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  • 20 Aug 2018 9:46 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    MBSR Every Day

    by Elisha Goldstein and Bob Stahl

    MBSR Every Day is a gem of a book by two of the stalwarts of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction world. The cover says "Daily" so I've been reading one of it's 43 short chapters every day. 

    Each chapter takes a principle of MBSR and explains how we might apply it to our daily lives in a real and practical way. Each starts by describing that principle, then in a "Just do it!" section, gives suggestions for how to practice the principle.

    Here are two samples:

    The Gifts of Imperfection starts off with reminding us of the child's book, Corduroy, about a stuffed bear with a button missing from his coat, but whose little girl owner loves him anyway. They ask "What would the days, weeks and months ahead look like if we practiced more kindness toward our imperfections?" In the Just Do It section, they suggestion three steps to actually practice this: Acknowledge Imperfection, Notice Judgements and Re-Parent With Kindness.

    In another chapter on dealing with emotions ("Welcome and Entertain Them All") they quote Rumi's poem The Guest House and describe how our brains process emotions, and how we can have them without letting them have us. 

    I've found that these simple prescriptions for applying the things I've learned from MBSR to my daily life a great way to start the day.

    Michael Kelberer

    The Guest House by Rumi

    This being human is like a guest house, 

    Every morning a new arrival. 


    A joy, a depression, a meanness, 

    some momentary awareness comes 

    as an unexpected visitor. 


    Welcome and entertain them all! 

    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, 

    who violently sweep your house 

    empty of its furniture, 

    still, treat each guest honorably. 

    He may be clearing you out 

    for some new delight. 


    The dark thought, the shame, the malice. 

    meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. 


    Be grateful for whatever comes. 

    because each has been sent 

    as a guide from beyond

  • 20 Aug 2018 9:45 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Teresa Johnson

    I recently heard the mother of a toddler recall a situation when her toddler was upset. For the first time ever as a parent, rather than trying to suppress or change her daughter’s feelings, she had allowed them to just be. And then went one step further, opening herself up to experience her daughter’s feelings.

    By being mindful, this mom was able to first notice her historical pattern of resistance to her toddler’s emotional upset, and in that moment of noticing, to choose a different path and engage compassionately not only with her toddler but with herself.  She said, in a semi-serious tone, “It was hard to do that.” But when asked what was hard about it, unexpectedly, like the sun breaking free of a cloud, she beamed and chuckled a bit, “Because it was painful!”  It seemed that what had been hard and painful then was now a source of happiness –  she had chosen to act on her awareness, even when it was uncomfortable at the time, and the outcome of this experience for her as a parent? Feelings of greater closeness to her child.

    Compassion in life

    Touching another person’s suffering, and then going a step further to alleviate it through kind and heart-full intention or action is a compassion practice that can be done anywhere and with anyone. I sometimes sense distress or depression in individuals of our apartment building or neighborhood but rarely think about doing anything in the moment with those subtle impressions.

    One day, though, after reading about compassion practices, I thought about what happens when I distract myself away from or ignore those sensed conditions of suffering.  It occurred to me that maybe the awareness of suffering, no matter how brief, works in the background of our hearts and minds, a kind of low-level hum, akin to a splinter just below the surface of the skin, not throbbing for my attention, but there nonetheless.

    Compassion practices allow us to engage with the hum or the splinter, to perceive its significance and the value of responding right away. So often we wait until the hum or splinter becomes a loud and obvious pain, but paying attention to suffering earlier makes alleviating it much easier.

    Compassion with children

    As a parent, offering myself compassion and sending it out to our children, has been an essential practice. One day, I found myself feeling caught in anxiety about one of our children and the choices she was making out of ignorance. I was aware of my thoughts of judgement, “Why, why was she making choices that might lead to even greater suffering?” Then I paused and chose to sit with and breathe in my own suffering, suffering arising from the judgement and the fear underneath it. Then I could meet the suffering of my child that was driving her decisions. Breathing all of that in, the anxiety fell away as I felt my stomach soften. I could sit with this, breathing in our suffering, and breathing out hope and trust for my child to find a path out of her suffering. I could continue to support that each night with a loving-kindness meditation.

