The early morning sun, creeping in through the chink in the curtains, brought me back into the day ahead. I closed my eyes.
In April The Joy Club was promoting well-being and, in particular, self-care. The message I – and many of us – received from an early age was the need to have compassion and care for others. To focus on oneself was seen as selfish and self-centred. The mantra so often passed on was “By focusing your attention on someone else’s problems you become less preoccupied with your worries.” As a child when I would say that I was good at something my mother would say “Mary you have to be careful of taking the praise. The glory must always go to God”.
It wasn’t until I started to practise mindfulness, which involves occupying the present moment, that I started to be curious about my thoughts. I realised that I had taken some of these mantras from my childhood on board, internalised them and they subsequently became my truths.
When I first was encouraged to take up mindfulness my immediate reaction was that I didn’t have time to sit around meditating. I perceived it as taking myself out of the world and sitting on top of a mountain chanting. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Yes, disciplining myself every morning for five minutes, developing ways of bringing my wandering mind into the present moment and observing whatever task or problem that I was dealing with was so important to master this skill.
Mindfulness was the key that unlocked my inner sanctum and allowed the real Mary to arise with all her flaws and failures. I came to realise that what I perceived as my flaws and failures were blocking my giftedness. I would look at others and see their talents and immediately think that I know I couldn’t be as good or as clever as them. I had no compassion for myself; I was my worst critic, leading me to try and hide these anticipated flaws.
Listening mindfully to something that is being told to you was one of the greatest gifts that I learned. I didn’t realise that I switched off if someone was telling me something of little interest to me. The breakdown of communication is at the heart of relationship problems. In my work as a therapist, I found that it wasn’t so much what they said to each other but not listening to each other; not only not hearing the words but missing the other senses being displayed through body language pushed them further apart. I was as guilty of that in my own relationship. When my husband would start telling me about the night skies I would switch off and take myself somewhere else in my mind.
Through listening mindfully, I discovered more about what my husband was getting out of it through his body language and the joy arising in his voice. I still don’t understand much more about the planets but it brought us closer together.
It wasn’t until I started practising mindful conversations that I realised I struggled with receiving a compliment. Something as simple as someone saying “your hair is nice today” would immediately lead me to think they must have thought I was a mess yesterday, or I’d reply “Ah, but look at how my skin is.”
Mindfulness has helped me to celebrate my good points and respect the giftedness of others without feeling challenged by them. The Joy Club is an excellent platform to dip your toe into something that you would have liked to do but, so far, have not had the confidence to do. Maybe try out something new like one of their mindfulness sessions. I believe we should never stop learning, especially about ourselves. I regularly attend the weekly creative writing classes, which are super. I am learning so much about writing from our excellent teacher, Grace, and the rest of the group.
Mindfulness is not a technique to be mastered but a journey inside of us to become one with what is already there. When we do this and glimpse what is there, it takes our breath away.
When I decided to train to be a therapist the training stressed the need to have compassion and care for oneself. They used to say how can you expect to have care and compassion for someone else when you don’t have it for yourself. It was through mindfulness I began that journey.
Now, when my husband says “I love you Mary,”
I reply “Yes, I can understand that.”
If you would like to give mindfulness a go, you can book onto one of our weekly beginner-friendly mindfulness sessions .