As the summer draws to a close and we start to look inwards, the Autumn provides the perfect opportunity to invest in renewal; of the mind, body and spirit.
Whether you are looking for relaxation, self-care, indulgence or a total change of direction through insight, there are courses, workshops and retreats at The Well Nest this season to suit every need.
It’s important to take holistic approach to wellbeing; looking after body, mind and spirit, to ensure that a balance of overall wellbeing is achieved. At The Well Nest you will find it easier to achieve this balanced approach to wellbeing as events are all designed with a holistic approach in mind. Working on one element of wellbeing, whilst beneficial, often doesn’t address a more long-term imbalance. Make new habits and invest in you this season. It might just change your life…
What’s on this season?
All Workshops and Retreats can be booked on the Events page where you will find lots more information on each session.
- Yoga for Menopause – by Candlelight. Friday 6th, 7 pm – 8.30 pm, £15. TopLine Studio, Stafford. A gentle Hatha and Yin Yoga session with relaxation and meditation. Postures to help manage the symptoms of menopause and tune into the body through meditation.
- Be Kind to Your Mind – Mindfulness for Wellbeing. Tuesday 10th, 6 pm – 8 pm, Free. The University of Wolverhampton in Stafford. A public seminar exploring why and how we should practice mindfulness for better health and wellbeing. If you are interested in the 8 Session Practitioner Course (below) this seminar will give you a lot more information on that course and its benefits.
- Introduction to Mindfulness – Morning Retreat. Saturday 21st, 10 am – 12 pm, £20. TopLine Studio, Stafford. A full introduction to the practice of mindfulness that will allow you to practice at home and approach life’s challenges with a different perspective.
From the first week of September:
- Guided Meditation every Wednesday morning 8 am – 8.30 am at TopLine Studio, £5. Guided morning practice of Mindfulness and Meditation to help you establish a routine of Mindfulness. Morning is the best time to practice and where you will feel the most benefit for your day and your week.
- Yin Yang Yoga – Beginners & Improvers every Thursday morning 10 am – 11 am at TopLine Studio, £6. A gentle mid-morning practice of Hatha and Yin Yoga to help you stretch out, work on strength, balance, flexibility and joint mobility in a comfortable and supportive environment.
- Eight Session Mindfulness Practitioner Course. Tuesdays from 8th October, 2 pm or 6 pm, £160. The University of Wolverhampton in Stafford. A complete course to enable you to practice mindfulness fully and to provide the tools for you to change your mind and your life. The course provides an in-depth toolkit to tackle the challenges of life from work/life stress, relationships, sleeplessness, emotional and physical pain (plus more!). All course materials and refreshments provided.
- Choosing Happiness – Morning Retreat. Saturday 19th, 10 am – 12 pm, £20. TopLine Studio. A morning retreat looking at our relationship with happiness, what it means to each of us and how we can cultivate it to live freely and more joyfully.
Welcome in the new season and find your balance with The Well Nest. Renew this season, for you.
Tuesday 21st May 2019 is World Meditation Day! I wrote recently about the benefits of a Mindfulness or Meditation practice and the difficulties of getting started.
When we are presented with an opportunity like World Meditation Day, there really is no better time to get started on the meditation journey.
Meditation is for everybody
So what can you expect as a beginner? The good news is, absolutely everybody and anybody can meditate. It seems difficult because we hear phrases like ’empty your mind of thoughts’ and immediately we have fear that we won’t be able to do it. Luckily that’s not what meditation and mindfulness are about. If we could empty our minds, we wouldn’t need to meditate! Don’t be put off by popular phrases and preconceptions; come with no expectations and you’ll find your meditation experience all the better for it.
So what will you find at group meditation with the Well Nest? A warm and friendly welcome, a calm atmosphere in relaxing surroundings, full instructions from start to finish, knowledgeable insights and teachings and guidance through your meditation experience. At the Well Nest, we love beginners – because we remember how it feels to attend that very first group meditation session and feel like a fish out of water. But don’t worry, meditation really is for everybody. We will sit in chairs (no special clothing required) and enjoy teachings, progressive relaxation and meditation.
