I’ve been on a few courses on mindfulness in recent years – it seems to be a bit of a buzzword at the moment, and in danger of being promoted in some circles as a bit of a ‘cure all’ perhaps? There’s a good deal of research being done with the aim of demonstrating how mindfulness might help us increase our alpha brain waves which could increase our creativity and also help relieve the symptoms of conditions such as  depression, anxiety and chronic pain.

I wanted to try it out to see if I could benefit and to see if it was something to use with my clients, and perhaps recommend to others. The bottom line is that, for me, it’s a ‘yes’ to all three of those questions – but with the proviso that I think we each need to adopt what works for us and adapt it to fit into our own lives in a positive and constructive way, rather than making it yet another chore on our ‘to do’ list.

Amongst other my sources, is ‘Mindfulness, a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world’ by Mark Williams and Danny Penman which I recommend. I’ve used their site to download some mindfulness exercises to use from time to time (you don’t have to buy the book in order to download these, by the way) and which I’ve shared with clients and friends, too. When feeling particularly stressed or off-centre, using one of these can be a good way for me to take a break, switch focus, and ground myself to carry on more calmly and productively.

One of the other ways I occasionally practise mindfulness is to do something ordinary in a mindful way. For example, eating a meal and really noticing what goes on in the moment while I do that. What I see (the colours and shapes on my plate), the smell of the food, the sensations, (the textures and tastes in my mouth, chewing, swallowing), noticing how quickly or slowly I eat – and playing around with that – noticing distractions: noises outside, people walking past the window, thoughts about how healthy my meal is (or isn’t), or what I ‘should’ do as soon as I finish eating – and so on.

Another thing I do is to take a mindful walk along the seafront occasionally. One of the great things about the weather getting warmer this time of year is that I ‘get my feet out’ – after months of wearing socks, the act of not wearing them gives me a real sense of freedom. There’s often a price to pay, initially, though – as my feet are usually ‘soft’ from being so protected for months so putting on sandals can rub a bit to start with – especially if they’re a relatively new pair, as they were today…

I thought it might be useful to record my thoughts today so that I could share them with you. What follows is a sort of stream of consciousness that illustrates what went on for me as I walked – you’ll notice that I wasn’t ‘in the moment’ all the time – my mind strayed to other things at times (because that’s what the mind does) – but there was also plenty of experiencing of the here and now, too:

It’s just after 8am…by the café on the beach…it’s a gorgeous morning…sunny…a slight chill in the air…a gentle breeze…quite a few cars in the car park… the sun is shining and twinkling on the sea…a few people sitting out having coffee or breakfast…someone on their own who seems to be enjoying gazing at the sea…two people chatting animatedly…people are inside too…perhaps its a bit fresh for them to sit out here…men strimming the grass…smell the freshly mown grass…I love it…one of them stops working while I pass…so he won’t splatter me with cuttings?…I thank him…can’t smell the sea…

2016-05-24 08.26.39

…can feel the breeze on my face…pass a lady walking her dog…we say ‘good morning’…the flag on the pole is fluttering in the breeze…it’s a lovely view and I stop to take a photo….can feel the warmth of the sun on my face and my forearms as I walk towards it…the sound of traffic from the road…a gentle hum…other people on their way to work I guess…makes me think of my work…away from the grass cutting now…can smell the sea…the air feels fresh…taking big, deep breaths…capturing the goodness…that feels good…feel free…a sense of space… the sea stretches out…not hemmed in in any way……can feel the sun on my cheeks…warm…can hear the birds…loud gulls squawking…smaller brown birds chirping…don’t know what type of birds they are…should I?…they flutter around, landing and taking off again in small groups…my body is walking all by itself – I don’t have to do anything consciously…isn’t that wonderful?…feel lucky to be able to walk freely and easily…can feel the muscles in the backs on my thighs…slightly tight…a woman on a bike comes up behind me…she says ‘good morning’ from behind me and ‘I didn’t mean to startle you’ as she passes me…her way of warning me that she’s there…it’s a narrow path here…I remember learning to cycle as a child…using my bell to warn people…people don’t seem to use these any more…the world feels good – I feel good…isn’t that often the case in the sunshine?…overtaken by a couple walking their dog…they walk much faster than me…at the point now where I turn around…the sun now behind me…can feel the warmth on my back…notice my arms swinging…my thighs feel looser now…stretched…makes me think of my Dad who would often pop out ‘to stretch his legs’…the sandal on my right foot is pinching a bit…feel a slight ache in the small of my back…probably from too much sitting yesterday…there’s a gull, circling and swooping over the beach…looking for food?…can see a lone runner on the beach…he’s gone into the distance…haven’t seen any other runners today…usually there are one or two…perhaps they were here earlier?…big toe is aching now…this is my window of calm…away from the cares and concerns of the day…before I get going, being busy doing…notice the plants (weeds?) growing amongst the pebbles…isn’t a weed merely a plant in the wrong place?…unwanted?…

2016-05-24 08.48.53

…what’s on my ‘to do’ list today?…there’s a task I’ve been putting off for too long…see someone with a greyhound…have a friend who has one…she told me they often have a weakness on one side…from continually running round the circular track in one direction…my sandal is rubbing the side of my foot now…looking forward to getting home, taking it off, and slipping on something softer, more worn in…hear what sounds like a sander from one of the houses…someone doing DIY?…or their job?…or a favour for someone else?…see an ice cream van…even though it’s a weekday and not school holidays I wonder if they will have a good day today as it’s sunny…hear a dog scamper up behind me…and some rustling…is that the ‘poop bag’ I can hear?…they overtake me…yes it was!… back at the café now…it’s busier than earlier…see a woman with three small children…they seem happy and content…I feel happy and content…my back feels better now…it’s about 9am…I’m ready for the day.