Unwelcome ghosts on a mindfulness daylong practice


Warning: long post featuring dodgy artwork and some exercising of demons.

This was a little while ago now. Most of our practice group came together, with a handful of others who had also experienced an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, to spend a day practicing together in silence. For me the greatest struggle turned out not to be the silence or new group members but the venue. We were using “Exeter Castle” which is hoping to make a name for itself as a historical city centre events venue. The problem is that until recently it housed the Crown Court and judges chambers. Despite knowing this, and my history with these buildings, I didn’t think it would be a big problem.

My first visit to these court buildings was as a small child (my guess is less than 5 years old) when my parents were divorcing.To keep me entertained my social worker took me for a walk around the adjacent Roman wall. Then I was called in to a big dark office with a large desk so that the judge could ask me who I wanted to live with.

Some twenty years later I had also watched Peter work as a barrister at the Crown Court before we married and occasionally met him for a tea in the snack bar. The snack bar was a little sanctuary, small and cosy, a brick-built shed really. The sort of thing you don’t see any more, tea in polystyrene cups, whether you were a witness or a barrister, fruit cake, biscuits and probably anything in a sandwich as long as it was toasted – you get the picture.The main Crown Court building (featured image) in contrast was hierarchy and formality on a grand scale. Full of ushers in their long black robes, uncomfortable looking policemen waiting to give evidence and barristers strutting about in their wigs and gowns with their court papers under their arms.

One of the old court rooms was our space for the mindfulness day. Thank goodness the dock, the jury benches and the steps down to the cells had all gone. On the face of it a large open space with high ceilings, huge windows and patio doors giving on to the gardens (and my favourite, the Roman walls, plus a great view of the prison). Someone had put up a large, and probably very expensive mirror, and a wrought iron light fitting from which they had suspended billowy white voile curtains which draped out into the corners of the rooms. It was meant to say “events venue” but I was still seeing court room.

So someone thought in this events venue what would be a good idea would be to refit the court holding cells as toilets. So, just in case you hadn’t caught the atmosphere of fear and intimidation, there was a chance to take a seat in a very small oppressive cell.

The executive decision making centre might have been saying “we can do this” but the archaic brain said “nah” and about ten minutes into each practice I was zoned out. What was lovely was when they had levelled up the floor they had installed underfloor heating which I can highly recommend for a body scan! We did a seated practice, mindful movement, a body scan, mindful walking, more seated practice and something I ducked out of, in favour of a bathroom break.

I finished the day with my executive decision making centre wondering what was wrong with me. As we came out of our silence one of our group revealed that she had had a eureka moment at lunchtime – marvellous my dissatisfaction did a prompt transformation into self-criticism, splendid.

I am reliably informed that my unease and the pervading feeling of fear was down to my childhood experience and the zoning out was the archaic part of my brain trying to protect me. I already had a picture of a section of the Roman wall and to exercise some demons I have done some drawing ( be warned I got a D in ‘O’ level art). I thought it might help to look at how that child felt. I also went back to the castle gates to get a shot of the main Crown Court building, the feature image.




Thich Nhat Hanh (2008) The Miracle of Mindfulness. London: Rider


140 pages, a very manageable length. I felt that this would be an interesting follow-up to an 8 week MBSR course. This book was borrowed from the fabulous Devon Recovery Learning Community library 😀

A major focus was on using the breath to anchor our mindfulness practice and if this is something you are struggling this may provide some helpful ideas. Similarly with mindfulness of thoughts and thinking. There are also some practical ideas on sitting positions and a suggestion for how to structure a day of mindful practice very simply at home.

I grappled with Chapter 5 and the concept of the five aggregates and to be honest failed to grasp this. Undeterred I carried on reading.

The chapter on exercises in mindfulness has a number of suggestions and some ideas for contemplations, akin to loving kindness or compassionate meditations. There may be a reason why I had to smile when I reached “Compassion for the person you hate or despise the most” – no, really, yep afraid so.

I particularly liked the image in Chapter 4 of a pebble dropping into a river, sinking through the water and settling in the sand at the bottom of the river as you settle into your practice and into your body. As the pebble rests on the sand it is neither pushed nor pulled by the river. This is something that really caught me and I will integrate into my own practice.

Overall an interesting read that you can skim, dip in and dip out of or as I did and read cover to cover. Definitely a helpful supplement after a taught mindfulness course.



4000 nurses together, what an experience!

The Royal College ofNurses democracy in action – points of order, voting members and non-voting members,  electronic voting handsets which I didn’t know I needed…
Trouble with technology the radio waves interfering with the wifi so there was trouble with the electronic voting handsets 🙊

I discovered that my cognitive function is significantly impaired by 1/2 glass of wine 📉 when I’ve been nil by mouth after about 6hrs travelling and bag stuffing. The wine was free but I didn’t want any career defining moments whilst tipsy in the exhibition hall. 🍌

Freebies in the exhibition hall have to be of nominal value as nurses can’t be trusted not to be swayed by a free fob watch, stethoscope etc. so I have a collection of mainly pens… I like a nice pen ✒️

Fun and collaborative interdisciplinary working, stuffing bags in my yellow “here to help” t-shirt (Minion style – note to self must watch a film and check out these minions! Is it a rumour that they eat bananas and kill their master??)

My full day at the conference was packed:

  • 8:15 minion duty ⏰
  • first conference debate
  • more minion duty
  • lunchtime fringe talk on getting students into general practice nursing
  • after lunch morphing into adult nursing student, now dressed in psychedelic pink (bit like a clanger). Great sessions for students:
  • 1) on the importance of self-care and
  • 2) a whistle stop tour of wound care with a tissue viability nurse
  • Free ice cream! 🍦 Yes! Perks of being a student…
  • Mindfulness in the quiet room ⌛️putting self-care into practice.
  • Session on death and dying in an acute hospital setting – asking can we do more for patients and those close to them. Encouraging us to do things differently to meet the needs of the family and in so doing do it better. I can usually hold the tears back but so moving, inspiring and better in its own post.
  • After that I wasn’t up for the regional reception, more wine on an empty stomach, so I walked back up the Eastcliff and 👣💤

Meeting new people – on the train, in the conference hall, on the stands, handing out conference bags, lovely RCN staff and hotel staff at the Marriott 💡

Bournemouth was beautiful. For my last day (no minion duty), lie in, leisurely breakfast and walking to the conference centre next to the beach. Awesome way to start the day with a little mindfulness of seeing.

My hotel was chosen on price not its aesthetics. In need of some TLC but I had a 🛁 my room had tea making, chairs, space, 3G and a plug socket for my charger – snail heaven 🛀🏻

Today I peaked, I sat next to this lady in the most amazing shoes 👠 and helped her open her tin of mints, it turns out she is the UK’s Chief Nursing Officer – wow!

Tweeting 📱

Had to leave the debate on should we change nursing education which is producing 4 distinct learning streams. For adult nursing we need a broader base for us to deliver safe effective healthcare. Next time I’m hoping to contribute to the debate… 📰 🏁



One of my favourite places to take the dog

Wow! Suddenly Devon has gone green. I find walking through the woods next to the river feeds my soul. 

Slightly marred by Charlie, who doesn’t believe swimming is a proper activity for dogs, dropping his ball into a deep part of the river. This brought my practice of mindful breathing to an end. We follow the progress of the ball until it was lost to sight : ( 

Home now and Charlie is snoring contentedly on the sofa!