End of year thoughts from MiSP trustee Caroline Wilson

As the festive season approaches, it’s a privilege to be asked to contribute to the MiSP blog and have this opportunity to be in touch with you all, the amazing MiSP network and community of teachers and friends. It feels like a gift. Thank you for any attention you give to these few words.

My name is Caroline and I am one of nine voluntary trustees on the MiSP Board. Together, we work to support the staff team and are responsible for the overall management of the charity.

Being a trustee takes time and commitment but I am delighted to have the role, which combines mindfulness with being a governance specialist. As a Mindfulness Practitioner, I wish had known about mindfulness sooner, so am passionate about offering children and young people the chance to learn mindfulness skills.

It probably won’t be a surprise to hear this offer of writing for the newsletter is one of the things that’s been showing up in my mind over recent weeks, along with the question of what to write about. I have noticed my mind working on it, wandering around as minds do, with the question sometimes in the foreground and sometimes in the background, coming up at all sorts of random intervals as well as when I have chosen to give it attention. To me, it’s astonishing and bewildering just how many different things my mind, a human mind, can seem to be working on, or bringing up, at what feels like the same time, or at least one after another. The flow can sometimes seem relentless, even more so in these particularly challenging times. I am now wondering how familiar this may sound to you.

Why Mindfulness?

A key factor in bringing me to this point of writing has been using (as best as possible) mindfulness skills. One of the many benefits of mindfulness is its potential to give choices about how to relate to thoughts and feelings. When I have remembered this, I have generally been able to ground my attention in the present moment and see them as part of the process, as the mind working on a task, taking steps along the way. This has helped me with stepping back, anchoring the attention and letting any sense of uncertainty about this blog pass on by. It’s the same approach that I take (when I remember) to all sorts of tasks, events or things coming up in my mind.

To me, it seems that mindfulness is a gift and one that, as humans, we may all have available innately. But it’s not one that can generally be unwrapped and used immediately, although there are exceptions. Instead, it takes time and practice to develop, with mindfulness meditation practice being central to this.

The Importance of Practice

When I joined the MBCT Teacher Foundation programme at the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation back in September 2016, ‘Practice, practice, practice’ was the invitation extended by our course director, who said this would the most important part of the year. The invitation has stayed with me. Its meaning seemed clear in terms of building a routine of regular mindfulness meditation practice into the day, formal and informal. But I didn’t understand how difficult it might be to do this, and how or why it could be so important.

Since then, my appreciation of the importance of practice has grown continually. It’s not been easy, but noticing that practice can be difficult, and bringing kindness and curiosity (as best as possible) to that experience, is itself part of the learning. It’s mindfulness meditation practice that has helped cultivate what feels to me to be a more mindful approach in life, being aware (as best as I can at any one time) of what’s going on within and around me. There’s the possibility of being tuned in to reactivity and then making a conscious choice about how to respond. It’s helped me discover patterns of thinking and behaviours and supported me through a whole range of life’s ups and downs in ways I could not have anticipated. But it’s always a work in progress, taking a moment at a time.

Much of the time, practice for me is on my own, and the great thing is it’s completely portable! But what a delight when there’s a chance to practice in a group, small or large – the offer of a safe, welcoming space, connection with others through shared practice, the kindness and understanding of joining but without pressure to speak. Before the pandemic, practice groups were in person, but the use of virtual meeting rooms has now made it much easier to get together.

How MiSP can support you

MiSP is increasing activities to support trained teachers with mindfulness practice. The MiSP curricula are widely regarded as excellent, and the quality of teaching is central to this – mindfulness being taught by trained teachers with their own practice and embodying the skill and approach can really make the difference. Thank you for all you are and do to enable this – it is much appreciated and making a difference in the lives of children and young people, with the potential for that to be life-long.

With supporting you in mind, there are more details of the MiSP programme of practice events in our newsletters, social media, and on the website, including Sit Together, Hub Practices and Retreats. Please do have a look and come along if you can – you’re assured of a warm welcome whether a first-timer or more regular participant.

During the pandemic, I recall feeling that the daily ‘Sit Together’ sessions were akin to a port in a storm. As we all navigate through more uncertain times and pressures, these group practice sessions may continue to be a port too.

How you may be able to support MiSP

As well as thanking you for all the support you already give MiSP, please may I ask if there is anything else you may be able to do to help us? We’re a small charity and rely on course take-up, donations and fundraising to continue our work. Please do talk about MiSP, perhaps consider introducing us to potential donors or inviting family, friends and colleagues to give mindfulness a try, cultivating the skill and gift of spending more time in the present. You will see there are .begin courses starting in the New Year, which are suitable for all adults. And if you have ideas for fundraising, please do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.

With thanks again for your time and attention and wishing you many moments of peace and joy this festive season.