In setting up my own business, one of my friends looked over my website and questioned “But what does it mean?”. Good point. What does it all mean to someone who hasn’t trained as a counsellor and psychotherapist? What separates Person Centred Approach from Gestalt and Psychodynamic from Psychosynthesis and where does CBT fit into all of this?
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Part of my work as a counsellor, meditation teacher and through my shamanic studies, looks at interpreting symbols and signs. Repeated themes in our lives and our dreams can bring such richness to us and enable us to see beyond the visible and into the unconscious and perhaps beyond.
Nature has provided a huge source of comfort to me and helped me to realise that there is no separation. The world responds to our own thoughts and feelings, mirroring them in a perfect dance with our own souls, helping us to see the interconnectedness of life.
There are many books and sources from the internet that speak of such things, giving their interpretation on what this symbology means, from dream interpretation to power animals. I am not going to say don’t listen to these, but I am going to say try to gain meaning from these using your own intuition. For me, these messages are really personal to me and that gives me a great sense of my own power in all of this. I have within me my own guide to sensing what sits right for me.
My friends often say to me that I am the “Feather Woman” as I am always finding nature’s treasures out on walks. Feathers, animal skulls, strange and wonderful plants and fungi; not because I am special or lucky but because I have attuned myself to where I am walking. This is best done alone. Silence is your friend. It enables you to really sink into the world around you, that mindful, meditative state where your senses become more aligned with the earth. You notice more (hence finding the treasures) and in noticing more and feeling more, the earth responds...
With ever busy lives spent rushing around, going from one thing to the next, where does this leave time to practice meditation?
We spend our time looking forwards to tomorrow, our minds always elsewhere. The next thing to do at work, the next chore to complete, the next holiday we are going on, the new promotion...endless thoughts over things that grasp us away from fully living in the present. So what I can hear some people say, maybe it's good to have aspirations, to be ready for what comes next... maybe it isn't. Our thoughts are so full of what could be that we are bypassing what is. Casting away the preciousness of now for something that may not even come to pass, forgetting the joy of what we already have in our lives.
I do believe that the pandemic has given some of us the opportunity to stop, recheck ourselves and think about what's important. For me it's all about connection. That connection to myself, those beliefs I hold about who I am and the world around me. How wonderful our Earth is. That family and friendships are what hold us together, in our own private communities and that of a wider embrace. It has highlighted the inequality of our British infrastructure and how so many families are living in poverty and just how important that teachers and school staff are to our children, especially those vulnerable to poverty. Through no fault of their own, I will add.
So what's this got to do with meditation? Well, everything. The pandemic has been a wake up call to present life and it doesn't sit very well in the bones does it? We've had a chance to look deeper at our own self and that of others' lives. The way at which the Earth is being manipulated and destroyed. We are being present to things that are uncomfortable to sit with. Fear, anger and a seeming division between those that see it as a deadly virus and those that feel its a huge conspiracy to make the world cower and tow the line. Whatever you believe, it's happening right now. Unlike most of our lives which seem to be happening somewhere else. Albeit in our thoughts.
Meditation can't stop a virus but it can help us to find a safe space in all of this. Mindfulness and meditation can stop those worrying thoughts, even for a short while and help you refocus on what is really important in all of this and that is you! I'm not saying everything else is unimportant, I am clarifying that you really are important. Every part of you. The parts you like, the bits you don't, that absolute wonder that is alive right now, within. Meditation and mindfulness practice can bring you back to yourself and allow you to appreciate and accept yourself. Even five minutes a day can help recalibrate a frazzled mind. More is better but I often tell my students to start with 5 minutes. Everyone can fit in five minutes a day.
What's the difference between meditation and mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about being present to what you are doing. This can be a mindfulness body or breath practice or just washing the dishes and focusing on washing the dishes instead of thinking about what you are going to do after you have finished washing the dishes. Meditation can be a breath practice also or repeating a mantra, or perhaps engaging in Metta which is a Buddhist method of cultivating loving kindness to the self and others. Doing meditation IS mindfulness but mindfulness does not necessarily mean meditation. Anyone can practice these, you don't have to be religious or a new age "Spiritual" type of person. Guided meditation or creative visualisations are different still. These are journeys within the mind, led by another or your own self if you need, to help us access the unconscious mind and support our own awareness of our needs.
I have been offering Zoom meditation sessions due to the pandemic (most of my work is online at the moment) and apart from a few niggles with tech and internet speed, have found it just as beneficial as face to face work. The same can be said with my counselling clients. Doing work online via a video call holds as much depth as face to face work and is as beneficial as being in the same room. Perhaps this is not a way of working that I would have chosen before Coronavirus hit but it's also allowed for a more accessible way of working with others. Some of my clients don't live nearby and I wouldn't have had a chance to work with them if platforms like Zoom didn't exist. It's also easier for some to have sessions from their own home. No having to drive and allowing more free time for sessions. Will I continue to use online working after the pandemic? Yes is the answer to that. So while I miss some of the face to face work, although I was lucky enough to hold some small nature groups in woodland, between the lockdowns, I am happy to keep the online work open.
So with that, go and breathe in the present moment. Even if for just five minutes.