“Mindfulness is about acceptance of ourselves, right now, warts ‘n all”
Over the past few years, I’ve been learning more about mindfulness and seeing the benefits it has on wellbeing, especially as someone with IBS where stress and anxiety can trigger symptoms.
I’ve talked about The Flame and the great work they do before – you might remember me blogging about their Mindfulness and Transformation event. For anyone who isn’t familiar, the Flame is a mindfulness, holistic and wellness centre in Coventry. Let me tell you – they are a real gem of the city and certainly a BIG reason to love Coventry.
After becoming aware of them at their event in September, I knew I wanted more! So I kept an eye on their website and sure enough, it was updated with a whole year’s worth of events starting in 2017. These events, by the way, are on top of a whole range of weekly classes that take place. I haven’t tried any of their classes yet but am certainly interested!
Anyway, I’m here to talk about one of their workshops that I recently attended – the Mindfulness One Day Workshop. It was organised by Dav and Pushy – a.k.a the dream team 😉 with Dav, an expert in mindfulness, running the session.
What did I hope to get from the workshop?
- A deeper understanding of mindfulness to build upon what I’ve learnt to-date, in an interactive way (face-to-face).
- Guidance about developing my practice – while I’ve learnt and adopted everyday ways to be more mindful, I haven’t been so good at adopting a routine of formal practice (same time, everyday). I’m told this is when I’ll really notice the difference and it’ll happen in the form of a light bulb moment.
Mindfulness Based Intervention
This is the mindfulness approach we’d be learning about – a combination of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR). What’s it all about? Learning to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health.
Where to start?! The workshop was jam-packed with information and activities. I’m still trying to absorb everything I learnt and imagine I’ll be doing so for a while! But there were some key things I picked up that I’d like to share that really helped me to better understand the mind, how we pick up negative thinking habits and how mindfulness can help.
Learning about the power of the mind
“The culture is sick”
We live in a culture where we always want more, we’re told we’re not good enough, we’re under constant pressure and we end up questioning our self-worth. Can you relate to these feelings? I know I can. It’s no surprise, then, that stress exists and the body is so often on the verge of ‘fight or flight’. How can we be happy with all this going on?!
“The past doesn’t exist now“
This quote really stuck with me. You see, the past doesn’t exist now, but if we’re not careful, our minds have the ability to recreate those same feelings. Since the mind tends to remember more negative than positive, we can bring that negativity into our present.
So it’s not the past that exists, but rather the memory of the past that exists. A prime example for me would be during a bad time with my IBS – I’d remember back to when it happened previously and all those negative feelings and fears would come flooding back. I’d be overcome with ‘what-if?’ thoughts, instead of just dealing with the moment. After all, the moment is all that matters. Can’t do anything with the past!
“The mind is clever but dangerous”
Thoughts generate feelings. These thoughts then give rise to emotions. If the emotion is negative, e.g. stress, it affects our physiology (i.e. how we feel) which then begins to change our behaviour. If we’re not careful, we end up staying in this negative cycle.
A tiny example of this: If a series of things ‘go wrong’ first thing in the morning – e.g. we spill toothpaste down ourselves, forget our lunch, spill our tea – we tend to say to feed ourselves with negativity (I know I do this!) – “It’s going to be one of those days”, “I’m so clumsy”, etc. Our mind is then made up for the day – negative schmegative! Once in that cycle, it’s hard to break out of it.
We also did an interesting exercise which demonstrated just how easily our mind can create scenarios and take over without our awareness. So yes, the mind is blummin’ clever!
The importance of our worldview
If our perception of the world – our ‘worldview’ is wrong/inaccurate, then our reality will always remain this way because we get attached to this feeling, become reactive as opposed to responsive and live a compulsive lifestyle.
Training our monkeys!
One thing I especially enjoyed in the session was talking about our naughty monkeys. Yes, you see we each have a naughty monkey within ourselves and it’s time we trained it! How we gonna do that?! Mindfulness, duh 😉
The above taught me just how powerful the mind can be and how easy it is to get stuck into vicious cycles.
“Mindfulness opens clarity”
There are three aspects critical to mindfulness:
- Intention – why am I doing this?
- Attention – where am I focusing awareness?
- Attitude – always try and practice with a half smile at least 🙂 it makes all the difference to our posture etc. (I can believe this – now I just need to try!)
“We have thoughts but we are not our thoughts”
When doing meditation, it’s important to remember:
- To never underestimate the breath – we have it there, right under our noses. What would we do without it? Well, nothing! We wouldn’t exist without it.
- To approach it “as best as I can”. No pressure on self!
- To practise, practise, practise – we all know the saying ‘practise makes perfect’.
There’s lots of ways to be mindful alongside formal practice, such as during movement. We got up onto our feet and sampled:
- Chi kung
- Tai Chi
- Walking meditation
I particularly enjoyed the first two. There’s a move called the woodchopper which I’ve also done in a yoga class before. Highly recommend checking it out – it’s such a good way to relieve tension!!
We also touched on mindful eating. I am terrible at this and it’s an area for improvement!
What happens over time?
“Mindfulness is like shining a torch on a problem”
The first few weeks of practice is about building the structure, or ‘scaffolding’, as it was described. Then, we can focus on the problems, ‘shining a light’ on them and by focusing on them, they will gradually dissolve over time.
When something negative happens, we often have that overwhelming feeling that it’s never going to end. Mindfulness puts everything back into perspective and we realise that the moment will pass – time is not finite. It’ll be okay. I can always come back to my breath!
How long do you have to practice for to start to notice a difference? 8-9 weeks (although I’m not going to put pressure on myself!).
“Happiness cultivates from ourselves”
This blog only scratches the surface of what was covered, so you can see why it’ll take some time to absorb it all! Isn’t mindfulness interesting?!
What’s great about a workshop setting is the level of interaction you receive as well as the range of people you meet – everyone there for their own reasons and yet we all had something in common in being there.
I feel really uplifted and can’t wait to get my formal practice underway. I’m particularly interested to see whether incorporating a formal practice will make a noticeable difference to the management of IBS, and more recently diagnosed, endometriosis.
If you’re in the area, definitely pop in and see the team at The Flame – they are the most welcoming and supportive people you could hope to meet and they really know their stuff!
Right – I’m off to download my practices onto my iPod, ready to start training that monkey!
Feel free to share your experiences of mindfulness – I’d love to hear them 🙂
P.S. Did you know that just 4-5 years ago mindfulness wasn’t taken seriously, seen as mystical? Now look at it!