Spirituality group

Last night we held the first mindful meditation/Christian spirituality session.  Truth to tell I was a tad nervous.  Not only had thirteen people gathered in my front room to ‘give it a try’ but I had also trumpeted the Blackbird project at the crowded church meeting last week.  I had put myself on trial!

Some of the potential issues for me were:

  • Will this be ‘enough’ for the people who already go to church?
  • Will this be ‘enough/too much’ for the people who only want mindfulness meditations?
  • Thirteen people are too many for the intimacy and confidentiality I want to encourage.
  • Will the people who wanted to come but couldn’t feel left out and excluded when we meet next month?

There were lots more of these concerns.  Yet none of these seemed to be issues for the people who came.  My reflection is that for those already in church it opened up a whole new road to walk down to discover a totally different perception of God.  For those who wanted meditation alone, it gave them enough of that and more besides (we did two meditations).  And on the issue of the group being too large people said they felt that they knew one another well enough to allow intimacy and confidentiality.  I’m not sure about my last concern but I can only do my best to keep channels open and a space for them to feel connected.

spiritual DNA pic

What did we talk about?  Well, we talked about science and God. We talked about consciousness and epigenetics.  About connectedness – together as a group and to those we love and DNA. We talked about the word LORD, Yahweh, YHWH and Ruah.  Was it ‘highbrow’?  I hope not, but it was down to earth and informative and we went some way to joining the dots of life and breathing a sigh of relief.  A central theme to the 90 minutes was No Judgement – of ourselves or others.  A good start that people seemed to enjoy.

Why did I do that?

Do you ever regret the things you agreed to do?  I ask because a while ago I was asked to write a theological article.  My immediate reaction was ‘Yeah, I can do that!  Let me know more later’.  I must have felt good about something that was going on – you know, when anyone can ask you anything and you feel so buoyed that nothing is impossible.  So saying yes was the most natural thing in the world.

Well, now the time is fast approaching and I have to put pen to paper, submit it for scrutiny and wait and see. This does not feel like a good idea at all.  And then I saw on the rota of contributors that Frances Young will publish her article immediately before mine. It’s a good job that the most used phrase in the Bible is ‘Do not fear!’regrets

I have noticed in the mindfulness sessions that how we feel about something greatly affects what we think we can do.  If we feel rubbish, then the world is rubbish.  If we feel good, then the world is good. Our emotions drive how we live our lives.  Yet I have also noticed as a  ‘pioneer’ that almost every day is about doing something that I have not done before. I often have no idea about how I’m going to do it, only that an idea might be a good one so we need to get it done.  It’s a bit like Grommit in the ‘Wrong Trousers’ where he picks up the spare track and lays it frantically in the hope that he can hang on.

So I’m off to lay some tracks, to think hard, to have some fun and put mindfulness to the test!




It’s all go!

mindfulnessdefn4It’s been a particularly busy period for the project and I’m glad to say that things are moving in the right direction.  Of course, when I say, ‘right’ I mean the way I think it ought to go which doesn’t mean ultimately that I’m correct, just that we are on the track I want it to be on at this time.

Last month I responded to a need that I saw developing amongst schools so I took myself onto a course and added to the skills I already have.  I am now qualified to teach mindfulness not only to 11-18 year olds but also to teach the teachers of 11-18 year olds.  Consequently I am now going into to educational establishments to teach mindfulness on behalf of Huddersfield Methodist Circuit.  Wherever I go and who ever I meet I tell them of the generosity of the Methodists in Huddersfield and releasing me to help release others from powerful and controlling thoughts via mindfulness and they are all aghast with admiration – and so am I!

So now I am running public mindfulness courses – some paid and some for free (for those who can’t afford a course); I am going into places of learning to teach the students and also the staff;  we are just about to begin our first intentional community to explore mindfulness from a Christian perspective as spiritual explorers made up from people who attended the mindfulness course.

We have come along way in a very short space of time.  What happens from here is important as I hope that those who fund the project will be able to see just how different this is to what we are used to in churches and just how close to the Gospel mindfulness can be and bring us.

