"I first started meditating 35 years ago, it was a spiritual meditation for my own personal mental health and to help my well-being. During that process I discovered mindfulness. I liked that idea how it was different to meditation in a sense that it brings you to the ‘here and now’ and makes you aware of the present rather than with meditation where you go into a certain place and visualise something. I became a mindfulness qualified coach 7 years ago and I have been delivering mindfulness ever since then".
Nick- Good morning everyone, welcome to the Train Aid Podcast, I am here with Peter Lawrence- a specialist within Mindfulness. Peter, could you please introduce yourself to the Train Aid listeners and explain your experiences of Mindfulness to date.
Peter- I first started meditating 35 years ago, it was a spiritual meditation for my own personal mental health and to help my well-being. During that process I discovered mindfulness. I liked that idea how it was different to meditation in a sense that it brings you to the ‘here and now’ and makes you aware of the present rather than with meditation where you go into a certain place and visualise something. I became a mindfulness qualified coach 7 years ago and I have been delivering mindfulness ever since then.
Nick- For anyone who is new to Mindfulness, is there a definition of what it is?
Peter- There are several, my favourite is where you are becoming aware of the present moment and you do so with kindness, curiosity, and without any judgement. So you are understanding what is happening in the here and now.
There is a clip from the film ‘Kung Fu Panda’ where the Panda goes to the top of the mountain, fed up with life and downhearted because he realises he will not become a Kung-Fu champion, the wise old turtle and mentor recognises he is upset and consoles him by saying ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift and that why it is called the present’. Essentially mindfulness is being in the present moment and not worrying about what has happened in the past or what is going to happen in the future.
Nick- I believe it is very important to focus on the present and the here and now in order to focus fully on tasks. With that in mind, I would like to find out where you have delivered mindfulness training?
Peter- I have delivered mindfulness training to a range sectors such as schools aged 11-18, I have finished training with primary schools and I have taken teachers through the MSRP Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme. I have also been involved within the Myriad Project with Oxford University which is a research project looking at mindfulness and resilience within adolescence and seeing the effects of mindfulness on their wellbeing.
Nick- Why is mindfulness so beneficial to both teachers and learners? Are there any techniques which people can do day to day to promote a calmer mind?
Peter- Being an ex-teacher myself, a teacher may experience approaching a classroom and becoming stressed out about whether I have planned enough and if I have enough resources and when you walk into the classroom you are stressed without already knowing it. What I have found is that mindfulness does not stop stress but it does make you aware that you are stressed and being in the present moment and when you realise you do feel stressed it is about having the strategies to calm yourself but also to say ‘It is ok’ and you might do some deep breaths, finger breathing or do a mindful walk to the classroom, but take yourself away from the stress you are experiencing it calms yourself down so you are present within the moment which means you are aware of what is going on and you are more alert. Teachers have fed back that they can focus more, they can complete their marking quicker, they can plan more efficiently as they are more focused. With mindfulness they can complete more work more efficiently than before.
For learners, there have been a number of exercises which promote mindfulness such as colouring activities which has promoted quiet time and time for reflection.
Nick- Have you encountered any challenges of mindfulness to date?
Peter- When you start a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme apart of that is that you have to meditate for 30-40 minutes per day, the biggest challenge is where do I find that time? You may not enjoy it and question your practice. At the beginning John Kabat-Zinn explained that you do not have to enjoy it you just have to do it, and realise that you are experiencing something new and seeing if it works for you. It is only 8 weeks, so two weeks of your life and seeing this personal development works for you. After 3-4 weeks you will see the changes of mindfulness changing your input.
The biggest challenge with young people and mindfulness is that if they have experienced trauma, making them aware of their feelings can become quite upsetting and therefore having someone can be a point of contact for them to talk about their feelings can be important here. Some students will not understand mindfulness, others may get the concept straight away, the main concept is being open to the idea of mindfulness and attempting its practice and not putting pressure on to say everyone has to ‘get it’.
My overall advice for mindfulness is to try it and see whether it works for you.
Nick- Can you recommend any training for teachers? (websites, podcasts, books?)
Peter- I would recommend practicing mindfulness from the people who designed it in the first place, John Kabat-Zinn created the MSRP Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme initially for people who are experiencing chronic pain and he research mindfulness to see whether this would alleviate the pain when medicine did not work. There are a number of books created by John Kabat-Zinn, such as: Coming to Our Senses and Wherever You Go There You Are . These provide a clear introduction to mindfulness.
From Oxford, there is the Mindfulness Centre- Mark Williams and Penman they developed a mindfulness course Mindulness Based Cognitive Therapy was specifically written for people with depression they have several books such as The Mindful Way and Finding Peace in a Frantic World
Other Mindfulness resources include: When the Body Says No by Dr Gabor Mate and Ted talks the art of stillness by Pico Lyer gives a fantastic Ted Talk on Mindfulness.