Katie Sheen Mindfulness Teacher
Thursday 13th May 2021
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, we invited Mindfulness teacher, Katie Sheen to write about her experiences of good mental health when undergoing treatment, and she how teaches Mindfulness now to support people going through challenging treatments.
Here is what she had to say:
“I’ve been using mindfulness to support myself through the ups and downs of life since 2001, but it wasn’t until I had cancer in 2015 that I fully realised the impact that good mental health can have on patients going through challenging treatments. Suddenly I felt first hand how good mental health can provide such a powerful coping mechanism in the midst of both physical and emotional pain.
At the time, I felt as though my whole life had been knocked out from under me. I was unable to control what was happening to my body, and the pain meant that I often couldn’t think straight. I was frightened about what the future might hold and sometimes haunted by traumatic memories of my past.
I turned to a foundational mindfulness practice of noticing all my “conditions for happiness” to help reduce the panic. I started by noticing my breath; the peaceful rise and fall of my belly and the sense of my body breathing for me. It was a calm, comforting rhythm, untouched by the raging fire of pain, that helped me to focus on just getting through one moment at a time.
Then I thought about everything that I appreciated in life, to find some solid stepping stones of happiness in the midst of all the madness. There were obvious connections like family and friends, who reached out in so many ways to pull me through, and it was also easy to appreciate the health professionals who stepped out of their official roles to connect with me as another human being. The ones who held me whilst I cried, talked to me through the darkest moments, made me laugh, and kept my breakfast warm for me on days when everything else seemed to be falling apart.
One day when the pain was particularly bad, I noticed the windowsill that I could see from my hospital bed and wondered what I appreciated about that, as I hadn’t really thought about it before. The results were bizarre enough to make me smile, and when my attention returned to my body the pain had noticeably reduced. I decided to set myself the same playful challenge with other things that I could see. There, my ‘Appreciating Windowsills’ game took shape, helping me to reconnect with the world and gradually rebuild a sense of safety. Later I made the game into a simple app, and it’s wonderful when it makes other people smile too.
This is just one example of how mindfulness helps us to bring a gentle, compassionate awareness and curiosity to what is happening in the present moment. It’s an opportunity to liberate ourselves from being lost or caught in thinking about the past or the future, to pause, and re-focus on what is happening inside and around us. This helps us build a core of peaceful inner strength, to gain the insights we need in order to become calmer and happier, and to respond to life more creatively and constructively. Once we are feeling stronger, then we can help others to become happier too.
Mindfulness is much more than a relaxation technique, and practices are far more varied than just the classic image of a seated meditation. With mindfulness, any activity can become an opportunity to enjoy being fully present. It is not about escaping from the world, it is about engaging fully with both the wonderful and the difficult aspects of life, and ultimately with both healing and transformation.
From my experience, I’ve found that good mental health practices can give people skills to ease pain, fatigue, anxiety and all kinds of suffering, through the art of being present, taking joy in simple pleasures, and becoming less afraid of facing what can initially feel like overwhelming challenges. Doing so requires practice and concentration, but there are so many ways to make mindfulness enjoyable that the results can be remarkable. I have spoken to, and taught, many patients with an array of conditions who have found mindfulness to have been a huge support in their treatment and recovery, and of course I know from first hand experience quite what a difference it can make.”
To access a range of free resources and explore the next Mindfulness for Health courses offered by Katie, please click here
Or to watch some of her free Mindfulness sessions, go to Katie's YouTube channel here