Mindfulness: The Time is Now!
When talking with a friend, cooking for our family, participating in a meeting at work, or simply driving in traffic, are we really "here," focused on this moment? Do we sometimes feel swept away by emotions or lost in thought? Practicing mindfulness will help us to live with true presence and vivid awareness, to make deliberate and healthy choices, and to more fully enjoy the rich experience of the present moment.
What is mindfulness? As Thich Nhat Hanh says in his short, wonderful book, Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices, "Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment." Life only happens in the present moment, and mindfulness is about showing up for it, rather than ruminating about the past, worrying about the future, or being stuck in repetitive ruts of unhelpful thoughts and actions.
The Tampa Bay community now has a wonderful new resource for mindfulness teachings and practices: The Florida Community of Mindfulness (FCM). FCM purchased the former John Calvin Presbyterian Church, Seminole Heights, in August 2012, and began offering weekly meditation and mindfulness classes last November.
FCM welcomes newcomers to its weekly meditation sessions held at 10 a.m. every Sunday, followed by Dharma talks and Q & A periods led either by the group’s teacher, Fred Eppsteiner, or by senior students. FCM also offers a mid-week Relax & Renew break on Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:15 p.m., featuring guided meditations and relaxation practices. There is no charge, but a $5 donation is suggested.
In addition to its Tampa Practice Center, FCM has groups or "sanghas" in St. Petersburg and Naples, and affiliates in other parts of Florida as well as in other states. FCM’s St. Petersburg group meets Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 719 Arlington Avenue North, and the Naples group meets on Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. at the Bala Vinyasa Yoga Center.
As a nurturing and supportive practice community in the Buddhist tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, FCM offers a variety of practice opportunities to support students in their aspiration to cultivate mindfulness and compassion and lead awakened lives. These activities include teachings on mindfulness, Buddhism, and meditation; weekly meditation sessions; monthly days of mindfulness; several multi-day retreats each year; and intensives that last three to six months, integrating mindfulness practices into day-to-day activities.
FCM has launched a Mindfulness Institute at its Nebraska Avenue campus, and has a variety of classes in "applied mindfulness," such as mindful consumption, mindful relationships and mindful parenting. FCM’s Mindfulness Institute also plans to teach meditation to teens, and offer accredited mindfulness classes for professionals, including therapists, social workers, teachers, lawyers and health care providers.
"Mindfulness is a way of living," states Eppsteiner, also the group’s founder and teacher. "It is much more psychological and spiritual than religious." As such, the weekly meditation sessions and other classes and activities are open to the public as well as to members of FCM. Meditation, mindfulness and community are beneficial to people from all religious backgrounds, and all are welcome.
Eppsteiner received Dharma Transmission from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Calling upon his extensive training in Japanese and Vietnamese Zen and the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition, he has a breadth of meditative experience that nurtures the FCM community with the diverse Buddhist streams that have nourished him. His professional experience as a psychotherapist allows him to readily understand the psychological implications and applications of Buddhist meditation and teachings and to share his insights with others. Eppsteiner’s teachings focus on mindful living, self-awareness, compassion in relationships, and mind-body awareness through connecting with our breathing. Through meditating, he says, people learn to be present to emotions rather than numbing them.
As meditation and mindfulness have moved into the mainstream in recent years, FCM has grown. Some people come for practical help for personal healing and transformation. Others seek relief from stress and suffering and the chronic dissatisfaction some feel in everyday life. And many come to participate in a caring community that is based on a commitment to understanding, compassion and transformation.
FCM is located at 6501 Nebraska Avenue, Seminole Heights. For more information and a complete schedule of classes and activities, visit FloridaMindfulness.org.
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