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Mindfulness Based Living Course

8-week mindfulness plus one full day training course

Mindfulness involves learning to direct our attention to our experience as it unfolds, moment by moment, with open-minded curiosity and acceptance. Rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen, it trains us to respond skillfully to whatever is happening right now, be that good or bad. To give an insight of the benefits that mindfulness practice brings here are some reflections generously offered by some who have brought mindfulness into their daily lives, starting with Caroline Dean, Head of The Sixth Form, Monmouth Comprehensive School:

I look forward to my mindfulness sessions.  They make me feel so positive about life. At first, I wasn’t sure whether I could spare thirty minutes one morning a week, let alone find time for daily practise.  I realised very quickly that the time invested was really going to pay off. My temper, my patience levels, my sleep and my general well being improved very quickly. I can’t believe what a difference the straightforward techniques that you have taught me have made.  They help me cope with the really busy times and help me manage my stress levels so much better.

I used to routinely have about a dozen things going on in my head at any one time. Now, I still have about a dozen things going on at any one time, but they aren’t all clambering for my attention at once.  I have learnt how to focus on just one thing at a time.  I am so much calmer as a result.

The 8-week Mindfulness Based Living Course offers skills to enable life to be lived more fully and fearlessly. Through the course participants learn, step by step, to understand how the mind works – very different from thinking skills – and establish ways of being able to direct the attention in a more focused and beneficial way. Celia Bryan comments:

Mindfulness practice has helped me to develop the qualities that I aspire to i.e. patience, tolerance and compassion. This has helped me to feel better about myself. It has also helped me to lessen the sense of urgency and pressure which had dominated my life for so long. I feel calmer and more peaceful. Instead of automatically reacting to things from a habitual position, I am better able to stand back and think through how I want to respond to things. It is said that “it is simple, it just takes practice” and that is exactly what I have found. The more you practice, the more benefit you get, but even a small amount of daily practice can make a huge difference.

Is mindfulness difficult to learn? At first the mind wanders constantly, but with practice we learn to sustain our attention and direct it more skillfully. This helps to break the grip of unhelpful mental habits, judgements and impulses, making way for greater calm, and for more helpful, kinder and rational thinking about all aspects of life. This takes practice! And after bringing mindfulness into her daily life another participants says:

What a gift! Doing the mindfulness course has given me a sense of calm and perspective. I see a difference, not only in myself, but also in my family and those around me. What better skills could we give our children than the ability to find a sense of calm and perspective in their increasingly hectic world full of distraction. 

And another writes:

The practice has allowed me to become more aware of the emotions that occur during different scenarios and the way in which I respond. I have a greater acceptance of issues that arise and a much more positive response as a result. My ability to worry less and plan without ‘fretting’ has increased significantly as a result of this. I have a greater balance in the way I view things, focussing more on the present appreciating the positives that it provides.

And how does mindfulness slot into the significant (and sometimes painful) events of our lives? Dr. Sharon Leighton writes:

Mindfulness training and practice has given me an enormous benefit and I would say, without exaggeration, has transformed my life (personal and at work). I started the training 3 years ago as a result of a marriage breakdown.  I know it has helped me deal with as much equanimity as possible with the tsunami of emotional pain, insecurity and grief.  It has kept me from taking anti-depressants and helped me be more positive about my future.  Finally I feel I have the tools to meet difficult emotions head on and incorporate them in my life, not continuing to ignore or minimize them.  It has also made an enormous difference in my working life as I can handle difficult situations more openly and help others too. Everyone has noticed the change in me.  Overall I am happier, healthy in mind and body and better equipped to embrace life with its challenges and delights.

Another who has started mindfulness practice more recently shares her experience:

Mindfulness has: Opened my mind to things around me that have always been there but I had forgotten to notice and appreciate them: Made me realise it is the simple things that make me truly happy: I find it easier to see things from other people point of view and not to judge: Helped me to trust my judgement: Taught me how to stop and just be.