Come and join us on World Meditation Day as we hold a Lunchtime Escape in Stafford town centre. At 12.30 pm at TopLine Studio, I will help you find 45 minutes of calm in the middle of your day. This is a great opportunity to try something that could really make a difference to your life and those close to you.
If sitting doesn’t appeal to you, why not try walking meditation. Learn to tune into the body and your surroundings in a whole new way: mindful walking classes are available at The Wolseley Centre. Spend your Saturday mornings wisely and invest in you.
You can read more about my Mindfulness and Meditation journey here. Isn’t it about time you gave meditation a try?
We hear about Mindfulness and Meditation all the time; on social media, in the news, at the doctors surgery and in the workplace…but where do you start if you haven’t tried it before?
Meditation and Mindfulness are founded on some of the simplest practices that have been relied upon for centuries by cultures that truly understood the real benefits of a meditation practice.
Although some of the practices are very simple, they can be very difficult. It’s understandable that most people read articles and think “I should learn to meditate” or “I know I’d benefit from mindfulness” but many don’t actually take the plunge. Part of that is availability, part of it is knowing where to start (what to try?) and what the experience might be in a class or group meditation.
Why not start with The Well Nest?
At the Well Nest we run Mindfulness & Meditation sessions through the week , evening sessions, courses and workshops in relaxed and welcoming environments. No experience is necessary; just come with an open mind and a willingness to learn a practice that could change your life. At the Well Nest we focus on delivering simple and effective teachings and practical meditations that you can take away and practice in daily life, right from the first session.
You are welcome to start your journey with us this month as we launch new Lunchtime Escapes in Stafford – 45 minutes of Mindfulness and Meditation on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the new TopLine Studio on Stafford Street. An opportunity to try something new that could last life time and make a real difference to your quality of life. Or, why not join us to learn the art of Mindful Walking in the beautiful surrounds of the Wolseley Centre on 25th May.
The benefits of a Mindfulness & Meditation practice
The benefits of a regular meditation or Mindfulness practice are well documented: here are just a few…
- lower stress levels
- reduced anxiety
- better sleep quality
- improved mental resilience and overall mood
- better overall wellbeing
- less instances of heart disease
- less instances of respiratory illness
- Improved blood pressure
- Improved relationships….
It’s time to make this May, your meditation month. Join us and learn a practice that could truly benefit your life and free your mind.
Mindful movement provides a combination of physical and mental benefits that can connect the individual with the present moment and help develop a greater appreciation of how the body feels and moves.
Yin Yoga is the practice of holding yoga postures (asana) for extended periods of time providing stretching of the connective tissues and release of the energy flows within the body. Through long holds and conscious relaxation of certain muscle groups, participants are brought into deep focus in the present moment. Using mindfulness techniques participants learn to feel the true experience of the body in the moment. This combination of physical and mental practice makes Yin Yoga a deeply relaxing and balancing practice.
The practice of Yin Yoga is not the dynamic flowing yoga often seen on social media, but is instead a gentle series of asana combined with breathing and focus on the direct sensations in the body. Over time, joints become more fluid as the connective tissues (fascia) in the body begin to loosen. The muscles, tendons and supporting tissues of the joints gradually become more supple allowing greater movement and flexibility.
Yin Yoga is based on the principles of Taoist Yoga and the flow of Chi (energy) through channels in the body. By spending several minutes in each asana, individuals may start to feel the release and flow of energy in the body. Focusing on the momentary experience of these sensations in the body is a mindfulness practice that allows individuals to connect more deeply with the moment and with themselves. Combined with breathing practices and meditative relaxation, Yin Yoga is a holistic approach to mind/body wellness.
