There were eight of us in last night’s mindfulness class, including five nurses: active, retired, students. We practiced following our in-breaths, then our out-breaths, noting the gap in between. We walked in the garden, bringing attention to the bottom of our feet. We did standing stretches, extending arms and hands to feel our full reach. We lay flat on the floor, sensing our weight and scanning our bodies from bottom to top, bringing oxygen and awareness to parts taken for granted.
Saki Santorelli, director of the stress reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School calls mindfulness “an act of hospitality.
A way of learning to treat ourselves with kindness and care that slowly begins to percolate into the deepest recess of our being while gradually offering us the possibility of relating to others in the same manner.”
No wonder that professional caregivers gather to learn in this way. They give and give to others everyday. Many get burned out, experience ‘compassion fatigue,’ become discouraged, even bitter. So they (we) return to the beginning: noting one in-breath at a time, all the way till it reaches the still point, then noting the exhale, just as attentively.
“With every breath I take, I am at home,” Master Dogen (1200-1253) tells us. A healthy person breathes between 15 and 20 times per minute, 900 to 1200 per hour. How many of those have I spent away from “home,” distracted and unaware?
sources: Santorelli, S. (2011). Letting ourselves heal. Mindfulness (magazine). Boston: Shambhala, p. 19. The “be here now” in the heading comes from the bestselling book by Ram Dass (1971, Random House).