A mindful start to 2018

Katrina Damigos

On Friday 5th January, we welcomed in the New Year with a special teacher training afternoon centred around Wellbeing and Mindfulness.  Julie and Peter Johnson, both Psychotherapists and Mindfulness practitioners working in schools and educational contexts (and a married couple!), led the teaching team through the fundamentals of physical and emotional wellbeing before introducing a Mindfulness taster with some guided meditation.

Julie’s session focussed on the importance of self-care and its necessity, particularly in professions such as teaching, where nurturing and supporting the needs of others is paramount but unsustainable if teachers themselves do not take time to replenish their energy or engage in restorative activities. She illustrated this with the familiar visual found on aeroplane safety cards where passengers are instructed to fit their own oxygen masks before another’s. Julie’s citations of research in hospitals and social care systems – Julie trained as a nurse before becoming a therapist- were also very insightful. When demonstrating the positive impact of time spent in nature, she described a study where the recovery time of hospital patients was found to be significantly faster if their room was overlooking a garden than a car park. These examples along with a lively host of statistics, anecdotes, quotes and even a clip from Kung Fu Panda put forward a strong and thought provoking case for ensuring the quality of professional work through a nourishing of the personal.

The presentation was followed up with a more practical session given by Peter who guided the team through some activities to demonstrate the central themes of mindfulness; reconnecting with the breath and body and learning how to notice thoughts without letting them dominate our experience.  With compelling evidence for using Mindfulness as a tool for managing stress, improving mental health and building resilience, the team were intrigued to learn more.

Peter started with a body scanning exercise, focussing the mind away from passing thoughts and tuning into sensations felt within the body. This was followed by a listening exercise where teachers were instructed to listen to a piece of music twice, the first time analysing it and the second time aiming to experience it through the body, without thinking. In a room full of professional musicians, this provoked some enthusiastic discussion and the relationship between mind and body was effectively exercised as a concept well worth exploring.

Many of the team left the session interested in the techniques of Mindfulness, inspired by both Julie and Peter’s wealth of experience and expertise. Many thanks to all who participated and to Julie and Peter for a bright and stimulating start to 2018.

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