There’s something about incense. Not the overwhelming, hippy-dippy 1990s market stall kind, but the fresh ‘yoga class’ peppermint and bergamot, or sweet orange essential oil that can take us back to an exotic land where we vowed to breathe in life a little deeper going forward.
And this was the scent that infused the Sky Garden, a recent mindfulness day retreat I attended with the inspiring Jackie Coventry, who invited us into a relaxing bliss of meditation, food and poetry. I’ve come to realise that to be guided through a meditation is one of the most luxurious things on earth. I emerge from it the way I expect to emerge from a spa: soothed and taken care of.
It’s in those moments that I’m reminded of how we try to fix our mental ailments of anxiety, stress or lack of fulfilment through physical remedies. In vain, we attempt to wash our worries away with Jacuzzi jets and find answers through neck massages. It’s about as useful as trying to fix our car’s blown head gasket by touching up the paint job. But we need a remedy now more than ever: 44 per cent of adults’ stress levels have increased over the past five years;* millennials, in particular, reported a 52 per cent increase, and more than a quarter of students report having a mental health problem.** Yet, we still yearn for those spa days. But what if we’ve got it all wrong?
Stress, anxiety, feelings of discontentment and disillusion with life don’t get scrubbed away in a steamy hamman. So what can help? Mindfulness – offering a wealth of scientifically proven wellbeing benefits, rom stress reduction to bolstering our immune system.*** But it doesn’t just transform health.
It changes, reshapes and rewires our brain through neural plasticity, to help us step out of old thinking and behaviour patterns that no longer serve us. And, even more amazingly, it works. The key, however, is in mindful compassion – something I rarely, if ever, practised towards myself before I found mindfulness. By cultivating internal compassion, I opened up the doors to truly meet myself, without the chatter of my inner critic who once told me I wasn’t good enough, worthy enough or lucky enough to live and achieve the things I dream of in life.
Practise makes perfect
And so, wanting to share this magical remedy for finding self-esteem, purpose and meaning in life through knowing ourselves, I embarked on my mindfulness meditation teaching qualification with Breathworks, learning the neuroscience, physiology and philosophy.
But my biggest lesson was found through my own deepened practice. I finally understood the answers mindfulness has to offer comes from just that; practice. Not in the ‘doing’ sense of the word, but in the rehearsal, the repetition, the training. Every time I meditate, I train my brain to see a new way of looking at my situation with compassion. Every time I stop and breathe, I feel how it truly is to be me.
I exercise new neural pathways in my brain that allow me to live a new reality. Through practising mindfulness, I find more choice. I detach myself from unhelpful limiting beliefs, I see new opportunities in my career and relationships, I spot rays of light, helping me see when I feel lost in this maze of life.
For mindfulness courses with The Sky Garden:
Ali Roff attended The Sky Garden one day mindfulness courses in the Hampshire countryside, in a Grade II listed house on the edge of Odiham village in a unique setting.
Groups are kept small to encourage an intimate experience, conducive to friendly discussion.
You will have the opportunity to meet people who are also curious about mindfulness. You will practice short meditations and simple mindfulness exercises in an informal setting. There will be time spent as a group, learning mindfulness techniques, and also some time spent alone with which to practice and reflect. A delicious nutritious lunch will be provided and a chance to spend a relaxed day away from the bustle of life in a tranquil setting.
The aim of the courses is to help you begin to explore mindfulness and how you may apply it to your everyday life. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
Introduction to mindfulness retreat
Courses are £115 for one day Retreats and £185 for one and a half day courses.
Eight-week MBSR course
This is an 8 week MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) on a one to one basis, consisting of 8 now hour sessions. The one to one course costs £45 per hour.
Weekly meditation group
A small group of 6 to 8 people meeting on Wednesday evenings at Toymakers. £8 per session when you book a block of 6 or £10 per session for drop in.
Mindful hen parties
One or two day options in Hampshire or longer events in Morocco.
Moroccan mindfulness retreat
These are 4 day retreats (Tuesday to Saturday) in Essaouira on the Moroccan coast costing £550 including accommodation. Upcoming retreats in 2018 in February (13th to 17th), April, May, June and September.
Please contact Jackie on 07590 673717 for more information, or email on firstname.lastname@example.org.