Mindfulness Meditation at Home

Taken from the book Timeless Simplicity – Creative living in a consumer society by John Lane

In this weeks meditation session we explored the sitting practice, followed by a short story this week instead of a poem. Do you remember the last time you were read a story? If it’s something you’d like to try again you can find some lovely ones on the Calm website here. They’re specifically sleep stories, if you know of anyone else who reads out short stories that you could recommend get in touch.

Home Practice

Within this weeks session we briefly touched on home practice. If you want to see the changes that can arrive in your life from mindfulness training, you need to practice regularly, ideally daily. The evidence points to 20-40 minutes everyday, but 10 minutes is going to be enough to bring about new neural pathways in the brain. These new pathways give you the opportunity to respond differently when under stress.

One thing that can help is using online guided practices or timers. Calm is an online meditation space that I have enjoyed, though more recently I have been using Insight Timer and Petit Bambou as I have been focusing on building my French vocabulary and they have the option of French language.

You also have access to the mindful compassion based meditations that I teach here, password Wellbeing2020 (this gets updated regularly so if it doesn’t work please email).

Another way to get you to practice is setting up an inviting space. Above is a little window into where I practice. There are no designated rooms in my house, but I’ve found a nook. When I lived in with my family in a small flat in London I didn’t have the luxury of a nook so I simply set up a mat, my meditation stool, my favourite blanket over my shoulders and would light a candle (scented tealights were a favourite). If I had time I’d journal afterwards with a cup of tea, though more often than not that wasn’t available to me. Working with what you have is important, give a sense of ritual and ceremony to the experience. You deserve this space.

Some other useful tips are to have a regular time of day, building up this habit, overtime it becomes like brushing your teeth, if you don’t do it you just don’t feel right.

Build up the time, one minute at a time could be enough. Begin with a 1 minute meditation each morning, the following week build it to 2 minutes, then gradually increase the time. You may find yourself practicing for longer, but setting a realistic goal that you can attain consistently will increase your success and the likelihood that you’ll maintain a regular meditation practice that’s not daunting.

So you’ve got one minute set aside. The invitation is to simply follow the breath in and out, finding a point most vivid for you in this practice. One minute, breathing in and breathing out, noting the sensations that you find.

Note where it was and then throughout the day in moments of stress you have an anchor to ground yourself in the present moment.

Home practice plan:

  • Create a physical space to practice, be creative, make it inviting
  • Allocate a regular time slot
  • Set aside one minute a day to be there for to begin with
  • Breath in
  • Breath out
  • Find a point within the breath where the sensations stand out
  • Continue to follow the breath
  • Repeat for one minute

Let me know how you get on, or do get in contact with any questions josephine@wellbeingatelier.com.

The Weekly Meditation Atelier

Preparing myself for work earlier I crammed the many items into various vessels. I will streamline this I am sure, but I’m a ‘you never know’ sort of person. I have wished to be a minimalist for many years. But I’m just not, I feel my mindfulness practice has allowed me to embrace myself in all of my messiness. I love having knickknacks and bits and bobs lying around. I carry folders and books, journals, diaries and magazines. I don’t travel lightly, but I do it beautifully and sparking lots of joy along the way. I love how the poem you’ll encounter later in the post references having lots of things just incase. Whilst I on the other hand don’t want to carry less, I do so with the same light energy Nadine talks of.

Following the second week in the new venue, I feel I am finding my flow with running the group in the space. It’s beautiful here. The sessions start at 10am and finish at 11am. You can park after the red and white barrier leading to a private road (to the left of the picture), simply life the pin out and push the gate, then close it after you have parked. Enter through the gate pictured and you’ll find me in the barn to the left, the building covered in ivy. Simply wear a mask into the room and you are welcome to then remove it when you arrive at your seat. If you arrive a little after the time, just settle into the practice as you can.

This weeks practice was movement based, we began by connecting to our bodies and breath and moved into some gentle and simple movements exploring our limits and edges, our boundaries. Spending this time focusing in the present moment allows us to observe our habits and tendencies, it’s a very powerful and tender practice. If this is something you’d like to explore at home you can find the practice in the online area, this is password protected, email josephine@thewellbeingatelier.com for details.

I invite you to read this weeks poem to yourself (pictured below).

