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

Mindfulness group 06A

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.

Day Workshop on Mindfulness for Educational and Child Psychologists and those working in schools: an update

Work with children includes using drawings to help them to express their experiences of mindfulness.  Here a child drew how he felt relaxed and comfortable all over his body.

Work with children includes using drawings to help them to express their experiences of mindfulness. Here a child drew how he felt relaxed and comfortable all over his body.

Educational and Child Psychologists have an essential role in schools and work with school staff, families, children and young people.  They apply psychology in a range of educational contexts to help children and young people make progress with learning.

Difficulties with learning may be due to factors that cannot be changed, such as autism or medical needs.  However, they may be also due to factors can be changed – such as the ability to pay attention and regulate emotions. Substantial research evidence shows that mindfulness, a form of training in body-mind integration, can help improve attention, learning potential, working memory capacity and mental health and wellbeing.  Those working in schools can help children and young people become  better able to manage difficult feelings, such as anger, anxiety and low mood.

This workshop is an opportunity for educational and child psychologists and others working in schools to learn about mindfulness and how it can be used as an intervention in schools.  It provides a theoretical and practical overview of mindfulness, including the research evidence for its benefits.  It gives an insight into how mindfulness training may be adapted for those with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) and includes information on the Mindfulness-based Awareness Training (MBAT) intervention that was developed through doctoral research. Though training and support on how to integrate mindfulness into their lives, children and young people can enhance their potential to pay attention and learn.

To learn more about this and to attend a workshop, click here or contact me by email.

Best wishes, Bernadette

Mindfulness Meetup 13 April 2015: Participant Feedback

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

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

On Monday 13 April, I ran another Mindfulness Meetup session in Walthamstow.  Here is some of the feedback:

[I gained] “sense of peace”, “understanding of the rapidity and quality of thoughts”.

[what went well was] “being aware of every part of my body – appreciation”. “Mind slowed down – relaxation”.

“I liked how it flowed and clock time seemed to be irrelevant for the whole evening. Useful and relaxing approach to body and mind feel more accepting of my mind!”

“Easy atmosphere”. “I would like to do the eight-week course”.

[What I’ve found useful was] “the introduction of movement to keep the mind focused.”

“It was good to concentrate on the breathing.”

One of the quotes appear to be from someone who had done some mindfulness training before:”All good. Good “revisit” of body/ breath/ sound scan.will attend two emails for more “boosters” to my rudimentary daily practice.”

Would you like to come to one of the Mindfulness Meet ups?  For more information see the mindfulness meet up page.  For more information and to book on the next Mindfulness Meetup please go to the Eventbrite booking page.   Remember that there are discounts for those working in educational settings, students and those on low incomes. for more information about mindfulness meet ups and the promotional codes, please contact me.

Mindfulness Meet Up 23/3/15: Your feedback

Mindfulness Meet Up in Walthamstow are happening nearly every month.

Mindfulness Meet Up in Walthamstow are happening nearly every month.

Mindfulness Meetups started in Walthamstow in 2014.  Thank you to those who have attended so far and thanks to those who came last Monday.  These sessions are designed to get people practicing mindfulness together, whether they are beginners or experienced practitioners.

Last Monday, ten people attended, including myself: five beginners  and five who had done some training such as a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Course or similar.

We started with a 3-minute Breathing Space, a short time sitting in silence focusing on being here, ‘arriving’ into the present moment more fully as it were.  After the introductions we did a short sitting practice, some Mindful Movement and then a longer sitting practice. Here is some of the feedback:

It was a nice introduction to a variety of mindfulness techniques.

The 20 minutes at the end was good and gave me time to relax, let go.

I really focused on the ‘bringing wellness’ to particular body parts in today’s practice.  It was useful bringing that to specific body parts.

I was good listening to others and observing the difference between those new to the practice and those more experienced.

I enjoyed mindfulness in a group.

I gained a sense of “trust” – effortless effort in bringing our attention to loving ourselves, just focusing on ourselves.

I gained a feeling of calm and relaxation.

I enjoyed feeling more relaxed and felt an understanding of my body.

I learned new ways of practicing – every teacher is different.

I enjoyed the practices.  I feel I’m improving and concentrating on them.

I hope that this feedback inspires you to come along to a Mindfulness Meetup in Walthamstow, a brilliant opportunity to practice mindfulness with others.

Warm wishes,  Bernadette

What participants have said about the MBSR course

The MBSR course takes place with a small group of people - about 10 to 14 participants.

The MBSR course takes place with a small group of people – about 10 to 14 participants.

I really appreciate getting feedback from participants.  It helps me develop as a mindfulness teacher, appreciating where things work and tweaking bits where need be too.  It helps me ensure that what you are getting what you wanted from the course and that the teaching is adapted to your needs.

You may view the feedback on the the MBSR webpage where there is more information about the course.  I also include it here:

What have participants said about the course?

“I really enjoyed the fact that we were quite a small group. I know other people who have completed the course in much larger groups and I was pleased to find out ours was smaller. I valued most the discussions, reflections and sharing of ideas / experiences and this was enabled through your facilitation and also supported by being part of a small group. I feel I have benefitted both personally and professionally from attending the course.” (Educational Psychologist).

“I appreciated the structured well organised weekly sessions and practise of the mindful techniques to help manage stress and be more relaxed.I particularly liked the simple 3 Minute Breathing Space, which has been my ongoing regular practice that has helped me cope better in some ways.
I am more aware of being vigilant to my thoughts, feelings and actions with the aim to choose how to respond, rather than to simply react to everything. The excellent course handouts were in context with each practical session, that gave meaningful explanation and purpose for benefitting from the MBCT practice.”
(Yoga Teacher)

“I enjoyed the course and have continued to put it into practice within my daily routine. I enjoyed listening to other people’s opinions, challenges and strategiesI would recommend this course for anyone trying to open up their awareness of mindful meditation. I have found that I am less reactive to situations and more aware of my actions as a result.” (Speech and Language Therapist).

“I would recommend [the course] to anyone, particularly within the educational field or within parenting work, where I think it has great applications. I would also recommend that they make the time for as much home practice as possible.” (Educational Psychologist).

“Strongly recommend the course. I have always been resistant to idea of group work/ sharing but a convert. Thank you for enlightening me! I liked way you supported people and kept reiterating effectively that no right or wrong way in meditation and acceptance of what was importance as it seemed to me that some attendees were very hard on themselves and this present as a barrier to them.” (Student Occupational Therapist).

I hope that this feedback may be inspiring to those considering mindfulness training.

Warm wishes, Bernadette