Time for action!

As you all know, last year I began setting up InsightMind which went live in March, the same month as the country went into lockdown. I was lucky enough to write an article for London Vision about this experience. This article shows I am passionate about using mindfulness to combat life’s stresses!

Taking action to look after ourselves.

This summer many black and ethnic minority people shared their experiences of racism, and acted against it, through demonstrations and public debate. Some of the experiences were similar to my own. I have been teaching, writing, and working to readdress inequalities for many years. My first article was published for Spare Rib in 1986. Yes, I was an activist back then … and now! I faced discrimination even whilst teaching in higher education. A white female lecturer once asked me if I was the cleaner and if I had come to lock up her room! Disturbing occurrences like these can lead to disillusion and anger – even tiredness! I had a feeling of tiredness after the killing of George Floyd – my first thought was: ‘not again’, then a wave of lethargy gripped me. Yes, black men and boys are still murdered in the US by police and racism exists in Britain in 2020! It was sadly not a surprise to me that not much has changed since my encounter with the female lecturer in the late 1990s. My response to racism is as it always has been, that we must act against it in whatever way we can! Not everyone wants to attend rallies in the middle of a pandemic, however. But to me the personal has always been political which means challenging inequality is a way of life for me, like it is for a lot of BAME people. So why am I writing about racism instead of mindfulness? There is a link, because now more than ever there must be a place for self-care to combat the crippling effects of racism by taking action to look after ourselves. 

The results of trauma

So, my reaction to the news got me thinking about our ‘bodily’ responses to racism/trauma. It has been documented that trauma can lead to chronic illnesses, anxiety, and poor mental health. Trauma is lodged in the body and can remain for some time. The news that BAME may suffer adversely with the symptoms of COVID-19 is no surprise. Take people who have been globally disadvantaged for years, often live in poor areas and have reduced health outcomes and what results? Chronic illness. We also disproportionately suffer with glaucoma and diabetes. If you did not know, diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in the UK.

As a result of the pandemic, blind and partially sighted people face challenging times. I took action by using this platform to discuss the issues which affect those with sight loss like social distancing and the lack of online shopping slots. These experiences and my own spurred me on to develop InsightMind further so that we can overcome fear and anxiety and ultimately the effects of trauma.  I am pleased to announce that we have a new logo which will be followed by a new website later this year. 

Looking ahead

I cannot stress enough how much a mindful way of thinking helped me to cope with the stress, anxiety and uncertainty COVID-19 and other distressing news bought to us this year. Staying present and not judging my thoughts got me through many difficult days. My continued practice kept me on track, and this is why I am now able to take time in August to work on my book about my experiences of sight loss which will be published early next year with Balboa Press!  This book contains many of the topics I discussed in newsletters and blog posts, like combating fear and cultivating compassion. I am very grateful you have joined me on this journey. More updates to follow in the Autumn!

Community Leadership Programme 

I was very excited to learn that InsighMind was to be highlighted by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for taking part in the above programme. Read all about how InsightMind was set up in the newsletter My borough (PDF,page 5) and the article itself here in Word

New free weekly mindfulness group for blind and partially sighted people

A new free weekly online talking/mindfulness group run jointly with Dr Lisa Greenspan of LAPIS will start in September. If you have a visual impairment and are interested in practicing mindfulness weekly please email here

Enjoy your summer and keep in touch via InsightMind facebook group Mindful Visual Awareness or via Twitter .

Using mindfulness to cope with fear of the unknown

The new normal
Many of us maybe wondering what is around the corner. I am sure we are feeling the effects of the great changes brought about by COVID-19 over the last four months. Our new way of life seems to be queues outside shops, face coverings on public transport and social distancing. It is hard to imagine life will get back to the ‘normal’ we knew before lockdown.

Fear of the unknown

… is very anxiety provoking. Our own worlds have changed beyond recognition, let alone the wider world! As someone who has suffered with anxiety, I know too well how crippling fear can be. Fear can make us fall into ‘fight or flight’ – a physiological reaction brought on by what we perceive as frightening or threatening situations. We either become revved up for a fight or want to escape from this perceived danger.

How can mindfulness help?
Mindfulness taught me that thoughts are just thoughts not real events. As Vidyamala Burch wrote in her book Mindfulness for Health: ‘They [thoughts] are passing mental events. They might accurately reflect the world and your suffering – but they might not. Thinking is often important, and thoughts are valuable, but not always’. In other words, thoughts are not YOU or REALITY. Thinking of others is one way to take us away from our own thoughts and troubles.

Be kind to others
In their new campaign launched on 6th July, the RNIB asks us to be kind. #WorldUpsideDown highlights the challenges many blind and partially sighted people are experiencing while trying to social distance. They ask us ‘to be aware, be kind and offer help if you can’.

Finding compassion for ourselves and others …

The writer Richard Rohr who has authored books on compassion and prayer, inspired me to think more about loving and being kind to ourselves in these difficult times.  It can be hard to feel hopeful or even positive these days. There’s terrible news of people passing away. We are missing or worried about friends, family and the vulnerable.

