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Swirl

I was delighted to receive my copy of Swirl recently, a booklet produced by Andy Walton and Gina Yu, on overcoming worry and over-thinking. Andy Walton is a community mental health  nurse based  in the north-east who trained in mindfulness through the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course and works with military veterans through  Combat Stress, a charity that helps military veterans with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Andy wanted to produce a guide to rumination that would be concise,  empowering, uncomplicated and pleasing to the eye, and also free of mental health stereotyping. The words “mental health ” don’t appear until the last page. The result is a stylish and beautifully produced 20 page booklet, designed by award-winning creatives, including Guardian and New York Times illustrator Nate Kitch, providing accessible and straightforward wisdom on rumination from mental health professionals. It is simple, accessible and contains clearly presented information in a series of beautifully illustrated chapters. As Andy described in an interview with The Guardian, ‘if you wake up in the middle of the night with your mind swirling with thoughts, my hope is that you can pick up Swirl and that it will soothe you, help you feel a bit more in control, bring you back to the here and now. It’s something you could read on the bus on your way to work that will give you the positive mindset that you are in control of your thoughts.’ You can read more of the article from this link:

https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2018/may/15/mental-health-self-help-guide-swirl-zine

The booklet gives simple clear guidance on being grounded in the present moment, recognising thought activity and for example, the benefit of labelling thoughts rather than being subjected to the labels, making choices that stem from responding rather than reacting, and the value of building blocks of taking small steps towards a narrative of self-care and resilience. It’s a wonderful distillation of practical advice on how to work with rumination and engage pro-actively with the present moment,  building new habits to support well-being. The combination of its simplicity and design has great impact, simple truths powerfully distilled in a creative format that inspire the possibility of working transformatively with the mind.

Swirl is available from www.swirlzine.com for £6. Since publication, the booklet has  been donated for free to every secondary school pupil in the borough affected by the Grenfell Fire.

A Fearless Heart

Heart stoneA book I am currently reading and greatly enjoying is “A Fearless Heart” by Thubten Jinpa. Thupten Jinpa has been the principal English translator to the Dalai Lama for nearly thirty years. He is an adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University, Montreal, and chairman of the Mind and Life Institute, which is dedicated to promoting collaboration between the sciences and contemplative knowledge, especially Buddhism.

The book shows us how and why compassion is the key to greater well- being and how  we all can train our capacity for compassion so that we can become more resilient to the inevitable challenges that life presents us with. The book is full of thoughtful reflection and practical exercises that are based on the Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) that he has helped to create at Stanford University School of Medicine. It is a book infused with gentle wisdom and penetrating insight. Drawing on Buddhist and western psychology, it describes very clearly why compassion is so essential to our well-being, and how it can be accessed and touched and experienced right in the heart and reality of everyday life, rather than viewed as an ideal or concept or aspiration that is somehow beyond our reach. It describes simple practices that can be developed as a way of building compassion for ourselves and others in profound but simple ways.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the 8 week  Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction progamme that I teach termly in central Newcastle upon Tyne, describes it as “the bravest, clearest, and most engaging book I know on why we need to cultivate compassion”. In his introduction, Thubten Jinpa writes: “Even at the height of our autonomy as adults, the presence of another’s affection powerfully defines our happiness or misery. This is human nature – we’re vulnerable and it’s a good thing. A fearless heart embraces this fundamental truth of our human condition. We can develop the courage to see and be more compassionately in the world, live our lives with our hearts wide open to the pain – and joy – of being human on this planet. As utterly social and moral creatures, we each yearn to be recognized and valued. We long to matter, especially in the lives of those whom we love. We like to believe that our existence serves  a purpose. We are “meaning-seeking” creatures. It’s through connecting with other people, actually making a difference to others, and bringing joy in to their lives that we make our own lives matter, that we bring worth and purpose to our lives. This is the power of compasion.”

8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course in central Newcastle upon Tyne

This autumn, I’m really looking forward to offering the next 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course, which will be starting on Tuesday evenings from 27th September , 6.30- 8.45 pm in the Grainger Suite of the Mercure Newcastle County Hotel, Newcastle upon Tyne, immediately opposite Central Station The course is a wonderful opportunity to build a strong foundation of mindfulness practice in daily life, and to develop and reflect on the experience of this in a supportive group learning environment. The course is completely secular and no previous meditation experience is required. It can also provide a way of  integrating a more established meditation practice more deeply in to daily life.

Bringing awareness and acceptance to our immediate experience can help us to notice stress developing and to respond skilfully. Developing this awareness through practice is the process through which change and transformation become possible. The aim of the course is to learn new ways of handling challenging physical sensations, emotions, moods and life situations by helping us move towards greater balance, resilience and self -care. Challenges and difficulties are part of life, but by changing how we respond, rather than react to them, moment by moment they can become workeable. Each moment is a new beginning. This continues to be a profound inspiration for me in my own personal practice and daily life, and in sharing the benefits of this course.

For further detailed information about the course, or to check availability,  please read the course information on the courses page of the website, where there is also a link to a booking form.

 

 

8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course January 2016

The next 8 week course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction will be commencing in central Newcastle upon Tyne at The County Hotel, Neville Street (immediately opposite Central Station) on Tuesday 19th January 2016 . Places are currently still avaialable on this course.  Full course information and an online booking form can be found under the Courses listing on the website.

The new year is often a time when we can feel more resolved to refresh our perspectives and take steps towards  a more balanced and healthier balance in life. The 8 week course offers a practical and experiential way of experiencing and integrating mindfulness in to the heart of daily life, making practice part of who we are and how we live. The course  explores, as part of the learning process, how we can experience life more fully, and deal with our difficulties more skilfully, and how we can find greater spaciousness in the moments and momentum of our busy daily lives. Bringing awareness and acceptance to our immediate experience can help us to notice stress developing, and to respond skilfully.  The aim of this course is to learn new ways of handling challenging physical sensations, emotions, moods and life situations by helping us to access our own powerful inner resources.

The course includes eight weeks of two hour classes, and  the opportunity to deepen and integrate the learning of the course after week 6 with a full day of mindfulness practice   in the beautiful rural setting of  Newton and Bywell Community Hall, near Stocksfield.  The course fee includes the taught course sessions, a set of practice CDs and handbook with learning materials, and inbetween session support with practice if required. The course is led in a supportive  and friendly group environment. Mindfulness meditation practices, including gentle stretches are taught  and are the basis of regular home practice over the 8 weeks of the course. No previous meditation experience is required.

The course usually fills in advance of starting, so it is a good idea to enquire if a place is available before applying. On receipt of application, an orientation call will be arranged as preparation for the course and to talk about your application and the course together in more detail.