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Each of us is currently in progress toward what we will become.

We have lives that have brought us to this moment. We have hopes and fears that will be with us until the next.

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that I am becoming an MBSR teacher.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is not only a mouthful to say it is also a course of study that allows each of us to enter into a space where we can look at our lives; where we are in this moment; and move to the next moment without bringing the stress of the world with us.

The path to becoming a teacher of MBSR is not short. Four years ago I started with my first 8-week class here in NYC. In April, I will complete the Practice Teaching Intensive at the Center for Mindfulness and be a Qualified MBSR Teacher.

The Center for Mindfulness is based out of Massachusetts Medical in Worcester, MA. In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zin started what was then called the Stress Reduction Clinic. The hospital granted him the opportunity to work with patients who had plateaued in their recovery; who had gotten to a place where stress, frustration and chronic pain were overwhelming. These first classes, when analyzed by the research hospital’s findings, solidified MBSR’s place in participatory care.

Since then, MBSR has been taught to scores of people who wanted the chance to learn how to participate in exploring how to reduce their own level of stress, sometimes partnering with their doctors and sometimes on their own. 

Some may know me as an Alexander Technique teacher. I am continuing that work and pleased that AT resonates so fully with MBSR.  The first principle of mindfulness is Body Awareness, which (though biased) I feel Alexander has unpacked as gracefully as possible.

MBSR is taught as an 8-week course. I am pleasantly proud to announce that I am teaching my first course starting Tuesday April 24 through June 12.

As we are all becoming something, this is what I am working toward next. I’d greatly appreciate your help In spreading the word, sharing the news and letting me know if you have any questions.

If you are curious about MBSR, I am offering a free workshop on Tuesday March 20th  at the Fountain House Gallery - 702 9th Ave at the corner of 48th Street from 6:15 to 7:30. 

All the best of all the things to all of you.

Begin with People

Last week we talked about the concept of Beginner’s Mind. As a practice, Beginner’s Mind is simply staying awake to what is new about each experience - especially if that experience is something you have done 100, 1,000 or 10,000 times at some point during this life already.

There are things we do repetitively that become habit. One instance that gets me regularly is that when checking out at the grocery store or Walgreens that unless you are using one of the self service machines, there is a person working the register living just as full a life as you might be. I sometimes am too wrapped up in my own minute to minute, but I have tried to make it a habit to make eye contact and begin with the intention of staying fresh to the experience of saying “no, i don’t need a foot and a half of a receipt for this one stick of Old Spice, but thank you! have a good one!” even if the person on the other end of that exchange has had it and doesn’t need or want my good wishes.

What if we applied this idea of Beginner’s Mind - of constantly starting fresh - to the people we see everyday?

I haven’t seen my co-workers in two days. Who are they now? Did anyone get engaged? Did anyone lose a family member? Did anyone change at all in the last number of days? Did everyone change? Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about how just being present to who someone is right now (not 30 minutes ago, not 30 days ago) can be a great benefit - not only to them but also to us.

We stay fresh, we begin again, we meet people where they are in that moment - and in so doing we can continue to meet ourselves - add as much “non-judgement” as possible and this is all a very good recipe for mindfulness.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few." - Suzuki

January 1, 2018.

So much possibility. 

2017 is over. Few people I come across in person or online seem to be sad about putting 2017 behind us.

There were roses among the thorns for me - I started a new job that feels rewarding; I filmed a small part on Broad City in May which then aired in December; I went on vacations and a retreat; and I started to teach privately again. I suspect most people, even those who won’t miss 2017 at all, had some good experiences during the course of those 12 months. 

I always feel this avalanche of fresh energy, resolutions and hope at the start of the year. The energy of a fresh start, the resolve to transform bad habits to good ones, and hope that simply by dint of remembering to write “2018” - I will have achieved newness and somehow escaped the past.

I think a powerful tool to help me, and maybe all of us, to achieve and cultivate newness is Beginner’s Mind

Beginner’s Mind means to be freshly awake to what is happening - especially if you are expert in the task at hand. 

That Suzuki quote above applies to whatever you might be starting - I, for instance, am starting to “blog” and since I am a beginner at “blogging” or using social media as a tool to get the word out about what I am doing and what I am offering it is easy for me to feel like a beginner and make discoveries along the way.

I am expert at riding the subway, so, for me, riding the subway tomorrow can be a brand new experience. Not glamorous, but if I stay awake maybe I will learn something I didn’t know before.

Beginner’s Mind means abandoning the fixed ideas we have about repetitive tasks, being open to what is actually happening, not what we think should or will be happening.

The experience of walking into your apartment at the end of the day can feel pretty rote, but being awake to the phenomenon of coming home and how what has happened outside of your home changes this particular instance of returning home can be a daily practice using Beginner’s Mind.

What routine task can you decide in this moment to practice Beginner’s Mind during over the course of the next few days?

If you want to follow Balance Lab on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, please do - and sign up for the mailing list if you are so inclined!


Happy New Year to all!

The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.
— Trungpa

People make terrible anchors

Sand castles don’t generally last too long. That didn’t stop us from spending hours building them. Our own summer vacation mandalas. Alive only for the moment. If we were lucky our parents took a picture. Eyes bright, bucket in hand we grin. Our castle safe on Kodak forever.In reality, the castle was destroyed promptly by a rampaging toddler or ridiculed by an evil older sibling or smoothed overnight by the tide to be remade the next day, similar but different.

It’s hard to get mad at the tide. It’s just singing a duet with the moon.

It’s easy to get mad at a person.

We want to invest ourselves in something that is solid; build something that will stay strong, safe, and stable; while we, ourselves, want the freedom to change, grow, risk and achieve. But that picture of the sand castle is all that’s left. The castle is gone by morning.  The sand itself is still dancing to the music the moon and the tide make.

That person (and you, too, are a person) is not the image, is not the idea, you built.

Each person has their own duet with the moon.

So as we build a relationship to another person, as we build a relationship to our self, it may behoove us to surrender it to the tide each night. Begin again the next day, the next breath.

My stroke of insight

Experimenting with balancing your awareness between the left and right brain (spoiler alert: we only have one brain) can feel odd, but also oddly calming. Dr. Bolte Taylor’s experience and her ability to articulate the different locations of awareness are inspiring.

Welcome to Balance Lab

Welcome. Balance Lab is coming together.

Balance Lab has a few moving parts all of which want to help you learn how to create, cultivate and keep balance in all things.

The easiest way to be involved is to follow on Social Media and attend the weekly classes in Manhattan. Soon enough, the online module will be up and running.

Balance Lab is being created by Patrick Mellen, that’s me! I am a certified Alexander Technique teacher through ATI taught by Chloe Wing right here in Manhattan. In addition to Alexander’s work, Chloe introduced me to a meditation technique called Rounding. Rounding is a process where gentle movement, breathing exercises, meditation and rest are practiced in a specific sequence - and then repeated, you know, like in a round.

Balance Lab holds weekly classes, based on this Rounding model, that incorporates Alexander Technique, mindfulness, and movement. Classes are 75 minutes long and are offered at the low low price of “pay what you want” ($10 suggested).

The online component (coming soon) will consist of the individual exercises, or labs, that make up the live class - with the idea that you can practice balance between the brain and the body anytime, anywhere.

Welcome!

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Shall you live authentically who you are or will you spend your allotted living the life of someone you imagine your self to be?
— Earl R. Smith II