Before diving right in with tips and practices It might be best to explain where my interest in Mindfulness began and the approach I take towards it all.
Previously I mentioned The Mindfulness Project. All of this wouldn’t be possible without that place. The Mindfulness Project is the centre in Fitzrovia where I attended my 8 week MBSR Mindfulness course. This place is A-mazing. Like seriously good. Starting with their top-floor haven in the beautifully grandiose 18th Century Georgian townhouse in Fitzroy Square (nestled behind Warren Street station) all the way through to the friendly staff and great bunch of people I shared my course with.
(Side note: The loos are divine. As a child my Aunt’s perception of a place would hang on the whether the ladies toilets were tip -top and boy are London Mindful’s good – if you love a good candle and some cosy city chic decor then these are the loos for you!)
Every Tuesday evening I would head to The Mindfulness Project after work and from the moment I was buzzed up and stepped through their stately front door I felt an immediate sense of calm, ready for ‘me-time’.
My teacher, Doug, led 10 of us in a group setting however It was clear from the off that this was no ‘group therapy’. The sessions were not a chance to moan, groan and share our troubles and hardships. In fact by week 8 I still didn’t know what most of the groups job /martial status etc. were. Instead, I came to appreciate each person as an individual, unrelated to social status, connected by a desire to incorporate a sense of control and mindfulness into or lives. We shared our successes and gripes with the practices. A common thread was “why can’t I stop falling asleep during the body scan?” and “when we meditate I just want to itch and fidget all over…anyone else feel the same?” Sharing these made us all relax in to the practice as we all recognised it was O.K to be feeling these things and that others would catch themselves snoring their way through practices too!
Each class introduced us to a new topic of practice and we left with ‘homework’ which would comprise of things like a 40 minute daily practice, watching a Youtube video on Mindfulness by Jon Kabat Zin and reading a related passage or anecdote. I admit…sometimes I turned up like a sheepish schoolgirl who had chosen a night of prosecco with the girls over her body scan but still I really enjoyed having the accountability of practicing at home and being asked to discuss our experiences the following week.
The one day silent retreat near the end of the course was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had! I can’t believe I survived 6 hours in silence and LOVED every moment of it. We did a combo of body scans, breathing, mindful movement, walking and readings. Not having to speak all day granted such freedom and permission to just ‘be’ and enjoy our own personal experience.
The 8 week course was a fantastic intro to mindfulness and opened my eyes to the benefit of meditation and being present. I learnt so many new things about myself and experience the world through a new lens. I have begun to accept that its OK to feel low just as its OK to feel ecstatically happy, these two extremes of emotions come and go, it’s all part of our experience of being human…and thats pretty cool!
My approach now is not quite that of a seasoned meditator, rooted deep in buddhist principles. Rather that of a city-living 20-something who enjoys all the usual things. However, I now have a few more tools in my kit for appreciating each day and for handling stress and dark clouds when they come my way.
I hope this post helps anyone when deciding whether or not to go on an 8-week introductory course to Mindfulness. I say GO FOR IT and I’ll be the biggest fan-girl cheerleader on your team, excited to hear all about your experiences – let me know below