I personally believe that any intervention or advice given is much more authentic, if the person giving the advice has some first-hand experience in the area. Of course we can all read and study about a certain topic and that is very valid, but nothing will give you more “expertise” than having experienced what you are talking about yourself.
My journey with mindfulness started over 10 years ago when I started to get debilitating panic attacks and frequent episodes of severe anxiety. It was a very frightening experience and my world fell apart bit by bit in my own head. I felt like I was losing control as a panic attack could hit me at any given moment, I didn’t need to have a significant trigger, none that I was aware of at the time anyway. These episodes weren’t just happening in my head, my panic attacks had significant physical symptoms such as palpitations, heart racing, headaches, blurred vision, asthma, shortness of breath, sweating etc. Many times I was convinced to have a heart attack, a brain tumour, a stroke…and these “real” fears had a knock-on effect on my stress levels and a vicious cycle developed. At some stage I was literally just afraid of fear and I always have to think of the famous Franklin D. Roosevelt quote “There is nothing to fear but fear itself!”, no truer words!
At some stage things had gotten so bad that I started CBT therapy in order to try and “get better” and regain some quality of life. I had a wonderful therapist who was very open to alternative treatments and I combined the more traditional CBT approach with acupuncture, meditation, osteopathy and whatever else took my fancy. I have always been a “researcher”, I don’t just follow much appreciated advice, I like to also study subjects myself to make up my mind about things and I am a passionate reader.
I remember walking into a bookstore and for whatever reason a display about mindfulness meditation caught my eye. After browsing for a little while I picked up a few books that sounded interesting. I started to read and practice the simple exercises and I somehow knew, that this was the way to go. Back in my therapy session I spoke to my therapist about it and she recommended to keep up a regular practice. I bought a couple of meditation CDs and off I went on the most valuable journey I have ever encountered. I started to feel the benefits very soon but what also had a big impact from the start was one of the core principles in mindfulness: accept things as they are in this moment! You might feel stressed, you might be in the middle of a panic attack, you might feel like you are losing control. Don’t try to change this, observe it, become aware of what is happening. What can you feel, where are the sensations in your body?
Any other time before this, all I wanted was for these feelings to stop, I was fighting with myself internally getting more and more wound up. Now I was given permission to just leave things as they are and become aware of what is actually happening without getting my head into a tizzy in trying to regain control!! It was a revelation! Was it pleasant? No it certainly wasn’t, far from it. Was it a relief? I can’t put into words the huge impact this “simple” piece of advice has had, and is still having on my emotional well-being.
Ever since this time I have practiced and studied mindfulness, I have participated in many courses and seminars to hear and experience amazing teachers and I am passionate about the importance of mindfulness in any person’s life. I was particularly interested in mindfulness for children as I believe that the skills taught in mindfulness are basic life skills that any child should learn from a young age in order to internalise them and naturally use them in challenging situations.
As a teacher and a mum, I believe we cannot give our children a greater gift than introducing a mindful lifestyle into our families and classrooms. More than ever children are exposed to “stress” and modern day challenges and we need to step in and learn and teach invaluable tools and skills for us and our children to support our mental health and quality of life. It doesn’t need a big immediate overhaul, it can be done bit by bit by introducing small changes and teaching skills integrated into our everyday life in a playful and motivating manner.
With this blog I am hoping to make a small contribution and give some ideas on how to do this. I’m looking forward to a continuation of this journey xxx
For more information on mindful parenting and education and a practical everyday approach that can be applied by anybody and tailored to your individual circumstances take a look at my new book “Roots and Wings – Childhood needs a revolution”, a handbook for parents and educators to promote positive change based on the principles of mindfulness.
Thanks so much for your interest and support! 😉 Alex
Also available as kindle and paperback on Amazon: