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My journey from being in my head to my heart …..

 

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Mandala Mindful Art by Louise. Original illustration made for The Owl and The Coconut by Lauren Kelly.

 

By Louise

Growing up I was a shy and introverted child, who was very self-conscious. Entering my twenties, I was diagnosed with depression and had developed anorexia. Luckily for me I had a supportive GP who helped me to start to eat, but battling my thoughts was so much harder.

Throughout my adult life I was absorbed with believing myself to not be enough. I had various episodes of crippling anxiety and depression. I tried everything to fix me-under eat, over exercise, moved jobs and home, too much alcohol, no alcohol and so on… nothing helped. As a nurse, the only time I felt worthwhile was with my patients – I was being further depleted emotionally and physically. At home, an episode of domestic abuse confirmed for me my feelings of worthlessness.

Continue reading “My journey from being in my head to my heart …..”

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Silence

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5 Day Silent Retreat

At the end of 2018, I was lucky enough to go on a 5 day silent retreat. I say lucky, but to be honest, I didn’t really want to go. I didn’t have the funds to go. Or the time. And I didn’t want to leave my young family or my work family for that long. But I had to go really, as part of my Mindfulness teacher training. So booked it and shut up, literally.


In booking it, I was met with my working class edges of thoughts, “sitting in silence in a country manner in Devon – *eye roll* – how’s that gonna help anyone or anything?” So I chose the specific retreat and teachers very carefully. In my research I found Zohar and Nathan, the founders of SangaSeva: “sangha-” a group of people who feel connected to a similar cause, a community of spiritual friends, a body of heartful activists.
“-seva” means offering the best we have to give. Often it is translated as selfless service: An action which benefits another as much as it benefits us, as long as we wish to cease being self-centred, that is.

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Digital Detox

profile picGoodbye internet, we’re taking a break! This Christmas all of us at the The Owl and The Coconut will be turning off push notifications and turning on our out of office reply.

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Stop


Because it’s time to stop. Not forever! Just for the Christmas break! When you are really passionate about what you do it’s tempting to never stop. But is that healthy? In October we worked our socks off on social media to get votes for an Aviva Funding Pot. The vote opened while I was on holiday with my family; I felt I just had to be on social media pushing the cause. This wasn’t great as it meant every time my phone connected to the internet I was overwhelmed with updates and calls for my attention, taking me away from the beautiful beach I was on. My mind wasn’t on holiday at all.

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Adam Sandler in Film Click

We received some very challenging messages and my mind began racing with replies, who to turn to for support, and how to look after the team thousands of miles away back home. I couldn’t believe how the worry thoughts grew like vines in my mind and pushed out my present moment connections and experiences. Auto pilot kicked in, like that pretty bad Adam Sandler film ‘Click’, and I began to fast forward through my family time to get back to sorting out work stuff.


But how could my mind be hijacked in this way?! All this mindfulness work! I’m the boss of my mind, right? I have a toolbox full of skills for coping with stress! So I made extra time for my mindfulness practice because it was a time I needed it most.

Continue reading “Digital Detox”

Reflections on 2018 at The Owl and The Coconut 

Gratitude

Thankyou

As we reach the end of 2018 I’m feeling grateful and reflective as I arrive home after an intensive few days on the Paul Hamlyn Foundations Ideas and Pioneers retreat. Um retreat, well that fooled me! It was less pamper and more Big Brother meets the Apprentice with added layers of social value and ethical trading for pioneering social change. Amazing and exhausting! I met loads of absolutely amazing people doing amazing things to change the world for the better!

It’s now 5am on my first night home, I’m back to the happiness of being with my husband, son and dog but I can’t sleep. My mind is buzzing with all the thoughts and actions inspired by the whole event and the amazing social entrepreneurs I have meet.

Reflecting back to January 2018, just eleven months ago Pam (Co-Director of The Owl and The Coconut) and I sat in Trove cafe, in Levenshulme, with no funding and no base to work from. Two therapists with a dream that mental health services must evolve and break out of the confines of ‘clinical settings’ to get to everyday people before crisis point. With higher and higher levels of people experiencing disabling symptoms stress, anxiety, depression and chronic pain, that change is needed now.

Continue reading “Reflections on 2018 at The Owl and The Coconut “

My experiences of mental health and mindfulness – Luke, 25

Growing up I’ve often struggled with low moods and a general feeling of low self-worth. I internalised all of my negative emotions and as such never received specific treatment. At 22, my mental health reached its lowest stage and I was diagnosed with depression.

