My journey started with an exploration of the topic of mindfulness through reading anything I could find on the topic. This, I found, was not enough. I needed more…
Prices for the course put me off as it was just so expensive so you can imagine my sheer delight on hearing, from a good friend, that a PHD student was offering a free programme for research purposes. I was even more delighted that I was approved for participation in the research and did not even mind that I have to sacrifice my Saturday mornings to schlep to Johannesburg!
It is by no means an easy programme and the dedicated focus on 7 practical sessions was a huge personal challenge for someone like me. If you know me, you know that I love talking! I love people and networking and found it hard to have the limited talk time when everyone gives feedback at the start and end of the session. Yes, no other talking allowed!! I have attended 3 sessions which included an extended retreat – 09h00 to 15h00 of doing everything mindfully. This included eating and walking!!
What an amazing experience. Nothing could have prepared me for that adventure. I felt totally exhausted but enjoyed spending the time with myself.
The idea that practicing mindfulness is about self-love and moving from a guilty complex was also an adjustment for me. Like many moms and social workers we are always taking care of others and make little time for ourselves. Spending time concentrating on oneself – taking “me–time” to another level…
A nasty phrase to those in the helping profession but it was demonstrated to us that if we are to continue helping others, we have to replenish our souls. The effects of secondary trauma is often undermined. And in a society where trauma comes often and in various degrees, it means that we as counsellors are inevitably bombarded with a barrage of information which hits our ears and minds in ways that we do not always admit nor acknowledge.
This beautifully sums up the concept of mindfulness. It is about the current moment. It is about learning to appreciate it. Of letting go of thoughts and focussing on things we take for granted. We were exposed to mindful eating, breathing and even walking. In essence anything one does can be done mindfully instead of the opposite – mindlessly.
Giving the moment the attention it deserves. We do this every day when we sit down with a client. We give them our full attention and hardly ever sit there thinking about our to do lists or planning our day because we understand that we will not get that moment back again. To be professional, we need to pay attention, make notes and plan for the next steps. Mindfulness allows us to do this for ourselves.
And to top it all off, daily practice is essential. This allows one to start to internalise the practice of mindfulness and make it part of one’s to-do list. This part of the programme has been a real struggle…I cannot begin to tell you about my daily battle…
I acknowledge that it takes time to recognise and realise the necessity of daily practice but I also admit that making the time for it changes the landscape of the day. The fact that mindfulness teaches one to be kind to oneself and accept the real struggle is a huge help to me. It has allowed me to not beat myself up about something that is not yet part of my repertoire – not yet natural. I believe that mindfulness has a role to play in my life and it is a practice that I will endeavour to make time for. I also deserve quality time with me!!
I look forward to the continuing journey and will keep you posted on my experiences.