Discover more from Inside Voices
My Slumps and Highs With Mindfulness
Plus an Invitation to Join in Person
The more I practice mindfulness, the more I notice how much easier it is to practice in community. Years ago, I didn’t think I could survive a seven-day silent retreat, but I arrived, settled in, and put in the hours. How? I had no other option. Everyone sat in a single room without phones or laptops or children running around. My mind stopped looking for other things to do, and I committed. By the end of the week I’d reached a level of mental clarity I hadn’t reached before. A year later, I did it again.
Then I hit a stretch in early 2020 where the more I meditated, the more I retreated from life. I felt pulled toward a state of bland passivity — no goals, no direction, no gumption. Sure, I was “practicing,” but something was off. I can see now, with the clarity of hindsight, that part of it was that my life at the time felt too painful to fully sit with and part of it was that I’d been relying on a false conception about mindfulness.
Eventually, I decided that I needed to try a different way forward. So I recalibrated. For a while I simply checked in with myself throughout the day to see if what I was doing was what I truly wanted to be doing. If not, I pivoted (or at least tried to). After many months of doing this, I returned to formal meditation, revisiting apps like Waking Up and Insight Timer.
I haven’t perfected mindfulness. I’m not enlightened. But I now have a better sense for the role I want mindfulness to play in my life.
It has to do with practical wisdom — phronesis in Greek. It’s about attuning to the moment without any prior conception of what the moment should be, even when the moment calls for something difficult, such as acting from a place of anger. Aristotle put it well when he wrote, “Anybody can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
That’s phronesis. Living appropriately moment to moment. No distraction, no fragmentation, a life aligned, an eye single. That’s also, it turns out, what it means to be mindful.
Again, I’m not there yet. But I’m interested in practicing with other people.
Before Covid, I attended in-person events with Lower Lights School of Wisdom, which has since gone remote as its founder, Thomas McConkie, attends divinity school in Boston.
I also led a monthly mindfulness/discussion group in Utah County for three years — a group that met in a space that tragically didn’t survive the shutdown.
I made friends in both places and enjoyed the moments of presence and the discussions we had, so I’m starting this group up again this Sunday. If this sort of thing interests you and you live in Utah County, I’d love for you to join. We’ll practice mindfulness and discuss ways to live more fully aligned with life — whatever that means for you right now.
“Can you remain unmoving,” says one interpretation of the Tao Te Ching, “till the right action arises by itself?” As I see it, that’s the practice. It’s a practice I know I can’t do alone.
Utah Valley Mindfulness Workshop
A Monthly Meetup, Centered in Mindfulness and Wisdom
Join the mailing list for updates about future events. (I likely won’t post on Substack about future events.)
Next Event: Sunday, April 30th 7:30-9:00pm
Topic: The Middle Way
Where: Harmon Psychotherapy & Consulting, 760 N. 530 E. Orem, UT (Below Orem Eye Clinic)
Questions We’ll Explore
How can I live more aligned with the life I truly want to live? (How can I live wisely?)
How can I more fully share what’s on my mind and heart?
How can I be more present moment to moment, especially with other people?
7:30 — Welcome
7:35 — Intro meditation
7:40 — Introduce the night’s topic
8:00 — Meditation
8:20 — Discuss in small groups
8:45 — Share collective insights
9:00 — End
Facilitated by Jon Ogden
Jon has been practicing mindfulness for nearly a decade, primarily via offerings at Lower Lights School of Wisdom, including week-long silent retreats, weekend retreats, multi-week courses, and a 9-month intensive program. In addition, Jon has had a decades-long interest in the world’s wisdom traditions, which he pulls from as a co-founder of UpliftKids.org.
Who is this workshop for?
People interested in practicing meditation and exploring how to live wisely together.
Do I need to have prior meditation experience?
No. These events will serve people who have never meditated before, as well as people who have meditated for many years.
Do I need to bring a cushion?
No, we’ll sit on chairs, making it easy for people of all experience levels to participate.
What’s the cost?
This offering is currently free, though we might eventually ask for a small fee to contribute to the rental costs at Harmon Psychotherapy.
What is “wisdom”?
The capacity to make choices that best align with the short-term and long-term wellbeing of yourself and others. We will pull insights from wisdom traditions around the world, including Christianity, Buddhism, Stoicism, Taoism, and more.
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