Why mindfulness is so much more than an 8 week course

Mindfulness – the buzz word of the moment in mental health and the world. It’s everywhere!! I’ve even had close family say it’s trendy and probably won’t last long, so I shouldn’t bank on it as a sustainable venture (I’m not going to delve into all the reasons why that’s not the point…!).

As with many trendy practices though, there either comes a time when they fade away into distant memories, or they stand the test of time – developing and expanding. Luckily for mindfulness, it’s been around for thousands of years already, so it’s got a great head start. Even if most of us are a little late to the party.

Mindfulness is ancient wisdom, originating from Buddhism. So it isn’t just a new fangled ‘thing to do’ to improve your emotional wellbeing. In fact, it’s innate. It’s something we are completely capable of doing instinctively. And we often do without realising it.

The problem is, as mindfulness gets dragged through contradictory research, the media and government policies, all of a sudden, it becomes a prescribed checklist of actions to complete to meet specific and accountable targets in the pursuit of happiness.

More things to do. More boxes to tick. More pressure on everyone to add mindfulness into their every day lives, when all they really want to do is mong out in front of Netflix and eat ice cream.

Not sniff raisins.

Which is exactly what a friend of mine described it as after she did an introductory course.

Sniffing raisins and trying to concentrate.

And they’re not the only mindfulness practices that sound pretty tedious. You wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking many schools of mindfulness involve a lot of sitting and focusing, and trying not to move for fear of disturbing others around you.

Most courses last between 6-8 weeks, by which time you’ve hopefully integrated mindfulness into your everyday life and you’re good to go.

And for many, that’s a wonderful experience. Like any other therapy or treatment or practice. For others, a 15 minute a day practice might not stick long after the 8 weeks.

So, what’s the reason why it sticks for some but not for others?

Well, because it's not so much about what you DO, but the insight you have whilst doing it. The realisation you might become aware of.

And mindfulness can be incredibly conducive to those moments of awareness and insight. But those moments can also arise in even the smallest moments. When you’re going about your everyday life, completing mundane chores or spending time with friends and family.

I bet we can all think of a time when we had a sudden realisation. About life or existence or ourselves. Completely out of the blue, but we became aware of it.

Mindfulness helps us to notice those moments more frequently, dispelling the head chatter and focusing on the quiet, still voice behind the noisy, pokey voice that is often shouting of fear or anger or sadness or frustration.

Because the whole point of mindfulness is to notice. To become aware of, accept and let go of…well everything.

Starting with the breath, and the body, and external surroundings and then moving on to thoughts and feelings. And gradually noticing the temporary nature of all of it.

And the innate okayness we all hold within us to.

Because, while modern psychology has spent the past hundred years focusing on mental dis-ease and the apparent dysfunctions we all display as human beings, Buddhism has always held that we have an in-built potential to achieve exceptional mental wellbeing. In Buddhism, it’s known as ‘inner Buddhahood’ – every human’s ability to uncover their highest self; their contentment; their Joy Default.

It’s hardly surprising that, over the past few years, as the world seems to spiral into turmoil, we are reaching back in our history to ancient wisdom that says something about the extraordinary positive human potential we hold.

And, as parents, facing increasing pressure from parenting and experts, social media and our own expectations, it’s so reassuring to learn that the real knowledge can be found deep within us.

For children, facing even more pressure from tests and exams, the media, social media and extreme perceptions of achievement, it’s a relief to know that all of that means nothing compared to the power and strength we all hold.

This is why mindfulness is so powerful.

But, there are many ways to access it. And an 8 week course costing a pretty penny, is just one way.

As we have seen with yoga (which I like to regard as a more active friend of mindfulness), there are lots of variations derived from different traditions and influenced by different cultures. It’s the same with mindfulness.

Since it became more widely practiced in Western countries, thanks to Jon Kabat-Zinn, it has woven it’s way into different programmes and therapies, and been adapted for different audiences. None of them superior than the others, and none of them more or less effective. All interpretations of ancient wisdom. All wonderful springboards to improved emotional wellbeing.

Mindful Magic is exactly that – for parents and children.

We don’t try to pretend that we are therapy or counselling. Because we don’t believe there is anything that needs fixing.

We believe in the innate resilience that we all have and we can all access.

We don’t prescribe a specific time limit to learn the tools, because the tools we use are simple, easy, fun and can be integrated into every day life and routine.

We don’t believe in sitting and persuading children to concentrate for prolonged periods of time.

We want children to enjoy what they’re doing, to get in flow, to have fun, to play games, to laugh and move and dance and sing, to love coming to sessions, to WANT to use tools at home too.

Breathing, focusing, moving, creating, meditating.

Everything we create is an attempt to engage parents and children in dialogue about emotional wellbeing, and to put it at the forefront of all of our minds.

Because we believe that emotional wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing.

We believe that mental health comes before achievement or success.

We believe that if we paid as much attention to ‘being’ as we do to ‘doing’, we could ALL live joyful, content lives.

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