Life can be challenging, it’s unfortunately inevitable. At some point, we will all experience pain (physical or emotional), anxiety, low mood or stress, however, did you know that we are often responsible for increasing our own suffering without even being aware of it?
We spend so much time in our heads; thinking about things that have happened in the past or may happen in the future so we are hardly ever present to really experience life. Research from Harvard University shows that we spend almost 50% of our time lost in thought!
Perception vs Reality
We long for things to be different which leaves us with an underlying sense of dissatisfaction with the way things are and so we expend a lot of energy and time into trying to change things, to “fix” what we perceive to be wrong with our lives.
The thing that we don’t realise is that this “fixing mode” is the problem. It is great for getting practical stuff done that can be achieved and completed. For instance, if I have a project due next Thursday then I need to work out what needs to be done and then I just have to do it. If I am writing a shopping list and notice that no one ate bananas last week, then I just won’t buy them again. I can “fix” the issue.
Unfortunately, we try to apply the same kind of thinking to fix our inner issues, or emotional states, and this just doesn’t work. They aren’t things that can be ticked off or fixed simply and, in fact, this always wishing for things to be different, is exactly what keeps us stuck in unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour.
Trying to be happier
Perhaps, for example, we are trying to be happier. Maybe we remember a time that we were happy, perhaps whilst on holiday last year, so we try and recreate that by booking another holiday…. In several months’ time. We then wish away the time between now and the holiday, hoping to recreate the feeling of happiness. And then what? We have the holiday and perhaps it is wonderful, but when we come home again that familiar sense of dissatisfaction returns too. This isn’t how life was supposed to turn out! So we start to look for a different fix. Sound familiar?
Practicing mindfulness enables us to learn to notice when our mind has wandered. To become aware of the times when our thoughts turn to things that are unhelpful or when we relive past events or time-travel forward to worrying about things that haven’t yet happened.
And as we develop our practice through meditation we become skilled at noticing when our mind wanders in daily life. We build some space in between a stressful thing occurring and our usual knee jerk reaction. This starts to give us more choice about whether to continue with the thought (because obviously some thoughts are productive) or whether to reconnect back to the present moment and bring an end to the mind wandering and rumination.
There is evidence from MRI brain scanning which shows that, after 8 weeks of sustained adult mindfulness practice there is an increase in the growth of grey matter in the parts of the brain responsible for regulating emotions, and a decrease in areas of grey matter around the amygdala (which is responsible for stress reactivity).
We learn to relate to our emotions more skilfully and we learn to relate differently to and accept all aspects of our experience whether they are pleasant, unpleasant or somewhere in between.
When we practice mindfulness we place the attention on something simple, like the breath. We follow it in and out. We don’t think about it or analyse it; we drop into the sensations of the breath coming in and out. We focus on what it actually feels like, without trying to change anything at all. Letting it be.
Inevitably the mind will wander off; thinking about the shopping, what we did last Thursday or perhaps what we are doing later. Our job is simply to notice when it wanders away from the sensations of the breath. Once we notice, we kindly escort the awareness back to the breath (without frustration or judgement).
We may have to do this a hundred times in 5 minutes. But this practice is exercising the brain in the same way we do physical exercise. Each time we bring the awareness back to the sensations of what is happening in this moment we are exercising our “mindfulness muscle”.
Additionally, we offer retreat days for both for those who already have an established practice and wish to deepen their mindfulness practice further and shorter retreats for those newer to mindfulness practice.
Please click on the relevant section or complete the enquiry form to discuss the options further.
“Mindfulness is such a wonderful tool to have, it allows you to be present and mindfully respond to situations. It gives you time to think before you react and you won’t believe how powerful that is. Lucy has a gift in the way she trains and within eight weeks you can be actively using the tools”
“The course was amazing. Totally much more than I have expected. It had a practical toolkit to manage both stress and the wider way of running my thoughts and life. I would be inclined to redo the course even though I have done it already.”
“I can honestly say that this course has changed my life. Mindfulness is not a quick fix and Lucy made that very clear from the beginning. I am not suddenly a brand new person who never worries, never feels sad and sits under a Bodhi tree in a state of Zen all day! But I do feel like I now have the tools I need to manage myself more effectively and for the first time (probably ever) I like myself and I will be forever grateful for taking this time for myself. Thank you Lucy.”