Tamiko Nimura is a longtime Source Yoga student and is enrolled in this summer’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction series. She will be sharing her experience over the next few weeks through a series of blog posts.
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. So when the Impressive Clergyman begins the marriage ceremony, Prince Humperdinck just wants to Skip To The End. “Man and wife,” he says, “just say man and wife.” Not much of a marriage ceremony, but then it’s not much of a marriage either.
I found myself thinking about Skip to the End last week at my first class in an 8-week series on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). I love being a student again. I love the beginnings of classes, all that possibility of community and connection and learning something new. Thanks to the generosity of a friend and the support of my family, I’m happy to be here. I have a husband who commutes to Seattle every day, two active and joyful school-age daughters. I’m a freelance writer, working mostly from cafes and my kitchen. I’m an introvert who loves her alone time, happy to be social during other times.
So you’d think I’d be reveling in two-and-a-half hours of me-time. Instead, I find myself sympathizing with Prince Humperdinck: can we skip to the end?
I do like so much of the class already: there is a gentle circle of yoga props, each place set with a chair, a yoga mat, a blanket, a bolster. I like the lecture about mindfulness and definitions, some background on this program in MBSR. Ever the student, I’ve got a pencil and a notebook next to my mat. I like the get-to-know you exercises.
I like the guided meditation that asks us to reach for the reason why we are in the class. I’m moved by what many people are saying, the reasons why they are there. As for me, there are several reasons, but here are a couple:
1) I get easily overwhelmed. I’d like to find out more about how to cope with smaller daily stressors.
2) For the last five years off and on, I have experienced some insomnia. I’m usually able to get to sleep, but wake up about once a night. Sometimes it takes me a while to get back to sleep; that seems to be when the hamsters in my mind climb onto their wheels and party like it’s 1999. There’s at least one, but sometimes there’s a hamster party and they wake each other up, put on their raspberry berets, and Go Crazy.
I have always wanted to take a yoga or meditation workshop, especially with Erin. I’ve been going to Source for over ten years now, and Erin was one of my “home” teachers. For years I associated Sunday mornings with her Sunday morning classes. She creates light and grace in every class she teaches. She helped me learn poses like tripod headstand, how to refine my downward dog, how to roll my shoulders up, back, and down after a forward bend—but more importantly, she helped me find the spiritual solace that yoga provides. Erin’s classes helped me learn that yoga could be for everyone, not just the Yoga Journal perfect. I could make my yoga practice work for me, not the other way around. I could be compassionate with my body and what it could achieve, because there was no sense of end-goals to be had. There was only the peace in the practice, in the process—and that in itself was one of the best unlearnings that this overachiever could have.
I like the mini-mindfulness exercises. “What do you notice?” Erin asks us gently, after each one. After a couple, I start to think that noticing is a practice: in itself, it’s about slowing down, to be attentive. I like the mindful listening exercise, where we take turns listening to a partner in the class. After an exercise where we look at and taste a raisin as if for the first time, I think it’s something else. I notice that it’s about slowing down, plus some curiosity. Curiosity and distance seem to be part of the key.
But towards the end of the first MBSR session, I find myself in Prince Humperdinck mode. Erin begins a body scan meditation. For the uninitiated, that’s a guided meditation, usually where the participants are lying on the floor. A facilitator talks them through focusing on different body parts, talking them through a mental focus on head to toe (or toes to head, in this case). I’ve done shorter versions of body scan meditations before at the end of yoga classes, and so maybe this meditation seems a little too familiar.
We begin with the left-hand big toe, moving through each individual toe after that, and then we move up to the calf, the thigh. Then we move back down to the right-side big toe, on to the toes of that foot, and so on. I’m used to meditations where we focus on both feet, both legs at the same time. I start to get impatient. You’re kidding me, right? Now we have to start with the right side all over again? Can we just Skip to the End?
In big-group discussion, I share this reaction. Erin smiles at me. “Is this a familiar feeling?” she asks. I’m at a loss for words for a second. “I…don’t know,” I say.
I like to think that I’m a pretty patient person. But then I think about my phone with its reminders, my to-do lists that seem to multiply like bunnies. I think about my daily routine during the school year, helping to get my husband and kids out the door with everything they need for the day. I think about the items I like to cross off my lists, the way I write down what I’ve accomplished each day. I like to think about what I have achieved, what I want to achieve. I’m not a patient person with myself. Yoga’s one of the few places in my life where I’m content just to be.
Erin’s still smiling at me. “Well,” she says. “Maybe that’s something to be curious about.”
Tamiko Nimura is a freelance writer living in Tacoma, Washington. She has been practicing yoga for almost 12 years. More of her writing is available at her website, http://www.kikugirl.net.