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Muddy gets mindful

A mindfulness teacher managed to get the team to sit down and be quiet for half an hour. Give that woman a medal!

Look what happened at Muddy HQ one lunchtime last week. No, we didn’t join a cult nor did we start up a prayer group. Rather, Muddy got mindful!

Mindfulness coach Sara Hammond – based in Long Crendon, Bucks but ready for consultations anywhere thanks to the magic of Skype – visited to give us a taster session in the garden. And it certainly made a nice change from bolting down a sandwich al desko while frantically trying to clear our inboxes.

She offers various options – taster sessions, two-month public courses, corporate bookings or private classes, either for small groups or individuals, so you can do as much or little as you please. But on the basis of our session, I’d say give it a go.

Muddy’s Sophie, Katie and Kerry get into the zone (Hero’s behind the camera)

Anyone with even the vaguest interest in wellbeing will know that mindfulness is big news right now, with government departments and corporate giants such as Google booking their staff in for sessions. I spotted a mindfulness magazine in Waitrose last week (OMG, mental health has gone glossy!). Hell, even Goldie Hawn has written a book about it.

Sara’s clients range from corporate bookings, private classes and even taster sessions, and in a nutshell, she provides a form of meditation that encourages you to fine-tune self-awareness and focus on the moment in hand, rather than the past (“Did I remember to get the meat out of the freezer for dinner?”) or the future (“What time do I need to pick up the kids?”). Sara’s clients range in age from their twenties to their seventies, which shows that feeling overwhelmed by the pace and noise of modern life isn’t confined to one demographic. Mindfulness can be used to treat stress, anxiety, depression (although your GP should be the first port of call in this situation, according to Sara) and insomnia.

The Muddy mantra is all about enjoying the moment – and Lord knows we fling ourselves at it every moment possible! – but when we’re not frothing around on the fun waves, we’re all as prone to life’s stresses and strains as the next girl. So when Sara rocked up at HQ it didn’t take much encouragement for us to down tools, bolt outside and sit under a canopy of trees in a circle, feet firmly grounded (literally, to encourage metaphorical grounding), as Sara guided us through a session.

You are feeling very, er, mindful…

Mindfulness is like an oxygen mask coming down on a plane during turbulence, she says, a tool to help us stop, pause and think. I was expecting some sniggering, but we all avoided eye contact, quickly tuned out from each other and began to focus on our immediate surroundings. It helps that Sara is a calming presence without being too ‘woo-woo’ hippyish, which suits this cynical old hack. She encouraged us to focus on our breathing and drink in our surroundings with all our senses – what could we see/hear/smell? I started to notice the detail on leaves and could make out the distant rumble of the motorway, things I don’t usually notice when I’m busy barking into my mobile.

I’m terrible at relaxing – my mind rattles through never-ending to-do lists – but Sara told us not to be too harsh on ourselves if our thoughts wandered, but instead to gently steer awareness back to the breath and the moment. In another exercise we ate grapes mindfully (very very slowly, basically). And yes, yes, I know that sounds like something Gwyneth Paltrow would rave about on Goop to widespread public mockery – but actually, in the moment, it made sense. Sara encouraged us to hone in our senses as we rolled them around our mouths before biting in. It certainly makes you consider how often you wolf food down without really noticing, let alone tasting it.

Editorial assistant Sophie, experiencing the joy of the grape

We all emerged half an hour later calmer, less twitchy and recharged for the afternoon. On a really basic level (and at the risk of sounding like my nan), it was nice to have a quiet sit down in the middle of the day. And – bonus – to do it un-pestered by the ping of a mobile phone or the demands of a small child. Next time I’m about to lose it with my kids or the wi-fi connection, I’ll take a deep breath and try to be more mindful. There’s definitely something in it. Grape, anyone?

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