February’s Roundup

A bit late for a February Roundup but, better late than never – well, perhaps.  Anyway, life has been busy in February and even with a half term inserted in between work, it has still been a full-on month.  The currentWoodys Roundup Mindfulness course with the Mindfulness Association is drawing to a close with just one more weekend to complete.  It’s been an interesting time and one where I have learnt a lot of useful stuff.  What has occurred to me is the question, ‘what sort of Mindfulness course do I want to deliver?’  My original 8 week participant’s course was a little stilted and the others have been, well, very serious.  I am looking to gather a range of styles so that I can tailor-make the course to fit the participants.  It’s time-consuming but I am working hard on it and hope to be able to come up with a versatile style.

That said, the Lepton course is well under way now.  Session three finished last night and it was, I think, a time when the topic was appreciated by everybody.  Next week is the half-way point where people can offer anonymous feedback so I should have an idea of whether I am on track with this group or if I need to change the approach.  Whatever, it seems to be OK for now.

The schools work is going well and, all being well I am hoping to deliver some Mindfulness courses to teaching staff.  The work at the FE college is also picking up momentum, so opportunities are opening for the work.

The Mindfulness course at Mirfield is about to come to an end.  After 8 weeks the MBCT course is almost done!  I will ask the participants to give me some (anonymous) feedback on Tuesday so I can gauge what needs to change but so far people are telling me that it’s been a good course that has been very useful.

I am also about to announce some dates for a course in Shepley (I will post them when I know them) but I’ve found it difficult to find a suitable venue on the days I want.  This will be the first course where I’ve had to charge and I have to say I’m not sure how I feel about that.  All of my life I have offered my services to people for nothing but now with hiring a venue, travel and printing etc. I am finding that I can’t ask the church to fund the courses.  It’s a big mental departure.  However, as was pointed out to me, if you don’t charge people don’t think it will be any good – and they won’t come.  Watch this space…

The Spiritual element to the project is going along nicely too.  The spiritual accompanier’s course is now in its fifth session.  Two weeks ago I had a great weekend at Parceval Hall – in silence!!!  As you know, I haven’t been a great fan of silence. After all, there are so many interesting people to talk to and so much to learn from others that it has always felt like an abuse to keep quiet.  But on this occasion I began to understand the beauty of silence.  Nobody spoke from 8pm on Friday night except to check in with the spiritual director; no eye contact made and no pleasant looks exchanged.  I was just able to be me – alone with my thoughts and slowly but surely getting to know who I truly am.  In the past that has been a scary prospect but on this occasion it was a genuine pleasure.

January’s Round Up

Time to catch up on the project’s progress…

Woodys Roundup

Early January saw me venture into darkest South Wales with Bangor University for the Mindfulness Teacher Training Retreat.  There were 34 students being led by 4 lecturers.

It was an excellent eight days with much thought-provoking material presented to us all.  I learnt far more than I had expected and it has set me up well to present future courses.

There were several periods of silence across the retreat which I wasn’t looking forward to – and on one occasion we had a 24 hour silence.  Actually it had a significant impact on me.  That meant we didn’t have to look at anyone if we didn’t want to; we didn’t have to be polite over the meal table (you know, offering to pour someone a glass of water when they were just as capable as I was of lifting their arm but you have to do it to ‘show manners’ as my Mum used to say).  It was a time to just be me. From dreading it, I ended up loving it.  After 5 days of meditation my heart rate dropped from 60 beats per minute to 46!!  As you can see I was very relaxed.

During the first part of the day we were taken through different sessions of a stress reduction course followed in the afternoon by all of us leading meditations (and being assessed on them).

But the surprise of the week was the number of NHS staff who were on the course, who were there to learn how to run a Mindfulness course as a part of their work.  It seems the NHS in Wales is taking Mindfulness courses very seriously as a part of treatment for ‘service users’.