Research says it is human nature to dwell more on the negative, and that we have to unlearn this by training our minds to go to the pleasant first rather than the opposite.

Through certain mindfulness practices we can learn to dwell on the pleasant things in life. In your meditation you can start with small things, like remembering a sunny day, or the way a nice blanket feels on your skin or the smiling face of a relative or friend. This takes practice – but with compassion and kindness for ourselves we can get there. 

I hope you take advantage of our meditation sessions!  And don’t forget, you can still use our free guided meditation here

Affirmations to heal yourself this Valentine’s day!

When I lived in Mexico many years ago, I remember being struck by how much Valentine’s Day was a time to remember everyone. In other words it wasn’t just reserved for romantic relationships. In the UK I notice how much this day is for lovers! There’s nothing wrong with that I whole heartedly support love. But I also believe we forget our individual situation at this time of year,  and  we dismiss the day as just that, a day for lovers. We don’t think about how we can love and nurture ‘ourselves’.  After-all, people  spend Valentine’s Day in a variety  of ways: alone, with family,  with their children or remembering a departed spouse or partner.
Louise Hay, the self help author,  wrote that: ‘an affirmation is anything you say and think’. She believed a lot of what we normally say and think is quite negative, so we need to retrain our thinking and speaking into positives patterns if we want to change our lives.  

Hay was one of the first self help authors  I read. She taught me to take responsibility for my own health through the  belief  that we create our own illness. Mostly through holding on to negative thought patterns which can lead to anxiety, stress and even anger  – which in turn damages our bodies.  By using positive affirmations regularly to love and heal past hurts we  can lift the negativity  which may cause illness. Try these Louise Hay affirmations to love and heal yourself this Valentine’s weekend and beyond! 

Pause this winter using mindfulness

I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I will be taking a self imposed tech holiday over the Christmas period! I feel it is important to have down time from our laptops and social media, so we can fully embrace conversations, friends & family time, or just taking some alone time over this festive period. Some ways you can be more mindful this festive period is to: slow down, eat and drink mindfully, connect with nature, practice self-compassion, and as I wrote above spend times with friends and family.

As I was writing, I realised that I inadvertently started my break in November. This ‘home retreat’ turned out to be a time of reflection whilst I re-evaluated my business idea, took some writing time and did a mindfulness for health course with Breathworks. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, mindfulness helps me to gather the necessary tools to combat anxiety. This particular course’s theme was around health, so it helped me to really focus on how I cope with my eye pain and headaches bought on by glaucoma. 

I was prompted to take this course because at my routine eye appointment in November I was told I might need another eye operation, so I thought I’d get a head start on building my resilience. It’s really helped and I am embracing my sitting practice. Here’s a post I found from the mindfulness project about dealing with chronic pain

Winter is of course a time of reflection and hibernation,  a natural instinct we’ve lost whilst we get busy ‘doing’ rather than ‘being’. So although issues with my sight made me pause, somewhere I was following this natural instinct.  

Mean while here is a website I found about  complementary therapies and eye conditions Natural eye care  led by Dr Marc Grossman.
See you on the other side !

Fear can be our biggest enemy

In my last post, I promised to share some information about the types of complementary or alternative health therapies I feel might be helpful for blind and partially sighted people. If you remember I suggested that vision impaired people use these therapies because most practitioners work with clients from a holistic point of view.

A common complaint from visually impaired people is that they get spoken ‘about’ and not ‘to’. Sighted people often get in a fluster around us! One example is grabbing someones arm and leading them somewhere they don’t want to go (yes a real example!). Is this fear or simply ignorance, I’d say a mixture of both.

There is no doubt that blindness or partial sight resulting from an eye condition like Glaucoma, Age Related Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy (the leading causes of blindness in the UK), are serious enough for anyone to get flustered about.

According to research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the leading charity that supports people with sight loss, sight is the nation’s most precious sense, with 78% of people interviewed in a research study saying sight was the sense they most fear losing.

However, the ‘fear of blindness’ reaction naturally comes with some concerns – not what you might think. Ironically the fear of losing sight makes us act in the reverse, such as avoiding routine eye checks and examinations! In the same study, respondents said they often ignored the first signs of sight loss; 23% of people did not seek advice from an optician or medical profession when they felt their eye sight changed significantly.

‘Fear of blindness’ keeps us in a kind of panic mode, whilst we grapple with thoughts about losing sight we ignore changes in our eyes and run for the hills or act out of impulse when we see a white cane!  Above all those of us who are blind or partially sighted are left to face the consequences of what sight loss means, in reality! Although there is plenty of help out there for us, finding it at first can be difficult and confusing. It is no wonder that a study in 2016 found nearly half of blind people going through low vision clinics suffered with depression! 

This is why I am passionate about combating the fear we ALL surround ourselves with about blindness and partial sight by using mindfulness. Did you know fear can do harm to not just our mind, but also our immune system.  Please join my mailing list to keep up to date with the debate about ‘fear of blindness’, meditations and much more!