saturday 1/13, 9am - 4pm

Meeting Mindfulness Workshop. Seattle, Thursday 1/18, 6-8:30pm

Mindful Self-Compassion. Seattle, Monday evenings, 1/22 - 3/12

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes:
    Everett, Tuesday evenings, 1/23 - 3/13
    Seattle, Wednesdays mid-day, 1/24 - 3/14
    Kirkland, Wednesday evenings, 1/24 - 3/14
    Seattle, Thursday evenings, 1/25 - 3/15

Getting Started with Mindfulness and Compassion classes:

    Kirkland, Wednesday evenings, 2/5 - 2/19        Seattle, Tuesday Evenings, 3/6 - 3/20 

Day of Mindfulness Retreat. Seattle, Saturday March 3, 9am - 4pm

Day of Mindfulness Retreat. Woodinville, Saturday March 10, 9am - 4pm

Getting Started. Monday evenings, 1/15 - 1/29

NEW! Free Drop-in classThursday evenings (led by MNW teachers-in-training), 2/1 - 3/29

Mindful Self-Compassion. Thursday mornings, 2/1 - 3/29

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Sunday evenings, 2/4 - 3/25

Day of Mindfulness Retreat. Semiahmoo. Saturday 3/24, 10am - 4pm

Longer Residential Retreats

Spring Weekend Mindfulness Retreat
A weekend retreat. April 6-8, 2018.

Roots of Mindfulness 5-day Retreat in Pennsylvania
A 5-day retreat May 4-9, 2018

Exploring Indra's Net

Rainforest Retreat
7 days of practice in the Costa Rican rainforest.
May 26 - June 2, 2018.

Mindful Self Compassion Summer Intensive

Mindful Self-Compassion 5-day Training Intensive (Seattle area) August 5-10, 2018
Transportation from SeaTac available.

Practice Resources - Informal Practices

So called "informal practices" are often overlooked by practitioners, but research has shown that they can have a powerful effect on both the practitioner and the people around them. Here's a link to a page on our website that describes four of them: Two Feet and a Breath, R.A.I.N., STOP, and a 3-minute mindfulness of breathing practice:

Informal Practices

Try one now:

Take a quick scan of how you're doing: body, mind, mood.

Then place your feet flat on the floor, feeling into the solid connection between them and the ground. Take a slow breath in. And a slow exhale out.

Now how are you doing?

That's it - the Two Feet and a Breath practice :-)

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