Sunday, July 7, 2013

Launching Mindfulness East in St. Paul

Where Mindfulness East meets.

My friend Ann Carlson Emery and I are using social media to launch Mindfulness East, a mindfulness meditation group. We’ve created a Facebook event and sent out invitations to FB friends. With a little research, I found good mindfulness insights and instructions for starting a group at where else, 

The author of the piece, Betty Nelson, mentions Thich Nhat Hanh in her opening paragraphs. Nhat Hanh happens to be my favorite mindfulness teacher, so Nelson won me over right off.  Her commitment to starting a mindfulness group and her passion for practicing mindfulness have much in common with what motivates my friend Ann and me to launch Mindfulness East here in St. Paul. And our new members can expect a very similar agenda at our meetings to what Nelson facilitates at hers.

Nelson writes:

We often have newcomers to our twice weekly meditation groups.  If they are over age 50, their introductions often start with some version of “I’ve meditated on and off for 30 years...”

That was my story, too, until about two years ago. Now I meditate daily, almost every day in some form of “formal” meditation, and every day in “aware of this moment” mindfulness. I’m able to sustain my practice with the help of some people, now friends, who join me regularly in meditation.

After a five-day silent retreat in Vermont, year 2000, with Thich Nhat Hanh and his monks and nuns, I returned to Sarasota with the plan to start a meditation group. There were two others at the retreat who I had identified from my area—the group lasted for two to three meetings. We weren’t able to sustain the group, and I felt I had no business “leading” the group, since I had no training in the dharma and I was certainly unqualified to do any dharma instruction.

What Changed? 

In 2008, I attended a five-day conference for psychotherapists that dealt with mindfulness and the neurophysiology of human relationships. One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Dan Siegel, had referenced a panel he’d been on in Seattle, with the Dalai Lama, at Seeds of Compassion. At the end of the conference, I went home and watched this conversation on the Internet, and at the end I heard His Holiness charge these brain scientists with spreading mindfulness as a secular practice.

When I heard these words, I felt a huge sense of mission and possibility. I knew that mindfulness was an important practice for me. And I also knew that to sustain my practice I needed a community of other mindfulness practitioners. What I was not looking for was a dharma teacher. My passion for mindfulness comes from knowing that it has profound effects that can be demonstrated scientifically and from the changes I’ve experienced in my own life as a result of regular practice.


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