How Jill’s MBSR program helped me

Why I needed a change

To be completely truthful, when I first heard of the MBSR program, I had no idea what it was. I heard the term “Mindfulness,” but I wasn’t interested in finding out what it was or how it could potentially help my life. I was skeptical.

With the craziness of the world and adding being a newly single mother, a full-time employee and transitioning back into the Perth community (I grew up here). I lost a very important balance in my life and I honestly lost a bit of my sanity. It was easy to put myself on the back burner and to keep running forward, for my kids and for work; two tiny people I would move heaven and earth for and the best job ever. Eventually all the running caught up with me. My health started declining and my world started getting smaller. I was dealing with more than my brain knew how to cope with. Thankfully, Catherine saw the failing juggling act. It got harder to pretend that everything was okay. She suggested that I try MBSR. She strongly felt like this program would help me.

I started the registration process for the 8-week program last year. Jill asked me point blank, Are you really ready to make a change? Can you commit to this practice? I had to think about it. Did I have the time to commit? Was I in a place mentally to commit? Would this program actually stop my brain from travelling faster than I can comprehend? So much in my life changed in such a short period of time, but I answered yes.

The reasons why I knew I needed this program:

  • I needed to focus my energies on the present, not continuing to dwell on the past and thinking so far into the future.
  • I wanted to calm myself for my job and my kids, my nerves were on high alert.
  • I was desperate to find a way to truly be happy again, with myself and my life.

My first experiences doing the MBSR practice

The first few classes were difficult. To be able to sit quietly and focus on my breath, made me very impatient. I wanted to get up and move around. My mind kept thinking. It kept thinking of a million things I had to do before the night was finished. The purpose of the exercise was to bring our minds back to the present. I started to think that it was impossible to do.

I wasn’t the only one to think that! During discussions, I learned that the women around me, all different ages and stages of life, struggled like me. Our struggles were different, but we had same difficulties in the practice and felt similar emotions. Fatigue.. impatience…  guilt… anger… loneliness… It was comforting to know that I wasn’t alone.

I was really bad at my homework, I didn’t get to practice much at home. I tried too, but couldn’t. There were moments were I would sneak in 5 minutes of quiet reflection. It was okay because even though it was 5 minutes, it was calming. I found the loving kindness meditation really emotional. It asks you to be kind to yourself. I really struggle with that like many of us do.

Towards the end of the 8 weeks, the body scans, the walking mediation and the mindful yoga, got a little easier. My mind would be quicker to bring back to the present and it would take longer for my mind to wander. It was working!! The All-Day Retreat was what I think truly affected me and it was the turning point in my practice. There was a particular exercise of trust. We were to practice in pairs. Trusting is not something I consider myself good at. I dreaded doing this exercise. My partner was truly compassionate, caring and she made me feel a sense of safety. It was an incredibly comforting experience and a memory I will never forget. In this program, I met some pretty wonderful women that I was able to relate to and draw strength from. We all grew in our practices together.

We ended our all day retreat and last MBSR class with all of us joined together by our hands. 15 women, in different walks of life, joined with kindness, gratitude, hope and commitment in the practices we learned together.

My Practice today

I practice mindfulness when I can. I still find it challenging to be consistent. Finding the time in the day, between kids, work, after school activities, evening chores and bed time, is difficult. At the end of the night, I just want to sleep!! However, when I start to feel overwhelmed, when I start down that dark familiar path. I have the tools to use to cope. I have the audio meditations and the knowledge of when I need to use them. More importantly, I have the people I have met since being back in Perth to lean on.

This program is truly a life changer.

Visit Jill Dunkley’s website to learn more about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

Written By: Julie Atack