This pic was taken one morning in October 2008 after I was asked by the Limerick Leader newspaper to take part in a feature titled "Can Women Have it All". I remember getting myself and my daughter ready that morning - we both got all dressed up and ready to be photographed. After the photographs were taken I was called by Anne Sheridan, a journalist with the Limerick Leader to ask me what I thought about working mums having to juggle their careers and motherhood and could we really have it all?
What has struck me most about learning about mindfulness is that there is still kindness out there. There are still genuine kind people in the world. To be honest I had gone through some life experiences - both professional and personal that really made me question this and after running my own design agency for 15 years I frequently felt disillusioned with the fact that you had to be a little bit guarded with people in order to protect your business and I struggled with that. I am very open and trusting by nature and always struggled with that aspect of running my own business. In fact it was the side to running my own business that I didn't like. I didn't like the term 'Boss Lady' as it conjured up so many images for me like Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada! I never wanted my staff to be afraid of me so I treated them like friends. I cared for them in a way that unfortunately most of them took for granted and some of them took complete advantage of.
I began to think that I was too trusting and it bothered me when I looked at my children and wondered how I was going to advise them about life, friendship and work without making them negative or cynical. both myself and my husband wanted them to have the trust and openness that we both grew up with but yet we wanted to protect them as much as we could. That is one of the reasons why I am so grateful I discovered mindfulness which has lead me on this journey.
When I walked into the room the first night of my MBSR Programme I got such a lovely feeling. There was a warm welcoming feeling from the people there. We were people of all different ages, there for different - but similar reason and all hoping for the same result - to better our lives through mindfulness. Some of us knew a small bit about it - some maybe knew more - either way we all wanted to learn. That was the start of me knowing that learning about mindfulness was going to have a positive impact on my life.
From that first night of my course until today I have been so overwhelmed with the amount of lovely and kind people I have met. Whether these people have been people I have met in person or just people who I have communicated with through email or my MoMe social media accounts the same thing has struck me - these people are all so kind.
Discovering Project Goodness
Apart from the direct contact with the people on my course one of the first people who reached out to me on this MoMe journey was a girl called Margo who runs an amazing website called Project Goodness which is basically a community dedicated to noticing and adding to the goodness all around us. When Margo contacted me first I did have that moment when I regressed into my old way of thinking and thought "why did she contact me?" and "Is she genuine?" I had been so trusting in the past only to learn the hard way that it was hard not to let my defences down completely - I was after all still new to the mindful world so it was only natural my defence went up a small bit but once I brought myself back to what I had learned on my course and what I had learned through meditation that I began to listen to my gut instinct and I felt a connection with Margo. I knew that she was genuine and I was so right. Margo is a beautiful, kind girl who has is dedicating so much of her time to her website and basically spreading kindness. She sent me a welcome pack that had stickers in it saying "I'm With Goodness". A simple clever little sticker that I believe has so much impact. I immediately put one on my mug at work, another one on my computer and my daughter and took the rest from me to put on her pencil case, school books and in her bedroom. She came home from school the first day after she stuck one on her pencil case and told me that a few of her friends had asked her about it and she explained that it was about being kind and I thought to myself "Wow...how cool is that!" I thought that if these young girls were looking at my MoMe Cards and also seeing stickers like these that they might just help them be a little kinder to each other. A little more prepared for the very cynical, filter-driven world that social media was going to throw at them. A world that I thankfully didn't grow up in. Kindness needs to be nurtured, needs to be cared for and it's people like Margo who need credit for this.
It is this kindness that I have found infectious since I started my Mindful Journey. This kindness that has helped my develop something that started out as a little project into something that is now a little business... this kindness has given me the energy I needed to reignite my creativity. So while I started my MBSR Programme to help me deal with my tinnitus it had ended up benefiting me so many other ways than I could ever have imagined and it's continuing to do so every day. I am very grateful for that.
