I am writing my news as the rain is pouring outside - where's the summer sunshine gone? It's the end of August and the autumn term is about to begin, so really this is my late summer, early autumn news. I have not posted any news since the pandemic unfolded around the world, affecting everyone of us in some form or another and changing the way we go about our daily lives. To be honest, for me the days and months have all merged into one in these strange times. Like many, I stayed at home, moved my teaching online, baked bread, did zoom yoga & fitness classes, cared for shielding family members and spent lots of time with my partner, teen daughters and our new puppy (who arrived only 4 weeks just before lockdown began!) I found myself having good and bad days, calm and anxious moments and times when I felt SO grateful for the quiet space and support I found in my local community and the open spaces around me.
In every situation in life, especially the difficult ones when there is suffering, there is always something or some form of awareness or lesson to be taken. I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh's book -No Mud No lotus during lockdown in which Hanh reminds us that lotus flowers will only grow in dark mud. He says without suffering there is no happiness and that it is life's mud that offers us the nutrients to strengthen our souls and make our hearts grow. The simple everyday practices he shares in his book include being mindful of the beauty of life around us and cultivating kindness to ourselves and others despite inevitable suffering. This really helped me to stop feeling overwhelmed during the height of the pandemic. I found great comfort in his words and was less triggered by what I saw on the media & news.
“Without suffering, there's no happiness. So we shouldn't discriminate against the mud. We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Please find below details for all my teaching plans this autumn, from a mindfulness for beginners course to regular open sessions for those wishing to top up their practice and have some restorative time for themselves. My teaching remains online for now, but plans include a face to face retreat morning this autumn and one to one teaching from late September - all being well with Covid restrictions.
Till then soak up the last of the summer days with loved ones, friends & pets! And please take a moment to enjoy this beautiful image of a lotus flower taken by mindful photographer & digital artist Hilary Walker on her visit to Kew Gardens this summer.
Copyright @Hilary Walker
Some of my lockdown moments in images:
Online Mindful Play at Orleans House Gallery
A fun project that kept me busy during June included creating a series of short films for Orleans House Gallery as part of their Sunday afternoon art programme. I called it Mindful Play, and together with the filming & editing skills of my eldest daughter, I produced a series of mindful practices with creative activities for families with children from age 4 to 12 years. You can still download and watch the series via the galley's website HERE , which includes an introduction to mindful breathwork and other sensory practices taking inspiration from the gallery's collections & gardens.
'Mindful Play is a wonderful way to introduce your child to the benefits of mindfulness and help them develop important focusing skills to regulate their emotions''
If you would like to know more about Mindful Play or Baby Mindful and would be interested in commissioning a bespoke mindfulness project for your community do get in touch via email.
I am currently collaborating with my colleague Heather Witt, an educational consultant (who has recently established MindfulMuseum) on other museum projects working with new audiences and inspiring collections. As an ex museum professional myself, with over 18 years experience at senior level it's SO exciting to be able to bring mindfulness and heritage learning together to museum & gallery spaces.
Teaching Autumn 2020 - Timetable
During lockdown, I moved all my teaching online via the ZOOM platform and offered regular fortnightly Open Sessions with soothing, restorative practices including breathwork, gentle movement & meditation. These sessions helped many to stay connected during the challenging weeks of lockdown, with donations from class fees going towards a local food bank charity.
I am pleased to say these Open Sessions will continue fortnightly on Wednesday evenings from 8 to 9.10pm.
Starting from 16th September. For dates & how to BOOK see the website for details.
My Monthly Meditation Group sessions for those that have a regular mindfulness practice and have completed an 8 week mindfulness course, will also continue online for now. Starting back on the Wedneday 9th September these will also take place on Wednesday evenings from 8-9.40pm when there is no Open Session. Again you can BOOK your dates online via the website.
Please note: Zoom classes are limited to numbers of 12 or less so that everyone benefits from a rich and meaningful experience, with built in reflection time just as you would in a face to face class room setting. There is also 10 minute technical set up time so that you can arrive and settle into your own space at home. Discounts are available for block bookings with discretional discounts for front line key workers & students or those with limited finances due to Covid. Please get in touch to find out more.
Image by Charles Mackesy - The Boy, The Mole & The Fox - a beautiful illustrated book that will warm the heart and calm the mind. I read it during lockdown and have since given to friends & family as gifts.
If you are worried about learning online - here's some recent testimonials to put you at ease...
'Dear Sam, I just want to say thank you so much for the zoom session. It was just what I needed and so lovely to connect with others. A reminder to be mindful in what we are doing at home wherever possible'.
'I love the flow of the session last night and I felt so calm after .. it was a lovely nurturing session thanks you so much for all your supportive classes during lockdown they have helped me SO much!
'Thankyou for the group session this evening - it worked really well on zoom! Much better than I ever expected & I felt so connected with everyone. I am sure I can get used to meeting like this, thank you Sam '
BOOK YOUR PLACE ON AN 8 WEEK MINDFULNESS COURSE
Find peace of mind in these uncertain times - join my next 8 week MBSR course for beginners
STARTS: Tuesday Evenings 7.30-9.15pm from the 6th October to 2nd December
(no classes in Oct Half-term) Deposit £50 & full Cost of course including resources & retreat session is £216 pp. Reduced prices available if finances are difficult.
ONLINE VIA ZOOM (for now) - SMALL CLASSES ONLY
INCLUDES RETREAT SESSION on Sunday 22nd November - to be held in a beautiful, peaceful local setting with outside space and an open air studio at the ZH Pilates Pavilion in Esher.
Image taken at the ZH studio's outside classroom space
Research has shown that an 8 week mindfulness course can help reduce stress levels, manage anxiety & improve emotional wellbeing.
Suitable for beginners and those that wish to refresh their practice this weekly evening class includes, breathwork and mindful movement culminating in a silent retreat session to deepen your meditation practice.
Here's what a recent participant said on the last course which was completed online during lockdown.
'I thought that the length of the course was just right. It was a shame that the last 3 weeks of the course was disrupted due to CV-19. However, Sam implemented new strategies for us all to continue our learning online and meeting as a group, which was great! I found Sam to be a very relaxed, easy to approach should you have a question and a great teacher at helping you explore and develop mindfulness. I would definitely recommend the course to anyone - don't think about it do it!
TRY A FREE TASTER CLASS THIS SEPTEMBER
During the taster session you will get a chance to try some practices for yourself, find out about the course and come away with an understanding of what mindfulness is and the science behind it all!
Tuesday 8th September 10.30-11.30am or
Tuesday 15th September 7.00-8.00pm
All tasters are online - small groups only - Open to all - just pick a date & reserve your free slot - BOOK HERE
Full details of course dates, application forms, meditation & audio resources, plus costs will be sent when you have booked your space.
ONE TO ONE OR COUPLE SESSIONS
Group meditation and classroom settings are not for everyone. If you would like to know more about mindfulness for beginners or couple sessions, please get in touch by email. These sessions are online at present but from late September there will be the option to book 1:1 face to face sessions in my home studio or at the Complementary Health Partnership in Claygate.
A seven five minute introductory session including a health questionnaire with taster practices can be booked on Thursday evenings from 7.30pm. BOOK HERE & see website for more details www.sammantra.com
The rain has now stopped and the sun is pushing itself out from behind the clouds - a moment I just managed to savour on film. Here's a poem I picked out for my daughters to read before they head back to school after six months in lockdown. Its called Limitless by Danna Faulds.