The Mindfulness challenge – how can we just ‘Allow’ ? It is no quick fix…..

TaraHealy-490x350On May the 5th and 6th (can you believe it is already nearly May?!) our mindfulness specialist Miranda Bevis is starting her latest Mindfulness course, lasting eight weeks and offering in-depth knowledge of its benefits and hours of practice. Courses like this have literally changed the lives of many who are facing challenges of all kinds – work, relationships, health – but it does require some hard work to master mindfulness properly. Too often recently the press has highlighted it as the next ‘cure all’ for anxiety and depression, detailing how corporations are recognising it as a means of increasing productivity and reducing stress on employees. But mindfulness isn’t all about a 20 minute break taking deep breaths in the staff canteen. It can open up a whole world of new experiences and, if taught properly, offers meaningful and deep-rooted strategies to deal with the challenges life throws at us. But it isn’t always easy, and can throw up challenges that can be hard to meet in the first days of practice.

So when we saw this poem by Danna Faulds, it seemed to sum up the realities of mindfulness and the joys of simply ‘bearing the truth’…..

Allow

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes
By: Danna Faulds

“When loss rips off the doors of/the heart, or sadness veils your/vision with despair…” – this is mindfulness as support in times of the greatest sorrow, and long before the recent rise in the popularity of the practice many had found peace in the joy of the only moment we truly have – the present one.

Of course we would love you to book on to Miranda Bevis’s courses, if not those starting next week then her autumn dates in September and October, but this isn’t about advertising.  We know the benefits of mindfulness go far deeper than the ‘quick fix’ options being discussed in the press. It isn’t ‘meditation lite’ as it was recently described, and the whole industry that has recently built up around it – phone apps, books etc – can result in a waste of time and money if the practice is not put in. Everything truly worthwhile requires work and patience. Finding a teacher who can guide you and support you is vital, especailly as Danna Faulds says, you  are letting in the fear, the failure and the fantasies….

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More mindfulness practice: Jumping in puddles – cultivating a ‘beginner’s mind’

imagesMany of you will have read our mindfulness posts in the past, perhaps learning some tips to try, or some poetry to focus on as you work to stay in the present moment. It isn’t always easy to make the necessary space and time in our busy lives, but the medical profession has at last recognised that for many, the ever-increasing pace of 21st century life is impossible to maintain.

Our own Miranda Bevis, an expert mindfulness practitioner, runs regular workshops and courses to support anyone wanting to learn mindfulness techniques. She has also written widely on the subject, and she has shared the following piece with us. I found it deeply moving, remembering watching my own children experience the joy of something simple for the first time, and wanting to enjoy that feeling over and over again. As adults, Miranda points out, we rarely do this and. perhaps, need to get in touch with our inner child just a little more often……

When my kids were little, they were drawn, like magnets, to puddles. Many a walk ground to a halt as a puddle had to be inspected. Stood in. Jumped up and down in. Delighted in. But not just one puddle. Every single one they came across. Oblivious of cold and wind, for them, each puddle was a fresh and new excitement, and needed to be explored and reveled in.

At first I could delight in their happiness, their squeals of joy. But inevitably, my mind would stray and become bored. How many times do we have to do this? We’ve got to get on, let’s find some thing new. I’m afraid there were times when I gritted my teeth in frustration,

Small children are very good at being present. They can easily find magic in the mundane, and become completely absorbed in each moment. As we grow up, we tend to lose this. It’s easy to become bored and cynical. “Seen one, seen them all”. We want to move on and find new distractions. So, as I sit now, looking at my rain washed spring garden, at first sight, I am aware it’s beautiful. Of course it doesn’t change, after one minute, five minutes, ten minutes. But what can change is the way I perceive it. I might only appreciate the beauty for an instant, before I get used to it, and become distracted. Instead of staying with the experience of my senses, thoughts to crowd in. Of things that need doing, of plans for the garden. And masses of non-garden related thoughts. The garden, and it’s beauty “disappear” from my awareness.

What we aim to do in mindfulness, is to cultivate something called a “beginner’s mind”. That means learning to see things as if this was the first time we’d ever noticed them. You can practice it on anything; perhaps try with a flower. As best you can, let go of thoughts about the flower, and keep on coming back, over and over, to the experience of your eyes. Let go of any thoughts about being bored and wanting to move on to something else. Rather, keep on “refreshing the screen”… this flower, and this flower, and this flower, so that, in each instant there is a new and wonderful flower in front of you. Or go and splash in puddles if you must!

Miranda Bevis - 226x316 (1 of 1)Dr Miranda Bevis’s original training was in medicine, and she worked as a GP in Somerset, with a special interest in psychological problems. She gained a diploma in Psychodynamic Counselling, and now works as a senior counsellor and EMDR practitioner at the Somerset Counselling Centre in Taunton. She is also a British Wheel of Yoga teacher.

 

More mindfulness practice: On eating that Christmas raisin……

a-mindful-christmasWe are in December now, and here at The Terrace we are keen to promote ways to ensure our well-being is protected in what is a busy, festive month. We have written many times on mindfulness, and have started a new series of posts on the subject. Our expert practitioner Miranda Bevis offers regular and popular taster sessions and courses here, to those interested in finding out more. Here, Miranda discusses an exercise that some of you may already have heard of, and perhaps even dismissed. After all – how useful can eating one raisin be? Read on and find out. Perhaps, as you eat your rich Christmas cake or pudding this year you can give it a try…..

“The first exercise we do in the Mindfulness course is to eat a raisin. It seems a bit crazy. Never mind. Just do it. Notice. What does it look like? How does it smell? What happens when you put it in your mouth? As best you can, try not put the experience into words, but just allow yourself the bare experience.

If the mind wanders, which it probably will, gently guide it back to the exploration of this small object. Let go of any thoughts or judgments.

The whole thing takes about 5 minutes. People are always surprised and I regularly hear comments such as  “I didn’t know I could get so absorbed in such a small and insignificant thing”, “I can’t believe how intense it tasted”, “I didn’t think I even liked raisins, but that was really enjoyable”; and there’ is always someone who says, “It’s really strange, but I feel so much more relaxed”.

This exercise is far from crazy, and should not be dismissed. It demonstrates a number of things, including how, a lot of the time, we don’t really notice what we are doing, but are functioning automatically. Now, that’s not always a bad thing to do. For example when we react to real danger, or the mechanics of driving. In this complicated world, there are many times when we have to multi-task.

But if we function without awareness, we miss out on much of our experience. How many meals do we not even taste because we are in such a hurry?

And sometimes it’s downright unhelpful, and can actually make things worse. Reaching for the biscuits or the bottle when we get stressed, or kicking the cat because we are feeling irritable – perhaps if we were more aware of our actions, we might act in ways that were kinder to ourselves, and to others.

raisinFinally, the person who noticed she became more relaxed whilst eating the raisin had touched on something of great importance. I never used the “relax” word, never say ‘chill out’. I just said, really, really notice what you are doing. So what we discover is that, just by becoming fully absorbed in a very mundane activity, the body relaxes.

Why not give it a try? For a few mouthfuls every day, switch off the radio, don’t read or talk. And just eat. And notice…”

Miranda Bevis is offering mindfulness taster sessions and a new 8-week course in January 2015. See our ‘What’s On’ page for more details.

More poetry for mindfulness: Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

DE_20120613_PI_retarus_quiet_time_screenWhy do we find it so hard to be, simply, still? Here at The Terrace we are lucky enough to have an expert mindfulness practitioner, Miranda Bevis. Her experiences have been immensely positive, both personally and professionally and she is keen to share the  life enhancing nature of mindfulness, which is now being taken up as an effective therapeutic tool by practitioners in the National Health Service.

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is something that has to be worked at, but it is incredibly powerful as a way to manage the ever-increasing pace of life in the 21st century and to cope with personal life challenges.

Sometimes, the practice of mindfulness is easier to describe by illustration, using poetry to distill the essence of what it means to be ‘still’. We have tried to do this before on ‘let’s talk’ and the poem we chose then, by Wendell Berry , got a huge, positive response. So here is another favourite, by the Nobel prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. In Keeping Quiet,  Neruda asks the reader to stop, take time out from the frenetic pace of life and make time for silence. In that quiet time we can reflect on our lives, and stop being so  ‘single-minded/about keeping our lives moving/and for once could do nothing’ . It isn’t simple inactivity, it is a time to connect with ourselves, and with the earth. In doing so we can return to our routines with energy and with an appreciation of our lives and the impact of our actions.

Keeping Quiet
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Do you have any favourite poems which you use to help you reflect on life and which offers you the chance to be still and take time out for yourself, alone? We would love to hear your suggestions, and to hear what you think of this poem. It will take more than one reading, but we do hope it will offer you food for thought.

Miranda Bevis offers regular mindfulness taster sessions here at The Terrace. The next available slots are on the 13th and 14th of May 2014. See our website for more details.