Last Sunday my friend, counselling colleague and peer supervisor, Mrs Jean Clements of Burnley, drove down the motorway, Google's directions in hand, for a Mindfulness workshop in South Manchester.
It was a lovely day, cold and crisp and sunny. We arrived at Aileen's Mindfulness training to be greeted by the most beautiful, golden-coloured cocker spaniel by the name of Ruby. Each time the training session began and it was time for Ruby to be put in a separate room she would come and sit by me for protection - clearly a good judge of character, you cannot fool our canine friends! It did no good - she was still shut in her room.
A nice surprise was to see one of my students there - Fleur - who had alerted me to the training and who fell in love with Ruby as we all did and later in the day took her for a walk.
The Mindfulness workshop began with eight students and two facilitators choosing a sultana. We were then given our first lesson in Mindfulness. Obviously my initial thought had I not been in a Mindfulness workshop would have been to throw the sultana into my mouth and swallow it down. In fact I cannot remember putting a single sultana in my mouth - why would you when a handful can be eaten instead? We were encouraged to roll the sultana around the palm of our hands, smell it, place it on the lips and to put it in the mouth to taste it, then bite it and after a long time swallow it down. We did all of this whilst paying attention to our senses and the sensation of having the sultana in our hands and mouth. Memories of my mother's baking, Christmas and vineyards in Italy were unlocked for the group. We went on to learn meditations that focused on the external and internal world and meditations during which we focused on our breathing; finally we all laid on the floor and experienced a mediation called the 'body scan'. I left the workshop feeling very relaxed and promising myself that I would incorporate mindfulness into my daily routine (and I downloaded the app).
So what is Mindfulness then? Well, my understanding is that it is an antidote to the society we have created in which we are always busy and where we spend a great deal of time distracting ourselves from our feelings. Mindfulness is about focusing 'in the moment' on our experience and on our selves. That was my experience on Sunday, for once the world stop spinning and I could literally catch my breath.