Anxiety can have a debilitating effect on your life; from the out and out cold fear you feel every day that something terrible is going to happen, to the physical symptoms of chest pain, shoulder and neck tension, headaches, nausea, palpitations and clamminess.
If you suffer from severe anxiety you’ll know that finding anything that can help even reduce symptoms a tiny bit would be a godsend.
whilst I have personal experience of mental health, food intolerances and improving my gut bacteria, I am no expert, or specialist. You should ALWAYS seek medical advice before taking supplements, altering your diet significantly or making changes to your health, because you are very important and so is your health.
Phew, so moving on. I am so very excited to share with you something I’ve discovered about my health which I had to work out through research and scouring the internet for hours.; how gut health can completely change your health
I’m in the process of writing a number of articles, books and workbooks about mindfulness and mindful living, and each time I seem to come back to a hurdle: what actually is mindful living? what is mindfulness? How do I explain these ideas to someone who’s maybe only heard them in passing, never heard of them, or heard of them a few times but has no idea what they actually are?
The course is in three parts; the actual ‘mindfulness’ bit which was four weekends, teacher training skills and a five day teaching retreat. The main body of the first part of the course is run in Scarborough which gave the added bonus of training by the sea. So win win really! The course is secular, but is taught by two fabulous women, one who is a Buddhist Nun and the wisdom and compassion that came from them both had a massive impact on me.
Oh how naive I was when I started the course. Swaggering into the Holiday Inn where the foundation weekend was held thinking ‘I know all about mindfulness and I am just coming to this so I can get onto the Mindfulness Teachers list’. Cue a year later having had my eyes opened beyond measure to how blind I was to the depths of mindfulness.
I had already done some mindfulness training which to be honest changed my life. Before I I came to mindfulness I suffered with depression, anxiety, I impulsively spent money, and I lived in a chaotic whirlwind of emotions. Having completed an eight week mindfulness course I started practicing the techniques I’d learnt and started seeing the benefits almost instantly; I felt calmer, clearer headed and started learning to live in the present. I found it so life changing I wanted to help others come to mindfulness.
Back to the Holiday Inn…another intensive mindfulness course that would be the first step on the pathway to teaching others. The first weekend covered many basics I already knew; living in the present, meditation and awareness. Nothing too new. Then weekend two came along and oh boy…compassion.
Now compassion is something I have in spades usually. For others. Ask me to be compassionate to myself and then we start to have a problem, but a big part of this course was about self compassion. A lot of self compassion. This course was where I realised I really didn’t love myself. I wasn’t even sure liking myself was even part of the equation, and it hurt. It really hurt. I pushed against it, I felt blocked in trying to do the exercises. I rebelled against the silent practice and went to sit with the seagulls. I cried in front of a lot of almost strangers. Two weekends went by where compassion were a big part of the work we were doing. Compassion to self and others is a big part of mindfulness , as it should be, to be able to be kind to yourself and to others, even those you really don’t have much time for is a great gift, but it’s not easy.
In between weekends we had to practice the different practices we were learning, read books on mindfulness, meditate and generally open ourselves up the mindfulness journey we had started. I could do this for many areas; demonstrating mindful movement in the practice groups I run, reading more and trying to get a regular meditation practice in place, but somehow I skirted around compassion, finding it too hard to contemplate.
I loved the other work, the acceptance, the mindful movement, the meditation practices, the observing of thoughts, and even though it’s a work in progress I have started to make peace with myself. Weekend four was this last weekend. We pulled together everything we’d been learning and practicing, and suddenly something shifted. I felt ready to start being kind to myself. After all why don’t I deserve that? There’s something fundamental in most of us that feel being kind to ourselves is indulgent but it’s absolutely crucial to our wellbeing. Without compassion to ourselves and to others how can we bring out the best in ourselves and others?
Ironically I now feel ready to have a full mindful practice. I will talk more in another post about the changes that I have already put in place this week to find joy in the present moment.
Are there any parts of mindfulness you are particularly interested in? What have you struggled most with?
Looking forward to my teaching skills weekends starting in June…watch this space!