Aside from a few yoga classes, I have never done anything that might help me mentally or even spiritually. I hate the smell of incense, candles are a fire hazard to me and when I relax my mind it’s normally because I’m going to sleep. So although I was aware of mindfulness, it wasn’t something that I would normally consider.
I didn’t really know what it was or how it was supposed to help me. I’d heard it involved breathing and could have a positive impact on your mental and physical health. The 8 week course I had come across meant I could take a couple of hours every week to focus on myself instead of my family for a change. I was convinced that this alone would have a positive affect on me!
I signed up for the Mindfulness Based Living Course and Julie Griffin, the facilitator sent me some information. This was very detailed and the ‘curriculum’ involved things like Week 6 – Attitude and Week 7 – Self Acceptance. I don’t know much about mindfulness yet but I do know that a positive attitude and better self-esteem are things we can all benefit from.
On the first night of the course, I’m really excited but also a bit nervous. I have been to so many training courses and networking events and I can honestly say that sharing my thoughts with a room full of strangers is not my idea of a good night out. We are advised to wear something comfy and casual so I opt for a T-shirt and jeans. I’m a bit unsure if everyone else will be in their gym gear but when I arrive I’m relieved to see that we’ve all roughly had the same idea. I also notice that the room is quite dimly lit and there is a row of excited/nervous faces which immediately puts me at ease. I choose a seat, take my shoes off and sit with my feet on a cushion which relaxes me further.
We begin by listening as Julie gives us a short talk including what she expects from us while we are here. We then take it in turns to introduce ourselves and say what we have come for and/or what we expect from the course. We all have similar reasons and I’m not the only person that’s decided to invest in myself for a change.
We then do a short exercise where we close our eyes and try to be still with a restful mind. I expect this will be relatively easy in the peaceful room although after about 10 seconds I find my mind wandering already. I’m thinking about school uniform for my son. I push the thought away and take a few breaths. My mind is clear but then my ears pick up on the sound of the air conditioning and this seems strangely loud. Then Julie signals the end of the exercise and I realise that this is harder than I thought. It seems my mind has a mind of its own!
We have a group chat and discover we have all had a similar experience. In different ways, we have all struggled to quieten our busy minds for even a few minutes. Julie reassures us that this is perfectly normal. That it is perfectly fine to acknowledge a thought without continuing to give it attention.
We then do a longer exercise where Julie encourages us to be aware of our breathing both inwards and outwards. We start counting as we breathe in and try to match that number as we breathe out. I count to 5 or 6 each time although at one point I feel like my breathing feels a bit shallow and I wonder if I’m doing it right.
Afterward, we compare notes with the person beside us. The lady beside me goes first and says she thought her breathing was shallow. I wonder if we have both been doing it wrong. I ask Julie about this and she tells me that by focusing on my breathing, it’s likely to have highlighted what is going on inside my body. In other words, my breathing is a bit shallow and I’ve just noticed it by slowing down and paying attention. Now that I am aware of this, I can focus on regulating my breathing to settle my busy mind. Apparently, I’m ahead of the game here as this is the very thing we will be studying next week. I am slightly amazed at the thought of being super aware of my inner workings and I can already see the advantages of self-awareness.
Suddenly, it’s time to leave and I can’t believe how quickly the two hours have passed. We are sent home with some handouts and recordings to listen to over the next week. When I get home, my husband has a thousand questions about how it all works and all I give him in return is that we did some breathing. The next morning, I wake up feeling super relaxed and am in a great mood all day. I’m convinced I’ve had the best sleep ever even though I don’t normally have problems sleeping.
Over the next week, I try my best to listen to the guided meditation recordings that we’ve been given. It’s the school holidays and I’m struggling to get a minute to myself but I make a point of having some quiet time each day. One day, I even sit in my car so that no-one disturbs me! It feels a bit unnatural, so I remind myself that it’s not selfish but is completely necessary if I want to improve all our lives.
The more I practice mindfulness, the easier it gets. I can now quickly ignore random thoughts that try to push their way through and this happens less frequently as time passes. I’m already looking forward to the next class and can’t wait to see what we’ll learn next in Week 2.