Today I was a bit surprised by getting a letter in the mail–from myself. I had forgotten all about the letter which my mindfulness teacher, Bev Klug, ironically enough, had asked me and the rest of the members of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class to write to ourselves. On the last day of the class, she told us to write a short letter to ourselves with some reflection on what we’d learned from our experiences learning mindfulness. She asked us to write our home addresses on them and told us she would mail them to us at some later date.
That was last summer. Although I have not forgotten the suggestion that, while it was the end of the formal MBSR class, it was just the beginning of our personal mindfulness practice–I had forgotten about my own letter:
I learned that I can be present in a stressful encounter and respond rather than react. I’m afraid I’ll lose that and go back to being on autopilot.
That I completely forgot about the letter worries me a little. When I compare my memory to that of a man in his 90s named Gordon Strayer who I recently met, I despair of ever being able to write my memoirs. Mr. Strayer is an Iowa writer who just last year published Snippets: A Memoir. He worked in public relations for many years at The University of Iowa. He has a prodigious memory for virtually every meaningful event in his life and it shows in his book. I can’t help wondering if being fully present in most of the moments of his life helped him write it.
I’m still practicing mindfulness. As I look back at what I wrote in my own letter to myself, I can think of many times since then how close I’ve been to autopilot and even back on it. The difference is it happens a lot less often and for much briefer periods of time.
I still am passionate about what I believe in, for example the useless and time-wasting idiocy of Maintenance of Certification (MOC) or the lack of vision of Iowa political leadership on how to improve access to mental health care.
But mindfulness has taught me to respond more skillfully to these pressures with constructive activism and I’m less angry about them.
This is just a snippet of my own. Thanks, Gordon.