Secular Mindfulness

The Problem with Secular Mindfulness

The Problem with Secular Mindfulness

All plants and trees are healthier and stronger when they have healthy roots, they have more stability if those roots reach deep into the earth.

If we take a plant out of the earth and lay it on the ground it doesn’t take long before it withers and dies.

Mindfulness is like a tree, it too has roots, and its roots go very deep into the Buddhist tradition. Roots which go back 2500 years.

The roots of mindfulness give it a dimension which it misses when taught in a more secular setting without reference and understanding of those roots.

The Buddha discovered a path to a life free from suffering. Not free from pain, as it is good to distinguish between the two. Pain is what happens to us, suffering in the way I speak of it, is what we do in our head. It is our judgements, opinions, and views about life that is our problem.

Mindfulness has it is roots in what we call the Four Noble Truths.

1, The truth of dukkha and it existence in each of our lives (Suffering or Dissatisfaction) Read More

It is not what you think it is

Look again – it is not what you think it is

Look again- it is not what it seems…by Dr Liz Sparkes

We have become accustomed to think in certain ways and often see things in fixed patterns. It’s hard not to make assumptions and to stay in patterns of thoughts and behaviours. Situations and circumstances are often shaped by the way we think. It’s important to try to break free from this way of viewing the world, to see more clearly, the way things actually are. We construct our world through our thoughts and in this way can make things appear negative or positive just by our thinking.

An example of an opportunity to see things for what they actually are came along for me a few years ago. There isn’t a gentle way to explain. I was travelling down a road near to my house in my car when I was hit from behind by a lorry. The experience was absolutely terrifying and I was lucky to walk away physically uninjured. Unfortunately other people were very hurt. The weeks and months that passed following this were seriously hard. I experienced a serious bout of post-traumatic stress and my body reacted quite badly to the shock for quite some time. The flashbacks and trauma were trying at times. There were moments where I thought I was going to completely psychologically lose it. The support I received by the police and my family and friends was outstanding!

After some time I was contacted by probation about the possibility of meeting the lorry driver as part of his recovery and rehabilitation. He was being released from prison and this was a suggested process that would benefit the victims as well as the lorry driver. Without hesitation I agreed. Unfortunately none of the other people involved in the crash decided to meet with the lorry driver, and I can quite understand this decision.

A few of my friends and family thought it might not be the greatest idea I have ever had. It was a dark November evening and I was eight months pregnant when I was eventually sat waiting to meet this man who had ploughed into my car. I can’t lie, I had a moment of fight or flight and very nearly legged it. The whole process was supported very well by the probation officers and my husband was with me too. When he entered the room he took one look at me and burst into floods of tears and left the room. I knew then that this man had suffered more than I ever had over the crash, I could see the pure pain he was in. Once he returned a discussion took place with the probation officers managing the meeting. I was able to talk about the crash and the aftermath from my point of view and he was able to tell me about it from his experience. He had definitely suffered a series of unfortunate events and he had never had any intention of hurting anyone. He explained his pain and sorrow and all of the things that he had since done to try to right the wrong.

This was one of the most healing experiences I have ever had. I also know it was mutually healing as he couldn’t thank me enough for the opportunity to say his story and how sorry he was. He couldn’t turn back time but he wanted to. When I left the meeting something had left me, the fear and pain of the experience. The peace that I felt was amazing and I felt that I could finally close the door on that period in my life and move on.

During the preparation for this meeting and during my recovery, meditation and mindfulness was essential. Without meditation I am not sure if I would have had the courage to go through with the experience of meeting the lorry driver. Things are not always what they seem and taking the time to calm the mind can support a clearer view of things. Also practicing compassion meditation increases understanding of others situations and develops courage within ourselves. Regular practice reduces judgement towards ourselves and others. Meditation can really enable a change in too much fixed thinking, we can meet challenges with less preconceptions. Being free of a chaotic mind develops us in so many ways.

By Dr Liz Sparkes

Nanptantan Hall Retreat

By Teresa Costa

Nanpantan Hall, my retreat experience

 I am on a plane to Italy finally writing about my Nanpantan Hall Mindfulness Retreat experience.The day before the start of the Retreat, a problem arose that nearly convinced me that I should stay at home and sort it out. Instead, I decided to go following my daughter’s encouragement. Somehow I knew that staying at home was not the cure and would not address the source: myself.