The tea I served was an Amber Oolong, grown in Nepal. The tea is light and malty with a mature tasting sweetness to it. It was the same tea as last week, where I brewed it in a shorter infusion yielding softer floral notes than this week which was much more malty in taste.

My photo does it no justice, though it gives me the opportunity to share one of my favourite new rituals. My post group office is a cafe in Pézenas that I adore and reminds me of one of the many reasons we moved here.

The Weekly Meditation Atelier

This week saw the start of the weekly meditation atelier in it’s new venue, 26 Rue de Castelnau, Pézenas, 10-11am.

We began with an introduction to the practices, the space and then moved into a body scan, an opportunity to explore and be with our bodies. To close the practice I read the poem above. Each week I will post the poem here and offer a little invitation to pause and simply read it wherever you find time within your day, maybe with a cup of tea.

A home practice of undertaking an everyday task mindfully over the week was recommended, being with the sensations and colours, textures and being fully present for the few minutes the task takes up. Brushing teeth, making a cup of tea, rearranging a stack of papers. Anything can be practiced mindfully.

Keep it simple.

So until next week, may you be well, may you be at ease and may you be kind to yourself and others.

September at The Wellbeing Atelier

The latest newsletter has just been sent out, including details on dates for half day retreats in September, the Friday morning Meditation Atelier at a new venue in Pézenas and a Goal Setting and Vision Board Atelier session 24th September… Plus do you have a mutuelle? You could be entitled to reimbursements on individual sessions. Details in the latest newsletter, which can be found here.

Half Day Retreat at Le Grand Hermitage

Monday 29th June, 10am

I am delighted to invite you to a half day retreat at the truly magical Le Grand Hermitage, Clermont-L’Hérault. I will be leading a mindfulness meditation, followed by a yoga session (with a qualified yoga teacher) we will then enjoy a healthy lunch together. You then have the opportunity to relax, use the pool and enjoy the peace of this beautiful location.

These retreats are an opportunity for rejuvenation, a time to recentre and reconnect, no prior meditation or yoga experience is necessary.

The sessions will be run in collaboration with other wellbeing professionals, and are on offer throughout the summer. I will add dates to the website when they are available, and/or you can join the Facebook site here.

There is private parking at the venue.

Introductory offer 35€

Booking essential, limited spaces. Please contact me directly or access the private facebook group here.

Please do get in contact if you have any questions or queries:

josephine@thewellbeingatelier.com
Telephone (call or text +33 6 77 05 42 46)

Wellbeing and Quarantine

This post comes to you from day 5 of home confinement, in the South of France. It is with sadness that sessions at The Wellbeing Atelier are now on hold for the foreseeable future. However, this period of time is opening up other possibilities for personal growth that I am relishing and I will continue to post and make online offerings available.

We know that during this period it’s really important that we look after our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing so I thought I’d share with you some professional advice as to how to manage these uncertain times.

Occupational Therapy Recommandations

The Royal College of Occupational Therapy have come up a list of things to have in your day to adapt to social distancing and quarantine click here for the article which . Below are the recommendations to maintain wellbeing:

1. Establish a daily routines. Routines provide structure and purpose.

2. Balance your weekly routine so you have a good mix of work (activities that have to be done), rest and leisure.

3. Think about the regular activities that are most important to you. What are the most important elements in these? Can you adapt them to carry out in your home? for example, an online class in place of the class you’d usually attend.

4. Set daily goals to provide purpose and a sense of achievement. This might include working through that list of things you’ve been meaning to do but never get round to.

5. Identify the triggers that make you feel low and look for ways to reduce or manage them.

6. Talk with family, friends and neighbours to help them understand how you feel and how they can help if you need support.

7. Take care of yourself. Eat and drink healthily with plenty of fruit, vegetables and water to boost you immune system and energy levels.

8. Avoid staying still for too long. Exercise and regular movement maintain fitness and strength. If you are working form home, take breaks and eat away from your desk.

9. Have a good sleep routine. If you are struggling, try avoiding tea and coffee in the late afternoon and evening, take a bath, listen to gently music, switch off phones and computers and read a book.

10. Keep in touch. Arrange to speak to someone most days.

We are all managing this epidemic together. You are not alone in this, if you have nobody you feel you can reach out to get in touch and I can signpost you to relevant organisations in the UK and France.

