Archive for June, 2014

New Mindfulness CDs

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Heather with CDs

Heather holding up our new MBSR CDs


After a lot of hard work, we finally have our new Mindfulness CDs professionally pressed.

Heather and Markus have worked tirelessly voicing (and re-voicing) the meditations on these CDs to accompany our mindfulness based stress reduction 8 week course.

The CDs are issued on each of these courses, guiding people through the meditations at home – both during and beyond the course.

Mick Routledge has provided his audio expertise and recording studio, and Martin Webster www.candoocreative.com has provided the CD graphics.

Blog – Mindful Photography – Symmetry

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Hi – I’m Heather and I’m delighted to have been invited by Mind in Salford to contribute a blog to their brand new website.  I’ve been teaching Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses here for the last 3 years.  I’ve learned so much and really enjoyed the courses and the fantastic people I’ve met along the way.  I’ve recently started a mindful photography blog, and it’s a real pleasure to be sharing it here.

reeds in water

Symmetry

I noticed this image on a recent walk by a mountain lake in Wales. I was drawn to the reflection of the reeds and the twisted shapes, textures and colours emerging from the water.

Only one problem – the broken reed to the right of the picture.

When I looked at the image on my computer I noticed how frustrated I felt about how it ruined the symmetry of the image. I tried cropping it, photoshopping it, all sorts of things to get rid of the annoying reed.

Feeling curious about my reaction, I looked up ‘symmetry’ on Wikipedia and it offers one possible meaning: ‘a vague sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance.’

I delved further into Google hoping to find a definition, and found that words associated with symmetry include: ‘regularity, evenness, uniformity, equilibrium, consistency, congruity, conformity, agreement, correspondence, orderliness, equality.’

Mindfulness encourages us to welcome and embrace the not so harmonious aspects of our lives as well as the harmonious ones, so that we can move towards psychological balance or equanimity (calmness). I guess this is different to the apparent perfection of symmetry – but it is about balance.

The idea is that the more experiences, body sensations, feelings and thoughts we can allow in, then the more diluted and less intense everything is. If I pour red food colouring into a bowl of water, it will become red. If I pour the same amount into a lake, it will make barely any difference. In other words – we can cope with so much more when we allow everything in, even the difficult stuff. Then, like the lake, we may feel some disturbance at the surface but deep below the surface we can find an accepting stillness.

So I’m learning to love this picture just as it is, enjoying the feel of it, the atmosphere, and most of all – the broken reed.

If you’d like to look at my website – here’s a link to take you there:

www.northernlightcounselling.co.uk

Blog – Hugging the Black Dog

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

I got into working in mental health because at the tender age of 20 I had a breakdown and suffered to varying degrees with anxiety and depression for the next 20 or so years. I found the practice of Mindfulness about 10 years ago, attending a class at the local Buddhist Centre, treating it more as a bit of fun and a giggle with a friend than anything that could seriously help my mental wellbeing.

Then 3 years ago I started looking at it in more depth. My work was crazy busy with lots of changes and I was feeling the pressure. I started to get the old familiar feelings of anxiety rearing its ugly head, waking up in the middle of the night worrying, having the shakes during the day, and imagining in painful detail how my life would be when I couldn’t cope and I lost my job, my house, my relationship, my sanity.

I bought some books on Mindfulness and started listening to the accompanying CDs. I went at it with great fervour, determined to rid myself of the evil beasts of worry and low mood. Every day I meditated, every day I checked if my anxiety had gone… it hadn’t. Surely the next day or the day after I would reach a blissful state and be able to live my life without fear. I would be bullet proof, bomb proof, able to carry on through extreme adversity, rescue small dogs from burning buildings.

Of course not, Mindfulness has worked for me but not in the way that I expected it to. I was trying so hard to rid myself of my ailments, fighting with myself, pushing thoughts and feelings away. My expectation was ridiculously high and my results were depressing.

Then shortly afterwards the concepts of mindfulness started to click with me. I realised I’d spent most of my life fighting with my condition, trying to be strong and power through depression, push away anxiety. Busying myself, distracting myself and beating myself up when that failed and my problems seeped through papered over cracks. Winston Churchill used to describe his depression as ‘the black dog’ and I realised what mindfulness was telling me, you have to hug the black dog.

It’s about changing your relationship to stress, depression and anxiety, just letting them be there, giving up the fight. It’s learning to approach them with curiosity and even warmth. That doesn’t mean becoming resigned to always feeling like that, it just means those feelings are there in this moment so just let them be there, just for now, just as much as you can. It’s like a reed bending in the wind, rather than resisting and bracing against it and eventually breaking. Once you give up the struggle with your problems then they can be transformed. It might take a while, it might take a long while, but it can change.

Three years down the line my anxiety and depression are very different. They still appear sometimes but I can cope much better with them, I’m much more resilient. I hardly ever wake up in the middle of the night worrying anymore and my low moods tend to drift in and drift out occasionally, not sticking around like they used to. I’m learning to hug my own black dog.

Welcome to our New Website

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

I hope you all like our new website, we’ve tried to make it easy to use and find things, so do let us know if you have any problems.

The site uses WordPress, which means it’s much easier for us to update, and to put in news, blogs and media.  Markus has kicked off our blogs talking about his own mental health and how mindfulness has helped him – go to “Blog – Hugging the Black Dog” in the menu to the right.

Contribute a blog!

We want you to contribute as well – your experiences with mental health and/or using our services can help other people, and we want to help you share these.  Please e-mail james@mindinsalford.org.uk if you would be interested in guest blogging for us.

Praise given where praise due

A big thankyou to our excellent web designer & programmer Andrew Yee of www.citruscube.com for all the work he has put in to help make this user friendly and deceptively simple design.