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Mindfulness: Workshop Review

18-07-2014

When we started providing Mindfulness as part of the Health in Mind programme of activities we could never have predicted just how popular it would be. Volunteer, Carole Farnham gives us the low down on a six–week Mindfulness course. 

Mindfulness, Whiterock Library Mindfulness is the new kid on the block where mental health self–help is concerned, but actually its techniques have much in common with the ancient practices of Buddhism and the Course Trainer for my six–week course, Frank Liddy, is himself a practising Buddhist of many years standing. Frank is also an
experienced mental health professional and informed us that mindfulness is used in the treatment of depression and trauma where it has been effective.

Mindfulness is, in essence, about being… mindful. Not as easy as it sounds. It’s about being in the moment and engaging with it. When you think about it how much do we do this in our daily lives? We’re constantly projecting ourselves into an imagined future or looking over our shoulders and making comparisons with a past which is now history: to illustrate this Frank divided those present into pairs with one asking “What’s happening now?” and noting the answers of the partner. You’d be surprised how few of us confined ourselves to just exactly that. We spend so much time avoiding the moment that we are very rarely present in our lives.

S.O.B.E.R.
Stop.
Observe.
Breathe.
Engage.
Respond. 

 

These are the watchwords. Rest and digest. It’s all about slowing right down and stopping that eternal and infernal chatter which is always deflecting us from being here now. We were taught various techniques for doing this, including the body scan, which takes about 15 minutes, and is a practice many may be familiar with from post–yoga relaxation. You simply take a journey through your body from head to foot and experience every bit of it with awareness. It’s a strangely calming procedure, making it difficult to be agitated while doing it. And it brings you totally into the moment, of course.

Body–tapping was another such exercise: with your fingertips you tap all the way up one arm, along the neck and onto the head and then down the other side. Sound awareness entailed jhst that: closing the eyes and only attending to the sounds around you without creating a narrative.

Our homework consisted of brushing your teeth mindfully for 2–3 minutes without thinking about anything else (near impossible for Your Humble Correspondent), brushing your hair mindfully and pausing before going through a door. Simple but difficult. They all serve to highlight how absent we are from experiencing our lives quite a lot of the time.

It’s easy to see that scoffers could have a field day with what sounds like a lot of dippy–hippy hokum, but neuroscientists are impressed by its results and possibilities, so if it’s good enough for them then it’s certainly worth a try. Hey, it’s free and you can do it in the privacy of your own home (though you may wish to draw the curtains when body–tapping incase the neighbours think you’ve lost it).
So, just let go of control and Bring the Mind Home.

 

Carole Farnam
Health in Mind Volunteer

 

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