I stumbled upon mindfulness in the early 2000s and discovered great relief in stillness and observation. Led within a group, I held ice in my palm (harder than you might think), watched a flame flicker silently, listened intently to background noise, breathed, and tried not to judge my startlingly non-linear thoughts.
Through noticing, life felt less chaotic, more compassionate and somehow more reasonable.
Returning to mindfulness was always something I meant to do, (like scanning in those pre-digital photos), but it seemed hard to prioritise against the bigness of life.
Recently, however, I have been re-inspired after attending a mindfulness drop-in session at Ko Awatea, led by clinical health psychologist, Dr Jo Soldan and Diane May.
I was one of a handful of attendees at the half-hour session. Beginning with a walking exercise, we were encouraged to focus on the sensation of moving in our bodies. It was bizarre to be so deliberate with my steps. Pairing with another “mindful walker”, we then took turns leading and following in our steps. It seemed like such a responsibility to have to set the pace. Not to worry, the next exercise was a seated one. We were encouraged to notice our breathing, the sensation of our hands, and the contact our feet made with the floor.
Eventually a bell sounded – a gentle, musical jolt back into the room and my fellow attendees and I dispersed back to our respective places of work – for my part with a renewed optimism.
To be clear, the drop-in sessions are specifically designed for people who have completed the much lauded four-week programme Mindfulness Based Resilience @ Work which Jo adapted from the gold-standard eight week programme, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The sessions are tailored to help people strengthen their mindfulness practice. While welcoming all staff to the drop-in sessions, Jo says the evidence shows completion of standardised and evaluated courses deliver the most benefit.
She and fellow mindfulness practitioners appreciate the popularity of tools such as mindfulness apps because they are very accessible, but she notes these are currently not backed up by evidence.
So, I wasn’t building on any existing skill base, nevertheless, I walked away feeling pleased about my attendance and keen to go back for more.
Jo says the practice of mindfulness can be likened to exercise for the mind, and in years to come, we will consider it as much of a requirement as physical exercise.
Soon, she will be holding Mindfulness Based Compassion @ Work sessions, given a proven link between the practice of mindfulness and the ability to sustain compassion.
Drop in sessions are held weekly (check the electronic display screen in Ko Awatea for location)
Mindfulness Based Compassion @ Work will be held in May as a follow on course for staff who have completed Mindfulness Based Resilience @ Work