Always a popular session, the group took time out this week to become stilled and to relax. Group members shared their various positive experiences of mindfulness sessions or groups, and how beneficial this had been in learning to manage extreme anxiety and to have a way of coping with and calming tumultuous thoughts, to attend and respond to emotionally demanding situations from a place of stillness rather than on the back of drama.
First of all we did a relaxing body scan, just allowing ourselves to be aware of our breathing and each part of our bodies and grounded. We then moved on to an exercise of being aware of what emotions we had and welcoming all emotions as they are there to show us something but also that there is something in the naming of emotions that helps us to recognise and calm them, as the following paragraph explains:
“The practice of mindfulness affords individuals a way of cultivating deep respect for, rather than avoiding, emotions. Cultivating a deep respect for emotions means appreciating and honoring what is unfolding moment by moment. When one nourishes whatever emotion arises, one greets it as an honored guest with an important message to deliver, rather than an enemy to contend with. In embracing and befriending whatever arises, mindfulness makes it possible for the individual to savor and realize more refined emotions.” (Khong, B.S.L. Mindfulness (2011) 2: 27)
We are posting today at the equinox, 22nd September when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal. From this point on we will now see shorter days (in the northern hemisphere) as we herald the arrival of autumn. In our group yesterday we had a focus on the changing season, saying goodbye to summer and moving into autumn and what this means for people. Feelings and meanings were mixed, for some autumn is a season of excitement and anticipation, of beautiful light, tones and hues and a special atmosphere, that which we maybe name ‘autumnal’ with a change in the air. For others there is a sadness as summer leaves, the days are shorter, colder and there is more darkness. Along with Rachel Kelly’s book; Walking on Sunshine, we considered the poet Shelley’s words about autumn. Kelly says:
“The description of an ‘autumnal tone’ which is ‘sweet in sadness’ sums up the sometimes ambivalent feelings brought on by a season that marks the end of easy warmth [ok, so for us here in Scotland the warmth is not always so easily felt] and abundant greenery. The poem promises new growth, even when the scene seems unpromising. ‘Withered leaves will enrich the soil and bring about ‘new birth’. The ‘unawakened earth’ is waiting to burst into life……And ‘If Winter comes,’ Shelley asks, ‘can spring be far behind?’
We thought more about the beautiful, natural elements of autumn as we made a collage together, this was fun, creative and allowed for a relaxed atmosphere to chat about things.
Today the group had a bit of time reconnecting with people they had not seen for a while. We reminisced that the group has been running now for 5 years this month, firstly under the name ‘Choose Life’ and since January this year, ‘A Life Worth Living’. We had a discussion about whether there had been noticeable changes in the way mental health and illness was spoken about in culture and the media and whether there was less stigma in the time that the group has been running. People had noticed that in the last five years more public figures had been speaking more openly about their own experiences of mental illness which in line with more gradual changes of speaking about mental illness over the last three decades and raising awareness of how to stay mentally healthy had lessened stigma because more people realised that mental illness could affect at least 1 in 4 of us in our lifetime, and rather than media coverage making it sound like all “paranoid schizophrenics” (stigmatising labels!) brutally murdered people, it was more understood that people struggle with symptoms of schizophrenia in ways that do not equate with violence and fear.
For the activity in the group today each person named a group or artist and everyone then thought of a track by that artist which held particular memories for them. Some of these songs and memories included seeing Madonna for the first time and thinking thinking she was hot on the ‘like a virgin’ video. Other memories included decorating to The Doors, dancing to The Beatles, random and ancient impersonators of Elvis, deeply emotional connections with songs, the beards of ZZ Top, and the iconic tracks from Oasis in the 1990’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? holding memories for people of a time that was very influential for them and Oasis provided an apt soundtrack for life at that time.
You might be interested in the following article from Psychology Today:
At today’s group we played some fun games and had some cake and goodies as a thank you to one of the group facilitators who’s last day facilitating was today. At the request of a group member we revisited a game that the group first played last year. It is a bit like ‘pass the parcel’ but not quite! Everyone brought in a wrapped parcel for the game. The game lasts for 10 minutes with someone keeping an eye on the time. Everyone rolls a dice and has to get a certain number (5 in our case) to claim a parcel from the middle. Unlike ‘pass the parcel’ you can actually take a parcel from someone else if you roll the correct number. People get to keep the what they have after the 10 minutes have ended. As the game time was running out it was really funny seeing people trying to get what they thought was the best parcel. Once the time was over everyone opened up their parcels and seemed to like what they had won. It was really nice to see people smiling and having lots of fun and leaving the group in a better place than when they arrived.
Today really showed the importance of having fun and the important part it plays in our well-being.