With gratitude to FCM member Libby Dunn for sharing these reflections on her recent experience in the Mindful Living Path Intensive.
I’m a new member of FCM and I joined the community just in time to participate in the recent Mindful Living Path Intensive, called “Foundational Practices for Healing and Transforming Emotional Afflictions”. Over a period of 12 weeks, we followed a very systematic approach toward identifying our patterns of emotional afflictions, learning how to stay present with difficult feelings, and building new tools and insights to transform the way we experience emotional challenges. There was plenty of hard work and it was sometimes uncomfortable, but the benefits I gained were well worth the time I invested and the challenges I experienced.
Every two weeks we received an email to let us know what chapters to read in our book and what practices to follow. An important early assignment was to maintain a written log, adding entries every time we experienced disturbing emotions. I think people handled this assignment in different ways. What I did was to print up blank tables and keep them handy on a clipboard. I was really surprised at how many times I reached for the clipboard to jot down a negative emotion, how it felt in my body and the thoughts and circumstances related to it. Pretty soon I had pages of entries, which made it easy to spot recurring patterns. Using the entries as raw material, I was able to identify entry points for challenging habitual thoughts and reactions that were keeping me stuck.
The intensive included several personalized resources to create a supportive and encouraging environment for personal growth. Each of us had a mentor to help us interpret the instructions and to gently guide us back on course when we needed it. Fred provided a monthly Dharma talk that placed what we were doing in a broader context and gave us a chance to ask questions. In addition, we were each assigned to a small support group that met to share insights, successes, and challenges. My group met by telephone, since we were spread all over the place. At first I was not too sure that a telephone support group would be helpful, but I ended up learning a lot from the other group members. It was also reassuring to know that many of us were experiencing some of the same obstacles. For example, several of us felt a bit discouraged in the beginning, when our logs revealed how often negative emotions were affecting our minds and bodies. Between the support group meetings, the personal mentoring and Fred’s Dharma talks, I think we were able to accomplish much more than would have been possible by working alone, using only a book and written instructions.
Based on this first experience, I will definitely participate in another intensive. It is really surprising to me how much progress we made in such a short time. As the intensive was drawing to a close, I noticed that my negative emotions were less frequent and less intense. Now I am more aware when emotional reactivity is arising and it is easier for me to be receptive and stay present to what I am feeling. As a result of participating in the intensive, I have greater confidence in my ability to handle emotionally challenging situations in the future and I feel better prepared to transform difficult emotions into gentle compassion toward myself and others.