How mindfulness helps us appreciate the present
Updated: May 19
One of the things I like about teaching the 8-week mindfulness MBSR course is that people come to it for many different reasons, and it can help with a range of experiences. People often ask me what drew me to mindfulness, so I thought I would explain a little here about my background and what mindfulness means to me.
I started studying psychology when I was at school and have been interested in it ever since. I took some wonderful courses in my twenties, (in London, California and India) - about appreciating the present moment as the most real one we ever have, and how to relate to our thoughts and feelings in helpful ways. These studies boosted my understanding of human behaviour, and led me to explore both ancient and modern ideas about how to live well. I learned to see my thoughts and emotions as events that happen in the mind, that one can stand back from. The powerful realisation that I need not be stopped from doing something just because I have a fear did lead to me parachuting out of a few planes!
It was rather hard to explain all this to friends and family at the time, who mostly thought I was a little strange, and I appreciate how much easier it is to talk about what mindfulness means today as it is so much more common now than it was to explore how we relate to our minds. But even if it was hard to explain to others, I am very grateful that I discovered "This is it" and "Having my thoughts instead of them having me" at the start of my adult life, and they are sentiments I have always tried to live by.
I've had a varied career based around helping people of all ages, which began with teaching self-development courses in London, some connected to the courses I had taken, and some to do with using drama skills to help people express themselves. I enjoyed supporting people in achieving their goals and living well. I took up Yoga and studied Dramatherapy, at the same time as working as a professional theatre director, before going on to teach in schools and have children.
If this sounds a lot, you're right - I was leading quite a hectic life! So it was a memorable moment when, in 2012, I came across 'modern' mindfulness in a workshop. As I walked along a warm, white rug, feeling its softness between my toes, I felt a strong sense of relief and wonder, resting in the present. I hadn't realised that through all the 'busyness' of bringing up my children and teaching drama, I was forgetting to savour the present moment. The only time I reminded myself that 'This is it' seemed to be when I was running! 'Modern' mindfulness resonated with so many ideas I had discovered and taught in my twenties, it felt like coming home. Practising guided meditations became part of my daily life.
So I simply came to mindfulness because I was always rushing around and just wanted to pause, and appreciate the moment with my rapidly growing sons. I felt that life was passing me by. Since then, I have faced larger issues like bereavement and other challenges and found my mindfulness practice to be very helpful. And never more so than at this current time with Covid and all its uncertainties and challenges. I actually feel quite privileged to have my mindfulness practice, to know many strategies to deal with stress and anxiety, and to be part of a global, caring mindfulness community. It is great to be able to share it with others. And teaching mindfulness definitely helps me remember that 'This is it', whether I like it or not!