SUSAN'S MINDFULNESS JOURNEY

MEETING MINDFULNESS FOR THE FIRST TIME

"In 2005 I suffered a head injury in a cycling accident. Life changed overnight. I lost my sense of smell and taste, and was suffering from debilitating headaches, pain, anxiety and Lhermitte's sign, a neurological condition. Having reached the end of the road within mainstream medicine, I was trying anything to help myself and enrolled on a mindfulness meditation course at a local Buddhist Centre. Before the accident, I never thought I would do anything like this.

Going to a the course was a very scary and uncomfortable thing for me. I hadn't any experience of meditation and was feeling very vulnerable at the time. It was quite hard to go into the building that first day. I can't remember very much about the detail, but what struck me was the feeling of being in a group where there was a real sense of kindness and acceptance. I didn't really understand why sitting there following my breathing was helping, but something in me knew that it was. So I kept going back. The pain got more manageable. I was lucky to be one of the very small percentage of people who regain their sense of smell after trauma related anosmia. I believe mindfulness was critical to my recovery and my return to work. Today I can't imagine my life without it. It is the most important thing I have ever done.

A DEEPENING INTEREST AND TRAINING TO TEACH

After meditating for some time, I started reading more about mindfulness. I loved the neuroscience and I also loved that, once learned, you can practice mindfulness any where and any time. This really appeals to me as someone with a passion for social justice. It’s almost radical – once learned, there's nothing else to pay for. This is something special!

I completed Teacher Training with Bangor University, Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice in 2011 and began teaching MBSR in the community shortly after. I later completed further teacher training in MBCT with NHS Sussex Mindfulness Centre in 2013. My own specialism now is in teaching mindfulness for helping professionals, particularly social workers, managers and carers. I believe that 'helping the helpers' is key in supporting vulnerable people.

I know for myself how powerful mindfulness courses can be and I firmly believe that rigorous and ongoing training is essential. I adhere to the UK Guidelines for Teaching Mindfulness Courses and receive ongoing supervision from an experienced teacher at Bangor University, Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice. I am a UK Listed Mindfulness Teacher and have been assessed and approved under this process.

WHY GROW MINDFULNESS?

While it may seem that 'mindfulness is everywhere', in truth well evidenced mindfulness courses such as MBSR and MBCT are available only to a small number of people via the NHS. For many people, the most available option is to pay for a course in the community. We are at an early stage and there is a long way to go before secular mindfulness courses become accessible to all, both practically and financially. The cost of training to be a mindfulness teacher is relatively high and many community based mindfulness teachers are struggling financially; as a result concessions are not always offered at rates which are realistic for people on restricted incomes. We are now also in a time where access to grant funding is severely restricted and there are few charities and social enterprises able to offer low cost and accessible courses. There is much work to do before mindfulness - this amazing thing which costs nothing to practice once learned - is available to all of those who wish to learn it.

I think we can help each other with this problem. I think there are many social responsible companies, individuals and organisations who will help. Mindfulness is something that can help so many of us humans. You don't have to be unwell to benefit - filling up our resilience tanks is a must for all of us. You never know when the next wave might rise. So we need to do something interesting, something creative and something that matters. This is the time that we can sow seeds together and see what takes - we just need to start talking, plotting and preparing the ground.

So here we are. I hope you can join us on the road?