Mindfulness Community Group2020-11-23T20:11:39+00:00
Mindfulness Community Group

Mindfulness Community Group

In this group of peers you will be stimulated to mobilize your inner teacher, this inner authority you never knew you had in you, this inner voice you are not used to trust, this poignant intuition you tend to dismiss as lunacy.

This group has no teacher. It is administratively facilitated by one of our senior mindfulness meditation practitioners, Heidy Steinback.

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.

You don’t pay anything (except when a teacher comes in to teach), there is no external commitment or pressure. You can attend when you want and as frequently or infrequently as you want. Only very occasionally a teacher comes in and teaches; in other words, no authority is there to feed your need to be told what to do. In full freedom, everything is up to you. The success or failure of the group session is up to you. The level of commitment is up to you. All you find are like-minded fellow travelers on the path of mindfulness, all flawed and human, talented and questioning, sharing and learning. Where is the authority to guide when it is nowhere externally to be seen? That is exactly the group’s mission – to foster the strengthening of your resolve to mobilize the inner teacher, the archetypal teacher in all of us, the already present vast wisdom of the organism that we are, and to not constantly look outside ourselves for the solution. This group invites everyone to listen, to hone their attunement skills, to find their very own personal song to sing, and allow the inner teacher to begin to guide from the internal beyond. Its aim is not to find answers to your questions, but better questions to what you believe are your answers.

Participants are naturally interested in learning, and when one constructs the idea that nothing can be learned from a group, one will naturally not attend. This group offers the opportunity to challenge one’s view of what new learning entails by expanding a socially sanctioned and conditioned one-dimensional view of learning into a multi-dimensional one.

  1. The knowledge as commodity dimension: The tyrannically dominant left-brain imprints on us the view that learning is about acquiring new knowledge from a student’s perspective, or providing new knowledge from a teacher’s perspective. While this is one of the dimensions of learning, it is by no means the only one, yet routinely and quite unconsciously the only one driving people’s behaviour towards the expectation of learning. When this is the only dimension driving our search for knowledge, we remain impoverished, particularly because it restricts learning to a passive attitude. In other words, for successful learning 4 further dimensions of learning are essential and must be honed.
  2. The knowledge as hidden potential dimension: The student’s tendency is to believe she does not know enough. For most people this belief in one’s own ignorance is of the toxic, not of the healthy sort. The healthy belief in one’s own ignorance is exemplified by Socrates’ insight that the only thing he knew was that he did not know anything. This is in fact what wisdom is all about – the realization that knowledge is always tentative, complex, contextual, evolving and miniscule in comparison to what reality really is. Unfortunately, students mostly believe they are ignorant in the sense of being lacking, stupid, not very competent and woefully unauthoritative. This toxic form of feeling ignorant forgets that we always know more than we think, that the organism that we are is far wiser than we can ever imagine and that we have an implicit wealth of savvy and knowledge we routinely do not know how to tap into. What becomes essential here is to learn to understand education in the etymological sense of the word as not a process of ‘in-ducation’ (from Latin ‘leading stuff into someone’), but ‘e-ducation’, meaning ‘fostering stuff to come out of someone’. Practically this means to attend this group with the intent of tapping into what you already know but fail to gain access to.
  3. The knowledge as creation dimension: To learn also means to actively participate by taking the initiative to expose yourself, tapping into the courage of being a fool, and creating something new out of what you have. Only through this dimension can we activate new integrative neurofiring patterns that create new vistas, empower us to realize our own internal authority by mobilizing our internal archetypal teacher and ensure integrative growth.
  4. The knowledge as beginner’s mind dimension: Paradoxically, the student who believes to be ignorant and does not attend a group of peers because he believes he won’t learn anything from peers who are not more advanced than him, also unconsciously limits himself by believing only more knowledge in the form of a commodity can be helpful. This student is like a full cup of tea into which one would want to add more tea – it will only spill over and be wasted. One must empty oneself, realize that to be wise means to be the eternal beginner, and discover in every peer who knows the same or less than you a wealth of untapped wisdom, the way we enjoy the spontaneously creative, immensely inspiring kookiness of a child. To the extent you realize the untapped wisdom in your peers, you also realize it in yourself. Every teacher’s Buddha is his students, like every parents’ Buddha is his child.
  5. The knowledge as repetitive process dimension: Growth cannot occur through the acquisition of new knowledge alone. It must entail the dimension of practice and repetition. In the same way as memory retrieval is a memory modifier, repetition is never about the time-bound reoccurrence of sameness. Instead, it is about the timeless recreation of variations on an evolving theme. So we attend a group such as this also to repeat, repeat, repeat, discovering in every repetition a new dimension we never saw before.

Every session follows the same structure: One hour of mindfulness meditation, then a short reminder to be spoken every week about keeping the discussion relevant to mindfulness meditation issues, including the exploration of one’s own practice experience, and then one hour of dialogue and inquiry. Dr. Treyvaud and his team are always available for any questions or challenges the group may face.

Dr. Treyvaud has asked me to write a little bit about our community, how we are organized online, and what cool things we are doing.

As with everything in life, our community is constantly evolving. The shift to meeting online with Zoom has presented us with many opportunities to adjust and learn. One of the coolest things we are doing is learning how to navigate communicating online. A large number of us are learning how to navigate with electronic devices in ways that we didn’t even know were possible last year at this time. There are many opportunities to practice COAL while we untangle whether the glitches that occur while we are communicating are due to malfunctioning equipment, equipment that is not compatible with what we would like it to do, general lack of technological expertise, or a moment of inattention. We are discovering that even when what we intended for our meditation practice does not materialize in the way we intended due to “glitches”; the practice can still be valuable. The insights that arise from the dialogue between community members while we share our experiences and untangle what happened can be very fruitful.

Even though the learning curve with electronic communication has been and continues to be somewhat messy, our options to be in touch with each other have in many ways improved from what they were before we went online.

We currently have 3 means of contact.
1) The weekly email/newsletter that I send out,
2) The Wem4google group – logistics managed by Ron
3) Our weekly WEM Online with Zoom – logistics managed by Mary Rose with offers of support from Joanna and Samantha if needed.

1) The community group newsletter is a reminder to community members that we have a weekly meeting. It is also a way to give community members who have not attended the previous week(s) a taste of what has been unfolding in the community.
Community members will send me links to articles, websites, books, videos, and meditations, etc. that have inspired their practice and that they wish to share with the community through the newsletter. This sharing might inspire the direction of the dialogue at a future meeting.
The direction of the weekly meetings has always been influenced by the community members who attend the meetings.
Often there was no stated intention of focus prior to a meeting and the direction was set at the beginning of the meeting – this was very challenging when we first started on Zoom with a free account which had a 40-minute time limit.
Ron, Ann, Anita, and John were extremely supportive in meeting with me on extra Zoom meetings to navigate and develop strategies for meetings during the first few months of Zooming.
The idea of deliberately setting and announcing a focus of intention before the meetings evolved during this time period and has become part of the information shared in the weekly newsletter.

2) The Wem4google group allows community members who have chosen to be part of the google group to communicate directly with each other. An email sent to our google group goes to everyone who has joined the google group. A response to that email will also go to everyone in the group unless the choice is made to direct the response only to the sender. When community members share information here instead of through the newsletter a dialogue between members may occur that can include members who are not able to attend our Wednesday evening meetings.
Community members have used the google group in order to organize (before Covid), community gatherings such as a group of community members attending a meditation speaking engagement, a day-long community member facilitated meditation group and (during Covid), meeting in a specific location to share a socially distanced mindful walk. For various reasons, not everyone in the community has joined the google group so I will from time to time also copy some of the information that is shared through the google group in the newsletter.
The Google group also holds an archive of meditations and posts to the group – some of us who are members of the group have yet to unlock the process of how to access this data.

3) WEM online with Zoom is an online place where community members meet to share their experiences of practicing and learning about Mindful meditation. There is no formal “teacher” however community members will take the opportunity to experiment with what they have learned/are learning by sharing thoughts and information with the community. The dialogue that ensues usually opens up new ideas and possibilities for exploration. Sharing is often spontaneous and informal. As the community matures, and perhaps with the designating of a weekly focus of attention in the newsletter, the risk to research and present information in a more formal format is happening more often. The opportunity to share information more formally is open to any community member by indicating to the community what and when they would like to share. This has happened during group dialogue when a community member indicates that they are interested in doing more research on the subject of the dialogue and are then willing to share the information that they learn with the community. The interest to share information may also be presented during an exchange of emails in the google group or by sending an email to me in response to a newsletter. We do not at this time have a formal notification process in place.

One of the interesting effects of meeting virtually instead of in-person is that each of us has the opportunity to choose what and how long we will practice during that 50 minute time period.

When we first started with Zoom our practice and dialogue were constricted by 40 minute time frames. Our actual practice time was often reduced to 20 or 30 minutes rather than the 50 minutes we practiced when we met in person. We discovered that many community members found it much more difficult to practice from home – even a 30-minute practice could be challenging from a home environment.

Now that we have a community-funded Zoom account and are no longer restricted by the 40 minute time constraint we have returned to allowing 50 minutes for practice as we did when meeting in person. The challenges that arise with joining the meeting from our home environment have not disappeared.

Having the option to make choices regarding the initial practice seems to make practicing from home less stressful and more fruitful. When the choice is to practice in silence there is the option of running a guided meditation on your own device while your device is muted on zoom. When there is a guided practice on zoom, there is the option of muting the meditation and practicing in silence. There is also the option of shifting to yoga or a walking meditation (an option that was available when we met in person), if your space allows.

The whole idea behind the community group is that it is a place where we are able to develop our own inner wisdom. Community members online have the opportunity to make broader choices regarding their practice. Making choices is a part of developing wisdom.

The weekly stated intention of focus seems to ground the group dialogue even when the initial means of the practice of the individual members is diverse.

A final really cool thing about WEM Online with Zoom – we currently have a community member meeting with us from the Yucatan Peninsula! Physical distance from the meeting site is no longer an issue.

I express my gratitude to all who are connected to our Wednesday Evening Meditation community. My life is much richer for my involvement with the community.

Heidy Steinback

You have to have taken our MPSR programs or otherwise have an established mindfulness meditation practice learned elsewhere.

Please email Reena at streyvaud@mindful.ca expressing your wish to join. Dr. Treyvaud will review your application. If accepted, you will then be put in touch with one of the regular members of the group for a brief orienting phone call helping you understand what the group is all about and how the rules work. You can then join.

Find out how to choose a program »

Date

Every Wednesday night throughout the year from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Location

The Mindfulness Centre
Suite 408

Cost
Free for normal community meetings among peers.
$60/person for special events with a teacher – will always be announced.

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Administration

Please arrange for timely arrival as we are starting on time at 6:30pm sharp.

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