Here's the thing. I may be a yoga teacher but I'm no mindfulness expert
That’s the truth. I do try but my day to day life is often far less mindful than I would like it to be. Things go wrong. I sometimes live in my head. I'm elsewhere when I should be more present with my kids. But I'm working on that. I'm inspired by the lifestyle I see in Barcelona and want to share a tiny piece of these experiences I'm having on my journey to be more mindful.
So, today was my first foray into learning more about the actual art of mindfulness. The 2 hour workshop was held in English at The Well Woman Centre in Barcelona and run by Kaisa from MindfulWorkshop.com
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
One of the first things Kaisa spoke to us about was letting go of any preconceived notions or ideas that we may have about mindfulness and taking on a beginners approach. Basically acting like you are a 2-year old and as if you are seeing everything for the first time. Looking at things with wonder without the filters that us adults apply to things.
We also discussed some of the key things that make up mindfulness — it’s a big area and not easy to cram into 2 hours! Mindfulness can be approached from a scientific emphasis, the focus being how it affects the brain or from a more spiritual methodology and Kaisa explained she sits somewhere right in the middle of the two.
We also talked about awareness of becoming aware of ones thoughts is one of the first steps in the journey to mindfulness. Not that always being aware means that you are able to stop your thoughts or reactions so things but at least you can see re-occurring patterns and styles emerging which is part of the first step towards mindfulness.
We then went on to practice some simple meditation (which is basically a tool to help achieve or train the brain to be more mindful). There are different forms of meditation concentrated mediation and awareness meditation. Concentrated meditation means trying to focus on one thing — your breath, a mantra or candle flame, for the period of time that you are trying to meditate. Awareness meditation means just sitting and being with an awareness of everything that is around you. Noticing it but not trying to hold any attachment to it. This was the style we tried. We sat very comfortably on booster pillows (any physical discomfort can stop you being able to focus your awareness as instead you are more concerned with the uncomfortable feelings). Kaisa led us on a journey to become aware of the sounds, temperature, smells in the room, then our physical and emotional feelings and finally made us aware of our breath. We counted each inhale as 1 (and not counting on the exhale) then 2, 3, 4 etc and tried to keep our attention on the breath all the way up to 10. This exercise made me fill like I was being inflated like a balloon. A strange sensation.
After the meditation we were given time to process and discuss as a group how it had made us feel. It was if the meditation had allowed a deep attention to ourselves and a clarity of our thoughts so our conversations were peppered with really insightful, open hearted and sometimes personal ideas and experiences, and this was with a group of relative strangers.
We then went on to try some mindful eating with a mandarin, thinking first about the journey this mandarin had been on to get to our hands, growing, harvested, packed up, flown(?), unpacked, bought, delivered. We looked at it as if it had never been on this planet before admiring it’s colour, its texture, the peel, the liquid inside, finally we touched and then tasted the mandarin. I enjoyed the explosion of the juice in my mouth and the satisfaction of finally chewing and then swallowing the piece. So much attention for just one little act that we might regularly do without even a second thought, while concentrating on other things. Kaisa explained that mindfully eating like this can often live you feeling much more full, than if you were just eating without thought, so that often half the amount you might normally eat can live you feeling strangely satisfied.
Finally we finished with some deep relaxation, a beautiful calming way to end the session.
THE TAKE OUT?
My overall take out from the course was that mindfulness is such a big area and there is a huge amount to learn about it. I want to know more. The techniques we were shown I believe can have a profound effect on the way you live your life and your overall satisfaction levels. Obviously a big part of that is also applying and adding these to your life. Not always easy. I take away the idea of trying to live with more wonder, as if we are experiencing things for the first time. I’m def going to be trying to do mindful eating more regularly something I’ll explore with you. I loved the conversations with the other group members and just the fact that the course gave me an opportunity to step out of my day to day for a couple of hours and think deeply and pay attention to me and my feelings. I know this is a luxury for many but something we all deserve. We place a high price of aesthetics — looking after our hair our are physical fitness but surely learning how we take care of our mind is equally, if not more, important too.