The French Breathing Pause.

Now having read through that non-exhaustive list I’d like to invite you to try out the ‘French Breathing Pause’. This self-soothing tool is a new addition to my wellbeing toolkit and I have learnt it from my French husband and many of my friends here, they don’t seem to notice that they do it. It’s a brillant technique which calms the nervous system as you retain more air in the body for it to absorb more oxygen. I will take credit for naming it but not as a technique itself as this probably goes way back in French history….

Deep breath in. Puff out your cheeks and slowly release it through pursed lips.

Do let me know how you get on. Red lipstick is optional.

The Basket Weavers

My Great Grandfather was part of the Occupational Therapy movement during the Second World War working in a hospital in Scotland supporting the rehabilitation of soldiers. The profession first came about during world war 1 when it was observed that injured soldiers who were tasked with activities, such as basket weaving, had better treatment outcomes than those who were left to recover with bed rest. When occupied in meaningful activities that we need, want or are expected to do proved to enable us to maintain wellbeing and support recovery. And so Occupational Therapy was born. We’ve been nicknamed ‘The Basket Weavers’ ever since. I quite like how the French refer to the profession ‘artisanes de votre liberté’ – artisans (craftsmen/women) of your liberty.

I’ll be celebrating my 20th year in the profession this July so I thought I’d do a post about this little known profession. When I say little known this in unlikely to be the case if you or a loved one has had a health crisis. If this is the case, you will certainly have become aware of our profession within hospitals, community health provision and social services. We are the people who support safe discharges, assess ability to go home, run practical, activity based sessions to build and strengthen skills to support peoples rehabilitation journeys. We support people to live their lives independently, in alignment with their values. During my career as an Occupational Therapist I only ever worked with people in crisis. The possibilities of self-referral were limited within the structures that I was employed within.

Through The Wellbeing Atelier I have been able to realise a dream of developing an Occupational Therapy program available to all, supporting people to live to their full potential. To begin with I ran the Mindfulness and Mindful Compassion Meditation Ateliers, monthly afternoon retreats and have recently begun offering Goal Setting and Vision Board Ateliers. In addition to the groups I also have a small individual caseload, working both in person and online. Over the coming year I will be offering a wider variety of ateliers around a range of different wellbeing themes, such as a sober curious atelier, a pain management course and a carers group. Some will be one off stand alone sessions, others monthly and also a series of courses that run for 4-8 weeks. I am aiming to make as much of the content available online as well as in person, and from September sessions will be offered in both French and English.

Setting up in private practice has been a daunting process but exciting. I miss my clients and colleagues but love not having to go to meetings about meetings. Crafting my own ateliers around the needs of those who reach out and also my own specialities and interests is very rewarding. It’s still early days and I am continuing to learn and grow, if there are any ateliers you would like me to offer please get in touch via jaddufourd@icloud.com.

You can read more about Occupational Therapy from the Royal College of Occupational Therapy here or Association Nationalité des Française Ergothérapeutes ici.

Honey Oolong the Atelier tea for March

Within each meditation atelier there is a pause for tea. It acts as a transition between the formal practices and the inquiry and reflection space, before moving into the rest of the day. The idea behind this practice at The Wellbeing Atelier is becoming aware of the sensory experiences of the activity of making tea. Observing the preparation, the sounds, smells, tastes and textures. We can add these slow, simple practices to our daily lives. Simply paying attention and being in the present moment.

Our lives are made up of individual moments and the act of making yourself a cup of tea or a drink of any sort can be woven into your day to ground you to the present moment.

Honey Oolong

Each month at The Wellbeing Atelier one tea is picked to taste and explore, this month a Honey Oolong has been chosen. The following information has been taken from The London Teaclub with whom I have had a monthly subscription since 2016. Sadly they have closed subscriptions so I can no longer link to their work.

Grown in the Banten province, Java, Indonesia the tea was harvested in January 2018 and roasted in March 2018 by Dr Alexander Halim. He had a personal vision to use sustainable farming methods ro produce his tea to promote a better quality of life for the world. he has inspired other farmers locally to adopt similar methods. His tea plantation is located on Halimun mountain, near Halimun-Salak national Park, a protected area with incredible biodiversity. Halimum means ‘misty’ in the local Sudanese language. The climate is lush, tropical, and very humid, with abundant rainfall and rich volcanic soils.

