learn mindfulness

Thoughts from a Mindfulness Approach course participant

It’s not often that you get to hear what Mindfulness is from the perspective of a course participant, so here it is directly from Pam:

Mindfulness is a term many have heard by now. Some may understand it to be the latest fad in naval-gazing, others may see it as the new fix or cure. I've asked friends and family (including those on a spiritual path)what they think mindfulness is, and they said that it's meditation, or another way of mastering our thoughts. We've all got our ideas about it.


At a taster session I went to last autumn, that was run by Anna Zannides, she talked a little about the practice of Mindfulness. We did a sitting meditation and I experienced walking with awareness through all my senses. I left there feeling more alive! Why, how you might ask. I was more aware of myself in the fullness of my environment. It was like stretching out and feeling muscles I didn't know I had.


I was initially drawn to go to the taster session, having searched for a way to stop thinking and acting on automatic - like a mechanical hamster on a wheel. I was looking for a way to stop taking so much of myself and my life for granted.


At the first session of my 6 week course with Anna, she asked: what is an unstable mind? Some answers thrown out might have included;
Someone who's off the wall
A person who is highly strung
An over sensitive person
I don't know what the other participants actually said, because I wasn't really listening. I was too busy figuring out my own reply which I eagerly offered.
"Being easily influenced and swept up with other people's opinions and circumstances," I said. My reply was based on criticisms from my daughters: for not listening to them and not admitting my shortcoming. Of course I had my reasons and justifications over the years, for not listening, (usually too much on my plate, or some variation of that). Nevertheless I took on the guilt.


Anna listened to the group's offerings and said that a busy mind is an unstable mind. There in Anna's answer, was my confirmation: I was definitely in the right place.

"So what's a stable mind?" Anna probed. I pictured myself sitting squarely with legs crossed and eyes closed in the middle of a hurricane; it is said that the centre place is calm and still. I shared my thought-picture with Anna, who responded carefully. Many people have the idea she said, that we must be like Buddha - but we are human. She continued saying that we don't have to remove ourselves from the goings-on around us, or even the ones hurled at us, it's about us learning to calm ourselves in the midst of it.


"Even the Dai Lai Lama has said he can get angry or upset at times." Anna said smiling.
I was wrong, but I felt like I was in a safe space to make a mistake and learn from it. In my first class, I got clear about what is a stable and unstable mind. Learning how to observe what I think and feel, and the way I think and feel - with acceptance of where I am, is all on the path to becoming calm. This seems more do-able than the picture I was holding on to, the one with me sitting in 'the eye of the storm'.


With this distinction made, I knew that I would love the peace and stability that comes with more self awareness and acceptance.


Next, Anna told us to walk slowly round the room noting the shifts of pressure on the souls of our feet and the shifting weight of our bodies from the left-side to the right. She also asked us to notice feelings and sensations in our bodies.

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I could feel the spongyness of my trainers as I pressed my heel down on the floor. I felt the tension in my ankles as I slowly shifted my weight from side to side. I felt a little anxious about bumping into the woman in front of me and thoughts about walking too slowly also came crowding in. Anna gave the group permission to accept all the thoughts and sensations that each of us had. It felt liberating to know there wasn't anything to get wrong.


For homework, Anna wanted us to observe our thoughts and journal them. That was the end of my first week's class. How did it help me? It's too early to tell. Mindfulness is not a magic trick, or superglue, or a band-aid plaster. During the session, I was stopped in my tracks to explore some of my thinking and to experience myself and my setting more fully. That's no small thing.

Anna is very down-to-earth and explained mindfulness with lots of real, everyday examples based on her experiences and learning. I feel stimulated and ready to learn more at the next class.


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Your Mind is Your Reality

Through my Mindfulness practice I have come to really see how my mind is the lens through which I experience life. Whatever we think is our reality, however we don't always realise the importance of fully understanding this. When we start to be totally aware of what our mind is doing, we can see how distorted it can be. 

What I have come to accept is that I can turn a good situation into a bad one just through my thoughts. I can turn a loving, kind person into my enemy, through my negative thoughts. I can be angry for no reason, except that my mind said there was a reason. Mindfulness has taught me that I am at the mercy of my mind unless I learn how to tame this wild animal.

Of course I am also guided by the great Buddhist teachings after all what Buddha taught is mind training.  

"The Mind is everything. What you think you become" - Buddha

Knowing that our mind is the lens through which we experience life is both good and bad news. It means we are in charge of how we perceive everything in our life. We can change it just from the way we interpret any given experience. The bad thing about that is, we now have to take full responsibility for everything, no more blaming outside entities!

Does this mean that there are no "bad" experiences or that we should sugar coat everything so we deny pain and suffering? Certainly not, it's this very thing that creates our suffering, pretending things are not as they are doesn't change anything. 

One thing that really gave me a wake up call was when my marriage ended. It was the first time that I actually became aware of how quick the mind could change. It took a second to change from seeing my ex-husband as the "good" guy to seeing him as an enemy. That's how powerful our mind is, it only takes a second to change our mind if we are hurt or threatened.  

Every minute of the day we change how we see a particular person just from what they say to us or how they behave. One minute we are crazy in love because everything is going our way, then we hate the very same person because they did something we didn't want. That person hasn't changed, they are still the same but our mind has made up a story to convince us differently.

How many times do you make up your mind about someone you see? You quickly judge a stranger, based on their clothes, colour, gender and a whole set of other labels. They can instantly be a threat, until they smile at you and suddenly your mind tells you, no they are nice after all. 

The mind is it's own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven - John Milton

How true is this? Our mind can make our life heaven or hell, how many states of mind do you go through in one day? I know that my mind changes in an instant. I can be as calm as a still stream in the morning until I get in the car and someone cuts me up, then suddenly the world is an ugly place. 

So here's the thing, Mindfulness teaches us to catch that thought before it goes off on one, before it takes control and leads us into muddy waters. Mindfulness teaches us to Stop - Breath - And take a step back. 

Do you know anyone who is constantly angry, or that can't see good thing in anyone else? Perhaps you see it in yourself? Now you are aware of the power of the mind, you know you are also able to change. And Mindfulness can provide the path for this change. 

Change your mind - Change your life

What is Mindfulness?

What is Mindfulness?

It's difficult to define something that is a felt sense, an experience and not an intellectual concept. There is already so much out there about Mindfulness, that it has over complicated what should be a very simple practice.

In it's essence, Mindfulness is a way of life. It's a purposeful effort to pay attention to what is going on right this moment. In this video I try to demonstrate how you begin to develop mindful awareness in everyday situations.

Mindfulness is learning how to accept and deal with the ordinary situations of our daily life

In the West we tend to look at most things from the point of "what will I gain?"  That's why when someone asks me what they will gain from practising Mindfulness, they are a little apprehensive when I reply - "let's see!"

As Mindfulness practitioners we always start with a beginners mind, everyday is a new day, every moment a new moment. If we can stay with that fresh mind then we are beginning to practice Mindfulness. As soon as we start looking for benefits, progress and achievement, we are no longer in the present moment. We are now venturing into the comparing of ourselves to a past self or a future better self because right now we are not good enough. And this is where we lose the point, that the only moment that exists is this one.

A short video where I try to describe Mindfulness in action.

A short story to explain mindfulness in action. To learn more visit mindfulnessapproach.com

If you want to learn more about Mindfulness, why not join our course in London starting in October. Click here for more details