The Retreat had run smoothly, nothing felt difficult. I enjoyed every day; the silence, the compassion meditations and the time spent mindful walking and stretching.The meals were delicious and I truly enjoyed sitting together as a community. The problem I brought to the retreat was gradually shrinking. Mindfulness had helped me to increase the confidence I needed in order to attract the solution. I was quite pleased with myself. Read More

Shake it off, rerouting and anxiety as practice

By Gaynor Quilter

Shake it off, rerouting or anxiety as practice:
I have been challenged recently to really feel what is going on in my body, as Jaya (our Border Collie dog) has been attacked and set on by two different dogs. As some of you will know, we have trained Jaya to trust himself, as a result Jaya is friendly to every dog he meets, he assumes that every dog and every human just wants to be his friend.

The incidents:
Three weeks ago Jaya was attacked in our local park of Bradgate by a Pointer. It was nasty and I was left hitting the pointer with the ball thrower to try and get the dog to release Jaya. Sadly the woman owner had no control, took no responsibility. This really triggered my vulnerable parts around responsibility and manners! Not even an apology, she took a photo of me being very upset with her as Jaya ran off to escape her dog.

Read More

Meditation – the missing link

I have taught meditation to 1000s of people and what the vast majority, if not all of those students are trying to do is to get rid of uncomfortable or painful emotions.

To banish painful feelings and emotions is the real reason most of us come to practice meditation. If over work, over thinking, going on holiday, over drinking doesn’t get rid of them then meditation must do, surely!

When we begin meditation with this attitude as we do we may get a grace period if we are lucky. I did myself. In the late 1980s, I began meditation with exactly this attitude and it worked – for a while. I remember feeling very blissful after two months into my daily practice and thinking to myself that if I feel like this after just two months then what will I feel like after four months. Well, let me tell you it wasn’t blissful.

Read More

How avoiding the thought buses helps me with Agoraphobia by Natalie Hind

How avoiding the thought buses helps me with Agoraphobia By Natalie Hind

Until most recently, I heavily relied on public transport. My life was full of things I could only get to via a bus or a train. Work, college, fun, relationships, right down to my healthcare. I would travel overseas; jetting off on exotic holidays and city breaks. In my not-so-regular down time, I would catch up with friends and family all over the country to step away from the hum of my busy life. I would occasionally jump in a car with L plates on, hoping to add ‘drive’ to the list of available transport options open to me, particularly on the days where the countryside took its toll on my much-needed service.

I eventually moved away from the countryside, and into the city. I accepted a place at a drama school, a short train journey from one of the liveliest and most exciting areas in London, and an easy ride away from a host of theatres, workshops and like-minded people; once a dream and now a very real opportunity. Read More

What about the Buddha’s Wife?

This excellent blog which comes in 6 weekly articles is by the Radio Presenter Naomi Kent. Please click READ MORE below.

This is week 1 of the level 2,  Six-week course.


So I’m back in the throngs of meditation education, in the Kuti in Surya’s back garden. A Kuti, FYI, is a hut or a home for a monk – thank you, Google – and this is where the mindfulness courses take place. Last time I was here it was the depths of winter so I couldn’t appreciate the tranquil setting, nestled amongst pretty flower beds & presently dusted in April showers, but here were a small group of meditation fans admiring the view, and wanting to learn more.

Why did we want to learn more? Honestly, I get a bit slack when I don’t have a whip-cracker encouraging mindfulness and meditation and some days I forget my sitting practise, or I find myself the victim of the two daggers. The two daggers, if you missed the first course, are the process of giving yourself a mental beating if and when something goes wrong. Dagger one: The bad thing happening. Dagger two: Getting cross about the bad thing happening and repeatedly going over why it’s such a disgrace to humanity that this bad thing happened and how very dare it and if only you’d done X Y and Z then maybe this wouldn’t have happened but god it’s a tragedy etc. etc. Get the drift? Good. Read More

No More Blame


It seems to me that whenever I listen to the news, read a newspaper a good portion of the news is somebody blaming somebody else. To me, it looks like the art of politics is who can blame the other party most eloquently.

We all know that blaming others creates tension and even war between nations.

It appears we are taught that if something is not to our liking then somebody else is responsible. If we are criticised we often blame the other person for making us feel bad. Or alternatively, we may blame ourselves.

Our attention normally goes OUT THERE to find the source of pain. This keeps our minds very busy trying to work it all out.

So how to end this cycle of BLAME?

Well we need to be willing to turn our attention from the external world to the internal. We need to feel the hurt that is beneath the anger of blame.

It is very easy to blame others – it is actually very lazy. It means we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions.

When we take our attention from our thoughts about who said what, and to feel the underlying hurt, our minds begin to calm down and we have more clarity about what to do in any situation.