My first experience of Mindfulness was in 2012. I was looking for something to give me a reprieve from the negative way I was thinking at times. I had read a little about it on the internet but I actually had not realised it was a meditation based practice. It just sounded like something I needed in my life. There was a lady offering it locally and I went along to her taster session.
First thing that struck me as I walked into the room where she was running the session, was that there was a guy sitting crossed-legged on the floor with his eyes closed. If I could have left then, without being seen, I probably would have but Deborah greeted me and offered me a place to sit and there we all were.
Without much preamble, she asked us to lie down and ran a body scan meditation. Basically, with this meditation you are guided along by the voice to notice sensations in different parts of your body, starting with the left big toe and focusing on breathing and really being with the body-feelings that are there to be felt at the time. It takes around 40 minutes and is a very good starting meditation for a beginner. Just noticing your body sensations and your breathing with lots of guidance to keep yourself from wandering away into thoughts.
After the meditation (which was a fascinating observation of being aware of my feet, back, hands etc in a way I had never had before), we sat up again and Deborah asked if anyone would like to say anything about their experience. The cross-legged guy said " I know that I am my breath" but most of us were silent. I am not one for speaking up and often find it quite difficult to talk about what I have noticed but as my experience had been so profound I found my voice and said "Well, I have to say I feel absolutely amazing!".
Deborah thanked me and I signed up for the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction 8 week course that evening.
My "experience" of "feeling amazing" carried on through the course, with noticeable changes for the better along the way. I had arrived at my need for a change in my life, after years spent ruminating on various subjects (I will not bore you with the details) and was sick and tired of my own mind and the way it lead me around the day, like some sad donkey, chasing the ever-elusive carrot. Certain thoughts taking me on a spiraling path that would use up precious hours of my life in a negative, wasted, desperation-filled need to feel better. But I always felt worse after these ruminations, because they were never leading anywhere and always left me with a questioning sadness and a void within me that did not feel good.
As I studied the course and meditated, these ruminations began to lessen and I could see the situations, as if I was an outsider looking in and without the heavy emotional ties to the thoughts to hold them in my mind. It became something I did not need to do anymore and looking back now five years later, I am so rarely taken over by ruminations, it is truly a thing of the past. That in itself is such a huge positive change for the better, I could stop here and would have said enough on how mindfulness has helped me! But to be honest there is way more and I am so very happy that I walked into that room and did not turn away but stayed to experience mindfulness and how much calmer I can be, how I do not have to react but can respond and how I am now my authentic self again, as in, who I was as a child before I had to judge and be judged. There is true freedom in that.
After I finished the course I kept up a daily meditation practice, listening to guided audios and then after time began to sit and practice without the guidance. Sometimes it was difficult to make myself do it and there were and are weeks that I do not meditate but when I do, the day has a different aspect to it and it is an aspect I like. Sometimes the ability to stay with the breath or sounds (I personally like to meditate with a window open so that the daily noises like bird song, cars driving past, wind in the trees etc can become a gentle background focus) is impossible and my mind just keeps going back to "what I have to do today" or just not being able to BE at all but when I meditate and all thoughts can just lift away for a while, the feeling of being truly conscious and truly here and at ease, is very uplifting and life-affirming.
My observations and delights in mindfulness led me to the conclusion that I wanted others to enjoy the benefits too. So after two years of practicing, I trained to be a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction 8 week course teacher with the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University. Since then I have run 8 week courses, lead workshops on mindfulness, run workshops with the synergy of mindfulness and Pilates, finished many of my weekly Pilates classes with a mindful movement and meditation closing phase and taken groups of guests away on retreats, to experience and immerse themselves in Mindfulness in all its aspects, be it sitting and lying meditation, mindful eating, mindful movement, mindful walking etc. There are countless ways of being in the moment and knowing you are in the moment, until it becomes something that is easier to do each time and until you notice when you have been lost in thought and can come back to being in the present. Because all we ever really have is this moment. The past is gone and the future cannot be known but we have this moment to enjoy and experience in full.
Thank you for reading this post. It has been a open and honest snippet of some of the joys I have experienced since that first body scan. There are so many gains that have occurred along the way and maybe I have even forgotten some of the moments or realisations, as they have changed or been replaced by something better.
I am passionate about offering Mindfulness to people and actually see it as one of the answers to the chaos and cruelty of living on planet earth. We really need to evolve out of what we are now, into something better and I know there is a change and a quiet revolution happening in the world. Maybe Mindfulness is part of a better future. I personally think it is!