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It has been a privilege and a pleasure to, with you, mindfully navigate our way through this very uncertain and daunting COVID-19 pandemic through these blogs. For many of us it is still just the beginning of our COVID-19 journey and the light at the end of the tunnel is the train hurtling towards us whilst for others the light at the end of the tunnel really is daylight, a new dawn, a new day and new beginnings – whatever the new dawn may be and/or mean for each one of us. As I bring my contribution to the COVID-19 mindfulness conversation on this platform to a close, it need not mean that our mindfulness conversation comes to an end, it may just mean the beginning, as we choose a different path to start the conversation.

I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you as well as some of the mindfulness teachings I thought you may find valuable during this time. Together we explored learning to surf the waves of change and we learnt that it was possible to remain resolute and preserve our own personal equilibrium in the eye of the storm. We discovered our own unique anchors i.e. our breath, as well as how often when paying attention to the breath we are distracted by our wild and untamed thoughts. We learnt that thoughts are just thoughts, they are not our reality and that we make those thoughts our reality. We came to realise that we can’t stop our thoughts because thinking is what our minds do but that we can change our relationship to them.

On the matter of changing our relationship to things, we were invited to turn towards and befriend our difficulties rather than try to wish them away or avoid them. Although this felt counter-intuitive, when we tried, we noticed that our negative experience of the difficulty soon dissipated – somehow the burden or suffering seemed lighter and more manageable and we also noticed that in every negative situation there is a sprinkling of positive and vice versa.  Through our openness to change and being ok with not knowing we got to experience the shifts and tensions between ‘doing’ and ‘being’ mode, depleting and nourishing activities and reactive and responsive behaviour.

During our journey, we experienced the sensation of being grounded and we even opened-up to the idea of holding the image of a mountain in our minds eye as a symbol of steadfast presence and stillness. We learnt that is was ok to give our curiosity free reign, as if we were starting over again, this time with a beginner’s mind. We experienced the joys of turning inwards, discovering our own powers of awareness, our adeptness in paying attention, shifting and sustaining attention and our innate capacity for kindness, compassion, stillness and non-judgement. We got to meet ourselves at our own front door, ‘warts and all’ and befriend and accept ourselves in a way in which we may not have done before – which of course is not a bad thing given that wherever we go there we are i.e. it is not about the situation but us and how we relate to it.

Most notably in our stillness we were able to connect with our senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch) and in a heartfelt way marvel at these wonderful gifts as they reconnected us with ourselves, others, our surroundings and the wonders of nature. In the stillness, we were also able to pause, breathe, savour our moments and find peace and calm amidst the COVID storm.

On our journey, there was some discussion and exploration of formal and informal mindfulness practices and I mentioned that we could weave what we learn from these practices into our daily lives – doing so would certainly help with reducing stress, low mood and anxiety.

We are all capable of being mindful – some of us are not interested at all, some just need a reminder, some want to be pointed in a direction whilst others are interested in more than just dabbling with the concepts and practices in the way that we have.  Wherever we are on this continuum, it is important to know that this is ok – it is what it is and we are where we are. Living mindfully is not for everyone, some people enjoy staying on the hamster wheel – this is the freedom of choice. For those who do wish to learn more than what this blog has had to offer, the options include group training such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) programmes, individual consultations or studying the subject at college or university level. Please see a few links below*. Don’t be afraid to take the first step – remember that beautiful poem I shared with you in the 4th article: ‘Start close in’ by David Whyte: https://youtu.be/030YqrN4SFc

As I intentionally turn my attention to a new dawn, I do so with immense appreciation for each moment I have had on this journey with you, getting our heads around the COVID-19 epidemic. Like you, I have learnt many things – I have learnt to look at myself honestly with kindness and compassion and to really see myself and the world through my own eyes. By turning inwards, nourishing, nurturing and honoring myself I deepened my capacity to reach out and to connect meaningfully with humility and gratitude. This time has been a wonderful time for learning and growing and as we continue to do so on our respective journeys, I would like to leave you with a link to this beautiful prose written and narrated by Kevin McCormack: https://youtu.be/vFRlV-9nFAI

Links to a few mindfulness resources:

http://www.mbct.co.uk

http://www.oxfordmindfulness.org

http://www.bangor.ac.uk/mindfulness

http://mindfulness.org.za

http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/index.aspx

As we close the door on this chapter, my thoughts are moving to expanding the mindfulness conversation to sport, performance and leadership in the very near future – watch this space.

Until then, just know that if you are doing your best, it is indeed enough.

Stay safe, stay well and stay mindful.

Debbie Alexander