Yin yoga is a great lesson in surrendering to the present moment and the sensations of the body. The practice of holding asana leads to a breakdown of mental barriers that naturally steer us away from discomfort. Feeling into poses is a great release for the mind as the bodily sensations take over. This is beneficial for reducing stress, anxiety and low mood and can allow a deeper sense of relaxation which helps with sleep and improvement in general wellbeing.
Sign up via the events pages for upcoming Yin Yoga workshops to experience the effects of the practice for yourself.
Yin Yoga and Mindful Movement Workshop – By Candlelight Friday 5th April 2019, 6.30 pm – 8 pm
Regular Yin Yoga classes with The Well Nest are coming soon!
New year’s resolutions don’t tend to last too long, even with the best of intentions. This year try taking a mindfulness course that can give you the skills to make a change that can last for life.
Learning how to practice mindfulness can have many benefits:
- calm the busyness of the mind and find peace within
- reduce anxiety and stress
- improve relationships with others
- develop patience and compassion for others
8 session Mindfulness Practitioner Courses are now available with The Well Nest. Courses start on 23rd January at Colwich & Little Haywood Village Hall.
The Christmas period is often a time of increased tension, stress or anxiety for many and can result in unpleasant experiences for individuals or families. Spending an extended period of time with friends and family doesn’t happen very often, so it would be beneficial for all if we were able to approach the festive season with a peaceful mind.
What causes stress at Christmas?
Mindfulness shows us that the struggles we go through in life often aren’t external to us (as we believe them to be) but are instead based in our perception and thoughts/beliefs about a situation. Most of us feel the pressure to get the right gifts for the right people, spend enough money but not too much money, make sure everyone has enough food and drink, wear the right outfit, attend the right events or parties, not drink too much,…and inevitably find time to demonstrate the right amount of merriment on social media…
A lot of the pressure we experience during the festive season can be found in our thought patterns or learned responses. Thoughts of how things should be and comparison to ideals or others can be harmful. If we tune into the present moment (no pun intended) and observe our true experience in the moment, we may find that we are able to enjoy the season more than previously. If something does go wrong – the turkey is dry, you couldn’t get that last minute gift because it had sold out – you can use mindfulness techniques to bring yourself back to the moment instead of getting caught in unhelpful negative thought patterns.
Tips to move mindfully through the festive season
A mindful queueing experience: You can’t avoid them, there are queues in shops, in supermarkets and on the roads this time of year. Every year we know it will happen the closer we get the Christmas, but every year we find ourselves frustrated, tense, irritated and sometimes infuriated with the constant waiting. Battling against the flow of life is a great source of stress for us. If we catch ourselves as frustration arises and instead of letting it take hold, we bring ourselves to our immediate experience of the moment. No judgment, no likes or dislikes, just observation. What does impatience feel like? Where is it held in the body? Try to feel it rather than think about it with the usual ‘why is this taking so long?’ ‘I should have joined the other queue’. You will notice almost straight away that tension eases out of your body and impatience gives way to patience naturally.
3 minute breathing space: When things get really testing (either during the build-up to Christmas day or during a family gathering for example) we often say things we regret or experience anger with ourselves or others. When we feel that a situation is getting too difficult, we can take 3 very effective steps to transform the moment mindfully.
- If you feel anger, impatience or frustration arising, catch it as soon as you are able and stop yourself from speaking or acting negatively. If you need to remove yourself from a situation, you can do so.
- Ground yourself in the moment by tuning into your breath. If you are agitated, try taking long slow breaths for a few minutes to give yourself space.
- Pay attention to what you are experiencing. Try to feel it in the body instead of listening to your thoughts about a situation or person. Bring your awareness back to the moment and your direct experience of it. Try to bring awareness to how a situation affects everybody, rather than just you.