    These many months later, I’m watching this same grown child make some thoughtful, healthy decisions, and noticing that our connection is strong. Would all of this be the same without these practices? Maybe, but there’s evidence that we doaffect each other with the thoughts and feelings we practice.

    I believe that, for us to survive and thrive as a human family, we need to recognize each other’s and our own suffering and respond to it with compassion. In doing so, we will feel more connected. It doesn’t take a lot.

    And it works

    The other day, out walking, I passed a woman I’ve often seen passing by our window – looking down, without expression.  Tugged internally to turn around, I smiled and called out, “Good morning!” What happened then astounded me. Her face came to life, animated by a beautiful smile, and a musical “Good morning!” floating my way. I don’t think I’ve ever been more surprised – happiness boomeranging back to me. Who was uplifting whom?  

    As a beloved teacher said, mindfulness and compassion practices are simple but not easy. Lifting our hearts and minds from a net of busyness, preoccupation, or self-involvement can be like lifting heavy weights, but the potential benefits for all of us, are great.

    “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

    If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” 

     The Dalai Lama

  • 7 Aug 2018 11:15 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Beth Glosten

    Although people often associate mindfulness practice with mental awareness, in my experience, awareness of the body offers opportunities to practice mindfulness: that is to say, paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment without judgement.

    In the late 1990’s, I was a very busy academic anesthesiologist, and an avid dressage (horseback) rider, successful in the show ring. I was intense about my work and intense about my sport. My body was a tool to get both done. Then my back broke down. It was quite a shock to have my body failing me. After surgery, physical therapy, psychological therapy, and a lot of deep reflection, I knew I needed to make changes in my life. I knew I needed to take care of mind, body, and spirit. The body was the most pressing need, especially if I wanted to keep horseback riding!

    A new way of moving

    I put on my academic hat, did research, and came to explore the pilates system of exercise. This system guided me to really pay attention to what I was doing during movement; to turn my focus inward and feel my body. No one used the word “mindfulness” at the time. But that is what I was learning: paying careful attention to my body and how it moved, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement.

    I was amazed at what this “inside out” approach to movement and the body could do. No longer did I mindlessly repeat an exercise 10 times, but I actively felt what was happening during each movement of the exercise. I learned that my right and left sides were very different. I could feel curious about these differences, rather than irritated and frustrated. I was more aware of where my body was in space, and gained skills to support it in a way that it needed as it healed from the back problems.


    Moving mindfully was empowering. With the injury, moving carefully and mindfully connected me back to my body and helped it heal. This did not happen overnight, and there were times of intense frustration. My persistence (stubbornness?) served me well here – I just kept on. Moving mindfully helped me work past the fear of pain, and enter a more respectful relationship with my body. I became more discerning about what was appropriate for my body on a given day –sometimes that involved some mental cheerleading: “come on, let’s do this,” but on other days it clearly made sense to back off. My mind and body started working as a team. Body awareness and mindful movement continue to serve me over 20 years later.

    Today, mindfulness of the body and body awareness are offered as tools in the MBSR classes both through the body scan meditation and mindful movement with gentle yoga. The practices introduce the body as a portal to our well-being. Body sensations, tension, aches and pains might be something we tend to push away from and try to ignore. But what if these sensations and pains are a warning that our life is out of balance? Just like mindfulness of thoughts and emotions, mindfulness of the body brings awareness to our current condition. The practices offer a way to cultivate a more connected relationship between mind and body; a way to transform what might be an adversarial relationship when there is pain in the body, to one of cooperation. That the mind and body can become friends and partners and “help each other out.”

    Mindfulness of the body and body awareness can be brought to any moment of your day, and to any movement practice – walking, running, yoga, the gym, or to your sport. For me, mindful movement combined with discernment and an ongoing fitness program, has allowed me to carry on with an active life and continue my study of dressage.

  • 6 Aug 2018 7:00 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Richard Johnson

    I got on the bus from Seattle to Everett to teach Mindfulness Bases Stress Reduction and saw there was only one available seat. I looked at the double seat and saw a man with his leg crossed and his foot extended into half of the seat I was to occupy. I sat on the small space, which meant I had one bun on the seat and one bun hanging out into the aisle. Also, due to a neuropathic condition, I had an arm in a sling, and it was extended halfway into the aisle.  

    Given how little space I had on the seat and especially my arm in the sling, I was sure my seat mate would scooch over and give me space to sit and protect my arm. After a few minutes it dawned on me that he was not about to move his leg over at all. I looked at him and saw an angry man silently guarding “his territory.” I was sure that asking him to move would mean I’d get an angry reaction.

    What to do?

    Should I risk asking for space and possibly spend the rest of the trip with him fuming at me, or just sit there the best I could hope no one would run into my arm? We only had one more stop before we’d get onto I-5, so odds were good I’d be okay. 

    At that last stop, however, a very big guy came down the isle. I squished my arm toward my lap, but not far enough. As he ran into my elbow, I felt a sharp pain run through my arm. I exploded with anger and turning to the man next to me, I blurted: “Would you please move over???” He gave me a look like I was something the cat drug in, ceding just enough space so I was no longer hanging out in the isle.

    I was not grateful. Fuming with anger, I felt justified in blaming him for my physical pain and my angry reaction. I was also angry at myself for not asking him to move over earlier - when I wasn’t reactive. Then my arm wouldn’t have been hit.

    Coulda, woulda

    One of the things I enjoy about riding the bus is the opportunity to meditate. But now I felt stuck in anger and resentment.

    Oh yes, I could bring my attention to the breath, then to the anger, resentment and blame - as I’ve been taught, and as I teach.

    But as much as I’ve practiced over the years, it was tough at first. A part of me didn’t want to let go. I was justified

    So I began paying attention to that. And slowly my reactions began to diminish, like air moving out a small hole in a balloon. I began being kind to myself. I had been caught in a difficult situation. I felt a sigh of relief. And then kindness to my seat mate. He had so much anger locked in him.

    Just like me…

    And then I remembered the phrase, “Just like me.” He was just like me. We were both caught in anger. We both felt justified and blameful. Another level of criticism was released. We were just a couple of guys on our way to Everett, carrying our share of tough stuff inside us.

    I got to the hospital were I was going to teach, and I felt light. I told my class about the incident. We laughed together about the angry, stressed teacher coming all the way from Seattle to Everett to teach stress reduction. One participant said, “He had his foot in your face.” That was a good metaphor for how I felt. 

    As I reflected about this experience, I realized my seat mate was my teacher on the bus. In my reaction to him, I saw my own anger and blame. I could then work with these hard places inside me. Awareness, kindness, softening, common humanity emerged. I am grateful to him.

  • 3 Aug 2018 10:36 AM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    We're excited to announce our new MBSR Teacher Training program. This two year hands-on program is for beginning and experienced teachers to add the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction curriculum to your toolkit. MBSR is the best researched ("gold standard") mindfulness class currently available and we're glad to be able to offer a strong program with integrity to train teachers in how to deliver it with fidelity to the curriculum and with the deeply embodied, responsive, flexible teaching style that really "helps it sing" and transforms lives. Our three Senior Teachers will be working with small cohort of 8-10. Expect lots of hands-on interaction and learning by doing directly in the MBSR classroom in a way that really fits this curriculum to a T. Applications will open September 1st. Read up on it now to see if you're like to apply: MBSR Teacher Training.

  • 18 Jul 2018 8:23 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    By Tim Burnett

    Loving Kindness meditation is a practice which helps to cultivate the positive orientation of wishing well for yourself and others. In addition to the stabilizing elements of mindfulness, including breath and body awareness, Loving Kindness meditation makes use of imagery and language to help open the heart.

    The imagery is what arises from bringing to mind people you're in a relationship with. You imagine their presence: what they look like, sound like; what it feels like to be in their presence. We often bring to mind someone we have a warm and intimate relationship with to help orient the heart towards kindness as it usually feels pretty natural.

    The language elements are phrases: simple wishes you repeat to yourself that help to orient the heart towards kindness. There are a set of "stock phrases" which are adapted in various ways from Buddhism which are usually used. For example:

    May you be happy and joyful.
    May you feel safe and secure.
    May you be healthy and strong.
    May you live with ease.

    These are wonderful wishes but for many of us they might not sound very natural. Additional possibilities may open up if you create your own phrases of loving-kindness using the kind of language and sensibility that comes naturally to you. 

    The Mindful Self-Compassion curriculum includes a wonderful practice of finding your own phrases. Below is a link to a video of Tim leading this practice. You'll want to be sitting in a quiet and undistracting environment and have pen and paper at hand. The guided session is 35 minutes long.

    Finding Compassionate Voice

  • 17 Jul 2018 8:22 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Catherine Duffy

    In their book A Clinician’s Guide to Teaching Mindfulness, doctors Christiane Wolf and Greg Serpa speak of how trying to describe mindfulness will always be a bit reductionist or “a little like defining love” to another person.

    Though many people already know or have experienced what love is, mindfulness is a bit of a different story.  I like the definition of mindfulness developed by the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn:

    “Mindfulness is awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” 

    Let’s unpack this definition in phrases to help us get a better grasp of what mindfulness is.


    In mindfulness, awareness is equated with the present moment: what is happening right here and right now.  For instance, the time it took you to read the last sentence happened a moment ago.  Just stop and think about that right now.  No, really, it’s true.  And the words you are reading right now are flowing by this present moment, as well.  Awareness is simply being present right here, right now, with whatever is happening. 

    And how easy it is for us to not be aware and present, right now!  This takes us to the second portion of the definition that states: mindfulness is “cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

    On purpose

    The other day I decided to walk mindfully from my car to the building where I work.  By doing this, on purpose, I intentionally attuned my body and senses to what was happening around me.

    In the present moment

    The shift in my awareness was palpable. In just a few steps, I recognized the cool breeze against my cheek, heard the rush of wind under the wings of two crows lifting off from the grass next to me, and found myself squinting and smiling at another day of sunshine in my eyes.  Rather than thinking ahead to all that I had to accomplish that day or worrying about what hadn’t gone right the day before, I practiced staying present, in the moment, and even noticed a new calmness arising in my body as I made my way to the building’s front door. 


    The last piece of the mindfulness definition is that we exercise this awareness “non-judgmentally.” Again, this is a tough one for us humans since we typically judge everything we experience as positive, negative, or neutral.  With mindfulness, our minds will still likely form judgments about our experiences:  “I like it, I don’t like it.”  So when we notice this, we can choose to not judge our judging.  Instead, we can simply notice that we’re judging and then let that go.

    Wrapping Up

    So why do people want to practice mindfulness?  Research shows that mindfulness teaches us how to relate to our experiences differently.  This doesn’t mean that the circumstances of the present moment change, but how we experience life’s circumstances can change over time as we practice mindfulness.

    Trying to explain mindfulness can be as difficult as trying to explain love.  But as I learned on my walk to work the other day, choosing to be mindful can be quite refreshing even when practiced in small doses.  Next time you’re strolling outside during one of these warm summer days, you might try it and see. A heightened awareness to the details around you just might gift you with a sense of awe and well-being that brings a smile to your face, too.

    Catherine is a graduate of our Mindfulness Teacher Training Program, 2017-2018 cohort. She resides in Seattle, and is currently working on her certification.

