The programmes I offer are based on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed in the US by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, developed in the UK and Canada by Mark Williams, John Teasdale and Zindel Seagal. They are enriched by my own personal experiences of mindfulness practice and journey towards self-compassion and training with Mindful Academy.
I am currently only offering the 8-week course for individuals - face to face or via Skype. (please contact me for more information).
I hope that offering it in the group format and workshops for organisations may resume in 2021.
The 8 week programmes include:
- What is Mindfulness
- Gathering the scattered mind – the power of being present, living all your moments
- What is stress – Learning about our patterns of reactivity to stress
- Coping with stress – using Mindfulness to respond instead of react
- Mindfulness of Thoughts
- Mindfulness of Emotions
- Cultivating Compassion
- Continuing a Mindful Life
Sessions include some theory and plenty of practice! You will need to protect about 45 minutes per day for your own practice during the course/sessions.
Who can benefit?
We all experience pain and distress in our lives and the ever-growing body of research shows that Mindfulness and meditation can bring considerable improvements to our health and well-being. In time, it can also change our brain structure and chemicals for the better too!
These are some comments I have heard from people who have gone on to find Mindfulness practices helpful:
- “I feel like I am caught up in a hamster wheel and can’t get off!”
- “It’s like I’m running on a treadmill and I dare not press the slow down or stop button.”
- “My head feels like there is a constant firework display of negative thoughts.”
- “I feel like I am a robot – day in and day out – where’s the joy in that?”
- “Sometimes I feel numb, I stubbed my toe the other day and didn’t hardly feel it!”
- “I torture myself by going over and over the past even though I know I can’t change it, or I’m running ahead and worrying about what will happen tomorrow, next week, in 5 years’ time – it’s so tiring”
- “I can’t appreciate what I do well or what is good in my life because I am always thinking I could have done better, or the good things won’t last”.
- “I’m not a perfectionist…I just like to do things extremely well.”
- “I don’t do anger…”
- “I get so frustrated with myself because the pain stops me doing the things I should be doing.”
- “I get anxious about being anxious and this just makes things worse. I get down about having depression and this makes me feel more depressed!”
- “It’s like you’re not doing your job properly if you are not drowning in the stress of work.”
- “I’m quite a caring person towards others, but I am not very good at being caring or kind to myself”
- “I’m always there for others, so there is not any time or energy left to think about me.”
- “I know I need to look after myself but I don’t know how to, or where to start.”
- “Everyone around me is always so stressed out and busy, I feel guilty if I take a lunch break.”
- “I feel like I am being self-indulgent/selfish/decadent if I think about being kind or compassionate to myself”.
People participate in Mindfulness for reasons as diverse as:
- Chronic pain
- Physical illness and complaints (e.g. headaches, IBS)
- Fatigue and exhaustion (physical and psychological)
However, you do not have to be experiencing one or more of the above to benefit from Mindfulness!
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness means “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” – Jon Kabat Zinn.
Through cultivating mindful awareness with compassion and curiosity we can re-discover our innate ability of how to live in the present moment rather than ruminating about the past or worrying and anticipating the future.
With unpleasant thoughts, feelings and body sensations we often find ourselves operating from a rather extreme dilemma. It is as if – We must work incredibly hard at trying to push them away OR we feel overwhelmed, consumed and lost in them. We may have lots of strategies to try and get rid of them, ignore them or to escape when they feel too much, for e.g.– alcohol/drugs, food, smoking, keeping ourselves “busy” for e.g. with work/looking after others. Going over the past and focussing on the future is also a way of avoiding being in the moment if the moment feels too difficult to be in! But these coping strategies can become problems in their own right for us. And sadly when we spend our lives in the past and the future we also miss out on pleasant experiences that can also be found in the moment. Our human brains are programmed to identify threats, and zoom in on the negatives as a way of trying to protect us. So it is helpful to find ways of calming our brain so we are not always on high alert, and to also practice seeking out the pleasant, joyful experiences we are programmed to miss.
The intention of living a Mindful life isn’t to get rid of life’s challenges, our downs, our unpleasant feelings and emotions. If we go into Mindfulness practices expecting to turn into completely chilled out, “happy” people, I think we are going to be sorely disappointed! It is more accurate to practice the intention of just becoming more aware and more accepting that our experience is “as it is” in any given moment, and finding ways to be with this realisation in a gentle, kind and compassionate way rather than beating ourselves up with how we think we “should” be, think, feel.
By paying attention to our thoughts, feelings and sensations in our body with compassion and curiosity we are inviting a different relationship with ourselves; we are learning how to “be” with our thoughts and feelings, pain, distress. We are shifting from only valuing “doing” (which most of us are very good at!) into nurturing “being” (which most of us aren’t very used to!) In learning how to recognise without judgment what it is we are thinking and feeling, and our habitual patterns of relating and behaving, we are creating a space – a space where we can make choices, where we can respond, rather than continuing to react on autopilot.
Mindfulness has deep roots in ancient Buddhist tradition, however you don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice mindfulness. Neither do you have to spend hours every day meditating to feel the benefits. We all the innate capacity to have mindful awareness, we just have to gently seek this out and practice, practice, practice!
I would also like to share a little personal experience;
It is several years ago now that I started to read about mindfulness. As I hungrily digested book after book, it all made sense, and I was firmly coming to the conclusion that this was really good stuff and would help my clients no end. There was a sneaky suspicion it may also help me! I was particularly struck by the concept that suffering = pain x resistance. And it follows that If we stop resisting - we still feel pain, but we do not need to “suffer”. But despite my good intentions I was only reading, I wasn’t practising!
One day when I was washing the dishes I had a light bulb moment – “Beckie” I said gently, “You do not have to take 6 months off, go to a Retreat in the hope of returning completely enlightened and totally mindful! Neither do you have to continue your life being pretty much mindless! Why don’t you explore the middle ground and start incorporating small steps of what you are learning into your daily life?”
And so, this is what I did - instead of ignoring this small voice, I chose to listen to it and to nurture my intention. At the same time, I also had to acknowledge but not listen to the louder voice that was saying “You have done enough navel-gazing and it is time to get back to the “real” world and it won’t help anyway!”.
My informal practices strengthened and then I chose to also commit to daily, more formal meditation practices. I went on to train with the Mindful Academy in Spain to gain the qualification MBSR meditation teacher so that I may deepen my own practice and offer courses and 1:1 sessions for others.
Living more mindfully and compassionately has not been a “quick fix” and it has not taken away my emotional or physical pain. However, I am learning to be more accepting and patient towards my experience and gradually strengthening a new relationship with my thoughts, feelings and my body. Mindful communication has also transformed the way I relate to those close to me.
And another real person’s experience:
“Today I build mindfulness into my everyday life. Breathing, imagery and meditation exercises I find most useful, and I tend to do these once or twice a day. The biggest shock for me was that I could practice anywhere, anytime and often without people knowing. It’s actually very empowering to know that I can control my reactions and feelings in any situation without others even being aware of it”.
- For more stories from real people discovering mindfulness and the impact it has had on their lives. http://bemindful.co.uk/real-stories/