Recently I’ve been lucky enough to be accepted on to the MIND charity’s mindfulness practitioner training programme.
This means that I will be qualified to teach the 8 week MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) courses as well as my 6 week introduction to mindfulness course (the workplaceMT course).
During the application process I had to write a reflection on my mindfulness practice to date. I really enjoyed taking time to consider my practice – why I started it, how it has developed, what challenges I face with it and where I hope this next step will take me, so I thought I would share my thoughts here too.
I came to mindfulness in 2012 as a sceptic.
I was looking for a way to help manage my proneness to low mood and depression without being reliant on medication and so was willing to give an MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) course a try. I was drawn to the evidence-based research which was coming out about the positive outcomes of mindfulness for people suffering from mental illness.
I also appreciated the fact that mindfulness was secular and accessible. It wasn’t about ‘clearing the mind’, it was about noticing the wandering mind.
It is the simplicity of the practice – paying attention to the breath, noticing the wandering mind and then being kind when I gently bring my attention back which continues to draw me to mindfulness. I also remember the statement that ‘thoughts are not necessarily facts’ being a light-bulb moment for me and I continue to find this a powerful mindfulness tool.
My formal practice tends to be some mindful movement (pilates-based stretches) in the morning with a silent ‘mini’ practise where I will spend 5 –10 minutes guiding myself through some sort of variation of a 3 step breathing space. It is then a longer guided meditation in the evening – I usually listen to something from Danny Penman or Mark Williams – either a seated practice following the breath or a body scan where I will lay down. Sometimes I will guide myself in a befriending mediation. My evening practice will tend to be between 10 – 2o minutes long most nights.
Informally mindfulness permeates my days (though I have to admit as a busy Mum of three mindful eating falls by the wayside most days!) I have always been keen on getting outside so find incorporating mindful walks into my routine very straightforward – on the school run, in the park, and when I’m at work, across the playground. I also have found that I can ‘drop my anchor’ and focus on the feet or breath useful at different times in the day – when I’m feeling irritated, frustrated or impatient and can notice signs in the body much more easily for me recognise when it may be a good idea to do this.
The challenge for me in terms of my practice is always ‘time on the mat’ – sitting and formally practising. Family commitments mean that my intention of 30 – 40 minutes of formal practice every day is not always met. However, with my three year old twins starting pre-school this autumn and my break from the secondary school classroom happening too I’m hoping this will become easier.
Despite my busy life I am motivated to continue my practice and deepen it because of the positive impact it has on my well-being and therefore on the well-being of my loved ones too. I am definitely excited by courses as I always find my own practice deepens and becomes more varied as a result. Recently I attended a 4 day Mindfulness in Schools Project ‘paws be’ course and loved the ‘retreat’ style approach – longer meditations to start and end the days and time to reflect on our own practice. I also found the 8 day residential course for the workplace MT course I trained for really refreshed and strengthened my own practice as it was much more about silent unguided formal practices.
The 3 courses I have attended (the other being another MISP course – the ‘dot b’ 5 day trainer course) have given me a chance to learn from others – the course leaders but also the other participants too and it’s been very nourishing getting to know, and spending time with, like-minded people at these events.
Do you fit any formal mindfulness meditation practice into your days?
If so I’d love to know if your experience and motivation are similar to mine.