Reclaim time: We always run out of time at Christmas. Not enough time to finish the shopping, wrap the gifts, visit friends and family, finish things off at work before the break. The constant rushing and pressure to ‘people please’ often leaves us more tired after the Christmas holiday than before it. This year, make a little time for yourself. The pressure we feel is often self-applied, so take a load off. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but a little mindful self-care can go a long way. Take a walk outside and take in all that nature has to offer this season. Take a long bath with some essential oils. Read a new book. Find opportunities to bring yourself and your experience back into the present moment as often as possible instead of living in an imagined future or re-living a past event.
Christmas is the perfect time to practice gratitude; not just for the gifts given and received, but for all the fortunate things we experience in life that often get swamped by thoughts of how life should be or what we should have achieved ‘by now’. Take a few moments each day to list the things you are grateful for…I bet that list is much longer than your Christmas wish list.
Letting go of the past will be an issue for most people at some point in their lives. We can all remember hurtful things that were said to us decades ago, or bad experiences that we (knowingly or unconsciously) allow to affect our future experiences. I think we would all agree that being able to let go of the past would provide us with more space in our minds and more peace in our lives.
So how do we do it? It comes back to basic mindfulness principles of being in the present moment, using an anchor to keep us there and staying intentionally and without judgment.
Something that should help us gain some perspective on letting go is that the past has already been and gone; it has been let go of already. What our mind is holding onto is attachment to an event, thought, experience or occurrence from the past. It’s that attachment that stays with us and effects our mind over and over again. When we go into the ruminative state, we run the past (or an imagined future) over and over in our minds. Neither the past nor the future exist; it’s just our thoughts that disturb the mind.
If we repeatedly bring ourselves back to the present moment, our mind will start to learn not to dwell in the past and slowly we will let go of attachment or harmful/negative thought patterns that seem to have power over us. One of the best anchors that we can use in our practice of letting go is the breath. It’s always with us and accessible at any time. Bringing awareness to the breath frees the mind from the past and brings it immediately into the present moment. A simple breathing meditation can be used any time, any place and can provide immediate relief from unhelpful thoughts based on the past. By being in the present moment, we are forced to let go immediately of our attachment to the past. The process won’t be easy and it will take time to be free from attachment to the past for longer than a few moments, but practising bringing ourselves back to the present moment will train the mind to let go.
If the breath doesn’t work for you, or your thoughts prove a stronger anchor than observing the breath, you can try a sense based mindfulness practice; using what you hear, see, smell, feel etc in the environment at that moment to keep you in the present.
Using mindfulness to break down attachment stems from Buddhist teachings and practices that have worked for providing mental calm and clarity for many hundreds of years. The Buddhist tradition that I follow very much focuses on making Buddhist teachings practical and accessible for the modern world. Applying traditional mindfulness techniques in practical ways means the application of this ancient knowledge is relevant to helping us solve our modern problems.
Try something old; to find something new.
I visited a primary school in Warwickshire recently and was pleased to see a display promoting wellbeing through 5 practical steps that are now promoted as basic steps to wellbeing all over the world. The ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ outline simple steps that we can all take to improve our wellbeing and are now advocated by the NHS in order to help people actively take control of their wellbeing. Starting small and building to a holistic approach to wellbeing can help us lessen or avoid more long-term conditions such as depression or anxiety that can effect physical and mental health for many years.
But what is wellbeing exactly? What are we trying to improve? Undoubtedly our mental health and states of mind, but wellbeing is a whole of life experience. An improvement in our overall quality of life and experience through practical, active steps to increase our levels of enjoyment, self-worth, physical and mental health and interactions with others.
This sounds like a big challenge, right? Definitely. But luckily the 5 ways to wellbeing really do work and are a great start to improving wellbeing.
The 5 Ways to Wellbeing
- Connect – There is strong evidence that being around others (friends, family, social groups) not only increases our all-round wellbeing, but also increases our longevity. Talking is the best therapy. You don’t have to share everything with others; start small. Make a meaningful connection instead of living in the digital world all the time. When you ask someone how they are, actually listen and pay attention to the answer. Speak to a stranger or make conversation while waiting in a queue. Try car sharing with a colleague; they might even become a friend.
