In The Princess Bride, one of my favorite movies, the evil prince Humperdinck has dragged Princess Buttercup to the altar. There’s a great deal of noise outside the castle, and he knows that her true love Westley is coming to save her in a matter of minutes.
Normally, I’d be all about the homework. I am one of those people who’s ridiculously happy to be a lifelong student. I have 2 grad school degrees, for goodness’ sake. I miss taking classes besides yoga. But I have to admit that the MBSR homework is a struggle.
Only a week later, my inner yoga teacher shows up again; she too, has gone on retreat. She reminds me of the definition of the word mindful, as used by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the originator of MBSR in the West. Mindfulness is about paying attention in a non-judgmental way. I can pay attention mindfully, I like to think. I have a much harder time paying attention without judgment. So my inner yoga teacher says: What if your discomfort isn’t something for you to analyze away? What if you don’t need to do anything about your discomfort? What if you just noticed it?
I’ve meditated at the pool with my kids, believe it or not. (Don’t worry—they are old enough to swim on their own, around lifeguards.) Several times this summer, I was at the wading pool and sat quietly in the water. Closing my eyes, listening to the water falling around me, the sounds of the water splashing, feeling the sunlight warm on my eyelids. Swaying gently when other kids are running in the water around me. I’ve meditated at the wave pool, and it’s a beautiful image now, the ruffled waves coming into and crashing, the pull of the water as it receded. I’ve even taken time to meditate on the ferry. Those seconds stretch into minutes, the minutes into time without measure.
One of the conversations we have been having in our current Yoga Teacher Training is about the value or detriment of mindfulness hitting the mainstream. When Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced the word and concept of mindfulness to health care in the 70’s, with the creation of the Stress Reduction Clinic at...