15-20 years ago students who had taken the MBSR programs wondered about having a group available to go to for support and mutual enrichment. I then decided to make the group room available for free for such a group to meet, under the condition that someone would take responsibility for the key, and that two simple instructions were followed: There would have to be first a one-hour mindfulness meditation, and then an hour of debriefing and discussion on issues related to people’s meditation practice. The group would be free of charge, and participants could attend whenever they could or wanted to without any kind of commitment. There would be no leader, but only a facilitator responsible for the key, for any other administrative matter and for liaison with me whenever necessary.
After a short period Heidy Steinback graciously accepted the responsibility of the key, as she now tells us both a gift and a curse. It was the gift of commitment to practice and presence and the curse of administrative duty. Week after week, month after month, year after year, Heidy was there on Wednesday nights from 6:30-8:30 pm, by rain, hail or snow, sunshine, full moon or storm, unwavering in her determination to presence. On my way home after work, a snowstorm in progress, I would sometimes see one pair of shoes placed there outside the suite door, and I knew Heidy was meditating here, alone, honoring her commitment not only to her administrative role, but to the group, to herself, to meditation and to presence. To this day, 15 ears later, participants express deep gratitude for her dedication, which has indeed become an inspiration to all.
Now that The Mindfulness Centre is growing, participants have expressed the wish to not only continue this tradition, but to improve it in several ways. The group will continue to be a non-denominational, mindfulness meditation peer group. It will continue to be free of charge, with the exception of those evenings a teacher comes in to teach a topic. There will continue to be the structure of one hour of mindfulness meditation, followed by meditation-related discussions, and access to the group will continue to be restricted to people who have taken our MBSRP or already have mindfulness meditation experience from elsewhere. What will change is the occasional participation of one of The Mindfulness Centre’s teachers, who will present a topic. To stimulate the group process, also on the new menu is voluntary homework as well as predetermined topics participants will have access to as themes for exploration.