By Emma-Jane Bunn

As many do; I found Mindfulness and Yoga at a point in my life where I was struggling. A bereavement, serious physical injury and chronic depression had swallowed my vitality, and although I was back at work, seeing friends and functioning day-to-day, I couldn’t honestly say that I was fully alive. I was always just “circling the drain” - feeling like it would only take the brush of a feather to send me off into a deep depression. I was disconnected, like there was a veil between me and the rest of the world, and it was taking almost all of my energy just to get by day after day, but get by I did. I think the popular term is “high-functioning depressive”.

I began healing myself, slowly but surely, with regular swimming, gentle yoga practice, and psychotherapy (no stigma here!) and it was this combination of things that unintentionally brought me to the foundations of mindfulness practice. I was very fortunate to have found a psychotherapist who incorporated simple breath-awareness techniques into our sessions and I realised that the more I began to tune into my body, the more I came to recognise my emotions; the less of a hold they had over me and the less reactive to them I was.

In the year that followed I kept practicing yoga, kept seeing my therapist, kept using a little of the breath-awareness techniques I had learned… I also travelled extensively, worked some pretty good jobs, met a lovely man, and slowly but surely my life settled down again.

Although my life had taken a tremendous turn for the better, I was still struggling a little with my mental health. Reading Ruby Wax’s book, Sane New World [1], was a big turning point for me. I’d stumbled upon it by accident at a charity shop, and although Ruby as a TV personality wasn’t really my bag, I bought it and took it on holiday to read (that and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, BKS Iyengar’s Light On Life, and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Yes, I read all four in a week, and yes they are all great books!).

As I turned the pages I realised that although the specifics of our mental health issues were different, I recognised so much of what she said to be true and my mouth fell open in amazement through the chapters where, in her dry, sarcastic, evidenced-based style; she explained the science - how through a regular meditation practice we could literally change our brains. Being aware, turning off auto-pilot and noticing things changes our neural pathways and CHANGES OUR BRAIN! I’d always known meditation was good for you, but here it was now, in print, laid out in a way I could understand, with references to studies by Oxford, Harvard and Yale School of Medicine…

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The gold at the end of the rainbow is that you can change your mind and how you think. This is called neuroplasticity. Your genes, hormones, regions in the brain, and early learning do not necessarily determine your fate.
- Ruby Wax, Sane New World: Taming the Mind

 

 

After that I devoured everything I could find on Neuroscience, Mindfulness and Meditation; I downloaded the Headspace App [2] to my phone and started practicing as regularly as I could muster.

Later that year I was incredibly fortunate to attend and complete my Yoga Teacher Training and the following Summer I signed myself up for an 8 week MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) Course with The Mindfulness Project [3]. By now, I knew that Mindfulness worked for me and I was keen to know as much as I could about the process. It became almost organic; the more I practiced, the more I felt, the more research I discovered and the more it became incorporated into the classes I was teaching, and from this came my current teaching style and my passion for sharing Mindfulness and all it’s benefits.

Below is a poem that was shared with me as part of my 8-week MBSR course, it resonated with me immediately and remains one of my favourite ways to sum up my experiences with mindfulness.

 

 
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Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

I am currently in the midst of a training that will formalise all of my experience in Mindfulness, and in 2018 I will have completed my level 4 Certificate and be accredited by the Counselling and Psychotherapy awarding body.

For now, I'm just so excited to share with you everything I have discovered through my practice, my research and my experience. My workshop on the 25th will be an introduction to Mindfulness; we’ll discuss the science behind it, cover the basics of incorporating Mindfulness into our lives, and investigate it's benefits when also combined with a movement practice.


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Mindful Meditation & Movement

With Emma-Jane Bunn
Saturday 25th November at 1.30pm

 

RESOURCES

[1]  Wax, R. 2013. Sane New World - Taming the Mind. Hodder & Stoughton. 
[2] Headspace. Andy Puddicombe. www.headspace.com
[3] The Mindfulness Project. www.londonmindful.com

If you'd like to know more about Mindfulness you can also read Emma's previous blog WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?


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