The first time I joined a class, I went with a view to seeing if it would be helpful for autistic children I was teaching, as I thought we were doing a pretty good job for them as far as academic and social skills went, but that, mental healthwise, we weren’t even scratching the surface. As the group started, everyone introduced themselves and why they had chosen to take the course, and everyone had significant reasons ranging from suffering from migraine, depression and anger or being recommended by their counsellor or GP. I felt very separate, and I suppose, a bit smug as I made my own introduction.
We started with a Body Scan – each of us lying down, eyes closed focusing on each part of the body in turn, noticing how it felt in terms of heat, sensations, pain, comfort and recognising if our minds drifted off and bringing our attention gently back to the instructions. It lasted about twenty minutes. It was as if someone had just closed me down for a few minutes. It felt like nothing I had felt before.
I went to every session; it was an 8 week course of 3 hours every Saturday. I did every piece of homework set. I gave it everything I had. By the end of the first session, I felt involved in something that was different, important and a bit like when you go to see a film expecting it to be a let down and finding yourself coming out euphoric and wanting to see it all over again. There is a practice I learnt in the next session called Love and Kindness where you identify someone to whom you feel grateful and someone who makes your life difficult and you wish them both, and yourself, all the good things ( peace, wellness, safety, happiness). We used to do this in a sitting position, but I opted to lie down as I felt so moved that I always cried a bit, and the tears could just fall out to the side, unnoticed. There is also something we did, near the end of the course, called Facing the Unpleasant, where you challenge yourself and take responsibility for difficulties in your life. This made me realise that I was perpetuating (and was probably the cause of) a long-term standoff with myself and a colleague. This changed almost overnight, probably due to me thinking more about the whole picture, rather than just about myself.
I didn’t expect much from learning to meditate, and I thought I was fully aware of what was around me. I certainly didn’t think I needed to change the way I thought or that by spending a few minutes every day in meditation, I could build up my resilience to cope with big things life would have in store. When I trained to be able to teach Mindfulness and Meditation in school, I thought that meditation might help alleviate anxiety for the high functioning ASC students but I found that regular sessions for the all the students I taught had a much more profound and lasting effect than the learning of anything else I taught.
I suppose you could read this and try a Mindfulness course and it be more like going to see a film everyone raves about and then walking out at the end feeling it’s all a bit of a disappointment. It might be worth a try, though.
Kate teaches Mindfulness Classes at The Meridian Centre Birmingham on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Adult Classes : 11am – 12pm & 6pm – 7pm
Children’s Classes : 4.30pm – 5.30pm
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