Mindfulness also helps practitioners to manage chronic pain and illnesses with more equanimity. CiCi Collins who has tinnitus writes:

I was offered Mindfulness training by the Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital in London as a result of getting Tinnitus overnight.  Tinnitus is a very challenging condition and in my case exacerbated by stressful situations.  From the moment I started to practice Mindfulness my approach to the constant ringing in my ears began to shift, slowly but subtly.  Practising mindfulness has become an essential part of my daily life. I really look forward to those precious moments when I can come back to base and be with what is.  In this busy world of doing, it has become so vital for me to step off the hamster wheel and spend moments being, kindly getting to know some of my thought patterns and recognising that I am thinking or planning or worrying.  I can honestly say that the moments that I now dedicate to my practice has opened up more time for myself as I become more and more aware of the preciousness of each moment.  

Change happens, sometimes welcomed, sometimes painful. Another mindfulness practitioner, Glenys Phelpstead, who recently participated on the 8-week mindfulness course writes:

Mindfulness practice has helped to settle and ground me following an extremely stressful period of my personal life.  I am less tense and anxious and much more relaxed. I am more “in touch” with my body and have considerably less aches and pains in my neck and shoulders. I am more self-aware, self-accepting and thus able to accept others more readily and I am learning to appreciate living each moment rather than be caught up in the past or anxious about the future.

Participants on the Mindfulness Courses include health workers:

I found Sue Weston’s Mindfulness course gave me more energy, relaxed and centred me,  I found it a gentle nourishing experience taught with warmth and humour. It also gave me useful exercises to do with my counselling clients. Suzanne Ross

Final words from Lisa Smith, who participated on the 8-week mindfulness course three years ago and has fibromyalgia. She now assists Sue on the mindfulness courses:

I am amazed at how such a simple practice can have such a massive influence on my life and on those around me.

All positive testimonials from previous participants – but the only way you will experience for yourself the benefits that mindfulness brings is to commit to your mindfulness training. Go to http://www.sueweston.com/mindfulness-based-living-courses/ for details of the forthcoming courses

Qigong & Meditation Retreat Week, Holy Isle

The novice on the course! No experience of Qigong, meditation or relaxation. Not a vegetarian, What more credentials does one need! What I came with was an open mind. I loved every minute from my train journey to arriving on the beautiful peaceful Holy Island via two lovely ferry crossings. Sue Weston was not a Sgt Major type of instructor but gentle, funny but firm teacher of these arts. Always had a smile on her face and was tireless to the end of the course. I have been taught what I came to find “To be kind to others first you need to be kind to yourself.” Thanks, Sue, you will have a place in my heart forever! (RH, 2006)

Thank you for an ongoing and life-enhancing course. Your encouraging and enthusiastic leadership was good to work with and an inspiration to follow this practice a step further. A valuable and worthwhile learning experience. (GW, 2006)

I really didn’t know what to expect and have been surprised by what I found. It was a deeper and more enriching experience than I could have imagined. For me, the Qigong and meditation were great but it was they way they moved us into a group that will stay with me. I was unfamiliar with the concept of loving-kindness before I came, but I experienced so much practical evidence of it – that I feel enveloped by it.  (SD, 2011)

Coping with Corporate Life – a Mindfulness Approach

What have you valued about these past 3 days?

The wisdom and shared experience of Sue, and also of the group. The safety and openness of everyone here, the compassion.

To have the opportunity for ‘time out’ to gain an introduction to Mindfulness – it is so much more ‘real’ for me in this format than just reading a book. Group was lovely.

Honesty & openness of group

Compassion and kindness of Sue, Jeanne & Sharon

Environment + hills + place

Trusting course environment & safety

Extremely lovely group of people

What are you going to take into your life from this course?

That this approach works! It really does…What I’ve grappled with previously has been a mess, whereas this is great. I’ve felt such acceptance of me, and it’s this I shall take going forwards.

I am going to take some key messages about ‘loving kindness to one’s self and others’ and knowing that changes I can make in my attitude can have a massive impact on me and those around me.

A weekend of light-bulb moments and and introduction to techniques that will help me make positive changes to my life and those of others.