It takes courage for anyone to step into a mindfulness class. Many people confess to coming along because they have heard a lot about mindfulness but are not quite sure what it involves. Curiosity is key, combined with the courage to step out of your comfort zone. There is a quote by Shunryu Suzuki that I love and use often in my teaching practice, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few”. This acts as a gentle reminder that there are no experts on life and that none of us have all the answers, despite perhaps sometimes acting as if we have!
I was curious about mindfulness when I stepped into my first class and readily admit finding it quite challenging, yet my curiosity was aroused. I am so grateful to have trusted in it. The benefits never cease to amaze me. Over the past number of years, I have made many small changes, which have had a huge impact on my life and I am happier than I can ever remember being. I now have practical tools to live my life with Intention and motivation. These are the tools that I share with participants on the Mindfulness Based Living Course that I teach.
Practicing mindfulness enhances our ability to connect with others and to share in the vulnerability of being human. This requires trust, on several levels, trusting in your teacher and your group but fundamentally a reconnecting with and trusting in yourself. One of the strengths of mindfulness in my opinion is the absence of analysis, there is no requirement to discuss our personal issues in any detail or to ask, ‘why this?’ or ‘why that?’ The silent, yet implicit acknowledgement that all of us, by virtue of being alive, experience difficulties at different times is enough.
So, when practising mindfulness, there is often no requirement to speak at all. Simply sitting together silently, allowing our thoughts to come and go without engaging with them, allows a different kind of processing, a somatic processing. Mindfulness encourages the mind and the body to come together in the same place, allowing a sense of embodiment and grounded-ness that can help to anchor us in the present moment. Science reports that we spend approximately 50 per cent of our waking lives, either thinking about the future or the past, rather than being in the present moment. I find this statistic quite stark. How many of life’s rich moments do we miss by dwelling on the past, attempting to control the future or merely daydreaming?
Mindfulness meditation may be different to anything you might have tried before, but it is, in essence, a practical and secular tool for well-being. We need to let go of any notion that there is something wrong if we practice mindfulness and look instead to the growing body of scientific evidence proving that mindfulness promotes both physical and mental well-being, builds emotional resilience and happiness and reduces stress. Indeed, US mindfulness teacher and author Dan Harris views mindfulness as being the next ‘public health revolution’ and predicts that mindfulness will soon become part of our everyday routine, like brushing our teeth, drinking water, exercising or eating nutritious food.
I trained intensively in compassion-based mindfulness with the Mindfulness Association. Their Mindfulness Based Living Course has kindness and compassion firmly embedded in it from the start, which makes this course unique. Something fundamental can change for people who do this course and often people report being so much happier and at ease in their lives, even though their lives are still the same externally. This truly echoes my own experience and has a strong evidence base.
My next Mindfulness Based Living Course is starting in the Celtic Ross Hotel on Tuesday evenings from May 21. This eight-week course actually extends over a longer period, as it includes an introductory session, a full day of silent practice and a follow-up session a month or so later. A set of guided meditation practices and a course manual are provided to build up mindfulness skills at home. I recently finished a course with a wonderful group of people in Rosscarbery and was struck by the sense of excitement rather than closure at our last session. Feedback from one participant sums this up well; “This course has been fantastic. I’m sad to see it finished but very enthusiastic about my practices going forward. This is a journey – my journey. I am learning a new way of living. Mindfulness is not a hobby, it is a way of life – this is what I’m beginning to realise through Susan’s teachings. I can now handle difficult situations in more assertive ways”.
So, even when the course ends there is a sense of newness or freshness, a sense of maintaining a beginner’s mind. If you are at all curious about this course, please get in touch.
Monthly mindfulness and self-care Saturdays continue at the Market Street Clinic Skibbereen. Bookings are being taken for my next mindfulness and self-compassion workshop 10.30am – 1pm, Saturday May 25.
Weekly drop-in mindfulness sessions Market St Clinic, Skibbereen from 9.30 – 10.30am on Wednesdays.
087 2700572 or email: