Tag Archives: meditation

Endings unfold into new beginnings

It has been a long time since I have sent some news about Holistic Education and my work teaching mindfulness, yoga and using holistic approaches.  As a result there is a lot of news to share.

Virgin Sport Hackney at Hackney Marshes, London, UK - 30 Apr 2017.

Doing a warm up with Richard Branson prior to the Hackney Half-Marathon

As something ends, something begins.  I have renewed my interest in running and on 30 April 2017, I ran the Hackney Half-Marathon with my daughter.  I also used this as an opportunity to fund raise for St Joseph’s Hospice who had been so kind and supportive to our family.

On 6 June 2017, an opportunity to teach mindfulness at work suddenly manifested.  There is a lot of evidence for the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace for mental health and wellbeing.  I welcomed this new beginning and so I began to teach a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction course on Tuesdays for staff at Hackney Council.

Due to the additional course, I decided to let go of my Wednesday yoga class. I made a resolve and on Wednesday 12 July, I taught my last class, marking a pause in almost 19 years as a yoga teacher.  It was sad, but in the space that followed, I sensed light emerging in my heart, a gift to encourage me taking steps into the unknown.  Incidentally, I was recently reflecting on how I missed teaching yoga and tonight I am looking forward to covering my old yoga class as their current teacher is away.

2017-01-13 Last Mitra Study Session - Group

My Buddhist study group – our last session

The next day, on 13 July,  after nearly 6 1/2 years, my Mitra Study course  was coming to an end  That evening, we completed the presentations of our very last Year 4 module.  After a chant for ‘transferring merits’ together, I realised just how much studying Buddhism on a regular basis had been a key part of my life.  At the moment, I am looking to co-teach a study group and am optimistic that something will arise in 2018.

On Saturday 15 July, I had my last acupuncture session until September – the series of treatments has really supported the grieving process and helped me cope with the intensity of change.  It has rekindled my interest in promoting Shiatsu in schools.

On Friday 21 July the school holidays began and a week later, I went on a 9 day “Women’s Intensive Retreat” at Vajrasana.  As a mindfulness teacher following the UK Network of Mindfulness Teachers Good Practice Guidelines, it is important to participant in retreats regularly to deepen one’s practice of mindfulness meditation.  This retreat included a week of silence (with opportunities for a 10 minute ‘meditation review’ every other day).  It was a deeply healing process and I would like to share more about it in another post one day.

That’s the first part of the update for now.  So much has also happened since July, including traveling to Japan in August and then, in September, being involved in a BBC 1 documentary with Susan Bogels and Esther de Bruin who run the MyMind for ADHD in Amsterdam – I had done the MyMind training with them in 2014.

Thank you for sharing this update with me by reading this post.



Endings and beginnings



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.



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.


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.

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

Mindfulness Practice Day 7 March 2015

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

Research shows that practicing mindfulness regularly helps enhance neural pathways in the brain, developing a deeper sense of peacefulness, calm and focus, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression and improving overall well-being.

On Saturday 7th March 2015, there will be a Mindfulness Practice Day.  This is a litte ‘retreat’ for those who have had some experience of practicing mindfulness, yoga or meditation in a group.

We will be reviewing practices from the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Minduflness-based Cognitive Therapy courses.  The aim will be to delve into the heart of ‘being mode’ through a range of mindfulness practices, enabling us to turn towards our experiences with gentleness and curiosity as best as we can, moment by moment.

Research shows that regularly practicing mindfulness enhances neural pathways in the brain related to well-being and postive mental states and reduces those related to stress, anxiety and depression.

For more information see the Mindfulness Practice Day webpage.

Eventbrite - Mindfulness Practice Day in Walthamstow 7/3/15

Mindful Meetup 12 January 2015: Feedback from Participants

There is a regular Mindfulness Meet Up in Walthamstow.  Click for more information.

There is a regular Mindfulness Meet Up in Walthamstow. Click for more information.

Last Monday, I hosted another Mindfulness Meetup in Walthamstow.  These sessions are opportunities to meet up and practice mindfulness in a group.  They are for any level of experience – from complete beginners to those who have done some training and wish to practice in a group.

This evening, eleven people came along and the session started with introductions, a short mindfulness practice and a brief discussion about what we wanted from the evening.  It turned out that nearly everyone was fairly or completely new to mindfulness.  I introduced a bit about the background to mindfulness, including how and why Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Course and something about the research evidence on the benefits of practicing mindfulness regularly.

Jon Kabat-Zinn (left) and myself, at the Mindfulness Conference in Chester in 2013.

Jon Kabat-Zinn (left) and myself, at the Mindfulness Conference, Chester, 2013.

I also mentioned a study that found that even after a couple of weeks of practice, the brain already shows measurable signs of structural change in parts that enhance positive emotion and cognitive skills.  So it can take weeks, rather than years, before we start feeling calmer, experiencing a deeper sense of well-being and better concentration.

The group also shared their reasons for wanting to learn more about mindfulness.  Some explained that they had difficulties with general anxiety and others mentioned problems with sleeping.  Some wanted to become more effective at their jobs and also to be able to ‘switch off’ from work when away from it.  All wanted to explore what mindfulness might offer to them personally.

While participation in mindfulness practices affects each of us individually, research show that regularly practicing mindfulness practice can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve overall health and well-being.   For example, it can improve emotional regulation, giving us skills to readjust our moods and how this in turn affects our outlook on life.  We can get better at noticing what is happening in the moment and make choices quickly, so instead of going into automatic thought patterns that perpetuate stressful, we can cultivate ones that bring more positive mind-states.  We can bring a sense of appreciation, calm, equanimity and overall well-being into more of the moments in our lives.

One of the mindfulness group sessions from the MBSR course.

One of the mindfulness group sessions from the MBSR course.

The rest of the evening was about practicing.  We were able to start glimpsing into how the mind behaves – that it wanders, quite automatically – and how to notice this and gently and kindly guide the attention back to the chosen focus (the feet on this occasion).  This is a fundamental practice in the process of cultivating mindfulness.

Finally, we journeyed into a longer, sitting practice for 20 minutes, as agreed by the group. Because we had gone over the essence of the practice, there was an opportunity try this is relative silence, with only a few prompts.   The focus was on cultivating mindfulness of ‘body’ and ‘breath’, with a gentle friendliness towards experiences, as best as we can.  The room went beautifully quiet, still and focused, with a gentle sense of peacefulness.

At the end, a short evaluation form was completed. The feedback was really positive and I have included a few quotes here for you:

Good intro + overview.  I am not alone.”

“People were very open about reasons for attending.  This relaxed me.”

“There is a wide-spead need for this sort of training.”

“It felt comfortable.  Good to be able to be completely quiet/ still.”

“I enjoyed meeting like-minded people and meditating in a group for the first time.  Instruction was useful and definitely considering attending the course.”

“Allowed myself space to reflect on why I might be here.”

“Able to learn strategies for relaxation and how to connect with yourself by focusing on your feet/ breath.

“Completely new to mindfulness.  Enjoyed the practice session.”

“I was able to relax more fully than I feel I’ve been able to for some time.”

MailinglistI hope this inspires you to come along to the mindfulness training offered by Holistic Education and the Mindfulness Meetups in Walthamstow,  For regular updates, please join our mailing list.

Best wishes, Bernadette

Taraloka and the “Wisdom of the Awakening Heart” retreat (July 2014)

During July this year, I was priviledged to be at the “Wisdom of the Awakening Heart” Retreat at Taraloka.  It was led by Vijayamala and Maitrivajri, two ordained Buddhists from the Triratna Buddhist Community.  I realise that it is beneficial to attend retreats regularly to develop my own practice of mindfulness and meditation.  In the past, I had attended classes by a range of teachers.  I noticed that I found Maitrivajri’s style of teaching meditation to resonate with me and for that reason I chose this particular retreat.

Taraloka is a beautiful retreat centre in Shropshire, run by members of the Triratna Buddhist Community.

Taraloka is a beautiful retreat centre in Shropshire, run by members of the Triratna Buddhist Community.

The retreat ran for seven days and each day involved several hours of meditation, starting at 7am with a 90 minute session before breakfast.  After breakfast there was a talk and another 90 minute session before lunch.  In the afternoon, there was a third practice before supper and a final one before bed time.  So each day, apart for helping out in varioius community related activites (such as helping to make a meal or with tidying up), there was ample opportunity to develop meditation experience.  The retreat was also held in silence, from the second day to the second last day, allowing five days of no speaking (or speaking limited to essential moments) except during the two 10 minute meditation reviews, which for me, were on the third and 5th days of the retreat.  I also enjoyed running each day and doing some yoga, and altogether this helped deepen the experience of being.

The meditation practices and talks were on an aspect of Buddhism called the “Mandala of the Five Prajnas”.  The Prajnas (or ‘wisdoms’) are qualities that are beyond words and which need to be experienced to be understood, as they exist in the awareness we bring to our experiences.  One ‘wisdom’ was in perceiving things as they are, thereby coming into relationship with our experiences in an authentic way.  Another was in awareness of our shared humanity.  The third wisdom was in noticing, accepting and rejoicing in our uniqueness and individuality.  The fourth was in cultivating freedom and spontaneity in awareness.  The fifth was in deepening awareness into something beyond words, the infinite and boundless present.

Overall the retreat was a much appreciated as a opportunity to cultivate insightful and deeper aspects of awareness.  I hope that in reading this, you may feel inspired to explore the Mandala of the Five Prajnas.  For more information, please get in contact.

Here I am (Bottom left of picture) at the Wisdom of the Awakening Heart retreat at Taraloka.  It was an inspiring event that helped to further develop and deepen my meditation practice.

Here I am (see bottom left of the picture) with almost all the other participants at the Wisdom of the Awakening Heart retreat at Taraloka. It was an inspiring event that helped to deepen my meditation practice.


Mindfulness Interest Group meets again at the Hackney Learning Trust

Hackney Learning Trust runs all the education services for the London Borough of Hackney. It is responsible for schools, children’s centres, early years and adult education.

Hackney Learning Trust runs all the education services for the London Borough of Hackney.
It is responsible for schools, children’s centres, early years and adult education.

Last week, on 20th May, I held the third session of the Mindfulness Interest Group.  It was heartening to see over twenty people, from Hackney Council and the Learning Trust, giving up their lunch break to learn about and practice mindfulness together.

I gave a short presentation on Mindfulness and Finding Peace in a Frantic World and we did the Raisin Exercise and a sitting mindfulness practice.

Overall, feedback was positive and I look forward to the next session on 17th June 2014.  For more information about this, or if you’d like an introductory workshop on Mindfulness at your workplace, please contact me. Best wishes, Bernadette

New term of yoga classes in the city

The British Wheel of Yoga is the largest yoga membership organisation in the UK. We are committed to promoting a greater understanding of yoga and its safe practice through experience, education, study and training.

The British Wheel of Yoga is the largest yoga membership organisation in the UK. It is committed to promoting a greater understanding of yoga and its safe practice through experience, education, study and training.

On Wednesday, 30 April, the new term began for the beginner and intermediate yoga classes that I run at the City of London Community Education Centre.  I have been teaching in this context since September 2000.  Over the last 5 years, these courses have been managed by Hackney Community College.  If you would like to enhance your health and well-being and live or work close to or in the city, there are still a few places in the classes and you are welcome to join.  if you are interested, call 020 7332 3918 or 020 7608 2753 or email adulteducation@cityoflondon.gov.uk.

These classes are a fantastic opportunity to learn about yoga with an emphasis on bringing mindfulness to the practice to develop awareness, balance, flexibility and strength.  As a British Wheel of Yoga qualified teacher, I have experience and training in adapting the yoga practices to suit a broad range of age and ability.