In 1998, I was extremely fortunate to meet a kind soul at a youth hostel in San Francisco. He told me about Vipassana meditation and I went to see a film about it at an art house cinema. I was inspired by the film that showed hardened prisoners being taught the ancient practices of breath and body awareness and how it was changing their lives for the better. I decided to spend 10 days on silent retreat in North Fork, California where I learned about the reality of human suffering and experienced first hand the transient nature of all things through the practice of Vipassana, as taught by S.N. Goenka, now deceased.
About 10 years later, I returned to another Vipassana Centre, this time much closer to home in Hereford, near the Welsh border. My second 10 days of silent meditation were harder than the first because I was seeking the positive experience of the first retreat and, of course, no two retreats could ever be the same. That was an important lesson and this is also a core part of mindfulness learning.
Since that time, I’ve regularly practised Vipassana and often wondered how more people could benefit from becoming more aware in the present moment. Then, in 2012, I heard about Mindfulness and had the good fortune of being able to attend an 8-week MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) course, taught by Mat Schencks, who is a skillful, kind and encouraging teacher. The course introduced techniques developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, to empower people living with stress, anxiety and chronic pain. I’ve learned much from reading some of his books in recent years.
It didn’t take me long to realise that Mindfulness and Vipassana were not dissimilar, both having some roots in Buddhist meditation practice, though not exclusively, and neither requiring any spiritual belief or promoting any particular doctrine. What I learned in Mindfulness reinforced everything I had learned previously in Vipassana, that there is calmness and peace in the present moment, with very little to be found by dwelling in or regretting the past and even less in striving or being anxious about the future.
As an experienced coach, I already bring mindfulness into my practice when working with individuals and have been influenced by the work of Liz Hall and other coaches. Being fully present allows me to see, hear and intuit much more than I could otherwise and to ask more powerful questions to be able to support clients better.
As an experienced trainer and facilitator I began to think about how I could bring mindfulness more directly into my working life so that I could teach more people how to take up the practice and benefit from it.
Early in 2017, I began looking for an accredited training programme and I was strongly drawn to the Mindfulness Now course run by Nick Cooke at the UK College of Mindfulness Meditation. Nick’s passion, to extend mindfulness practice as widely as possible while maintaining high academic and ethical standards, is infectious. The Teacher Training course was certainly very popular as I had to wait many months before a place became available. During the training, I was also privileged to be taught Mindful Movement by Aston Colley and to learn about working with young people in schools and other settings through the experience of Rachel Broomfield.
Having completed my training and achieved my qualification, I am now licensed to deliver the Mindfulness Now programme, which includes many elements of both the MBSR programme (mentioned above) and MBCT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy), as developed by Oxford University to help manage clinical depression. The Mindfulness Now programme is accredited by the British Psychological Society.
While I’ve been practicing Mindfulness in some form for 20 years and have taught it informally for a number of years, I feel that my journey has really just begun. I’m looking forward to sharing this wonderful practise with many more people in the years to come.
Founder of Mindful Me