By Sue Weston
I am often asked: ‘When is the best time to attend a Mindfulness Training course?’ And my response is always: When life flows smoothly and all is sweet.
Of course there are those who start a course when things have crashed. And the ancient yet simple techniques of mindfulness practice offer balance and calm to them too. But it is best to get yourself geared up so when things do fall apart, the skills that support and soothe the wounded heart are available.
Our lives can be transformed in a flash – a birth, a death, a disaster. Anyone can be touched by a life-changing event at some point in our lives, and I was reminded of it this Easter when the news of the destruction in Sri Lanka broke. Imagine how many people started their day feeling safe and looking forward to being with friends and family. Then the unexpected happened and the devastation that ensued changed their worlds irrevocably.
My first time in Sri Lanka was in 1993 as a British Council visiting artist, training a group of film actors. It was a day like any other, and then President Premadasa was assassinated, sending the country into lock-down, and our work stopped. After the funeral we resumed our training with a profound sense of the fragility of life.
I visited Sri Lanka again after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. I met with a group of people who had survived the tsunami and 25 years of civil war. The course I put together for them, Training the Trainers, continues to be delivered throughout the country to this day. It enables leaders to give their communities practical heart-based skills that transform grief, trauma and hopelessness into creativity and hope.
That first group post-tsunami were a mixed bunch: men and women, from teenagers to pensioners, from a variety of backgrounds: Tamil, Singhalese, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and others. Their differences dissolved rapidly as they saw that far more united them than divided them. Friendships for life were made during those weeks, and many continue to offer those same skills today, to the communities caught up in the atrocities of Easter Sunday.
The essence of this training delved into what each one of us carries within ourselves, the often hidden and very personal stuff like preferences, beliefs and expectations, which hamper free and accepting communication. Bringing these matters into the open allowed understanding of our own and another’s situation to emerge. When our own innate compassion for ourselves and others can flourish, it brings a vivid awareness of that fine line between helping and harming.
As the facilitator of this work, and responsible for establishing a safe and confidential space for everyone, I saw that my own mindfulness practice enabled me to be with them without being overwhelmed by their personal stories of destruction, death and loss.
Life isn’t all pain and loss, it also has periods of joy. Love and kindness can sit in the same room as suffering and grief. I experienced both in abundance during those intense periods in Sri Lanka. Today, my mindfulness training and personal practice supports me in all I do.
Sometimes people tell me that they don’t need mindfulness training, all is well in their lives. I am happy for them. But change happens, and having an internal resource to ride the waves of the unexpected is a gift. Mindfulness practice offers these resources.
*Hamlet Act 5 Scene 2
To find out more, you are welcome to come to the next free taster session, or sign up for one of my daytime courses or regular practice sessions. Please get in touch for more details and to register. Pictured: Mindfulness training session
Sue Weston, T’ai-Chi, Qigong & Mindfulness Teacher
• Mindfulness Training Courses
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Founder and editor of FitNet.
Previously gymnastics coach, massage therapist and personal trainer with 20 years of experience. Former gymnast and dancer.