A New Zoom Way for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

November 12, 2020 by

By Cawood Fitzhugh

“Letting go of our suffering is the hardest work we will ever do. It is also the most fruitful. To heal means to meet ourselves in a new way—in the newness of each moment where all is possible and nothing is limited to the old.” –
Stephen Levine

This time last year, our last classes were held in the spacious Fontaine building with chairs tenderly placed in a circle waiting for each participant to show up.  The backdrop of the ceiling to floor windows provided spectacular panoramic views of colorful autumn leaves, clear blue skies behind the ginkgo trees brightly donned in brilliant yellows. Shoes were traditionally left at the door as a reminder of letting go of the workday as we walked in quietly with awareness and curiosity.

Although I miss that circle, I am discovering that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Zoom can be viewed with new and reclaimed meaning.  While the Zoom setting is new, the classes have been proven to support beneficial changes in our relationship to stress.  Since its development 40 years ago by Jon Kabat Zinn, who developed a scientific model using meditation and yoga for patients with chronic pain, MBSR continues to show positive results in promoting health and well-being for many.

One of the first questions when starting a class is, “What is here now?” The once large circle is now displayed not as round but with all of us in rectangular configurations on a computer screen. The large spacious room is now in Zoom on a computer, tablet or phone.  Instead of breaking into groups or setting up chairs, we break out into Zoom rooms to dialogue and explore new possibilities. Walking meditation may be the length of a yoga mat or, weather permitting, outside and then re-convening.

I have to say, I was quite resistant to this arrangement at first and experienced a lot of grieving. Technology is something we steer away from traditionally in our classes.  Yet my own awareness of this resistance, coupled with allowing my own grieving over the loss of normalcy with this pandemic, allowed me to see the new possibilities.  After trying out several classes with Zoom, the mutuality, community, course themes, embodiment and benefits are all still there.  The opportunity for myself to apply what I teach, at first with acceptance of what is, letting go of what was, patience with myself with a new learning curve, showing up with beginner’s mind, noticing the judgments and allowing kindness, was interesting.

Experiencing a spaciousness with using Zoom was not expected. The principles of mindfulness of showing up to the present moment, pausing, breathing and proceeding became clear.  Learning how to move toward the unwanted of this pandemic, finding creative ways of minimizing Zoom fatigue in the process, and being able to enjoy silent retreats while building community was rewarding.  Both the participants and I have enjoyed these moments, with all of us looking forward to meeting with others, sometimes from around the globe.  This has created community in this time of social isolation, which may be especially important as the holidays arrive and we may not be able to be with our loved ones. Most inspiring to me is experiencing directly through our classes the resiliency in us as human beings and the sweet community that is created.

Sometimes teaching on Zoom can be a little chaotic, with everyone speaking up at once, or I might miss a hand raised, or one of us may become frozen.  This is actually part of the practice of showing up moment by moment to what is and then pausing and proceeding.  We look out for one another and we work together.

Obviously, some in-person aspects are missing with Zoom.  Yet where our hands cannot touch or our eyes directly meet, there remains the sweet presence of awareness, the kind, curious and friendly investigation of moment to moment experience that is still so rewarding.

Filed Under: Monthly Musings