Finding my Zafu: 8 Weeks to Mindfulness

Ever been curious about mindfulness? I bet you’ve at least tried one of HeadSpace’s guided meditations before. If you would like to learn more about finding your inner power, then read on sisters. 

OK, so life has been a bit upside down since I became a parent. Once upon a time I use to meditate, quite a bit actually. I remember feeling so happy. I was the best version of myself back then. But over the last couple of years things have slipped.

Lack of sleep has ramped up the stress dials and somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten who I once was. All the wise things I used to know, the helpful stuff that used to ease things, they’ve all gone on holiday to the dark corners of my multi-tasking head, which on a good day, spins at 90 miles an hour.

So. I drank some Hendricks. That didn’t work.

I tried comfort eating. Didn’t even touch the sweet spots for more than 60 seconds.

I did also try other things that I knew would be helpful: Reiki and lucid dreaming, a shiatsu or acupuncture treatment to boost my energy levels, and homeopathy remedies, as and when. Each of these things have all been a help but I knew deep down that what I really needed was (some sleep) but also to redirect my thinking, and that of course, had to come from within.

So I decided to go back to basics. I wanted to relearn everything I’ve ever known about meditation. In January, I started an 8-week course in mindfulness for stress with Norwich Mindfulness.

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Artist Mia Charro

How Mindfulness Can Help

By using mindfulness techniques you can learn to live in the moment, work with unwanted or charged thoughts and even cope with chronic illness.

It’s all too easy to speed through life on autopilot, to operate in “doing mode”, without actually having awareness of the present moment. I mean, hey, we’re all human. Yet by simply paying more attention to our own thoughts and feelings, can have a huge impact on our life – not only on our stress levels but our psychical health too.

Now, I found this next part amazing. Did you know that humans absorb negative experiences instantly but it takes 12 whole seconds to fully take in a positive experience and for it to be part of our long-term memory?

Cathie, the amazing calm lady, who led the course by Breathworks, also confirmed that a daily meditation practise of 40 minutes, sustained over a couple of months, is enough for you to see a considerable change in your wellbeing. This felt not only reassuring but also like something achievable.

A Course in Mindfulness

The course I took part in was based here in Norfolk and run by the aforementoned mindfulness instructor, Catherine Stanley, who teaches the highly acclaimed, Breath Works programme. (Breath Works is a national institute set up by Gary Hennessey, a leading practitioner, author and trainer of mindfulness.) So don’t worry if you’re not from Norfolk, there are Breath Works teachers offering this course across the UK.

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Artist Mia Charro

What Exactly is Mindfulness?

Effectively, this is simple tool that will change your life for the better. It’s about bringing more awareness to our experience which enables us to see how we can sometimes make ourselves suffer unnecessarily. Seeing that enables us to make changes.

Mindfulness was taught by the Buddha and although it is something that’s taught as part of a spiritual practise, mindfulness is taught in secular contexts. In fact, in recent years the NHS has adopted mindfulness as an approach to be used within its mental health trusts across the UK.

Who is it for?  

Not only can mindfulness help your average person (what’s average? I’m not, are you?) with general wellbeing and boost happiness but it can help with…

  • Those suffering with chronic pain and other psychical long-term health conditions and it can help to
  • Reduce stress and also prevent depression relapse
  • Prevent relapse into alcohol and/or drug use for those in recovery
  • In childbirth and parenting
  • In prisons and in schools
  • The work environment
  • Eating disorders
  • To enhance performance in sport
  • For victims of trauma

Mindfulness: The Benefits

There are heaps of initial benefits but also so many others that have a knock-on effect. Things like:

  1. Increased mental clarity
  2. Self-control
  3. Objectivity
  4. Equanimity
  5. Improved concentration
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Ability to be more flexible
  8. Acceptance
  9. Ability to relate to others and one’s self with kindness, acceptance and compassion

Breath Works Mindfulness Course

So what happens. Well, initially there is a free taster session you can attend. Cathie has a selection of dates for you to choose from. More on her website.

The course is actually a combination of workshops and home study. You’re provided with everything you need at the start. The course is comprised of:

  • 4 x workshops (5 hours each) over 8 weeks (a workshop every other week)
  • Downloadable meditations for your device
  • A Mindfulness Workbook: An easy-to-read reminder of what was covered in each class
  • The Little Mindfulness Practise Book: To log your journey:
    • A list of your home practice for each week
    • Week by wee meditation diary sheets so you can track your progress
    • Week by week Mindfulness in Action diary sheets so you can record your observations
    • Additional mindful movement instructions and illustrations
  • One month after ‘graduation’ a one-day retreat to reconvene and discuss experiences (small supplementary donation)

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Before the course…

Meh. I felt my normal self of late: exhausted, always moaning about lack of sleep, somewhat stressed and a bit anxious. Often feeling things but uncertain how those feelings had arisen.

During the course…

Sometimes days were easier than others. One week I was all like, yeah I’ve got this. I’m totally aware of me, you, the world. I know where I’m at. I can see my thoughts before they even appear. Then other days, I was in such a fuzz that I didn’t have the foggiest and became so flooded with thoughts, that I couldn’t even identify the feeling I was really feeling underneath it all.

After the course…

I’ve been more aware of my thoughts and feelings. Instead of being swept away by thoughts. You know when you feel stressed or frustrated but can’t quite put your finger on the underlying feeling but instead you become swamped by individual thoughts, most of which are unhelpful. That doesn’t happen so much.

It’s easy when you’re feeling a bit stressed or going through a bad patch to overlook the good things in life. Since doing this course I’ve definitely been connecting more with the positive things, allowing them shine into my day.

Lastly, I learnt how to work with unwanted thoughts. Things that plague you or distract you from life. It’s easy to just ignore them, react to them or push them away. I’ve been getting less caught up with these ‘stories’ and just learning to be with that feeling, watching it and observing things, without getting as involved.

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We have a retreat day in a few weeks whereby we’re all meeting up to talk about how our last month on our own has been. Because I am armed with all the guided meditations, and notes, I feel confident that if my practise slips, I’ll be able to pick this up again easily.

Overall I do feel calmer, content and more connected to others. I really do. I haven’t been as busy during this first quarter of the year and this has helped when juggling a sleepless toddler with work stress. Plus, the change in season is always a boost! But these factors aside, I really think practising has had a moderate to big impact on my day-to-day life. There still feels like heaps of room for improvement and I guess the key to success here is keeping up a daily practise, and weaving the techniques into everyday life. It feels possible and that’s given me hope and confidence, which in itself, is a powerful thing.

A big thank you to Cathie for everything – all your support and advice has been so beneficial!

More Information

For those living in Norfolk and Suffolk:

http://www.norwichmindfulness.org

For all enquiries and bookings please contact Cathie Stanley

email: cathie@norwichmindfulness.org

landline: 01603 660780 – please do leave a message if there is no answer

mobile: 07967 211329

For those in the rest of the UK, head to: https://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk

If you liked this post you might also be interested to hear about a Mindfulness & Yoga Retreat weekend I attended at Chilston Park. If you’re already familiar with meditation, you might like to read about the time I went on a 10 Day Silent Retreat in India.

The Universe Print ready

I keep this wee reminder in my writing shed: Artist Mia Charro

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