Thursday, 30 November 2017

‘First They Ignore You’

Until recently, it was barely conceivable that mindfulness would find any substantial role in western healthcare. In 2007, when I first started running MBCT courses, it was a niche endeavour.

In my city, which normally prides itself on being ‘ahead of the curve’, the only course providers were two small centres and a lone psychologist in the local NHS.

Within the psychotherapy world at the time, we professionals were considered rather dubious, strange even, to be advocating silent meditation practices for psychological wellbeing. Therapy is, after all, usually about talking – lots of talking.

But there we were, shamelessly encouraging clients and patients to quieten down and watch what shows up. As the old saying goes: “Don’t just do something, sit there.”

Then They Laugh At You

Ten years later, it’s all change. The popularisation of mindfulness is a phenomenon. My city is now awash with mindfulness courses, instructors and practitioners. The lone psychologist may have retired but she left behind enough seeds for the local NHS to sprout its own mindfulness centre. The UK’s ‘mindfulness mega-trend’ continues its breathless pace. Here and beyond, the m-word is used for selling everything from colouring books and scented candles to being cool and looking good.

We have come so far that mindfulness is now the subject of parody, as exemplified by the hilarious Ladybird Book of Mindfulness and Modern Toss’s Mindlessness Colouring Book – much-needed splashes of comedy in a genre of few laughs. For me, these are reminders of how much has changed in 10 years. They’re also a useful prompt for not taking myself too seriously.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Seeking A Way

For 20 years I have endeavoured to cultivate what might loosely be called a mindfulness-based life. I have practised with many different meditation teachers from all over the world, joined and set up sitting groups, lived and worked in retreat centres, conducted Masters-level research on mindfulness, participated on and facilitated numerous courses, workshops and social outreach projects.

It has been a rich and fascinating journey so far. For sure, there are the inevitable fruits of practice, but I have probably learned more from my many wrong-turns and missteps. I have made every mistake going on this path – apart from the ones I haven’t had a chance to yet.

I am grateful to the guidance of teachers and wise practitioners I have encountered along the way. When I’m in a hole, they remind me to stop digging.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Sweeping The Path

This blog is about mindfulness. It has been inspired by the many and varied queries, doubts and confusions – not to mention insights and revelations – that crop up with dependable regularity for practitioners on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) courses.

Like my books, it is intended to be part toolkit and part roadmap for one’s journey on the path of mindfulness.

Establishing and sustaining a practice takes effort and patience. It does not necessarily bring instant rewards. The importance of reflecting on what we are doing, why, and how, cannot be overstated. Hence a blog for offering ideas, stories, exercises and a heap of received wisdom for your reflection.

I hope it encourages you onward – or, at the very least, not to give up!

‘Reflection’ is a big part of mindfulness practice (though sometimes sadly overlooked). It implies consideration and contemplation. In a nutshell, taking the time to chew things over in order to discern potential value, and maybe to try something out for oneself.

Personal effort and personal agency are central to this path. So, from the outset, it would be pertinent to say: don’t take my word for it.

The contemplative traditions from which mindfulness practices have evolved urge us to find our own way, and to trust in the authority of our own experience. In that spirit, if you find something of use here, please hold onto it. Similarly, if something turns out to be of little help, best cast it aside.

Grand Narratives (III)

Where and how do you ‘situate’ mindfulness in your life? The previous two posts overview why this is a valuable question to consider. Wise r...