Mindfulness for Depression

This week has been extremely stressful. Work has been very busy and I’ve felt under a lot of pressure. The week started on Monday with a client complaining about me and asking for me to be removed from their account and ended on Friday with a conference call with the three directors of the company and a member of my team, where I got well and truly bollocked.

I have been referred to a Mindfulness Course with CBT through the Suffolk Wellbeing service, which is designed to help people with recurring depression to avoid relapse. The course is every Friday between 6 and 8pm, so my bosses agreed that I could finish work at 5.30. Unfortunately two of the Directors asked me to do something at the last minute and I didn’t finish until 5.45 and what with getting stuck in traffic, I ended up arriving thirty minutes late.

The facilitator asked us to introduce ourselves to the person sitting next to us. The lady sitting next to me and I just looked at each other and then I said abruptly,

“So what’s yer name then?”

In a strong accent she said, “Shall I go first then?” which I heard as “Shaggal Guffirst.”

I blinked. What sort of name as Shaggal? I thought I must have misheard.

“Sorry, can you say that again?”

Again I heard, “Shaggal Guffirst.”

“Shaggal?” I said incredulously. As soon as the words left my lips I felt that I made a faux pas. The lady looked at me.

“SHALL I GO FIRST THEN?” she said slowly and loudly, as if talking to a child.

I laughed out loud and apologised. She seemed unamused.

***

The facilitator talked about the seven principles of mindfulness: non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go. He explained the importance of being present and aware of everything and looking at everything as if for the first time.

“We’ll be starting with an eating meditation,” he said, picking up a bowl and a spoon.

“Did he just say eating meditation?” I thought, thinking I must have misheard again. My head was still in  a spin from the rush to arrive on time.

To my delight, it turned out that it was an eating meditation. I saw him dropping small things into the bowl, which I hoped was chocolate but which looked more like raisins. He then went around the room using the spoon to drop one or two raisins into everyone’s hands. Being mindful brought my awareness to my inner dialogue.

“Oh crap. Is that raisins? I hate raisins.”

“I wonder if I have to eat it.”

“Think about it with a beginner’s mind, as if you’ve never seen or tried a raisin before.”

“Oh crap, he’s put two in my hand. I’m going to have to eat two.”

I wondered if eating the raisin mindfully with a beginner’s mind might mean that I did like raisins after all.

The facilitator asked us to really look at the raisins. To squeeze them, to hold them up to the light, to look at the creases, to listen them, to squeeze them next to our ears. I was amazed to hear a distinct sound as I did so.

We then placed them on our bottom lip for a few moments and noticed the sensations, before placing them in our mouths, moving them around our lips and our gums with our tongue and then finally slowly chewing and swallowing.

I have to admit, it was a very profound experience. I have read a lot of stuff about eating consciously and this brought it to a new level. I didn’t think I could enjoy my food unless I was stuffing it in my face and this exercise proved otherwise.

We moved on to a body scan meditation and it was difficult for me to be non-judging and have a beginner’s mind. I have meditated for years and I was slightly scornful of what I considered to be a “secular” form of meditation. There was a part of me however, that was very impressed that the NHS was funding a mindfulness meditation course and I felt that maybe there’s hope for the world yet. Apparently studies have proven that taking part in such a course can significantly reduce the chance of a relapse into depression.

I reminded myself of non-judging and beginner’s mind and started the meditation with that attitude. A couple of times I felt bored and wondered how on earth I would last for half an hour. I kept bringing myself back to the breath and back to the meditation. The meditation lasted for well over half an hour and I was pleasantly surprised to note that actually the time passed really quickly and when we finished, I felt extremely relaxed.

I’ve got a feeling that this mindfulness course will benefit me tremendously. It’s an eight-week course. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

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