A Rejuvenating Workshop-Vacation on Cape Cod
Thirty years of clinical practice, a full decade of teaching clinicians and lay folk how to cultivate resilience and bounce back from ordinary disappointments and extraordinary disasters, will come to a quiet close with The Resilience Mindset workshop at the Cape Cod Institute, June 27-July 1, 2022.
One may stand on these shores and put all the world behind him. – Henry David Thoreau, Cape Cod, 1865
Because of the format of the Institute’s trainings – classes in the mornings – afternoons and evenings free to walk the beaches and sail the ocean – teaching one final time at the Cape Cod Institute is a fitting way indeed to “put all the world behind me,” to let go of professional work and identity that has been so richly rewarding and meaningfully contributory, and move into more spaciousness in living and being.
As a psychotherapist who has been helping people recover and strengthen their resilience for thirty years, I know well the value of developing a healthy, strong, well-functioning personal self. People can be truly resilient; they can truly thrive.
As a mindfulness practitioner and teacher for twenty-five years, I also know the value of “letting go” of that self. Not taking things personally — letting the self “dissolve” into the larger awareness that can know but not be entangled in all the coming and goings — brings relief from suffering.
Here’s an exercise I developed for my Advanced Mindfulness and Self-Compassion course and will teach at the Institute this summer. It’s a gentle way to “let go” and experience resting in simply being.
EXERCISE: LETTING GO OF THE SELF – BREATHING INTO INFINITY
1. Sit comfortably. Allow your eyes to gently close. Focus your awareness on your breathing, gently in and out. As you follow your breathing, notice your own awareness of your breathing, the awareness that allows you to know that you are breathing.
2. When that awareness of your breathing is steady, begin to notice the breathing of any people around you, or people you imagine being around you. There’s no need to do anything; just notice or imagine other people breathing as you are breathing, and notice your awareness of that. Notice what you are aware of in your own being as you rest in this awareness.
3. Staying anchored in an awareness of your own breathing, expand your awareness of breathing to include the breathing of more people you know, who are not necessarily physically near you. Notice your awareness of your awareness of everyone breathing. Notice your awareness of your own being as you remain aware.
4. Still anchored in an awareness of your own breathing, expand your awareness further to include people you don’t know, outside the building you are in, perhaps elsewhere in the neighborhood, throughout the city, across the region. Become aware of all of them breathing together. Notice your awareness of your awareness: you are simply being, and being aware.
5. Continue to expand your awareness to include people breathing all over the country, all over the planet. Expand your awareness to include all living creatures breathing in the parks, the forests, underground, in the lakes and rivers, in the oceans, the sky, of all sentient beings breathing together. Notice your awareness of your awareness of existence, and your awareness of simply being.
6. Expand your awareness to include all forms of existence, some breathing, some not — the air, the water, the rocks. And notice your awareness of your awareness of the breathing, and your awareness of simply being.
7. Expand your awareness beyond our planet to other planets, other stars, other galaxies, and the space between the planets and stars and galaxies, as far as you can possibly imagine; notice your awareness of your awareness expanding. Rest comfortably, safely, in this vast spacious awareness, in this vast simply being, for as long as you choose. Take your time.
8. Gently bring your awareness back to your awareness of sitting in the room you are in, in this moment, breathing. Focus your awareness on simply breathing. Take a moment to shift gears and reflect on your experience of simply being. You may experience a lightness, a spaciousness, or an openness in your being.
On reflection after this exercise, you may realize that at some point your sense of self dropped away. You can come back to that sense of self in a heartbeat anytime you need to. But you did not need a sense of self to experience the vastness of awareness accessible in this practice of letting go.