‘The Universe is made up of stories, not atoms’ - Muriel Rukeyser
I entered the NHS in 1983 at the age of 18 to undertake my nurse training. After qualifying and working on a medical ward for six months I undertook my midwifery training and qualified in 1988. I had always had a quiet mind until I became anxious or stressed and then the chatter would begin. I would feed into the chatter and allowed it to become part of me. These periods did not always last and the quietness would return.
This is how it has been throughout my life. However, looking back over my career I can recognise when the quietness of my mind was a real asset and that was when I was on duty as a midwife. Being with woman was intrinsic for me to provide good care. Through the quietness I could fully be in tune with what was happening to the woman and be astute when changes happened and act accordingly. The concentration, care and sense of a deeply purposeful act brought a quietness and peace to my mind.
I had a number of bereavements within a short space of time including a Head of Midwifery that I had the utmost respect for, and my father. The chatter of the mind took hold for long periods of time and I would become self-critical and spiral quickly into more negativity.
After a number of years, I undertook an energy healing course and started to meditate for the first time. Reflecting back, this was the start of my journey back to wholeness, self-compassion and compassion for others. I attended the local Buddhist Centre and strengthened my meditation techniques, learning to become more mindful.
What does it mean to be mindful? There is an association that being mindful and practicing mindfulness is needed for resilience and that staff should undertake a mindfulness course for this reason. In my experience this was not what mindfulness is about. Mindfulness is about being fully present and not being preoccupied with the past or future. It is about being in the now.
I was passionate to gain more information about mindfulness and meditation and how it could help. I intuitively knew that I wanted to teach mindfulness and that being present had so much more to offer than being a work help to resilience. I undertook an 8-week mindfulness course based on the Finding Peace in a Frantic World book by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.
With reference to the book it explains exquisitely how we can become the self-critic of our own thoughts which incidentally may or may not be true. Mindfulness is about viewing your thoughts differently - not with harsh judgement but with kindness and curiosity. The course goes further to give you the tools to approaching difficulty instead of avoiding it. This resonated as something which I have done in the past, is to box things up and hope the lid doesn’t come off the box.
For me this was really useful as we may not be able to change the situation, but if we can sit with, and acknowledge the situation we become more comfortable with it as it is without trying to change it. When I did this, I found usually for me the situation became smaller and I became more accepting. This is just one example of how the tools of mindfulness and meditation have helped me.
Mindfulness to me is not about silencing the mind. It is about viewing the mind chatter differently and encountering it with self-kindness and compassion. The mind body connection is important for healthy living as stress can cause a lot of physical damage.
Mindfulness offers also the ability to be present with another and holding that space for them. This will create that possibility where they will feel fully listened to. This certainly helped me in my previous role as a Professional Midwifery Advocate and holding the space without judgment. Mindfulness helped strengthen my intuition which was an asset clinically. That intuitive knowledge proved invaluable as I was able to address change in a situation in a non-judgemental way.
I retired from my previous role as a PMA in September 2019 and after a period of reflecting over my career which has been challenging at times mindfulness and meditation has helped me to reach a stage in my life where I can turn the next page with hope and trusting that everything will be ok.
For me life is a story, about balance, healing, kindness for the self and others. It is a story in which mindfulness and meditation have been great help. My mantra comes from a couple of quotes from the Dali Lama
“We are here to help each other , if we can’t, cause no harm “
“Love and compassion are necessities and not luxuries, without these we cannot exist”
My own personal viewpoint after being in the NHS for almost 37 years is that life is complex and we don’t really know what is going on in someone’s life. So we need to be gentle and kind with each other. We are all a bit broken so if we can’t help we can at least cause no further harm to another, We are all in a continuum of change and how we respond to that is our responsibility. If we can bring and learn skills to help us in a positive way that can only be good. I am now a mindfulness instructor for the work place.
I am now working with a NHS Trust delivering mindfulness sessions to staff.