The Good News

They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
by us.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh Winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and preoccupation
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.

–Thich Nhat Hanh

I LOVE this poem by Thay so much! For long part of my career, about 20 years (!) I worked in the media. My first university degree was in Communications, Advertising and Marketing and being a Belfast child I was brought up glued to the evening news every night. But I’m over with it now, I’ve overdosed on the news – it’s too much and I’ve come to the conclusion it never really changes,especially the political news – though it seems to, it’s just the same old story with different characters… do you agree? Let me know in the comments 🙂 You could have left Northern Ireland twenty years ago and come back to the same old same dramas… It seems to me to be the the same in every country…

Every day on my social media (Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin) I publish a ‘quote of the day’ today’s is by Rolf Dobelli: “We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press.” It’s so true the media wind us up. I wish were all sane and rational creatures but the evidence is clear (even those of you who are reading this thinking ‘no I’m the one sane person who is not influenced by what I read, hear and see) we’re emotional beings. We react to stories and pictures and news based on our personal history, our family history our circumstances our religious beliefs, our ideas and feelings and hormones who else is in the room or our life at the time…

So today instead of reading the news on Twitter, which I must confess has become a source of news for me now that I don’t really do the other sources or watching the Ten O’Clock news on ITV, just sit down and breath for 10 minutes. Whatever decisions, dilemmas, joys or troubles you are dealing with will not be made any clearer by watching or reading news but they may well be made much easier by just ‘simply being’ or conscious breathing 🙂

P.S. I’m not saying never to watch or read news or bury your head in the sand about what’s going on in the world. I’m just saying we all need to cut down our consumption a little and perhaps be more aware how the media manipulate us. Not to say that the media have bad intentions, I worked in media too, it just our culture of news in general gives us anxiety and makes us think everything is awful when the truth is there is lots of good and beautiful things, the negativity bias of our brain means we take more notice of the negative – all of us are subject to this and need to try to balance it with taking more notice of the good news. Just like cutting our consumption of meat, sugar and alcohol is a good idea, cutting our consumption of news media is also a good idea sometimes. 🙂

We’re all porcupines Interbeing

How wonderful is this tale of our interconnectedness…

It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold. The porcupines, realizing the situation, decided to group together to keep warm. This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions.

After a while, they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen. So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. They learned to live with the little wounds caused by the close relationship with their companions in order to receive the warmth that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.

In his talks at Plum Village before he suffered a stroke in November 2014 Thich Nhat Hanh often talked about our interconnectedness, or as he said ‘interbeing’. He said “This word is not in the dictionary yet’ but I hope one day it will be”. I use it all the time and I think it’s a word (and its meaning!) we all need to be more aware of as we cannot live in splendid isolation, we all need other people and animals, insects and beings of all kinds to enable us to live, love and flourish.

I am because of everyone else. Everyone who I’ve ever met, those who have made an impact small or large have shaped me into this person I am now. And similarly you are because of everyone else too. Your primary school teacher, your sports coach, your priest, your dog, your parents, your friends, your favourite books, films and TV programmes, your neighbours, the places you’ve visited, the adventures you’ve had, your colleagues, your politicians and the strangers in the local supermarket. We are all products of our environment, we are all part of the global village.

With my t-shirt made in Vietnam, my shoes made in Italy and my make-up from America and my potatoes from Comber I cannot live and enjoy life just on my own basis I rely on everyone else, mostly those I have never and will never meet. And of course without the bees we’re told life on earth will end in fours years. How fragile we are. How much do we need every living thing, how important it is for all of us to recognise and respect this.

Everything you think, do and say has an impact on the whole and no one is perfect. We’re all perfectly imperfect, so don’t get offended when people, events or insects do things you don’t like or rub you up the wrong way, muddling along together is how we’ve got this far and with mindfulness we will continue beautifully into the future, fully aware of our interconnectedness and interbeing to all things great and small. x

The story of the porcupine above was taken from a talk by the wonderful Tara Brach. xx

So you wanna be mindfulness teacher?

THE most common request I get on email is ‘I’m really inspired/interested in mindfulness can you tell me how I can teach it?’ Or ‘my boss wants me to teach mindfulness can you tell me what to do…’

So I’ve decided to write this blog post so I can have an easily available answer and not have to write a new answer every week 🙂

Firstly, I like to point out my sincere belief that mindfulness is not a tool or technique that we teach (though there are lots of mindfulness tools and techniques you can use) it is a path or a way of life.  It’s more like a vocation and it goes into every aspect of your life – in a good way! My teacher Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, often referred to as ‘the father of mindfulness’ pointed this out in a lecture he gave in Plum Village in June 2014. I heard it from him first hand he said clearly ‘mindfulness is not a tool or a technique it is a path, a way of life and it should be taught as such.’ 

Those who know say mindfulness is not taught it is caught.  People ‘catch’ the practice from the teachers practice – in the mindfulness world it’s referred to as embodiment.  Teachers must embody the practice. This doesn’t mean you need to be a ‘perfect’ practioner but a sincere one.  When you see a great or even a good mindfulness teacher you can tell it comes from their very being – not their knowledge of book, tools and techniques, as helpful as the little tools and life hacks are (and I do teach them all the time).  If you are not a practioner your students or clients will not learn mindfulness from you and they will go away thinking it’s not all it’s cracked up to be – and that would be a shame.  I am actually quite shocked by the number of people who just start practising and want to teach… it really does take time, it’s not a quick fix to a new career path. SO:

  1. The first requirement in becoming a mindfulness teacher is to be a mindfulness practitioner.  (If you want to become a teacher ideally you will have had a daily meditation practice for at least two years.)
  2. All respectable mindfulness teacher training courses will require you to have completed an 8-week mindfulness course with a qualified teacher (like the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction -MBSR ones I offer – the next one starts on the 10 April 2019 – please message me for an application form if interested for information)

Although over 30 of my former students are now teaching mindfulness in one form or another I (Immeasurable Minds) DO NOT currently offer mindfulness teacher training.  For a really good teacher training experience you should be exposed to more than one teacher.  All teachers have different inspirations and practices which widen your own understanding. You need to do further training in addition to the 8-week course. Working with people’s hearts minds and emotions should not be taken lightly.

To do a one-week course then set yourself up as a teacher (many people have done this and there is nothing to stop you) is irresponsible (imo) and doomed to fail.

The UK good practice guidelines for mindfulness teachers state that as a minimum you should complete a training course lasting more than one year, attend regular silent retreats and have regular supervision.  Not only will follow these guidelines support your integrity as a teacher they will help ensure your success.  Always look for a teacher who follows the UK Good Practice Guidelines for Mindfulness Teachers.

I follow all the good practice guidelines for mindfulness teachers you can see my official Be Mindful listing here . I am also a member of the UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teacher Training Organisations and the Mindfulness Teachers Network Ireland. I am also also a qualified mindfulness supervisor. I am continuously training to keep myself up to date with the whole field of wellbeing and the mind/body and I love to attend regular retreats! (as well as run them.)

Where do I go to do my mindfulness teacher training?

I did my training with the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University, Wales. When I started studying mindfulness it was the closest place to Belfast that was offering mindfulness teacher training (fly to Liverpool, drive down or get the boat to Holyhead from Dublin), but now you can learn in Dublin! I wish I could have studied there.  If you want to do a Masters like I did you can go to University College Dublin (UCD) and complete it in two years without a desertion! (amazing – it took me 5 years part-time and I had to do a dissertation).  It’s becoming so accessible it is wonderful!

But you don’t have to be an academic to be a mindfulness teacher, in fact I think sometimes this goes against the practice as we get too in our heads.  It is actually a practical and vocational subject. So, I highly recommend the Dublin City Centre based teacher training course with  The teachers who teach this course are wonderful (Josephine Lynch was my first mentor and inspired me to go to Bangor to study) and they also teach on the UCD Masters course.  Both courses offer really good quality, high standard training and will give you the confidence to teach and share the practice as part of your work or as full-time mindfulness teacher.

You can also train to teach mindfulness at Oxford, Exeter and Aberdeen Universities (please google these) and I’m sure many other Universities are also offering similar training. I also recommend teacher training with the BreathWorks as I admire the organisation and many of its teachers though I have not completed their training.

I trained to teach mindful self-compassion with the Centre for Mindful Self-Compassion who run teacher training retreats throughout Europe.

Teaching mindfulness to children

If you want to teach children it’s actually even easier! You should still be a practioner as kids can pick up if you’re just teaching from the head or reading notes but the process is much easier.  Do the 8-week programme and then apply for a 4 or 5 day children’s teacher training course.  I really recommend the mindfulness in schools project.  I have completed both their .b (mindfulness for teens) and paws.b (mindfulness for 7-11) courses and so have many of my students.  Their courses are highly researched and endorsed by schools for effectiveness.

Lastly we really do need more mindfulness practioners in this crazy world. I wish you lots of luck and success on your journey.