Below is my journey. Not a very special one but shared with you in my deep belief that mindfulness is a very personal experience.
Mindfulness. You must have been VERY busy for the last two years to not to have heard, read, learned, and grown tired of the phenomenon known as mindfulness. Everybody has added their 50 cents to the discussion and now many people have the ‘been there done that’ feeling. But have you really ‘been there’? To me, the most valuable aspect of mindfulness is that it creates a space for individual journey, freed from goal oriented striving that permeates majority of our helping and self-help approaches. A breathing space of connection with one’s own rhythm, often overwritten by relentless beat of the external and internal expectations. And the discovery that in finding our own rhythm we flow more naturally with others and with life.
I was introduced to mindfulness by Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix (NeuroNovaCentre.com) at the St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto in 2008. I had been referred to her Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management program by the Sleep Clinic as the last resort attempt to help me cope with acute sleep disorder I developed with my menopause at 48. And I was not a willing soul! I thought it was a lame excuse for the doctors’ inability to find really good drugs, hormones, or neurons to cut. We started, about 25 participants mostly suffering from debilitating chronic pain as a result of accidents or illness. We were all suffering for very legitimate reasons and the suggestion to meditate to heal was only adding an insult to the injury. Three months later, 23 of us finished the program, changed forever. Only two people dropped out. The rest of us was transformed through experience like no other–the creation of practice of grounding through mindfulness, empowerment through awareness, and expansion of the powerfully healthy self well beyond our pain, fear, illness. The further we went the more we were able to expand the feeling of wellness, wholeness, peace. Even in the moment of our worst suffering, something in us knew what was good for us.
It was a paradigm shift for me, both personally and professionally. I knew it was going to change the way I worked with my clients. And, after a PhD and almost 15 years devoted to understanding and mastering the art of psychotherapy, I was not an easy sell. I am a skeptic, and I really thought I knew it all. I took another mindfulness program, this time geared towards health professionals, and started applying its principles to my work. And I could see for myself the way it worked to relieve suffering. At this point my colegue, Margotte Kaczanowska, a very gifted and experienced group therapist, persuaded me to sit down and collaborate to develop a six-week mindfulness group program. Program that would provide a space for participants to reconnect with the the healthy, joyful, loving self, regardless of sometimes enormous stresses present in their immediate circumstances. And so we did. The ‘Mindfulness Matters: You have a right to be here’ group was born. Over the last three years we have had the privilege to sit in the circle with people with cancer, progressing blindness, terminally ill loved ones, feeling depressed, stressed, angry, numb, and watch them grow strong roots in awareness through mindfulness practice and feeding their minds mindfully. A part of me heals with each of them healing a part of them. It truly is a magical process.
Find in yourself a curiosity about your mindfulness, as a journey, not the ‘news’ plastered all over media. You will not know what it is until you try for yourself and make it your own, signature experience. It will be different from mine but I promise you, it will be a personal revelation.
All the best