As more and more of us are asked to make the move online for either work, education or to take care of our wellbeing, it may be a good time to have a look at some of the benefits, along with the fears and anxieties that many of us experience about going online. Based on my own experience and observations, I will share some tips on how to stay well while working, studying or taking part in a class remotely.
I never imagined myself guiding meditations online at any stage in my life. I would have thought that I didn’t possess the technological expertise or equipment. I would also have assumed that online work would lack that strong connection with others that I normally feel during face-to-face, in-person, interactions. One way or another, I am convinced that I would have talked myself out of it. But when Covid-19 entered the picture, everything changed, and I made the move online, as much for my own wellbeing, as to continue my professional mindfulness practice.
Because I teach mindfulness as a means of making a living, meditation already had its place in my daily routine, so when we locked down in March, mindfulness meditation was something familiar that I practised for steadiness of mind and to help manage the array of unsettling emotions that I was feeling. This helped my hugely. However, I still found myself wanting to connect with others, who were, no doubt, experiencing similar emotions. So, because we could not meet anyone in person at that time, I went online.
I turned initially to my training organisation, to hear the familiar voices of my teachers at the Mindfulness Association. I attended their daily meditations on Zoom regularly, as well as several teacher training sessions and online retreats over the summer, all of which provided me with great support and solace during these challenging times. I was surprised at the very real connection I felt, across physical distance and from the comfort of my own living room. This experience, plus my firm belief in compassion-based mindfulness meant that I had a deep urge to share what I have learned with others, to help us all move through each phase of this pandemic.
On March 30, I opened a Zoom account and began offering free, guided meditations three evenings per week. People showed up, from my mailing list initially – people who have participated in courses or workshops with me, who would already be familiar with my method of guiding meditations, but then word spread through word-of-mouth. People began dropping in on evenings that suited them. The groups have ranged in size from three or four people up to 17 or 18. At first, it felt a little strange, getting used to this new way of being seen and seeing others on screen, but the shared experience, energy and commitment of participants, all of whom were impacted by Covid-19, helped me and others to keep going.
I am fortunate in that having just one other person in my house and my little dog; it was fine for me to set myself up in a relatively quiet space to work. I am aware that this may be more difficult for some, but I think we can still do the best we can with what we have. I guide all my classes from the same spot and seem to have created a little grounding ritual to precede each class, whether as teacher or participant! I sit facing a window, which I think really helps your eyes when facing a screen. Your eyes can shift from the screen to the window now and then, which creates a feeling of open space, as well as space in the mind.
I make a hot drink and show up early to my seat, giving myself some time to arrive both physically and mentally, by making myself warm and comfortable and simply allowing myself a few minutes to take a few breaths, grounding myself in my body before the session or meeting begins. I light a candle and sometimes drink my tea just watching the glow from it.
It is important for your body, as well as your vocal cords, to remain well hydrated so I would always have some water close by too. The sessions I run last about 45 minutes, so a break is not necessary, but if you are involved in longer sessions be sure to take regular breaks. Taking some time for some fresh air and a walk or stretch before and/or after online sessions is also beneficial, as is balancing our time. It is important not to ‘overdo’ the time we spend online.
People drop into my sessions from all over Cork and West Cork, as well as several other counties. We have even had people coming and going from the States, Iraq, Norway, Scotland and the UK. This, to me, is one of the huge benefits and sometimes it is quite moving to reflect on the fact that we are all sitting in our homes in various towns, villages, parishes, counties or countries, yet all sharing the same online space. Even though we are miles apart, we are connecting in a very genuine way.
When I began these sessions in March, I had not planned too far ahead, and I am both surprised and delighted that they are still running, as we make the transition now from summer to autumn. They have a sense of familiarity about them now and a real sense of community even across the miles. They have provided a structure and routine to the week at a time when so many things have changed quite dramatically for all of us.
Setting up a routine is so important for wellbeing and now is the time to put a few things in place for the autumn to keep us well. I would encourage everybody to give an online class a shot. There are many to choose from. If you are not sure how to get set up online, for example on Zoom, ask a teenage relative or friend to help set you up and practice a little beforehand. It isn’t perfect and most certainly does not replace the wonderful reality of meeting people in person, but the feeling of support and community that can be cultivated online continues to amaze me!
Online mindfulness meditation sessions via Zoom continue on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings at 8pm. Donation-based, these 45-minute drop-in sessions are a great way to cultivate our ability to pay attention to the present moment, keep up a steady mindfulness practice and provide a way of connecting in with others in a friendly and supportive environment.
I am currently taking expressions of interest for an eight-week Mindfulness Based Living Course (MBLC) this autumn. This will be a morning class, based in Baltimore.
Regular nature and forest bathing at Glebe Gardens provide a safe opportunity outdoors to slow down and connect with ourselves though nature. Each two hour experience costs €30 per person. Group bookings are welcome.
Look out for ‘ReTreat Yourself’ in Baltimore on Saturday, September 12, a day of rest and nourishment at the lovely Glebe Gardens, including mindfulness, yoga, essential oils, nature and forest bathing, nutritious food and drinks.
Please get in touch directly for more information on any of the above.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 087 2700572 www.mindhaven.ie