This was a three day course which I attended towards the end of March 2015. The early spring weather certainly made the journey to and from Bristol interesting – and at times, challenging, but that aside Bristol was worth visiting. It felt confusing coming into an unfamiliar city, but I let my trusty GPS device guide me. I have been before, but then had not really registered the immensity of the rocky cliffs around and below Clifton on my way in, or noticed how the tide changes the feel and look of the river at the bottom of the gorge, sometimes full of choppy water blown by a strong wind, sometimes slimy and muddy with hardly any water.
I chose this course to enable me to have a greater awareness of Mindfulness, both as a way of being – myself – and as a useful source of further interventions in my clinical work. I quickly realised how I used Mindfulness already in my daily life, although without a formal label.
Mindfulness as a way of being is simple, but not easy! What it asks is that we turn off our ‘auto pilot’ and ‘fall awake’ – meaning that we dis-engage our active brains which think back to the past and ruminate on events we find there, or think to the future and worry about what might happen, and engage our awareness brains and notice where we are right now and what is going on around us. Obviously, both thinking back and forward are, at times, necessary, to utilise useful past experience and to plan and organise, but in the event that we are caused stress and anxiety by doing so constantly, we benefit from becoming present. Although I had not at this stage learned anything from the course itself, somehow that is what I was doing when I noticed the river and the rocky cliffs on my first day into Bristol – I had closed my mind to the challenges of finding my way, or to any preconceptions of the course, and was just aware of that moment on the road and noticing where I was and where Bristol sat in the world. I arrived un-flustered and open to whatever experience was before me.
There are many ways ‘in’ to being Mindful, and many useful tools to help, but probably the most familiar as a part of being Mindful is with the use of Meditation. Many people use Meditation in their daily lives, and there are different length scripts which can be used, from 3 minutes to 20 minutes or more. For use in a clinical setting, I judge the shorter scripts as most useful, and people can then go on to learn for themselves the benefits of Meditating for longer. I feel that it is also perfectly possible to become more Mindful once the principles are understood and a personal ‘trigger’ is enabled which will help to switch off the ruminating brain and allow peace. It wasn’t a trigger as such, but my use of the GPS device allowed me to turn off any anxiety about the immediate future and become present to the environment.
Mindfulness can be looked on by some as the model of the moment – in that it is what everyone is talking about, and courses and trainings are popping up everywhere. It is certainly a model of ‘being’ which can be really helpful in this busy world we inhabit (and comes originally from a Buddhist religious stance) and there is no harm in that if it works! It is not right for all, and is clinically contra-indicated for some, but will gradually settle down to take it’s place amongst the plethora of other approaches to psychological health. I am so glad that I took this training and look forward to using what I have learnt, both with myself and with my clients.