Mindfulness is a word we hear often these days. Like many, I think it sounds like a lovely, soothing idea; but I have to admit, I didn’t actually know what it is! When I heard that there were mindfulness drop-in sessions and courses in my village on Tuesday evenings, I was keen to invite the practitioner to tell me more.
Laura Acosta describes mindfulness as working towards a, “stillness and balance of mind,” and “living in the moment, choosing not to anticipate the future or dwell in the past. Learning to approach life in a way that is non-judgemental, kind and patient to ourselves can help us to have better concentration and focus, more authentic relationships with others and our self, to deal more skilfully with anxiety and stress, and to live life more fully.”
Whether I am living in the past, present or future I am always dealing with reality; and so inevitably my inquisitive nine-year old son, (who should have been in bed), made an appearance at the interview. “I’m learning mindfulness at school,” he says, sidling through the living room door. Laura is delighted; she thinks mindfulness is fantastic for children. “Tell me what you’ve been learning,” she asks him.
“We talk about muddy puddles. If you swirl them all the mud is going around but when it’s settled the mud is at the bottom and there’s clear water,” my son tells her. “You learned that at the school right here in Rusthall? That’s a nice image,” Laura says. “So your thoughts are the same; if you let them settle then you have a space in which to make choices.”
Laura’s passion for mindful living comes through in the enthusiasm and knowledge with which she speaks, and the way her hands move to emphasise her points. Leo is fascinated. “Are you watching my hands?” she asks him. “My family comes from Spain, and one of the things that is very typical of the Spanish is that they use their hands for expression.”
Child despatched back to bed, Laura tells me more about how she came to be a mindfulness practitioner. “Some difficult things happened to me in my life. I went through different kinds of counselling, and it never quite helped me move forward with my life. Then I read about mindfulness. I realised all I really needed to do was focus on the present moment – it gave me a whole new way of dealing with what was going on in my life. So then I started to do the courses and went from there. I don’t know why nobody ever said, just focus on the present, because it was the only thing I could influence.
The thing I found amazing about mindfulness was that it liberated me from judgement, criticism, lack of kindness towards myself – it gave me space to say I’m not ready to deal with that yet, or, actually I am ready and I need to do it now.”
Mindfulness is a route to wellbeing, but she’s keen to stress that it isn’t a cure for stress or anxiety, although it can help these things. “It is something that’s available to everybody, of every background and age. It’s secular but not incompatible with religious belief. The way it should be introduced is that it offers strategies for people to live their lives in a more present way – trying to focus in on the present moment, noticing what’s happening now, rather than being dragged off into the past or pulled into worries about the future. Enjoy what’s going on in the present moment. It’s not about blocking out the past, or future, but allowing things to be how they are. Good and bad things happen, but you can learn to be comfortable with how things are?”
Laura has trained with Bangor University and the organisation Mindfulness for Schools. She has lived in Rusthall for four years, and before that in Groombridge.
“It’s a passion, something I really believe in, and if I can open it up to more people then that’s what I want to do, and there’s such a lovely community here and I’ve met some more people and I want them to experience mindfulness in an authentic way. The people who’ve come to my drop in sessions, they’ve only been a few times, but I can see it’s making a difference to them already. It gives me satisfaction, I can see it’s really worth it.”
Find out more at www.lauraacosta.co.uk