What fascinates me about this mindfulness work is the way in which the different qualities and characteristics of being mindful engage and connect us. Recently, I wrote about the rich possibilities inherent in cultivating the skill of listening mindfully and the presence of respect, wonder, gratitude, reverence and connection that naturally seem to co-arise. It makes me think of the lyrics from an old song that goes “. . . you can’t have one without the other.” I haven’t done any scientific research on this, but it seems that when making the intention to cultivate even one of these, the others appear.
Teaching MBCT or MBSR in a group setting or adapting the program for individual work provides multiple opportunities to nurture connections. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown has a lovely, yet practical, definition of what she feels it means to be connected. She writes “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
As we teach we become aware of many different connections and relationships that arise as the weeks pass. Daniel Goleman, in his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships writes about how recent findings in neuroscience and biology confirm that we are hard-wired for connection and that our relationships shape our biology as well as our experiences.
There is the relationship a participant creates with the material being presented which may fluctuate from boredom to confusion to excitement. There is the evolving relationship he or she establishes with the teacher. In a group setting, each participant determines whether or not they will connect with others and to what extent they will interact with fellow participants. And then there is the intra-personal work of connecting to oneself that each participant is invited to embark on. For the teacher, there is the opportunity to model healthy boundaries while nurturing curiosity, potential, and the possibility of connection to self and others. And there is the ongoing development of the teacher’s own relationship with the program material, the practice and the embodiment of the attitudinal foundations of mindfulness that Jon Kabat-Zinn articulated: patience, trust, beginner’s mind, non-judging, acceptance, non-striving and letting go. Maybe it is true that we teach what we most need to learn.
I’ve barely touched upon the value of and ways this work invites us to connect. Perhaps you have an example or are aware of other connections taking place as you teach a mindfulness-based intervention that you’d be willing to contribute to expanding this exploration.