“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
What is mindfulness…..
Mindfulness is about knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. It is easy to stop noticing what is around us, lose touch with our feelings and end up caught up in our thoughts not stopping to notice how these thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour.
Mindfulness helps us reconnect with our bodies and the sensations they experience. Waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. An awareness of our thoughts and feelings, moment to moment.
Mindfulness is about allowing yourself to see the present more clearly, thereby positively changing the way we see ourselves and our lives.
My mindfulness journey…..
I was first introduced to mindfulness as part of a team activity at work. Up until this point, my only experience of team activities was ball sports at school so this was a first for me!!! Sitting on a chair, in a circle, with my feet planted on the floor, back straight, eyes closed and fumbling with a raisin to see how it felt was about as far out of my comfort zone as I could get. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, short of getting up and walking out declaring them all raving bonkers. But No….. I stuck it out, after all, I needed the job so thought I had better participate for the sake of my mortgage. Being a Northern Lass this kind of touchy-feely team activity wasn’t something I was used to, at least not without a wine!!!
After a short while we got into the meditation and this was the part I was looking forward to if nothing else it would give me the one and only opportunity to fall asleep at work and it is allowed…. Back straight, hand resting on my lap, feet flat on the floor, shoulders relaxed, eyes closed and off we went. The mind bell chimed, taking deep breaths we settled into a breathing rhythm and then starting at the top of our body we did what is known as a “body scan”. During this time it was ok for my mind to wander, jumping from thought to thought but gently bringing my attention back to my stomach feeling it rise as I breathed in and fall as I breathed out. The facilitator regularly chimed the mind bell as she talked us through the guided meditation.
I slowly opened my eyes as the facilitator brought the meditation to an end, I was in awe of the whole process, the giggles had gone, the feeling of embarrassment gone. I know it is a cliché but it did feel like a weight had been lifted. I was totally taken aback so much so I didn’t really know what to say but I knew after just that short introductory session I knew I wanted to do more.
I went off and downloaded an app and booked onto a mindfulness retreat morning with Dr Jan Goss. Jan had been one of the facilitators who worked with us on the session we did as a team so I did feel at ease attending the retreat as I already knew Jan. This retreat gave me time out to relax and re-energise through deep relaxation, guided meditation, journaling and group sharing.
Even though I never really thought of myself as someone who was “stressed” or “depressed” the mindfulness meditation practice just made me feel so relaxed and generally good about myself and my life…. single, the late 30s (at the time), cat owner – what was there not to like about my life???? As a sufferer of high blood pressure, I found that the meditation, and especially the concentrated breathing, helped stabilise this. I soon found myself practising mindfulness meditation in the form of a guided body scan on a regular basis. The 483 bus trundling past my house sometimes wandered into my thoughts but I soon banished it. I couldn’t recommend it enough, however, my friends soon expected me to be hugging trees!!!
Even though I lost my father to cancer 26 years ago when I was only 20, I was totally unprepared when 2 years ago my mum died somewhat suddenly. I was totally devastated, having spent most of my adult years with just my mum and sister I suddenly felt totally alone; alone with my thoughts of how I was never going to see my mum again, especially late at night and sleeping was non-existent, a luxury I no longer experienced. My mindfulness instincts kicked in and made the whole grieving experience much more bearable and with the help of mindfulness music, my sleep pattern was soon somewhere near normal again.
Is mindfulness for everyone?
Mindfulness is not for everyone, but there is encouraging evidence-based research of its use and how it improves health and wellbeing. There are different and alternative mindfulness practices out there and often yoga is used in conjunction with mindfulness meditation.
Would I recommend mindfulness?
Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. It won’t be for everyone and after trying it once it might not be for you, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.