  • 1 Jul 2018 6:40 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Tim Burnett

    Lately I've been trying to give myself permission to rest and be imperfect. To not finish everything on my to do list. To putter and do a project that isn't the highest priority. To risk disappointing people (even disappointing myself). To remember what it is to stop. To really stop.

    Don't get me wrong: like you, I work hard and get a lot done. Like you, I'm very responsible to the many people who depend on me at home, at work, in the world (as best I can be - it's a big world!). Like you, I am sad that things aren't better and frustrated and upset that so many have to suffer in ways that seem so unnecessary given the resources of our world. Like you, I dream of a better day and a better world.

    But not today. Sometimes we need to rest. I forget this often. But it's true. We need to stop sometimes. Really stop.

    So yesterday when my wife went off to the rally on immigration policy I stayed home to putter in the garden.

    I was re-doing a little garden pond that had been neglected for the last few years while I've been running around and working, working, working. The fish are long gone (raccoons?) and the aquatic irises had expanded like crazy clogging up the whole muddy mess. It was starting to smell bad.

    A whole truckload of irises went off to the municipal compost, the water replaced, a new pump installed (and now I understand - finally! - how to prime the pump with water so it works properly and quietly), the at last the pond was circulating again. The water still a little cloudy but not nearly so thick and murky. And at last I sat quietly on the bench reading a friend's memoire listening to the falling water in my tiny waterfall. My back a bit tired, my jeans filthy, and my heart, for the moment, at rest.

    The world didn't stop while I did this. There are still 2,000 migrant children in detention separated from their parents. My task system still sent it's daily email about undone items. I was still tired after a very full first half of the year.

    My tasks as the Wendell Berry poem below says "lay where I left them, asleep like cattle."

    And yet I could feel that this moment of peace wasn't self-indulgent or lazy. I could feel that this stopping has it's own importance and power - it's own way of rippling out into the world. Stopping doesn't matter in the same way getting important things done matters. It matters in a different way. And somehow in my heart I deeply felt that it matters a lot in it's own way.

    Not just to sustain me and patch me up and get me back into the battle either. Stopping has it's own value. It's hard to speak about this clearly as our language seems to be all oriented around how much there is to do. There's also "non-doing" to do, perhaps that's close enough. And that non-doing matters.

    I hope this summer that you can stop from time to time. Really stop. Our lives, and our world, need us rested up. There is work to do. And non-work to do. 

    Wendell Berry - from Sabbath Poems

    I go among the trees and sit still.

    All my stirring becomes quiet
    around me like circles on water.

    My tasks lie in their places where I left them, asleep like cattle.

    Then what is afraid of me comes
    and lives a while in my sight.
    What it fears in me leaves me,
    and the fear of me leaves it.

    It sings, and I hear its song.

    Then what I am afraid of comes.
    I live for a while in its sight.

    What I fear in it leaves it,
    And the fear of it leaves me.

    It sings and I hear its song. 

    After days of labor,
    mute in my consternations,
    I hear my song at last,
    and I sing it. As we sing,
    The day turns, the trees move.

  • 1 Jul 2018 6:00 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Michael Kelberer

    A piece adapted from Joan Halifax’s book Standing at the Edge: Where Fear and Courage Meet appeared in the July 2018 issue of Lion’s Roar. In it, she talks about two kinds of “edges” in nature that are apt metaphors for places where spiritual growth happens:  where ecosystems meet – an edge where growth occurs and where the greatest diversity of life is present; and where a cliff edge meets solid ground – an edge “where we need to maintain great awareness, lest we trip and fall.”

    Mental states are like ecosystems, she says, sometimes friendly, sometimes hazardous. It’s important to study our inner ecology so we can tell when we are on that edge, in danger of slipping off solid ground of health into pathology. If we do fall down the slope, however, we can learn.

    Edges, says Halifax, are “where fear meets courage and suffering meets freedom.”

