I have had a lot of involvement with the Bristol since i was diagnosed two and a half years ago, from my initial consultation which confirmed my GP’s diagnosis of CFS/ME (Link)their introduction course (Link)and their more comprehensive course ‘Theory to Practice'(Link), the most resent course I went on however was their mindfulness course.
Since becoming ill I had read a lot about mindfulness and it really appealed to me, which you would probably realise from my previous post on meditation. So I jumped on the chance to learn more especially in relation to my illness.
Plus there was the added bonus of getting to catch up with the friends I had made from my previous groups!
Like with the other courses I attended at the Bristol CFS/ME Clinic this course was also run as a group session, there were around about 10-12 of us in total to begin with.
It was run by an OT, there was also a psychologist (who has recently joined the team at the clinic) and a volunteer who had been on the course previously.
It was run at Cossham Hospital which is great as unlike Southmead it has loads of FREE parking, so no more circling around and around for hours.
The sessions lasted two hours, and there were lots of different types of seats, footstall, pillows and yoga mats, so that you could make yourself as comfortable as you could. The sessions were done either sat or laid down for the most part (Laying down was optional).
Each session included, a bit of theory, discussion and lots of practice! Each week we were also given homework to practice what we had learnt during the session.
Prior volunteers testimony of being in the on the course
To begin with I was really skeptical, I thought it was all a load of rubbish, I did all the homework exercises but I just wasn’t getting it. But after around week four things seemed to just click into place. Something changes in me, I started to be gentle and kind to myself and still each time I do it Iearn something new about myself
So my advice to you is to stick with it!
Why are we here?
It’s an interesting question, why was I at the mindfulness course? Well my reasons for being there included wanting to learn more about mindfulness, about how to rest more effectively, how to learn to let go to stop my mind thinking a million different things and how to apply mindfulness to my every day life to try to help manage or even minimise my symptoms.
These reasons were pretty much held by most of the group, and probably what a lot of you would hope to get from mindfulness.
After creating a fairly comprehensive list of what we hoped to achieve from the sessions we were told to put all of them side.
Put them aside? Are you crazy? I thought in my head, like a lot of CFS/ME suffers before getting ill I was a high achiever, always on the go focusing on a goal and getting there, juggling a million things all at the same time, and even since being sick, I like to look at a problem, and try to solve it the best way I can.
So much of my recovery to date has been about setting out goals, milestones and finding ways of getting better one tiny step at a time (and two steps back in many instances) and now I needed to put my goals and expectations of what I hoped to achieve to one side, why o why would you want me to do that? (I thought to myself once again)
There was however a very good reason for doing this, a lot of the time we can hold on to our preconceptions getting so caught up in striving towards our goals that it can be counter productive.
So instead we should respect ourselves and realise that there is no right way to practice mindfulness (No right way! But how can I nail this if their is no right way! My inner voice screamed)
This was a very very difficult concept for me to get my head around, but over the course is something I really came to terms with.
During each session we did a number of different practice varying in length from about a minute long to about 45 minutes, both formal and informal practices (don’t worry if you don’t know the difference I didn’t and I shall reveal all)
This was the first practice and one we did at the beginning of every session, it is something you can do anytime, any place sitting, standing or even laying down; and it only takes a minute. It is useful to do before before a longer practice as well to get in the zone so to speak.
Sit (or stand) with you feet firmly planted on the floor, take a couple of deep breaths to really ground yourself, really feel the ground beneath your feet, wiggle your toes, work your way up your body feeling the clothes, air or furniture you are touching, working your way up to the top of your head all the time taking in nice deep slow breaths.
This whole process can take as little as 30 seconds or as long a you like, it really good for settling down and starting to clear your mind, and for the amount of time it takes it can really relax you.
I do this quiet a lot during my day, especially on my working days, I find it helps to clear foggy head for short bursts, which is always useful, and I can do it at my desk, whilst waiting for the drinks machine pretty much anywhere.
I am very aware that this post is becoming huge, so I will split out the other practices we did in this session in separate posts : Informal practice ‘The Raisin’ (Link-coming soonand the formal practice ‘The Body Scan’ (Link-coming soon)
If you liked this post you might want to check out some of my previous posts: