Check out this new blog from Cath, where she talks about how mindfulness is helping her with her own life and in her professional capacity as a therapist. I am particularly struck by the section in which she talks about children. Her experience of children being natural to mindfulness mirrors my own. My own practice was emerging at the same time that my son was just starting to really interact with the world, and his capacity for mindfulness was both a joy and and inspiration to me. I hope you enjoy the blog, you can find Cath’s new site here.
So I was asked to write a blog about my experiences with mindfulness and how I use it in my job and life. I once had an issue with this and would refer you to my own blog for you to see this first hand. You can find my blog here.
In short I felt vulnerable and ‘judged’ by anyone who could, would or may ever see anything I wrote. Firstly; I have overcome the pragmatics of this issue, though the small and finite worries are like little gremlins that I have to watch like children playing ‘Mr Wolf’: they can sneak up on you if you forget they are there. Mindfully I watch them, but they are not in my conscious foreground. So I put fingers to keyboard and voila.
Part of my journey so far in mindfulness is the fabulous work I can do with it in therapy. I recently finished my training in Adult Psychotherapeutic counselling and I am a (trainee till 2014) young persons therapist. The amazing thing that mindfulness has given me is the ability to sit with my adult clients and just ‘be’ with them. I am able to empathise, feel and know by listening to what’s happening within my body and feel the ‘transference’ of emotions, the past and the worries of tomorrow in the here and now. We can truly be in the moment. I also discuss with my clients what mindfulness is, we use it together and the clients can take this away with them to practice if they choose.
There are a huge number of benefits (research findings support this) to using mindfulness to change the physical nature of the brain and to change/improve mental health issues such as depression and anxiety based disorders and help with trauma and many other issues that appear in therapy. I can recommend a book called “The Emotional Life of your Brain” by R. Davidson as a good example of this kind of research based knowledge. I use this knowledge to help my clients ‘be with themselves’ and be in the moment. This can sometimes be the turning point in a clients crisis and help them see the thought patterns and behaviours in their issue. Though this is not true of all clients and won’t always be the thing they need. I accept this as part of my own mindfulness.
With my child clients though this mindfulness really is a moment to moment experience. I am able to learn from my clients what this truly means, whether its creative work such as playing in or with sand, paints, collage, bricks or just talking, I can see raw emotions in the here and now. There are few defences to ‘who the child really is’ that I can see in adult clients as they do not know how to shield this part of their true selves. So client after client I see moment to moment activity and just being. A child can truly stay mindful for 50 minutes, even having the ability to notice if I am struggling. Empathy is a two way street and its shared between us without saying a word. I know I am connecting right brain to right brain, limbic system to limbic system, with unspoken body language and totally mindfully. This is such a joy, and experience, I wish I could both keep and sell the feeling, it is truly magical. For those of you who have children of any age, just watch them when they are engaged in an activity closely and mindfully to see this for yourselves.
One way I am able to use mindfulness with children is to use the SIFT method from Dan Siegel. This is to discuss Sensations, Images, Feelings and Thoughts with the clients. So far ALL of the young people have been able to do this and discuss their internal weather pattern. Something we adults struggle with! I am able to show the children how to focus on different elements and try to be non judgmental and to just notice them. Sometimes we even change the images, or thoughts if they are distressing to help them regulate their stress in order to prevent emotional overload and/or physical damage to their brains. (This helps to reduce cortisol levels). I am amazed at the young people’s capacity to engage with these processes in a way that older people seem to struggle with. They really are the mindfulness expert practitioners. Unfortunately the children I see for therapy have not always been given the tools and resources to help them manage. This is where I feel I can and do help them to help theirselves. I love my job. I really have a lot to be thankful for.