Mindfulness is about “being” rather than “doing”. It is about being aware and noticing both your internal and your external environments. It combines training of the mind, both formally and informally, with an awareness of our body and emotions. The tools we use in being mindful enable us to build skills that allow us to manage our thoughts, feelings and emotions and gain balance in our life.
Caroline has not spent hours sitting on a mountain or doing formal mindfulness training and she does not profess to be a mindfulness expert. Her perspective on mindfulness has been influenced by the powerful effect it has had on her recovery from a severe long-lasting depression. The initial time she devoted to formal practice helped her to develop the skills to become more balanced in body, mind and emotion. Embodying the principles of mindfulness and building them into her lifestyle and daily routine has allowed Caroline to manage her emotions and to live the life she chooses.
She aspires to share mindfulness in a personal way to enable you to find the best way for you to practise in each moment. She believes there are many ways to do this: mindfulness is not meditation alone and there is no right or wrong way to practise. In the workshops we share and learn together.
Being kind to our self is something many of us find difficult, maybe even impossible. That inner voice of criticism and doubt may crowd out the more positive voice that is also within each of us. Learning to be kind to oneself, to recognise and meet one’s own needs can be challenging but is well worth the effort it requires.
Many of us have become used to striving to achieve and constantly “doing” without noticing and appreciating our behaviour. We may have a concern about our performance and seek to ensure we are “doing it right” in the most effective and efficient way, wanting to clarify an outcome we can attach to. Recognising and accepting that, as humans, we will make mistakes and cannot control everything, allows us to be more kind and forgiving towards ourselves. How can we be kind to others if we are not kind to ourselves?
Standard 8-week courses in mindfulness MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) and MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) are becoming increasingly popular and widely available. Dr Caroline does not teach these courses but offers a more individual perspective, sharing experiences of mindfulness as a tool for promoting wellness. Practising mindfulness both formally and informally have been hugely important in her recovery.
The secular nature of mindfulness allows it to be appropriate for all although it is widely known and accepted that it is based on Buddhist philosophy. Caroline appreciates that the values are present in other faiths. As a practising Christian, Caroline was aware of the tradition of the Desert Mothers and Fathers, and of the 17 Century monk Brother Lawrence who described the sacrament of the present moment but found the abstract concept difficult to implement. Mindfulness, as we understand it today in the secular world, provides guidance and tools that can be used to build skills that enable us to make choices and live in the moment.