Mindfulness for trainers: silencing the inner critic
In part five of this content series on how to become a mindful trainer, Kay Buckby, facilitator at The Development Company, explains how to quieten the mind from its inner critic through practising mindfulness techniques.
What trainer hasn’t read ten ‘happy sheets’ and discarded the nine that had wonderful comments, in favour of the one that had words that landed in a harsh and unexpected way?
It is so easy to get into the dialogue of self-judgment – the interior monologue that critically evaluates your performance.
A few weeks ago, I found myself getting more and more absorbed with the words left on a piece of paper by a learner. The words didn’t land in a healthy, positive way, and I found myself talking about them – internally and externally. My confusion was growing.
I’d been so busy during the months of February and March, working so hard to get everything ‘right’. I had put my heart and soul into this programme, and yet it felt like someone was being so harsh.
They were. That someone was me.
Mindfulness is free of thinking
I know all of this. So why was I holding onto these feelings of inadequacy, and keeping this internal dialogue going?
Here I was, worrying about the evaluation form that stood out as different. Here I was, starting to compare myself to others, worrying that I wasn’t good enough, judging myself.
I was like a battery powered toy that cannot stop – do you remember the little bunny in the advert, playing the drums constantly? I was like that bunny, I just carried on beating the same old drums… and creating the same old noise.
Stopping gave me the opportunity to observe the effect of the activity inside me – my self-talk and my feelings.
The practice of stopping
I needed to stop and ‘fall awake’ (a Jon Kabat-Zinn phrase about mindfulness, which I personally love). On retreats, we practise stopping when the bell sounds. It is a chance to stop whatever you are doing and bring awareness to the moment.
Stopping gave me the opportunity to observe the effect of the activity inside me – my self-talk and my feelings. My body was replaying old feelings and old thought patterns. Because I was feeding it.
By coming back to experience I realised I had nothing to fix. The internal critic was quietened, because I gave myself the chance to really see my self-doubt and anxiety, without judgment. I saw these judgments or concepts as they came in, where they sat in my body, and the attaching thoughts. Through stopping, I saw the virtual reality I had created with my mind.
When we allow ourselves to stop, we can be aware of the ‘busyness’ and business of the mind.
Mindfulness allowed me to notice
Stopping physically is the first stage. When the body stops, we can slow the mind.
I could feel the internal energy, like the current of ocean waves. I saw the anxiety that caused me to carry on, keeping the energy flowing, with the same physical effects and thought patterns.
How we can stop:
Open the window, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Really connect with each breath.
Drink a cup of tea mindfully. Feel your hands around the mug, the warmth of the mug, really taste the drink, as if you’ve never tasted tea before. Feel the swallowing movement, as the reflex to swallow rises as your body expects the nourishment. Feel the movement of the drink as it enters your body, and then moves through your body. Savour each mouthful, slowly.
Sit. Feel the weight of your feet on the floor, the weight of your buttocks on the chair, your back as it rests against the chair.
Stroke a cat, or a beautiful piece of cloth. Really feel the beauty of fur, or silk, as your hands move slowly, stroking. Really savour the moment.
Walk – take mindful steps. Really feel your feet connecting with the earth.
Eat a satsuma or piece of chocolate mindfully. Savour the sights, smells, textures, sounds and tastes.
Breathe. Take 3 full breaths.
Instead of disappearing in my world of concepts and thinking, I brought my energy back to my senses – smelling, seeing, tasting, hearing, touching. When you do something fully, you have the full bodied, aware experience. It slows our body down, and the mind will eventually follow.
When we allow ourselves to stop, we can be aware of the ‘busyness’ and business of the mind. My energy was whirring, yet by stopping I was now aware of it. Unwinding is a process, you cannot force the mind to stop.
Mindfulness is a great way of seeing through the virtual reality and self conditioning. It enabled me to quieten the harsh critic within.
Want to read the rest of the series?
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Kay uses a learner driven, experiential approach in her work. She is always prepared to be challenged with unusual development requests, and often uses actors for drama workshops to embed knowledge, skills and attitudenal change.
Kay has held a variety of roles in her career - sales and marketing, office manager, HR person, Financial...