By Susan Stone
Now that I am retiring after 17 years as an instructor of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the UVa Mindfulness Center, I want to share a few observations about my experiences.
MBSR is an 8-week course which, as taught at UVa, is open to people from Charlottesville and surrounding communities, as well as to UVa faculty and staff. With the tremendous growth in the popularity of mindfulness over recent years, an increasing number of people bring to class some familiarity with the subject. What many lack, however, is a systematic exploration of mindfulness and its applications in all areas of life—at work, at home, and at play. And most importantly, they may lack structured support in the practice, for unlike many other disciplines, mindfulness requires more than intellectual understanding. It is a skill, a way of life actually, that can only be grasped through doing it. Learning to live in the present moment with kindness and without judgment is a huge challenge, especially in our fast-paced, high-stress society, and while I don’t know anyone who is always mindful, even part-time practice is nothing less than transformative. Students have called the course “a gift of a lifetime.”
Participants often come to the first class with the stresses of their lives visible in their demeanor and with a sense of uncertainty about the class, as though they are wondering, “What am I getting myself into?” In fact, there are surprises beyond the course material itself. Because classes are comprised of individuals from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, class discussions are rich as younger adults and those more mature in age and professional experience learn together and share their challenges with mindfulness practice. While the first class in the course invariably starts with participants sitting in a circle in uncomfortable silence, by the time the course finishes, there has been much laughter and warmth. And there have been many insights as students see more deeply into themselves and the practice. It’s common for participants to say at the end that they will miss the weekly meetings. I, too, will miss them and the many fine people who have trusted me to guide them through the course. I thank you all.
Filed Under: Monthly Musings