Tasting notes

This unique tea is grown using all naturalisation methods. It has a sharp charcoal flavour with a smooth finish. The first infusion produces an earthly roasted aroma, but later infusions bring gentler fruit notes. Experience the full depth of this tea over 3-4 infusions.

Recommended Brewing Instructions

1 teaspoon of leaves per cup with water heated to just below boiling (85°C). You can reach this temperature by boiling water and leaving it to cool for 2-3 minutes.

Brew with a gaiwan or teapot and steep for 1_3 minutes to desired strength. Alternatively enjoy ‘grandpa style’ – drink directly from mug, blowing leaves out of the way, and simply op up with hot water throughout the day.

Take Tea at The Wellbeing Atelier

If you’d like to taste this delicious tea in person you are welcome to attend an atelier over March and April, you’ll find details of the timetable below.

This Difficult Thing of Being Human

The Art of Self-Compassion – Bodhipaksa

10/10 – A relatable and pleasurable read, punctuated with simple practices.

Read more here.

In January I read The Art of Self-Compassion by Bodhipaksa. The title is enough of an invitation for me, it is a difficult thing to be human. And as Bodhipaksa says in the book, it is indeed a miracle that we are here despite everything that has been thrown at us along the way.

This book was a very practical and clearly written account of how self-compassion practices can be brought into our day to day lives. Whilst mindfulness grounds us in the present moment, compassion practices teach us skills in how to turn towards our experiences and the experiences of others, particularly our suffering. This then gives us a greater capacity to manage and support ourselves to respond wisely to the challenges and stresses we face within our lives.

Bodhipaksa describes the four steps to self-compassion being

  1. Recognising that we are suffering,
  2. Dropping our reactive story,
  3. Mindfully accepting and observing whatever painful feelings are present, and
  4. Offering compassion and reassurance to the part of us that is suffering.

You’ll find step by step practices that introduce the compassion practices that support the cultivation of kindness to improve wellbeing. You can read through them and lead yourself, or listen to the practices with the website links he shares in the book. He has, in my opinion a beautiful voice to listen to, a soft lilting Scottish accent, this made being guided a pleasure.

Bodhipaksa is a Scottish Buddhist living in the US, he shares many of his own painful stories as examples which are both moving and inspiring and make for a very relatable read. You can read more about Bodhipaksa here where you’ll find guided practices.

I have very much appreciated the additional resources from this book not only for my work but also my home practice. I would definitely recommend it to others.

Josephine is a Mindfulness and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) trained Occupational Therapist with 20 years experience in the mental health and addictions field. Mindfulness and CFT act as the basis for the meditation based ateliers and are aimed at supporting the development of her clients wellbeing. If you are interested in attending a session with or accessing materials online please send an email to Josephine via jaddufourd@icloud.com or explore her website http://www.thewellbeingatelier.com

Instinct and Intuition Afternoon Retreat

In the next Afternoon Retreat Atelier, we will be exploring intuition and instinct through meditations and exercises that explore our gut reactions and our heart space. Connecting to these two important feedback systems within our bodies supports us to make wiser choices for our own health and wellbeing.

Instinct can be seen as a survival based mechanism within the body often felt within the gut area giving you feedback from past experiences, and warns the body of danger. Whilst it is to be listened to it can be an unreliable feedback system and direct you towards unhelpful coping strategies. Intuition comes from a place of calm clarity and is often described as being felt within the heart area which transmits information to the brain from the many neural pathways between the two, directing you to make wise choices not only for yourself but for those around you.

Through mindfulness meditation and mindful compassion practices we can train our brains to be more in touch with our gut reactions and the heart centre. Practicing in this way allows us to acknowledge when we are feeling unsafe, learning the language of our bodies, pausing and observing these sensations creates the space to decide how to respond rather than reacting.

25th February 1-3.30pm at The Wellbeing Atelier, 20€.

Content and meditations available online for the month of March for 5€.

E-mail Josephine via jaddufourd@icloud.com to make a booking or for further details.

Additional Reading

Heart Based Science

Science of intuition

Head heart and gut

Can you trust your gut?