- Be active – We have all read the decades of evidence that shows being physically active improves our mental health…so why do we still doubt it? Because it’s not easy to get active and stay active. But it’s not hard either. There are small changes we can make on the way to becoming more active and improving wellbeing. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Take a class after work with colleagues or organise a new sporting activity for all work colleagues to try. Go for a walk at lunchtime. Get off the bus a stop earlier and walk to your destination. If you feel like more of a challenge, take up a regular class that is proven to aid concentration, inner peace and help sleep…yoga is the obvious.
- Take notice – The basics of mindfulness; notice your surroundings. Be present in the moment and just ‘be’ instead of always ‘doing’. The only moment that exists is right now, so try to pay more attention to what is really going on instead of living in your head thinking about what has already happened or what might happen. Being mindful increases our awareness and knowledge of the self. If we know what we spend our time thinking about, we can start to change our thought patterns for the better. Living mindfully is a difficult task for the novice, but we can all try small steps. Choose a mindfulness cue; a sound or sight that whenever you hear/see it reminds you to take 60 seconds to be mindful and notice what’s going on in the environment.
- Keep learning – Not only is the mind kept active, but there is the chance for social interaction, being mindful and being active all rolled into one here. Continued learning can enhance self-esteem, motivation and can help you to prioritise goals and your own happiness. This doesn’t have to be a formal class to count as learning. You can try learning a new word each day, try reading the news in a foreign language, listen to classical music, join a book club.
- Give – By giving to others we develop our compassion which in turn increases our compassion for ourselves. Engaging in acts of kindness helps us to gain perspective on our own internal struggles and gain an understanding of the greater good. Giving your time, expertise or just random acts of kindness to others can greatly increase your wellbeing and decrease your attachment to seeking happiness through material gain.
I challenge you to try the 5 Winning Ways to Wellbeing for one week and track how you feel in body and mind. Leave a comment below about your experiences and check back to see my review of a week of Winning Ways to Wellbeing.
We all love to ‘get away from it all’, ‘leave our troubles behind’ and enjoy a holiday (maybe several if we’re lucky) each year. We have a plan of where to go, what to see, what to do and even the places to eat, the number of hours we want to spend on a beach, the sights we want to tick off our ‘to do’ list. For how much of our holidays are we actually present? Really present…paying full attention to what we’re doing in the moment, not thinking about the next thing we’re going to do or how what we did this morning perhaps wasn’t as great as we thought it would be.
We all hope that a trip away will be the ideal escape from work, from stress, from real life. As soon as we recognise that physically moving out of the sphere of our troubles or busyness doesn’t actually rid us of those things, then we can get the most out of our breaks and life generally.
Happiness and peace of mind can occur anywhere at any time, as long as we are in the present moment, paying attention, on purpose.
We can get the most out of our holidays by simply paying full attention to what we’re doing. I enjoy driving in continental Europe, and I think it’s because I pay so much more attention to the task of driving than I normally do. I’m constantly watching, listening, feeling the roads. My focus is fully on the task…and it becomes enjoyable. My mind is not on the destination and what I’m going to do when I get there…it’s just on the very moment of driving.
Pleasure and peacefulness can be found in many places that might usually frustrate us when we’re on holiday. Being stuck in traffic might seem like a waste of time leading to frustration or irritation, but it’s also a great opportunity to people watch, to observe the real life of another country or culture, to take in the sights and sounds of the places we pass through.