When I started my MBSR Programme with Donna Curtin in January 2016 I never thought I would be able to sit longer than 5 minutes without doing something. I was always doing something! And even when I was sitting still my mind was always someplace else. If I wasn't thinking about a concept for a new logo or an ad campaign I was thinking about what needed to be done at home, or where the kids needed to be next or what I'd pick up for my friend for her birthday...there was always something on my mind besides just sitting still and allowing myself to breathe.
So I honestly thought that meditation was something I would never be able to do. I thought meditation involved sitting for hours in a dark room or something you only did on a retreat. I, like most people had so many preconceived ideas about it that I just thought it was something that wasn't for me. I never just sat there...that was completely alien to me so I remember the first time that Donna asked us to try it on our own at home I struggled. I can remember hearing the ringing in my ear from my Tinnitus louder than normal and getting very irritated with the whole experience. I couldn't wait for the bell to ring to tell me it was over to say "Yea, I did it and it did , I tried it, box ticked".
Acceptance is Key
While Donna constantly reminded us that this wasn't a test, it wasn't something we HAD to do, like homework. It was something she asked us to try in a non-judgmental way, I still struggled with feeling I had to do it as I wanted to prove to myself I could do which is the very reason why I wasn't enjoying it. I was forcing myself to like it instead of just letting go and seeing what happened. I can remember Donna asking us how we got on the following week and when I told her my experience she asked "what if you welcomed the tinnitus? What if you allowed the ringing in your ear to just be there" and I remember thinking "seriously? The very noise that drives me crazy?!!?...Welcome it?" I honestly couldn't imagine doing such a thing. But after a few weeks of taking what Donna had said on board I slowly started to realise that what she said made complete sense. What if I just accepted the tinnitus? Allowed it to just be there, become part of me like my rods were part of my back? That's when it all started to change.
From that moment on meditation became easier, it became something that I even was starting to enjoy. It felt good to just sit or lie there and listen to Donna's voice guiding me through my breath. Actually feeling myself breathe and realising that it was perfectly okay to just sit and be without my mind running away with the next thing I had to do or pondering over the last thing I did. I found for me that doing a 10 minute meditation was something that I was more likely to stick as it was something that I thought i could fit into my life no matter how busy I was.
After a few months I really started to notice a change in myself. Meditation combined with all the things I was taught over the 8 weeks on the MBSR Programme made me see things more clearly. It helped me make decisions easier and not react to situations like I would have done in the past. I felt calmer. And what's even more amazing is my family noticed a difference.
Finding My Headspace
Like anything in life we try and want to keep up, routine is key so I decided to set my meditation space at my desk at the same time every morning as I knew that this is a place that I could sit uninterrupted (once switched my phone on aeroplane mode). This place worked for me and sets me up for the day ahead. I also decided to download the HEADSPACE App a few months ago as it gives me a daily reminder on my phone at the same time every day to let me know when it's time to meditate. I have also set a place up at home - just a chair in my bedroom - it doesn't have to be a place that has Buddah statues, incense and candles lighting everwhere (alothough I have to say that would be lovely!) but just a space that you feel comfortable in that you know where you won't be disturbed. When you think about it you wouldn't go to the gym without your runners so to meditate the surroundings have to be right.
Just 10 Minutes A Day
Now, do I meditate every single day? I wish! Bust like any working mum will understand some days finding 10 minutes feels impossible but when you think about it 10 minutes is such a short time to allocate for yourself in 24 hours but there still those days when I don't manage to find those 10 minutes. But that's okay. Once again, it's like anything in life, there are going to be days for one reason or another you can't find the time - but what I have discovered is that the days that I don't I feel different. I don't have the clarity or calmness in my mind that I have on the days that I do.
I have found the HEADSPACE App really works for me as it is very easy to use and Andy Whitcombe's voice is extremely relaxing and pleasant and I have now found myself saying "Thanks Andy!" at the end of each session. Like I got to know so many people on my journey so far, really lovely people who all have different stories but are on the one journey to better their own minds through mindful living and meditation, I feel Donna and Andy are just two more people who are helping me along the way.