Endings and beginnings

 

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At the crematorium, at the end of the funeral: the last moments.

Right now, there is a sense of spring in the air.  The trees are in blossom and the light from the sun is a little stronger, streaming in from the window next to my desk. Winter is ending, summer is beginning.

 

Recently, I have had a bereavement: my father, Dr Xavier Francis Carelse, passed away last month.  For several months, my mother and I had been closely involved in his care, as he had chosen to pass at home.  This period of great activity and intensity suddenly ended as his life drew to a close and a new experience of his ‘not living’ arose.

In treasuring and honouring the life and death of this man, there has emerged a deeper sense of staying present and ’embracing’ the moment.  It arose from a perspective of perceiving each moment as precious and unique and having infinite possibilities, including opportunities for connectedness with rather than separation from others.  In acknowledging this oneness, there arises a poignant sensitivity towards all beings.

The alternative is to allow the mind to become distracted and separated from the present, preoccupied with thoughts: plans for the future and memories of the past.  However, this choice sustains the mind and heart in a state of mourning and distress, making the process of healing painful and slow.

It is poignant to recognise each moment as embodying opportunities for oneness with and sensitivity towards all beings.  In this middle way, ending and beginning are embraced for what they are: two sides of the same coin.  In this moment, life and death are one, the mind and heart are at peace and the path to healing becomes clearer.

In this experience, there is no end state.  There is no goal to reach.  In this time-space continuum, there is neither ending nor beginning: an unfolding of beauty and love.

 

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A celebration with friends and family in honour of Dr Xavier Francis Carelse, my father and friend, who lived from 11 March 1933 until 26 March 2017.

 

My Mindful Little One: interview with WHSmith

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This beautifully illustrated children’s book was published on 5 May 2016.

Last year, in September, I had the pleasure of being invited to write a book by Scholastics.

In the process, many were involved, including Emma Drage, the editor and Paula Bolwes who provided the beautiful illustrations.

Finally, last week, on 5 May 2016, “My Mindful Little One: Bedtime” was published.

And today there is an article about it on the WHSmith website.

Enjoy.

Bernadette

Sponsor me in fundraising for a meditation retreat centre

2016-02-18 14.44.56I am running the Hackney Half-Marathon on 8 May 2016.  This is to fundraise for Vajrasana, an amazing retreat centre that is close to my heart.  It is set in the Suffolk countryside and has been a special place where I have been inspired to learn more about and teach meditation and mindfulness.

Retreat centres have helped countless people.  Please help me support Vajrasana.  All contributions are welcome.  Click the button below to visit my Just Giving webpage and to make a donation.  Many thanks, Bernadette
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Mindfulness Practice Days: what you said about the last one (5 March 2016)

Mindfulness Practice Days are for those who have completed (or are currently completing) a mindfulness course such as Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  Practice days are an opportunity to consolidate practice and learn a few more.  The last one was held on Saturday 5 March 2016 and here is some of the feedback from participants:

Everything went really well.  I enjoyed the practices.  I learnt that I can be aware of my body/ sounds/ thoughts by just not trying too hard..  and not judging myself.  I liked the variety of practices, the pace of the exercises.

I thought the day was structured well and I liked the variation between practices.  That way, when I felt that one hadn’t gone as well as I would have liked there was something new next time.  As someone new to this, I found the silence a little awkward and needed a bit more introduction to it.

I learn new kinds of meditation – kindness, letter of appreciation, the mountain practice – it was excellent.

It was a calm space and I liked the balance of talking time and a quiet space in the practices.  It was guided well, but not intrusive – a good balance achieved.

The day went well.  The movement was great (nicer than mindful walking).  The ‘kindness’ exercise was very powerful and I enjoyed the ‘mountain’ meditation.

I learnt about movement – had a real sense of energy ‘coming out’.  And about being kind to ourselves, grateful for others.. and just how far my mind can feel it can travel.

Are you an MBSR/MBCT graduate looking for a practice group?  Come to the next practice day, 18 June 2016.  Click below for more information and to book:
Eventbrite - Mindfulness Meetups and MBSR course in Walthamstow Mar-Jun 2016

Simply Being: Reflections on a Buddhist Retreat

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The retreat centre was set in the beautiful Welsh countryside.

Here I am, in the kitchen at the retreat centre, sitting and writing.  It’s the second last day of the retreat and today, after lunch time, over twenty of us will be coming out of a week of silence.  Tomorrow we’ll be tidying up and saying our goodbyes.  But right now, this morning, I’m up early suddenly, wanting to communicate. To share something.

I want to express ‘this’ – this ‘way in which there is a sense of freedom into the unknown’, one that’s full of potential and kind gentleness and qualities of patience and simple knowing – awareness itself.  I know there are parts of which I am conscious and others that I am not: vast areas that are unknown.  Yet it is from these that arise joy and inspiration.  I feel an openness and freedom from fear of this unknown.