Whirlow Spirituality Centre


This month I began my year-long (and most probably much longer truth be told) training in Spiritual Accompaniment.  Nine people sitting in a group all knowing what they are there for and all of us not knowing what this journey would entail.  All of the interactions are confidential of course (you wouldn’t expect anything less would you?) but the content of the day involved discussions, reflections and an hour of silent prayer.  All the people I met were very interesting and had much to add to the discussions.

Mindfulness course at Mirfield

This has been a really good time.  I’m sharing the leading of the course with someone else and although it’s early days, it has been a very positive start and I hope those on the course have enjoyed it too.  We have twelve participants and a good spirit in the group.

The Lepton course is the next course to run which begins at the end of February – and it’s already full.

Last week I was approached quite out of the blue to run two more courses so we will see how that works itself out.

So that’s it for now.  Lots of other exciting things happening where God reminds me to keep on keeping on – this is an excellent project to explore as I hang on to the coat tails of Jesus.

A little outreach perhaps?

As you know, a part of what I am doing is working with the NHS to establish a new work by building links with faith organisations.  The idea is to help those with mental problems (of all sorts) by accessing spirituality.
We are at the stage now of asking faith organisations (that’s us in our churches) what sort of help they (we) need in order to begin the process.  If you’ve been thinking that you might utilise something like this idea as a part of your mission/on-going work or a new work, then this might be a good time to give it some more thought and talk to your minister.
For example, if you think your church might have an outreach by helping people who are bereaved – and yes, bereavement can be a really big mental issue), then I can make a proposal to the NHS and ask them to put on a course on how to help those who are grieving and to train a small team in listening skills.  The term mental health/mental problems/emotional well-being can be very wide and can affect us all, so we can think broadly here.
If you have contact with people who suffer from depression/anxiety or some other mental issue and think this might be an opening to reach out to people where you are, then we can put in a bid and ask for a counsellor/psychiatrist to help us understand the illness more and to know how to help.  You may already be doing this of course, in which case we this might be a chance to add to what you already do.
If you are thinking that this might be a part of a much wider outreach and want some help in developing it (like putting on a Happiness course and a group to discuss spirituality or a drop-in for people who are grieving etc etc) then please talk to your minister.  I am here and happy to talk it over and if it appropriate, I am happy to get involved.
Please let me know if this sounds like it might be of use and we can get thinking!

The Mindfulness Course at Lepton Methodist church

Hope Christmas was good for you and that the New Year will be…hmm…exciting? peaceful? successful?…well, whatever, I hope it will prove to be interesting and life-enhancing.

The Mindfulness course for the February at Lepton (Lepton Methodist Church, Ings Way West, Lepton, Huddersfield, HD8 0ES ) is now set and the dates are:

Thursday 25th Feb
Thursday 3rd March
Thursday 10th March
Thursday 17th March
Friday       1st April
Thursday 7th April
Thursday 14th April
Thursday 21st April
Lepton Methodist
We start at 7.30pm and the sessions will last for about 90 mins.  It’s open to anyone who feels they might benefit from going through an 8 week course.  We will have a look at how we think and why we think the way we do.  Most sessions will begin with a meditation and a discussion on how it went and how the home practices were received (yes – we don’t call it homework but we do it at home and when we are out and about too so it’s ‘home practice’.  Sorry if images of school suddenly make you feel uncomfortable and your blood runs cold at the thought of school but by the end of the course I hope you will have developed a way to deal with those yukky thoughts).
If you know someone who might benefit from the course, please ask them to e mail me or get in touch some how.  If there is enough demand I will run an introductory session on Mindfulness so that those who are interested can take a look at it without feeling they have to sign up of course).
The February course is for those people who want to ‘give it a go’ and do the practices.  For those who find it useful we can always carry it on and the group can shape whatever develops so that it so that it benefits them.
The work is going well and I’m starting to think about other courses and the follow-on courses; some sessions to look into who we truly are/might be; some sessions on spirituality and a look at what it means to build a community and develop a rule of life.  If anyone knows of someone who can help with making a website, I’d love to hear from them.