“Practice like your life depends on it.” I recall the very first time I read those words written by Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD and was scared! I mean, was this a threat or just a very stern warning?!? At the time, I was going through all the sturm und drang of peri-menopause and thyroid disruption. I was anxious, depressed, sleep deprived and a bit peevish about the fact that I had been practicing yoga and meditation for years by now, so “why me?!?!”
What I learned through my perseverance, determination and just plain old research, was that mindfulness was missing from my daily life. I was not making my life my practice, but simply expecting those few hours spent practicing weekly to handle it all. I was simply using meditation and yoga as more or less of a routine that I would turn toward when I needed it most, but I was not being as faithful to it as I needed to be in every day life.
Oh sure. There were LONG periods in my early 30’s to early 40’s when I devoted a ton of time to practice. But then, in my early 40’s we adopted a wonderful, beautiful 6 month old baby boy. Wow, was my life flipped upside down. I grabbed what time I could find, whenever able with practice and yoga. However, this time for self care and practice got to be less and less as time moved on. About 8 years later, I was feeling completely off kilter and unable to feel calm and balanced. Enter: peri or pre-menopause and all the ups and downs that go with this time. Not all women experience this, in fact, many women skip right over this time and find themselves in menopause without so much as a hiccup. Bravo for them! But “woe is me” to the rest of us! HAHA!
So, what I found through lots of research and exploration at the time, was that mindfulness: living my life in an aware and present way was missing. What was also missing was my ability to recognize that a meditation practice was not a part-time endeavor to grab when able, but a full-time process of bringing mindfulness into daily life AND practicing it formally with meditation. My pathway toward this recognition was the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program that I learned and lived after reading that wonderful, and life changing book by Jon called “Full Catastrophe Living.” This book explained all there was to know and more about this wonderful program he developed and launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School over 35 years ago. I was literally, blown away with the fact that I was able to reignite my commitment to practice, learn to just be with the ups and downs of life in a more compassionate way, and make room for the fact that “into every life rain must fall” approach. This program also became my inspiration in my personal and professional life as well when I trained to be a teacher of mindfulness at the Center for Mindfulness at The University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Life is all about change. Change in our growth and bodies. Change in our homes and living conditions. Change in the environment and world around us at large. Change is a fact of life. Those who resist or are unprepared or caught off guard about this fact find things to be far more difficult to weather. Much as I did with my march toward menopause and the physical and emotional struggles I was faced with daily.
I know now or sense strongly, Jon was not making a threat or blasting out a dire warning when he stated “Practice like your life depends on it,” but was offering a loving, caring “call to action.” Living mindfulness and having a routine meditation practice impact our ability to ride out these inevitable changes with a kinder, gentler and more caring approach toward ourselves and life. My life does depend on my practice. Practice is my life, is another way I look at it. It is not a part-time, quick fix to problems. But a way of life that prepares me for this inevitable change as I move through life.
Change…its going to happen when you least expect it. Wether it comes in roaring like a lion or gently like a lamb, it happens. And I know that my practice cannot stop this change, or prevent it from occurring, but it can help me to weather my personal ups and downs with kindness and compassion and a gentle reminder that “this too shall pass” and if it doesn’t, I will practice like my life depends on it and just let it all “be.”
There is another quote of Jon’s I have since learned and love. “You cannot control the waves, but you can learn to surf.” That is how I live my life.