    In her own life, complex challenges have given her an understanding of the value of accepting the whole landscape of life. And particularly the value of not rejecting those slides down the slope – each of which, no matter how serious, was never a terminal obstacle, but a gateway to “wider, richer internal and external landscapes.”  These experiences strengthen us “just like bone and muscle are strengthened when exposed to stress, or if broken or torn, can heal in the right circumstances and become stronger for having been injured.”

    The compassion lifeline

    Her experience has taught her that “the way out of the storm and mud of suffering, the way back to freedom on the high edge of strength and courage, is through the power of compassion.”

    She gives two examples from people she has known, one of a therapist whose constant exposure to patients’ suffering led him to burn out, and another of a couple who lost everything in an earthquake, but whose decision to help others affected by the disaster helped them not only recover from their own loss, but thrive.

    “How is it that some people don’t get beaten down by the world but are animated by the deep desire to serve? I think compassion is the key.

    I have come to view compassion as the way to stand grounded and firm on the precipice and not fall over the edge. And when we do fall over the edge, compassion can be our way back out of the swamp.”

  • 12 Jun 2018 10:06 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)
    by Tim Burnett

    I opened my first formal talk at our 7-day retreat in Costa Rica with this wonderful short poem by William Carlos Williams: 
    so much depends
    a red wheel
    glazed with rain
    beside the white

    As I've been realizing lately how important the first line of this poem is. So much depends.

    So much depends on everything and everyone. We live in a web of depending on each other. We aren't so separate as we think we are. And it was wonderful and challenging to spend that week with 17 others from all over the hemisphere remembering deeply how interconnected it all is.

    When we first start thinking about mindfulness we see it as a way to help ourselves: to reduce our stress, to feel a little happier, to add a tool to our toolbox. We usually have an altruistic slant to this too which is wonderful: we realize that if we're more grounded, happy and resilient we're a lot more helpful to everyone else in our lives.

    This is fine. But as we studied ecology and immersed ourselves in the incredible bio-diversity of the Costa Rican rain forest it helped me to remember how limited that idea is: that idea of me as a separate person with my own problems and worries.

    Of course it seems that way to my worried mind, but my heart knows better. And expanding my mind helps me open my heart to the deeper truths of our situation.

    We love our breath awareness practices but these depend on having clean air to breathe! We take this for granted. And the clean air doesn't just depend on not having a factory next door polluting it, it depends on plants, it depends on a healthy functioning ecosystem.

    And this is difficult to turn our attention to because it's also an imperiled ecosystem.

    There are several areas of hope in the overall human situation despite the upsetting headlines  (see for example: Nicholas Kristoff's great column "Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History" (see link at bottom)).

    But in the ecological world, while there are rays of hope the overall situation is dire. Species extinctions are happening on the order of 100 times faster than even in previous periods where geological changes (or giant meteors) led to broad "extinction events." And no who's studied the evidence doubts climate change any more - massive changes are disrupting ecological systems in ways beyond our knowing.

    And so it was powerful to spend a week practicing mindfulness surrounded by amazing birds and frogs and by the Costa Rican people. A people, by the way, who as a nation have made education, natural protection, and appreciation of nature a national priority (after they disbanded their military in 1947! Think of all the resources that frees up. So much depends).

    As we did this I also recommitted myself to not hiding from my fears around the challenges faced by our planet.

    It makes no sense to try to be mindful and a little happier as if I was separate from this planet on which my every breathing moment, my every bite of food, my every drink of water depends.

    I'm not sure what action this will result in.

    Certainly I can help a little by including ecology in the teachings I do (I initially trained at university in biology!). I can also help by supporting the wise and effective environmental organizations all around us in the Pacific Northwest. But I think most importantly I can help by not turning away from this crisis. I can remember the planet we live on and the living systems we depend on.

    So much depends on all of us. So much depends on you. So much depends on me. And we depend on each other. I'll do my best to be dependable for you and I'm sure you will for me, for all of us. We're in this together. That's how it works. 

    So much depends.

    Kristoff's column click here

    Except as noted, photos from the Costa Rica retreat courtesy of Tim Burnett.

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