How to holiday mindfully
So, you’ve paid a lot of your hard earned money for a break – how do you get the most out of it by using mindfulness? There are a number of top tips for this…
- Walk as often as possible. This could be to get from A to B or to explore an area or just to get to the shops or beach. Leave the car behind. Being on foot gives you endless opportunity to practice mindfulness. Feel the ground under your feet, listen to everything you can hear in the moment; the language, the breeze, music, traffic, life going on right now. Focus on taking in life as it happens in the moment. When you are outdoors under your own steam, there is so much going on to focus your attention on now. If you aren’t able to walk, spend some time sitting outside and let your senses fully take in the environment.
- Use your senses. Don’t just look at things, take a picture and move on. We are very visual by nature and that’s fine, but we have 4 other senses to work with. Listen to what’s going on, what does the city/forest/beach/mountain where you are sound like? Think back to your last holiday – if someone asked you to describe what your destination sounded like, would you be able to do it? Similarly with smells, we only notice the extremes of good or bad. Try to focus in on the smells of the sea air, the leaves and vegetation, the traffic, any animals nearby, food cooking etc. All these things bring you into the present moment so you create stronger memories and find more peace, more genuine ‘escape’ from busyness. The same approach works with taste and touch; use all your senses to bring yourself into the present.
- Use photography differently. In the age of social media, we carefully construct or contrive images to draw the most appreciation from strangers. Try taking photographs of real moments, real life. Take photos that draw your attention to what your senses (other than sight) are experiencing. Create memories of touch sensation, smell, sound etc. In the present moment, it will draw you right into focussing on now, but later, your images will also serve as mindfulness cues that you can rely on in everyday life.
Remember, the core of mindfulness is to be present, whether that’s on holiday or at home. We often feel obliged to pack in as much as possible when we’re on holiday as it only happens a few times a year. Try to move from ‘doing’ to ‘being’. Don’t just pass through life, really live it.
Mountains are often admired from afar for the qualities that they appear to have. Some of these qualities we find beneficial and seek in life: stability, longevity, calm, unwavering and balanced. When we spend some time really contemplating the image of a mountain, we see that it is constant and reliable through the seasons; it is a home for plants and animals; it provides shelter and protection; it abides in tranquility through the centuries.
While it’s often the case that we try not to actively ‘think’ in passive meditation, we can use the visualisation of a mountain in active meditation to assist us in contemplating and finding inner peace. If we spend time on the visualisation we can imagine ourselves taking on the qualities of the mountain.
The Mountain Meditation can be used as a regular practice or as an escape from the rigours of daily life as and when required. I use the Mountain Meditation often as a precursor to sitting with mindfulness of breathing; it acts as a relaxation technique and brings focus before working on expanding awareness.
How to do it…
- Sitting in a comfortable position on a cushion or chair, have the back straight but not tense and the hands resting in the lap.
- Bring the gaze down towards the floor and gently close the eyes.
- Spend a few minutes on breathing meditation/mindfulness of breathing
- Picture in your imagination a mountain – it could be a snowy mountain of the Alps or Himalayas, it could be a forested mountain bathed in sunshine
- Try to bring your image of a mountain into clear focus
- Observe its shape, lofty peak, solid based, gentle or sharply sloping sides, its surface (rocky, smooth, dusty, forested, snowy etc)
- Notice it’s enormous size and how solid and unmoving it is from afar and up close
- Try to bring the qualities of the mountain into your own body – your head becomes the lofty peak, sitting in your chair you are rooted at the base. Your arms become the slopes of the mountain. Feel the sense of uplift from the base of your body projecting through the crown of your head.
- The mountain experiences the force of the seasons – sun, rain, snow, gales. Through it all, it sits unchanging, experiencing all that comes its way
- The mountain never resists, complains or judges – it accepts everything, just being itself
- We can imagine embodying the same unwavering stillness and calmness.
- We can experience the fullness of life and its changes through the seconds, hours, years
- We will experience the changing nature of our minds, our body, the outside world. We will have periods of shade and of light. We can maintain the peace of the mountain throughout.
- Sit in stillness for a while.
- Gently open your eyes and mindfully arise from meditation after around 20 minutes.