The 8 week option offers an opportunity for people to learn in a small group how to apply mindfulness to their daily life. The same people meet once per week in 2 hour sessions. This builds a sense of shared experience and trust. Meeting weekly allows people to build on their understanding of how to apply mindfulness in their lives and learn from others as they hear people sharing their experience of applying the teachings in the previous week.
The course follows a set of themes that develop over the 8 weeks:
- autopilot – how we lose our focus, creativity and joy by falling into repetitive habits and thought patterns. This theme develops throughout the course, enabling participants to discover where they have become stuck, to become more creative in their responses to situations and to cultivate an attitude of exploration and openness to new possibilities.
- thoughts are not facts – as we progress through the course there is an opportunity to explore the limiting nature of some self-talk. We look at how this can impede creativity and engagement with life and how to challenge these self-limiting beliefs. One simple way is to notice when there is a limiting belief or negative self-talk and remind ourselves “thoughts are not facts”…..as part of this we explore the notion of thoughts being like propaganda, something that has been repeated often enough that we come to believe it, even if it is not true: “I’m useless”, “I can’t get anything right”, “Life is just tough and I shouldn’t expect to be happy”, “no-one can be relied on”…. Once seen as opinions rather than truths these limiting beliefs can be challenged or countered with new ways of thinking.
- noting the tone of your inner voice – as participants progress through the course more self-awareness of thoughts will develop, alongside a grater sensitivity to the tone of that inner voice. What most people notice is that some of this inner dialogue can have a very harsh tone. Even if we are trying to adopt healthy new habits, the tone of the voice saying “get fit” or “goto the book club” may be harsh and judgmental. It is very important to learn to cultivate a kind tone of voice in our inner dialogue, so that we do not simply use the internalized voice of a critical teacher or angry parent.
- self-care – throughout the course we explore how to bring a caring attitude to ourself and others. This includes learning to be with difficult emotions in a new way, that allows us to turn towards them with kindness to ourselves and an attitude of open curiosity, rather than denial or pushing them away. This can bring a deep heeling.
- body-awareness – many of us have learnt to be distant from our bodies and the wisdom there is in our gut and heart, relying instead on an intellectual decision making process that may not always supply all of the information we need to come to a conclusion that best serves us. The body scan meditation that is taught in the first two sessions invites people to start to experience their bodies in the present moment as sensation, learning to listen to the ‘felt sense’ in their body and for this to help with decision making and informing them in their interactions with others.
- re-balancing – as we progress through the course there are weekly activities done away from the class that enable participants to gain a fresh perspective on life. From early on participants are invited to start a gratitude practice that allows them to refocus their attention on what is nourishing and supportive in their lives rather than focus only on what is wrong or difficult. This is an important practice as we are designed by evolution to give more importance to danger, and often allow a pleasant experience to slip by unnoticed. We also look at how to reframe thoughts and question habitual ways of thinking by bringing in an alternative perspective. This helps to make people more flexible and creative in response to difficulties and set backs.
- every-day mindfulness – throughout the course we look at how to incorporate mindfulness into the busyness of the day: making the first drink of the day an opportunity to stop and notice, feeling the water in the shower and being present rather than thinking about work, feeling your feet on the floor as you walk and letting this bring you into the present moment rather than lost in thoughts of the past or worries about the future, sitting at your desk doing a 3 minute practice to ground your attention and take a few conscious breaths.
- connection – as we learn to listen deeply to ourselves through meditation, we gain a capacity to turn this deep listening to others, noticing our tendency to be distracted or to be thinking of what to say in response to another as we only half listen to what they say, and instead bringing our full attention to them, listening, and then trusting we will be able to respond to them in the moment.
The following are from participants on 8 week workplace mindfulness courses:
“This course was very powerful and has been life changing. It has really helped me to focus on the ‘Here and now’ rather than getting caught up in ruminative thinking. I have a tendency to worry about the future and about events which have not yet occurred and this was making me feel very stressed. Applying the techniques and mindfulness strategies I learnt on the course I feel better able to cope and although I still feel anxious this tends to diminish more quickly.”
“I have become more aware of my surroundings and am really noticing the world. I feel that I have clearer vision and am appreciating the little things in life. I have really slowed down and realise how much I missed by rushing from one activity to the next.”
“I have become more accepting of emotions that I would previously have classified as unwanted or negative, or ones to get rid of. I no longer feel I have to feel a certain way and it is okay however I am feeling. This has helped me to come to terms with very painful experiences that I would previously have suppressed.”
“I am trying to really listen to what other people are saying rather than thinking about my own reply and interrupting them, which I have a tendency to do. The daily meditation practise has probably made this possible as it seems to have helped with my attention and concentration.”
“I have been deeply moved by meeting you and in learning from the course that you delivered to us with such intelligence, sensitivity and compassion for your fellow human beings. You made Mindfulness real and human, related to the pain, feelings of not belonging, of isolation or inadequacy that we may feel in life and then taught me how through Mindfulness I could have a choice and freedom from suffering. My thoughts, or the emotions they stir within me, do not have to control me or dictate who I am, or have become, I have the choice to see them for what they are…. just passing thoughts that come and go like sensations in my body, I can notice them but from a distance and not let them consume me and all that I could be in life.”
“Meeting you and having you for my tutor in Mindfulness has been hugely life changing for me.”