I discovered Mindfulness practice by accident
I stumbled across Mindfulness practice by accident over 5 years ago. It was Christmas 2014, I had just started studying for my Masters in Health Economics at the University of York and I was feeling the pressure with deadlines building and exams looming.
For Christmas my Mum bought my Dad the book ‘Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World’ by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. I have a slight obsession with self-help books and thought to myself ‘hmmm this looks interesting’.
Unexpected benefits of Mindfulness
After flicking through my Dad’s copy of the Mindfulness book, I purchased my own and dedicated the next 8 weeks to following the programme and the practices outlined in the book and CD.
At the time I wasn’t aware of any of the benefits of Mindfulness practice and I wasn’t looking to get anything out of it. I was only reading it because I have a broad interest in wellbeing and health from a personal and professional point of view.
I was amazed at the benefits that came from practicing mindfulness regularly. Things started to change without effort, things that I had consciously been trying to change and improve through countless other strategies and goal setting attempts. Specifically, my anxiety lessened, concentration improved, I did not procrastinate as much and my self-confidence improved.
I came to realise that all I needed to do was to practice how to change my relationship with difficult feelings. These relationship with the feelings were stopping me from doing what I wanted to do and not the feelings themselves. That is what Mindfulness practice helps me to do.
Mindfulness Practitioner Training
Fast forward 5 years and Mindfulness practice is a part of my life. I’d like to share the practice with others and so I have decided to start a Mindfulness Practitioner Training Programme that will train me to deliver 8-week Mindfulness courses.
Week 1 of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Course
A prerequisite of the Mindfulness Practitioner Training course is to attend an 8-week mindfulness course, which is something that I have always wanted to do! I started the course a couple of weeks ago and will be sharing my journey on the course with you through this blog.
Our homework for the first week of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course was to practice the body scan meditation.
The body scan is my favourite Mindfulness practice, because:
- you can do it lying down, which makes it much easier to do and
- it involves connection with sensations in specific parts of the body, which I find much easier to connect with as a practice than say, observing the breath.
Visualisation helps me to focus
During the week I practiced the body scan every day for 30 minutes. I found that my thoughts fluxed depending on the type of body scan. My mind did not wander as much when practicing body scans that involved visualisation of the breath in the body or very slight wiggling of toes, it wandered much more when practicing a scan that focussed purely on body sensation.
For me this is an interesting observation as I am a very visual learner and like to map things out before I can begin to understand them, so I wonder if this is linked? This has helped me to understand that on days when the mind is very busy I might try a more visual practice compared with days when it is less busy.
Zoning out during practice
I noticed that I had a tendency to ‘zone out’ of the practice when I found the sensations in the body intense. I would be focussing on the soles of the feet, the tingling sensation in the soles of the feet, building and building and then ‘ooo I’m very hungry, what should I have for breakfast? Is there anything in….’. I would start planning my day, thinking about what I needed to do.
For me the fastest way to return to the body scan is to label that thought. So when I noticed I wasn’t concentrating on my feet any more I would note down the type of thought e.g. ‘planning’ and this made it easier to let go of the thought and made it seem less important.
Benefits of practice in everyday life
I have noticed that after a week of extending and intensifying my Mindfulness practice, I am finding it much easier to concentrate and let go of distractions, such as the puppy running around destroying the house :’) haha.
I have ticked off a lot of things on my to-do list that I have been putting off for a while, because I find them difficult to do. Being able to approach tasks that I find difficult to do is defnitely one of the main benefits of practicing Mindfulness for me.
My favourite guided body scan meditations
I’ve listed a few of my favourite body scans below, in case you’re interested to try it in your own time: