What will I learn?
You’ll learn a small set of techniques for meditation. Meditation is the practice part. Then you’ll learn ways to bring it into daily life, which is more important. And finally you’ll be able to share your experiences with other people and learn more about how it works.
Of course you can Google these techniques in five minutes, but actually bringing them into your life can open up a whole range of experiences. That’s why face to face, with a supportive group all going in the same direction, is the best way to learn.
Is this relaxation?
Some relaxation comes into it, but it’s not the end point. It’s a means to an end. Mindfulness is not always relaxing. It’s about giving you an insight into what’s going on, and some choices about where to direct your attention. You won’t be asked to imagine yourself on a sunny beach at any of these sessions!
Am I supposed to make my mind go blank?
No, we’ve never turned anyone into a zombie! Your mind can’t go blank. There’s always something happening. Mindfulness lets you see more of that, and lets you understand what’s helpful and what isn’t.
I’ve tried it and I can’t stop thinking
Your brain isn’t going to shut down just because you’ve told it to. It’s got too much to do. Thinking goes on all the time, but it’s also possible to detach your attention from the thoughts and see them as if they were things. That brings a sense of perspective, peace and relief. That’s what you’ll learn.
What will I be able to do?
You’ll be able to calm yourself, to notice when your attention is being hijacked, to enjoy the little moments of day to day living more, and to detach from worries , to focus more at work and at home, and to react less to difficult emotions.
What does it feel like?
There’s nothing spacey or cosmic about it. The feeling after a practice session is described by people as ‘calm’, ‘grounded’, ‘spacious’ or ‘confident’. It’s basically ordinary life, but with your specs cleaned.
Is this Buddhism?
The kind of mindfulness practice that’s spreading nowadays has its roots in Buddhism, but it’s not Buddhism as such. There are other traditions in and out of religion that discuss it, but over the centuries Buddhists specialised in finding ways to talk about something that isn’t easily described. It’s not exclusive, though: I’ve learned as much about mindfulness from a certain guitarist as I have from Buddhist teachers. So to avoid terms and practices that originate in Buddhism is difficult, and would probably make it more difficult to learn, but a mindfulness class is definitely not a recruitment office for Buddhism!
How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been practising meditation and mindfulness for 40 years. I started teaching in a business context in 2000 but then my job changed and I pursued other interests. On returning I’ve retrained with Mindfulness CIC, based in the Midlands, and through them, have the support of Suryacitta Malcolm Smith, a very experienced mindfulness trainer. I adhere to the ethical standards of Bangor University’s Good Practice Guidance for Teaching Mindfulness Based Approaches. I have professional indemnity and public liability insurance.
Will this cure …?
Don’t believe any hype you read about mindfulness being a cure for everything – it isn’t. While there’s reasonably strong evidence that it helps with anxiety and in reducing relapses in people prone to depression, it’s not useful when you’re in the middle of depression. With mindfulness practice, you’re approaching some parts of yourself that may not be apparent up till now – not as intensely as with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or other psychotherapies, but it is part of the practice. It’s also part of the practice to have support and learn how to do it in a gentle and self-compassionate way. If you’re any doubt about whether you should be doing this, speak to your doctor before signing up. What mindfulness can do for you.