In February 2021, I started noticing my friends talking about how their mental health was flagging, and they were trying mindfulness, but couldn't quite figure it out. Meanwhile, others were saying they'd never heard of mindfulness and were curious about it.
At the same time, in my private work, people were getting incredible results through mindfulness cognitive therapy generally and mindfulness for self-compassion more specifically. I felt like there was something about suffering under lockdown conditions - locked out from most of our usual coping strategies - that was really amenable to mindfulness. I was trying to work out how to reach more people with these powerful tools.
About that time, I was speaking with another friend about my intention to start running again, and he encouraged me to set up a donation page for charity for a run in the future, because that would keep me dedicated to doing it if other people's money was riding on it.
And that's when lighting hit! I should set up a short course for my friends to teach them the skills of mindfulness and to expose them to some of the interesting ways that people use it - including to foster greater self-compassion, overcome shame, decrease guilt, quiet anxious minds, separate from depressed thoughts, and to aid sleep. And, I would encourage them to donate to a great charity in lieu of payment.
I thought back to a friend speaking about his sick child and how, when he told me, my body yearned to do more than offer kind words and thoughts. In short order, with his assistance, the Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust was selected as the charity of choice.
The team at the Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust works to raise awareness, fund research into rare cancers of childhood and produce educational materials. They also provide financial , practical and emotional support to families. Childhood cancer is the number one medical cause of death of children in the UK. They are working to change this.
The intention to run a short Introduction to Mindfulness course was set. I thought there might be five or ten of my best mates there - partly out of curiosity and partly out of a sense of obligation. I thought that if we raised £100, that would be a nice.
I decided on a hashtag #MarchMindfulness, and set up a dedicated twitter account, so as to not annoy my own followers. And then I started promoting it. The account soon had over a hundred followers, and I got the sense that I might have more than ten people enrol. I reassessed my expectations and set an ambitious goal of £500 for fundraising.
In the end, over fifty people signed up to the Introduction to Mindfulness course. We spent four one-hour weekly sessions dedicated to mindfulness. The informal feedback that I've received has made me proud as punch. People are using the skills in incredible situations and they're getting the space from their problems that allows them to recognise what they need and attend to it.
In the end, we raised £1,641.98 for the Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust. We got to spend 4 hours dedicated to cultivating our mindfulness practice. People learned some terrific skills. And we fostered a sense of community at a time when we're all divided.
The response was so strong that I've brought forward my plans to run another course. I'm taking all the learning from this one, and running another Introduction to Mindfulness on Sunday afternoons starting 11 April.
Thank you everyone!