I’ve learnt that by simply being – pausing and noticing in a way that can seem very ordinary – there is an opportunity to step into a broader framework.  It is like I’ve been invited to open my heart and mind, to ‘soften’ around seemingly ‘fixed’ conceptions about what is or isn’t here in the present moment. I notice that what is here includes the very anxieties and thoughts and worries that besiege me from time to time.  And yet, I am called to really pause and consider all of this.  All that is here. Now.

It is so simple, the essence of this.  I remember when mindfulness led to being better able to cope with the ‘stresses and strains’ of living.  Now, something beckons me further, pointing to the heart of what underlies concepts and thought streams themselves.  Opportunities arise to unravel mysteries of the past, of relationships with others and myself and to let go of patterns and stuck ways of thinking and being.  I sense an opening into new possibilities of ‘being’ (whatever that may be) to delve into the unknown, the mysterious.

Suddenly, I understand how the negativity bias in the brain has preconditioned me into being trapped in reactivity, craving and aversion. Now I am offered a chance to be released from that propensity and into a freer way of responding to each moment as it arises, moment by moment.  This is not superficial but strikes a deeper chord in the very heart of being, enabling me to tap into a deeper source of yearnings, joys and intricate subtleties, all that once seeded my ideas and inspired me. I am remembering something precious and close and yet also very ordinary.

I reflect on how I have been getting lost as my ‘middle age’ emerges, wondering where the time has gone and what might be left. I have been so ‘serious’, perhaps out of necessity, but now I want the broader picture again.  Stress had narrowed down my perspective and trapped me in time worn ruts and habits as I functioned, survived.  Now, I am awakening to there being more to life – all is a vast potential of opportunity.

It strikes me that I do not need to wait until a crisis, disaster or the moment of death to be shaken out of seemingly inevitable patterns of being.  I realise the infinite possibilities: I can tune into the essence of what is happening right here and now in as many waking (and possibly sleeping!) moments as possible – and realise that which touches the very essence of being.

It is not just the thoughts, fears and preoccupations that are here now. There are also moments of simple openness, wonder and joy in being – moments without any pressure to be this, think that or plan to do or do not.  I reassure myself that that is not about developing ‘complacency’ or ‘laziness’, but getting unstuck from habitual patterns of thinking and behaving.  It is freedom from the trap of existing in complex situations that lead further and further way from any sense of meaning or purpose.  Suddenly the beauty and value of simple being becomes clear.

Whatever happens now, happens.

(And with that, I go to the first meditation of the day, it’s 6:45am.  Then later that day, on the train home, I edit this and that evening post it on the website for you).

Warmly, Bernadette

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Bubbling water flows downstream near the centre, sunlight sparkling on the ripples. The air is cold, frosty. It is mid afternoon and I am out walking after lunch and before the next meditation practice.

What is MBSR? #mindfulness #MBSR

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Practicing mindfulness regularly helps enhance neural pathways in the brain, developing a deeper sense of peacefulness, calm and focus.

What is Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, aka MBSR?  This is the topic of tomorrow night’s Mindfulness Meetup – a taster session being run by Holistic Education CIC.

Substantial research shows that practicing mindfulness regularly can help reduce stress and enhance well-being, confidence and positivity.  Mindfulness is essentially a particular way of paying attention, on purpose and non-judgementally that can enhance the awareness of our experiences, moment by moment.  One of the best ways to learn to practice mindfulness regularly is to attend an MBSR course.

MBSR was originally developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre (USA) in the 1980s. It is a well-researched and evidence-based mindfulness programme that aims to help participants to develop confidence and skills in practicing mindfulness.  It consists of eight sessions (each between 2 and 3 hours long) and an additional all-day of practice.  It includes theory on how mindfulness works and opportunities to practice.  Home practice is an important part of the course and audio files are available to help with this.

Holistic Education runs regular MBSR courses following training by the University of Bangor’s Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice and the UK Network of Mindfulness Teachers Good Practice Guidelines.  The next MBSR course will be on Monday evenings from 6:30pm to 9pm from 18 Jan to 14 Mar 2016 (no session on 15 Feb). Included in the course is an Introduction and Orientation session (11 Jan 2016) and a Mindfulness Practice Day, Saturday 6 March 2016, 9am to 3pm.

Eventbrite - Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in Walthamstow Jan to Mar 2016

My new children’s book: My Mindful Little One – Bedtime

Mindful Little one - coverMy first book on mindfulness is now available for pre-order on Amazon UK   It is called My Mindful Little One: Bedtime and is being  published by Scholastic and will be available in May 2016.  This  children’s picture book is for 3 to 6 years olds – and includes mindfulness practices for them and their parents and carers.  I enjoyed writing it and hope you enjoy reading it to your little loved ones. It has been beautifully illustrated by Paula Bowles too.

This is essentially a delightful way to peacefully connect to the breath and each other, savour the precious moments of the day and before hugging goodnight and gently fall asleep. Click to pre-order a copy.  Please spread the word.