Start now and cultivate happiness in your life with mindfulness

For as many new years as I can remember I set myself insurmountable goals, mainly to stop smoking and to lose weight and/or get fit.  And for as many Monday mornings as I can remember I set myself a harsh dietary regime, which had usually fallen to the wayside by mid-week. I was, and still am, a great believer in a clean slate or a new beginning, but I now see how extreme I was in my expectations of myself and how harshly I treated myself when I didn’t succeed. Why I felt I couldn’t start good habits in February or begin to eat healthily on a Tuesday or Wednesday I’ll never know!  I think I used to want things to be perfect, even when they were far from it.

I’m happy to report that I have long since stopped smoking and have developed sustained healthy eating and exercise habits. Mindfulness has transformed my way of thinking, being and living. The first steps involve becoming aware of how the mind works, where our thoughts automatically go and getting to know our habits of mind and body. Then by training the mind to stay present and learning to work with the breath, over time we can release old habits and learn to live in the present moment.  So instead of living our lives on ‘autopilot’, either being too caught up in the past or too worried about what the future may hold, we learn to acknowledge or appreciate what’s happening right now. We give up so much to autopilot and miss out on many of life’s precious moments.

During my mindfulness teacher training we were encouraged to ‘model imperfection’, something I do so well! This lets people off the hook in a way, by acknowledging that to be imperfect is to be human and that accepting our vulnerability takes huge courage. Sitting still may look easy, yet in practice is very difficult. When we begin to practice mindfulness and self-compassion we realise that the simple fact of being human means we have more in common with each other than we think, regardless of income, background, age, culture, etc.

Evidence continues to grow on the benefits of mindfulness and self-compassion for diverse populations and I love teaching it for so many reasons. Not only does it keep me well myself, but I can often see people change in front of my eyes over the course of eight weeks as they put their mindfulness and self-compassion skills to work. Simple changes amount to big results in terms of our wellness and happiness and the results tend to last.

People attend my courses and groups for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes people sign up to improve their general happiness and wellbeing, while others join to get help with more specific issues such as busyness, sleep problems, social anxiety, depression, physical pain, stress, overthinking or struggling with difficult emotions, like regret. Some need support with weight, work-life balance or parenting issues. A previous course participant describes her experience of the MBLC, “As a young mum, working full-time, life can be a bit suffocating. By week eight of the course, I am a much calmer person. I am more accepting of anxiety and it is not to be feared. Susan has taught me that by my breath alone, I can ground myself in times of difficulty. I would definitely recommend Susan’s mindfulness course, it was a pleasure to attend.” Another lady described how she’d “lost her footing” in life, which I think we can all identify with. Life events can throw us around emotionally, but mindfulness can steady us, no matter what’s going on around us. Life may not necessarily improve in practical terms but the lens through which we view our lives changes. “The eight-week course helped to give me a much better understanding of mindfulness. I’ve gotten to know who I really am, learned about being kind to myself, about letting go. I’m more conscious of coming back to the breath and being still”.

As well as an Msc in Mindfulness Studies, I have completed teacher training with the Mindfulness Association over the last four years. I now run bespoke training courses, workshops and retreats privately and for a wide range of organisations in various educational settings.  I also work with individuals on a one-to-one basis. I have an upcoming Mindfulness Based Living Course (MBLC) at the Celtic Ross Hotel beginning with an introductory session on Tuesday, January 22 at 6.30pm. This is followed by eight weeks of two-hour classes and a full day of silent practice with a follow-up session a month or so later. There are many benefits to taking part in a class that lasts eight to 10 weeks. It allows participants to learn and practice their mindfulness skills with the support of a teacher and a group so that when the course ends people are well equipped to practice on their own with a full set of 12 audio recordings and a course manual to use at home. “The course was so fantastic. I got so much from it – breathing and focusing on the now”.

Mindfulness has taught me to start right now, not to wait for the perfect moment, day or year, because it may never come, now is the only time we have.  Life passes by so quickly, start beginning to pay attention to your life now, in this moment.

For more information contact: Mob: 087 2700572.

Susan O Regan

Susan O'Regan teaches mindfulness and self-compassion courses and workshops in West Cork.

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