I first heard the word “mindfulness” around 1995 on my first meditation retreats with Alan Clements (author of “Burma: The Next Killing Fields?”), Kamala Masters, and Steven Armstrong. These teachers all trained as monastics in Burma in the 1970s and were/are deeply committed to fierce heart wisdom. It was a great beginning.
In 2001 I began attending 10-day Vipassana courses and receiving S.N. Goenka’s excellent instruction via audio and video recordings. In summer 2002 I got to sit in person with Goenka and Mata-ji at a 3-day course during their “Meditation Now” tour. Goenka was as charming and penetrating in person as on those classic dhamma videos.
In 2005 I attended the 7-day MBSR in Mind-Body Medicine training with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli at Omega in NY. One highlight was doing walking meditation on the cool, dewy grass in the mornings. I had the sensation of moving like a snail or slug – like a creature that cannot jerk or jump or rush, that can only move slowly, smoothly, and fluidly. I wondered if I might learn to move more gently and naturally through all my life experiences.
My practice and study of mindfulness, meditation, and compassion continued while attending Naropa University in Colorado and MBSR teacher trainings at the UMass Center for Mindfulness. I began teaching mindfulness workshops in Japan in 2009, and 8-week MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) courses in 2015.
Retreats in Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka further developed my understanding of the broad range of practices in the vipassana tradition. And mindfulness, concentration and metta (loving kindness) continue to challenge, shape, and nurture me every day. They are precious jewels in my life, and have had a cumulative effect for sure. In the words of Ryokan Taigu (1758–1831):
Last year, a foolish monk;
This year, no change!
© 2020 Patrick D. Mitchell, Tokyo Stress Reduction