Posted by: ayrshirehealth | October 16, 2013

My Path to Mindfulness by @janeAAHPMH

Life enriching experience

If someone had told me a year ago that I would have chosen to go on a yoga and meditation retreat instead of a girls holiday to Las Vegas, I would have said they were mad! However, this is true and the retreat has been undeniably the most life enriching experience.  yoga 2

My journey towards mindfulness has at times been inconsistent and I have found myself being caught up in life’s dramas all too often. It all began around five years ago when I discovered a meditation group with my sister and although it encouraged us to be more aware of the present and gave us an insight in to how we can let our minds get caught up in the chaos and thrive on it, we failed to commit fully and our own practice faltered. A common excuse was we “didn’t have time!”. On reflection, that sounds absurd!

I tend to spend my time worrying

So, it wasn’t until I began to feel that life was controlling me rather than me taking the reins I considered the principles of mindfulness again. At this time, I had a rather worrying health scare which led to a hospital admission and doctors considering everything from a virus, to a stroke, to multiple sclerosis. A true cause to why I suddenly couldn’t feel large parts of my body and face due to numbness was not found but it certainly gave me time to reflect on my lifestyle and how I was feeling in general. I slowly began to realise that I tended to spend time worrying about the future or focusing on perceived mistakes of the past. Neither of which is particularly useful and led to me feeling anxious about seemingly simple things.

It felt I needed to make a change and it led me back to my mindfulness group, this was when mindfulness practice was emerging within the health service and evidence suggested that it was particularly effective when used with clients with anxiety or depressive disorders.

Commitment to meditation

yogaFollowing this and my new found commitment to meditation. I decided to go on retreat for a week, by myself, with periods of silence detailed in the timetable! Interestingly, a large proportion of those on retreat worked in health and several specialising in mental health. There were also those who freely spoke of their own mental health problems and it was refreshing to talk to them and listen to their often distressing stories without being an OT to assess functioning and expectation to provide treatment. All twenty nine of us bonded almost instantly. Our interest in mindfulness and the benefit to our very different lives was clear and a common ground from the start.

The days were simple but structured with a strong sense of community. We had three sessions of meditation and a yoga class each day but were also expected to complete a daily chore to assist with the running of retreat as it runs solely on donations. Although, the ethos of the retreat is based in Buddhism it offers it in such a way that it is relevant to modern day, regardless of faith.

The retreat aimed to provide an environment which allows time and space away from our often hectic lives and enable us to “take stock”, regain perspective and feel refreshed. I can confirm this was the outcome I experienced and I have already planned to return next year!

Enjoy the simple things

During the retreat there was also free time. I spent most of it either in the Quiet Room where no one spoke, so I could happily read my book or write in my journal! The quiet roomOr I would take advantage of the beautiful surroundings and isolation and go for a long walk. What struck me most was how easy it was enjoy very simple things such as silence or my own company when we didn’t have the distractions of modern life. No phone, well I allowed myself one text message per day! No newspapers, no radio, no TV and at one point no running water! It allowed me to notice how much mindless chatter goes on in our heads and how much isn’t often based on fact but we take it as so.

It reinforced the importance of just being present in the moment and that in itself is enough for anyone. I noticed that we miss so much when we don’t pay attention. Rushing around, creating our own chaos and then being angry at ourselves for not feeling we have achieved enough. I now realise that mindfulness can be done anywhere at any time. In a traffic jam, speaking to family or at work or simply making a cup of tea. The “I don’t have time excuse just doesn’t cut it anymore”. When you feel you don’t have time is exactly the time when you would benefit from a moment of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is also now being seen in popular culture. A magazine recently encouraged a period of stillness and awareness in your day to cultivate insight and perspective. It’s everywhere and if we pay attention then you never know we just might notice!

If I Had My Life to Live Over

If I had my life to live over,

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.

I’d relax, I would limber up.

I would be sillier than I have been this trip.

I would take fewer things seriously.

I would take more chances.

I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.

I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

I would perhaps have more actual troubles,

but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who has lived sensibly and sanely,

hour after hour, day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again,

I’d have more of them.

In fact, I’d try to have nothing else.

Just moments,

one after another,

instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those people who never goes anywhere

without a thermometer, a hot water bottle,

a raincoat and a parachute.

If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over,

I would start barefoot earlier in the spring

and stay that way later in the fall.

I would go to more dances.

I would ride more merry-go-rounds.

I would pick more daisies.

Nadine Stairs (85 year old)

This weeks blog was by @janeAAHPMH – Jane is an occupational therapist working in mental health service in NHS Ayrshire & Arran

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Responses

  1. […] My Path to Mindfulness by Jane AAHPMH on the Ayrshirehealth blog. […]

    • Really enjoyed reading your post, would be interested to attend same course if you could share location, many thanks

  2. […] health service in NHS Ayrshire & Arran, wrote about going on a yoga and meditation retreat: My Path to Mindfulness. I’m not at all sure that I could cope without a laptop and at least a few hours of access to […]


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