I was first introduced to mindfulness by my sister who is a mental health nurse. She’d read a book called the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and had been so impressed by it that she was now recommending it to everyone she met. She even gave away her own copy. When she explained the key ideas I was hesitant at first, but trusting her judgement and her advice to stick with the book until the end no matter how much I thought of it; I did just that.
I was also impressed by the book, especially when I started to try out some of the techniques in my own life and found that they worked. I wanted to find out more but it wasn’t until the day before I left my teaching job that I came across an advert for a mindfulness based stress reduction course, and signed up – I don’t believe in coincidences, the timing was perfect.
Over 20 years of teaching had left me frazzled to say the least. I loved teaching, don’t get me wrong, but our family life was changing and I needed to spend more time in the UK. Closing the door on my teaching job let me do this, and unknowingly it was opening another door for me – teaching mindfulness.
But let’s get back to the mindfulness course. It was in Barcelona and I was a bit worried about what the whole thing would involve. I was worried that it would be very hippy and that I would be out of place. I was worried that I’d be too old. I was worried about having to stand up and share information about myself. However, when I arrived I was quickly put at ease by the teacher and was happy to find that there was a small group – 8 of us. The room was quiet, relaxing and we sat on cushions on the floor, in a circle. One of the first things we were told was to let the experience play out, without judging it or having expectations of how it should be. There was no obligation to discuss anything we didn’t want to. I began to relax.
I absolutely loved the first meditation, which was the body scan. Lying down on a mat in the softly lit room with the calming voice of the teacher I experienced a sense of heaviness in my body. The body scan begins by focusing on the tips of the toes and covers the whole body up to the crown. I felt a deep sense of relaxation in each part. Somebody fell asleep and began to snore, but it was as if the snores were coming from a distance although I was fully awake. When the meditation finished I felt so calm. I had also become aware of areas of tension that I was holding in my body before the meditation – in my shoulders particularly which tend to rise up like the Honey Monster’s shoulders, if you remember him from the Sugar Puff’s packet? I hadn’t felt so connected to my body for a long time. I returned home feeling light and happy. I did the homework with joy each day – a meditation and practical activity.
Like many people I’d spent years rushing to and from work, then doing jobs at home and bringing up my two children. This was the first time that I had actually stopped and become aware of myself again. Yes, I know that I should have done more over the years, more exercise, eaten less, but at the time I was too tired at the end of the day. A poor excuse, maybe, but that’s how it was. I couldn’t go back and change it. What I hadn’t realised was how stressed I had actually been.
Part of the mindfulness course involved acceptance. Not resignation, there is a difference. And I think that for me, being able to accept certain situations helped immensely and reduced the stress that I felt. We do tend to worry and focus on how we think things ought to be, especially with the pressures of social media.
The course wasn’t all about meditation though. We discussed how to focus on the moment and not project our thoughts too far into the future imagining all sorts of terrible scenarios. This helped me to keep things in perspective and became invaluable when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. We also did role play activities and one to one discussions. We even went out on a mindful walk which involved walking silently and observing with all our senses. We were all amazed to discover how disconnected we normally are.
I became less reactive – taking time to think of my responses. I became more appreciative of the things around me, the simple things. I absorbed nature more as I walked outside in the woods near my house. I enjoyed family time.
The course finished and we all went our separate ways. As the months passed by I lived mindfully as much as I possibly could and experienced the benefits. I began to talk about it with other people as I wanted to share my experience. Then I started to think about teaching it. I found a teacher training course, again it appeared at the right time. I qualified and here I am.
I love helping people to reconnect with themselves and become less stressed. It is very rewarding to watch as clients regain their confidence, believe in themselves and begin to develop the next stage of their lives. One client recently said to me, “You have opened up a whole new world for me. I feel ready to move on through life, being who I am, with the confidence to try new things and live life to the full.” My heart filled when she said this.
It’s a privilege to share your journey.