Mindfulness is having your awareness of what is happening in the present, being able to appreciate what is happening now PICTURE: Shahariar Lenin/Pixabay
Mindfulness! What is it?
I’ve heard it referenced by many on radio and TV chat shows. Even though I have never read any tomes about the subject of Mindfulness, nevertheless, it is a subject that has intrigued me for quite some time. Well really, I am being somewhat dishonest, as I consulted with the universal diagnostic reference book, in which we all garner our medical knowledge, and which we trust - Dr Google.
Again, being brutally honest I would have to admit that Dr. Google was less than enlightening, certainly for a human such as I who found his explanation rather confusing.
Ballyhale woman Cecelia Shefflin will run a Mindfulness workshop via Zoom over the next eight weeks
During an idle chinwag recently with a friend, the subject of Mindfulness was referenced, and my friend informed me that I should take a trip down to Ballyhale and talk to Cecilia Shefflin.
“She is a teacher in Mindfulness. She lectures in it and holds classes which teaches people how to incorporate it into their lives. She is highly qualified in the subject having acquired a Master’s from Bangor University (North Wales) while still holding down a job in financial services in Kilkenny. I have heard people give her classes rave reviews. She has been slightly inconvenienced by the Covid-19 epidemic, and she is forced to use the Zoom scenario”.
Sometimes a solution to a problem is closest to your own front door! I took myself down the R448. Cec (which I affectionately call her) and I have been colleagues on occasion on Community Radio Kilkenny City for quite a while. The welcome at her home was as I expected.
“What is Mindfulness Cec?” I fired before she had the tea poured. “The official definition of mindfulness is the ability to pay attention in the present moment, with an attitude of non-judgement so that you are curious about your experience.”
Fairly profound I felt.
“Can you explain in simple terms?” I asked. “I get the impression that you are talking about what William Shakespeare once defined as the most important word in the English language – Now?”
“Absolutely, it is having your awareness of what is happening in the present moment,” she said. “Most of your readers will be familiar with what it is like to appreciate a small child, or a beautiful sunset, where you are fully present with what is happening. These are examples of being mindful so it is something you experience yourself rather than anything I or someone else might say about the topic.”
“As a highly qualified Mindfulness Teacher, you endeavour in your courses to help people find ways to minimise stress amidst all the challenges of work, family, and a multitude of other commitments,” I prompted. “But can we always be in the present constantly? Surely that is not possible?”
“That’s correct, it isn’t possible, however mindfulness is a practice and much like someone lifts weights in a gym to build muscle, mindfulness is something we can strengthen through practice.”
“So, tell me why someone would attend a Mindfulness course” I enquired. Cecilia is equivocal in the benefits that one can accrue through mindfulness. She recounts that usually people who attend a course have some area of their life they would like to improve. They may have a tendency for overthinking, and they find that this pattern of thinking can cause them quite a bit of unease in their life.
It might be that they are stressed with work and that they are unable to leave this behind when they come home to spend time with their families. It may be that they are constantly comparing themselves to others.
There are benefits to be attained with every age group. As a society we have become very individualistic and with this comes this continual pressure to achieve and succeed and as such means many of us have become disconnected with what is important. Life is very fragile so having a life skill to help us appreciate and value our lives cannot but be an asset for all.
In what other areas is mindfulness an ally in inner problematic areas?
“Well, in these courses, each person will learn how mindfulness can be used to work with challenging emotions, such as anger, worry, anxiety, depression,” she said. “While the courses will train people in mindfulness and awareness, they also target those areas of a person’s life which interferes with their peace of mind and sense of well-being.
“No-one is exempt from difficulties and even if you have lived a blessed life, at some point you or someone you love will become ill and die,” she added. “Having a life skill that allows you navigate your life with some more ease can only be a positive thing.”
From a hypothetical viewpoint, I put it to Cec that a situation where a person who is a convinced hypochondriac might avail of her teachings.
“Yes, I believe mindfulness would help, as it would help the person see that much of their difficulties are caused by their tendency to overthink their ailments and draw their own conclusions,” she said. “Mindfulness would help them see this process more clearly.
“It is also really important to outline to people that an equally important component to mindfulness is the ability to bring kindness and compassion to ourselves,” she continued. “For many of us, we are our own worst critics, and we can speak to ourselves in a harsh and unkind way. These courses emphasise the importance of bringing compassion to your life and your difficulties and this can really be impactful in how a person navigates whatever difficulties they are encountering in their lives.”
I could have continued my conversation with the highly qualified Ballyhale woman. It is very clear that while mindfulness has greatly enriched her life, she herself is keen to point out that what makes her teaching meaningful is that she herself knows difficulty and therefore has genuine empathy for anyone who is experiencing challenges in their lives.
She has dedicated much of the last 10 years to the practice and training of mindfulness. She regularly attends mindfulness workshops. She is a member of the Mindfulness Teachers Association of Ireland (MTAI) and has her own supervisor who ensures the integrity and quality of her teaching these classes to the general population.
Cecilia’s course, which will be held via Zoom (due to Covid restrictions), starts on Thursday, September 23, and continues for eight weeks until November 4.
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