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A Year of Living Mindfully

By Editor | Feb 9 2011

...or  How to Change Your Life, Transform Your Practice and Make New Friends 

by Christa Gallapoullos

Let me paint a picture for you... a couple weeks ago, in a day-long gathering for the YLM group, I sat behind my partner, holding space for him as he breathed through the morning’s first exercise. A wave of warmth moved through me as I looked around the literal and figurative sacred space, observing many sets of folks concentrating on each other. All I saw, all I felt, was the energy of twenty-five people who have become very dear to me in an indescribable way. It hit me, hard, that this group, this year, this YLM program, had truly changed my life.

The group, to give you a rough idea, is made up of twenty-five individuals ranging from 23–75 years old; professionals from the business, health, education and mental health fields (ranging from new to the job market through retirement), teachers, journalists, lawyers, stay-at-home parents and creative types. A real mixed bag and to be honest, we don’t talk a lot about our lives outside YLM. The effort and the energy are focused on the sangha, on trust, on learning new ways and on walking the path to waking up together. And on laughing and sharing what is really going on, and carefully observing others doing their work. It is a truly transformative process, this work we have undertaken.

So what is it that brings someone to the YLM class? With a new group forming for the April 2011 class, I asked some of my group for input I might share with you. There were a few themes that quickly came forth out of those conversations. Certainly Jonathan has a lot of fans. “I was surprised at how consistently kind and generous Jonathan is...” was one response. “Jonathan’s leadership style is just right. He provides the overall structure... with flexibility to adapt to the needs of the group.” And further, “His knowledge is broad and deep and tempered with humor and a strong sense of the realities of life.” The course is very much run straight from his heart and that comes through to all involved as dharma rooted in care and love. For me personally, Jonathan has not only been a great teacher and friend, but a huge source of support, strength, humor and perspective.

As for the benefits of this particular type of sangha, there are many. The practices we learn -– focusing, breathing, writing -- are deeply ingrained in us at the ten-month mark. It does take time and commitment to fully integrate them. “Being inundated with practice, in many different forms, helped to bring about big change” was one comment. Another participant makes it very clear when he says “The overarching value of YLM is the structure that it provides for practice, ranging from daily mediation to being part of a community that is learning, growing and developing. So much of our lives distracts us from practice that being able to incorporate structure that supports and encourages practice is a huge positive shift.”

When asked about specific changes that have come about, my KM group members had these words: ”I am much more willing and able to stay with what is and to observe it from a place of safety and curiosity, and see where it takes me. I feel like I am getting to know myself better.” And “greater clarity and self- awareness,” is a comment I certainly understand personally. And from everyone, “ I feel more connected to a spiritual community.” Overall, I have not heard a single regret, other than from the unfortunate few who had to leave the program for life-related reasons.

If you are wondering if you are qualified for the YLM program, join the crowd. Apparently I was not alone in having some serious doubts about whether I was spiritually developed enough to be a strong participant, but we have learned, as a friend said, that “everyone had the same basic fears and wants.” The YLM participants all wanted to transform our lives, to deepen our spiritual selves in a way that would serve everyone we meet.

So if you are feeling a little (or a lot) stuck, if you are seeking like-minded community, want to feel more connected to yourself and the world around you or just feel a desire to integrate your body/mind/spirit more fully, you might like to look into joining the 2011 class. These words say it well: “I also think that when you are on a spiritual path and set an intention to deepen, doing YLM can create the container for growth–-and then shifts in thinking and being seep in somehow, very gradually and subtly. Pretty cool.” Indeed.

The YLM course has changed my life for the good, in many ways. Allowing myself to sink into the safety net that Jonathan weaves from all the participants’ gifts and good will has been a lesson in letting go, and in letting myself be held in a space filled with metta and acceptance. Over time, I have learned –- as I had not in nearly fifty years, despite a lot of effort -– to love myself as well as those around me. That, as the ad says, is priceless and I will forever be grateful to all involved.

Find information and applications for the 2011 YLM class, which starts April, on Jonathan Foust’s web site.

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