This week I, along with twenty brave souls, completed an eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Class. As always in this the last class, we do a meditation reflecting upon what we received from the class, the practices, and each other. Then we reflect on the questions; “Will I continue to practice? And if I do, what will keep me committed?” Into the silence I also posed the question, “What has kept you committed to other things in your life?”
There were many answers as we went around the room and heard from everyone. We heard the benefits we often hear at this stage of the class, such as, “I am sleeping better, my blood pressure has come down, my blood sugars are improved. I am noticing the good moments of my life a lot more. I am less judgmental of myself and others. I am not so reactive. I am handling stress much better.” We also heard things like, “I am more open to God’s guidance.” “I am making the choices I really want to make rather than living on automatic pilot.”
One student said, “I am really glad you asked the question, “What has kept you committed to other things in your life?” I thought about my marriage, and what keeps me committed to it; the answer that came was, because it matters. So when I asked myself how to apply this to Mindfulness and Meditation the answer was, because I matter. I matter enough to take care of myself in this way. My life matters. My choices matter. Slowing down and looking deeply at my life-which Mindfulness asks us to do- ensures that I live in such a way that I remember that what I do and what I say matters.”
The comments of this sincere young man, a graduate student at Loma Linda University Medical Center have rung deeply within me all week. I keep seeing his face- shyly saying, “….Because I matter.” It has opened my heart, and made me remember that I too matter and what I do matters. Easy to forget sometimes in the midst of making a living, dealing with bureaucracies, answering emails, commuting…
When I took my first training in MBSR with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli in 2003, Saki said, “You will learn much more from your students than they will from you. This was one of those moments, when I was humbled by the wisdom coming from the wonderful people who had traveled this journey with me for the previous eight weeks.
One of the ways I like to begin any class on how to meditate is to spend a good amount of time why one might meditate. Why would you want to meditate? My feeling is and my experience is, if you are connected to a good strong why, then you will be more likely to do it. After we hear from folks around the room, reasons from, becoming calmer and more centered to connecting more deeply with their spiritual life, I tell them one of the reasons I meditate. I meditate to make sure I am living my own life. My true life, one that comes from my core values, my wisdom and my integrity.
What do you mean by that? Whose life would you be living if not your own? In my experience in my own life and in working closely with human beings for the last 28 years, I’ve seen that it is relatively easy to end up living someone else’s life. It is easy to get swept up in other people’s expectations, your parents’, your spouse and family, your boss. The media, popular culture, and societal influences also shape our lives.You can even form a life in opposition to those same forces.
When we sit down, become still and focus on our breath for a while, all kinds of things may rise to the surface. We have a chance to examine our thoughts, our drives and the internal and external forces that shape us. Then when we begin to see these a little more clearly, we can begin to make some choices about what is true for us and to us and what is not.
This week my student gave me a much simpler and more beautiful way of saying all of this. I meditate because I matter, my life matters and so does yours.