The first mindfulness course I did was life changing for me. I was reading The Tao of Equus by Linda Kohanov at the same time, it was most definitely divine timing for these two to combine and set my life course in a whole new direction.
The course was to help me cope living with chronic illness and pain. I'd lost everything I loved because of it, including my beloved ponies. I was struggling to work, in alot of debt and stressed about not being unable to pay what was needed if I ended up on Statutory Sick Pay, which wouldn't even cover rent. Everyone on the course was there for similar reasons, we came together, we shared and that in itself was immensely powerful, knowing you're not alone. As the 8 week course progressed I still wasn't sure how it was going to really help me. I struggled to find the time at home to do the daily mindfulness meditations, despite the fact in reality I had nothing but time. Why was sitting in a 20 minute meditation focussing on myself so difficult? It wasn't just me that struggled with our "homework" though, and as the course went on I found I was gradually managing to do them more frequently, I'd tell those around me I am off to do my meditation and I'm not to be disturbed! I see now the problem was the stillness and focus to myself that this meditation brought, I started to realise I was on autopilot trying to get through the days. I knew the pain was there but tried my best to ignore it, I knew I was fatigued but fought it, never allowed until it gave me no choice. My mind was a whirlwind of grief, sadness, stress, worry, panic etc. If I sat still it gave these emotions time to rise, I didn't want to really feel it, it was scary and I couldn't breath. I carried on reading The Tao of Equus, attending the mindfulness sessions and slowly slowly I started to allow. I started to allow the pain, to acknowledge it; I learned how to breath into it and through it - I learned to breath! I learned to allow the emotions, to acknowledge them too, to share them and allow the tears. In doing so I didn't end up a crumpled mess on the floor completely broken as I'd feared, I felt lighter. A weight lifted and a switch clicked as I started to allow myself to go gently deeper into the practice. My thought patterns around the illness changed, depression floated away and I was left with me, someone I had to get to know all over again. It's been a long journey of actually getting to know myself, there's been plenty of ups and downs along the way and though I've had some further dark times since that first mindfulness course it's always acted as my parachute, to hold me and give me a safe landing after a short spiral. I was inspired to work in equine therapy after finishing The Tao of Equus and seeing how beneficial mindfulness is, but I wanted to know how the horses felt about it and what was being asked of them. That sent me on a massive life changing path, one of authenticity, love and compassion for others but also most importantly myself. My chronic illness and pain still exist but they do not define me, they are not who I am, though they have helped me to do what I love so for that I am grateful. I spent some years feeling a victim to these seemingly uncontrollable illnesses which threw my life plans out the window time and time again, but no more. I work alongside them, manage my time and activities around them and accept at times I may not always be able to do something I want to. That's OK. I acknowledge the feelings that might arise. I used to really struggle with FOMO (fear of missing out) when I couldn't join friends, but now it doesn't matter, life is rich enough no matter what I do or don't do and it makes the moments I do manage something like go horse riding all the more special! As I've gone deeper into this work the darker times are rare, if they happen they are very short lived and easier to come out of. Even during cancer treatment I didn't hit rock bottom like I had all those years ago. I had a whole new experience to go through with anxiety like I'd never felt before and all I had learned really came into its own, knowing where to go for outside support that was right for me, and feeling able to ask for it. I have great support around me which helps keep my health in balance, not only because it's there but because I'll ask if I need it. That doesn't always come easily as I still very much want to do it all myself, but I tune in to my body and hear her, rather than tell her to shut up and get on with it. I then listen and act on what's needed. The mindfulness body scan is one of the most important tools I have learned, I use it daily, not necessarily sitting in meditation each time but now I've worked with it so much I'm always scanning, always checking in so I know where I am in myself. It's also a very important scan before I do a healing, I tune in with myself beforehand so if anything arises with a client I will know if it could be my feelings (physical and emotional) or theirs.
You can listen to the body scan here
Life now is amazing. I have a beautiful soul of a daughter, an amazing home, debt free and I'm doing what I love being able to offer Reiki and other healing to people and animals. I'm also starting further in depth work this year which I can't wait for! All thanks to an introduction to mindfulness!