As I write this blog, a vast number of us around the world are having to stay within our homes as much as possible due to the Covid-19 virus. This challenging situation has highlighted how much we need nature and green spaces and how much we need to connect with other people. To try to help ease some of the challenges of staying indoors, I have created a free 4 week course for people who have very limited access to outdoor green space. It can even be used by people who are house-bound.
It is a practical course. There is some theory, but the real learning is in experiencing it for yourself. What you learn may be different to other people. The words in this course are just signposts and suggestions, but this is very much the start of your journey and, whilst there may be similarities with others, it will be unique to you and your experiences and insights.
What is mindfulness?
In short, mindfulness is about noticing what is happening here and now and not getting caught up in thoughts about the past or future. That does not mean we do not have thoughts – only that we are not lost in them.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
Why practice mindfulness?
It is almost best to come to this course with a simple goal of just seeing what it is all about and exploring what it might be like for you, rather than having specific goals about reducing stress etc. It is certainly true that mindfulness has been used successfully for reducing stress and that may well be a welcome side effect.
What mindfulness can help with is giving space for making intentional choices rather than repeating our habitual patterns of behaviour – this could be reacting angrily to things or smoking, for example, but it could also be walking through nature, chatting or thinking without actually noticing very much of our surroundings.
We will go into a little more detail about what mindfulness is and why we practice it later in the course.
Preparing for the course
All of the suggested activities and practices are an invitation. You are free to choose what works for you and to leave the rest. You are more likely to get the maximum benefit by investing at least 15 minutes each day in the practices, but it needs to fit with your lifestyle and be sustainable over the 4 weeks. So even if you can only manage 5 minutes one day, that is a good starting point. I would recommend trying to do something each day rather than doing one huge long session and then never finding the time again. Try to think of it as an activity like having a wash – it is time for yourself, to look after and nurture yourself. It should not be a chore, but there will inevitably be some days where you may feel more inclined to practice than others, so it helps to build a habit (and to set reminders initially).
You will need:
- A pen and paper or, even better, a journal (there is a journal that accompanies this book/course but a blank journal is also fine) (this is optional – you may join and share in the Facebook Group )
- A camera (smartphone camera is fine) and/or materials for drawing or painting
- Some seeds, a pot and some compost (if this is too tricky in your current situation, a pot plant or even cut flowers would also work).
- An idea of what time you have available to practise during the week
Each week will have something more like a meditation-style practice (do not worry about this if you are new to it – the approach here is very light-touch and does not involve hours of sitting in an uncomfortable position and it is certainly not about trying to eradicate thoughts). Take a look at the suggested practice, maybe try it out, but do not feel that you have to do the practice if it is not right for you at this time – you can always come back and try it later.
There will also be other, more practical, activities. There is also a Facebook group to connect and share with other people doing the course.
When you are ready, week 1 is here.