Since then I have developed a much better understanding of mental health and its importance. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions helped me to question my negative thoughts for the first time. I came away from the sessions with a kinder, more empathetic approach to daily life and myself than ever before. The CBT sessions led me to some reading around mindfulness and its benefits. Despite being extremely sceptical initially to an activity I saw as only for ‘spiritual people’, I was persuaded by my councillor to enrol on to an 8 week mindfulness course.

My preconceptions were only validated during the first session when we were asked to stare at a raisin for 5 minutes. My initial thoughts were what on earth could be achieved from staring at a piece of fruit. As people started to talk about the raisin’s creases and how it felt on their tongue, I was close to making a sharp dash to the exit; away from these ‘spiritual folk’.

I did though persist with the course and soon began to understand and reap the benefits of an increased awareness. I now regularly practice mindful meditation which helps me to stay firmly anchored in the present and enjoy all aspects of life (including raisins). I am kinder to myself and those around me and am accepting of emotions that I previously tried to block out; sadness, anxiousness, vulnerability etc.

I believe what I have learnt about mindfulness will help me in every aspect of life for as long as I am around. For that reason, I would encourage anyone who hasn’t done so already to give mindfulness a go!

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We’ve Won The Lottery!

Let’s set the scene – It’s a frosty morning in Levenshulme and I’m awake bright and early, having my first sip of green tea. Before I’d finished my morning brew I receive a text from Pam one of the co-directors of The Owl and The Coconut. It says; “CHECK YOUR EMAILS NOW!”

 

I dash (virtually) to my inbox and can’t believe my sleepy eyes as I read the news we’d been hoping for.

 

“I’m delighted to tell you that your application has been successful. We’ve awarded your organisation a grant for the following activities: Stop. Notice. Create.”

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I can’t believe it! I’m super happy! I’m crying! It’s real! It’s happening! People believe in us! We now have money to share our Mindfulness and Mindful Art Practice courses and drop in sessions.

 

I read on through my teary eyes.“Receiving this award is a mark of the quality of the work you are doing in your community.”

 

It says “Please do share this good news with your local community and MP”.

 

Cue more tears. We want to say a heartfelt thank you  to the Big Lottery Fund for helping us to deliver our work to the community. Gratitude in abundance from The Owl and The Coconut team.

 

Free Mindful Art Sessions in Levenshulme

 

Thanks to the funding from the Big Lottery we are delighted to be able to offer free places on the Mindfulness MBSR 8 Week group, the Mindful Art Practice MAPs 8 Week group. As well as the weekly Mindful Art drop in sessions that will run for a whole year. 

Sessions begin in June.

To learn more about the groups click here to book onto a taster session;

Free Taster Session: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction MBSR 8 Week Course

Free Taster Session: Mindful Art Practice MAPs 8 Week Course

Click here to see full timetable for drop in workshops.

For a sneak peek at The Nest check out this short video

 

Levenshulme Old Library Opening

 

Cut to that very same night and we are being welcomed into our new Nest at the beautiful Levenshulme Old Library.

 

The centre is full of amazing local Levenshulme people, celebrating the achievement of not only saving the building, but now turning it into an arts centre for all. We all laugh as the Levenshulme Players act out a not so unfamiliar story, depicting the strength of our community in Levenshulme and the journey of the new arts centre so far.

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Our Levenshulme Neighbours

 

We were live on the radio with our building buddies – the amazing All FM and filmed by the lovely Martin and Benedette for Sky TV channel ‘The Irish at home and abroad‘. Then we stood next to no other than Mr Afzal Khan, our lovely local MP for Gorton South and told him the great news of our successful funding bid and the benefits it will bring to the area he represents.

 

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We also spoke to our supportive Levenshulme councillors Dzidra Noor, Basat Sheikh and Bernard Stone and the Longsight councillor Luthfur Rahman – the executive member for schools, culture and leisure. It was a great day and night and one we will no doubt remember as the catalyst for our future as a mindful arts space in the community.

 

 

Levenshulme Bee!

There’s a giant bee coming to Levenshulme and you can add to the design of it!

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Exciting talks began at the launch night of the beautiful Levenshulme Old Library, where we are setting up our Nest, alongside the brilliant All FM and the amazing plans by LOL, ‘Sharing art and culture at the heart of our community’.

Celebrations were well underway that night!  With the library now being transformed into a community arts centre, amazingly saved by the local community, there was a true sense of pride in the air ,which was brilliantly acted out with great humour and fun by the Levenshulme Players.

 

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After some of the guests spotted the top secret dragon hiding in the corner, painted by the amazing local Levenshulme artist Jodie Sliverman, conversations began to flow about Bee in the City. Bee In The City features the stunning public art trail of over 80 individually designed giant bee sculptures, crafted by regional artists, due to  weave their way across the city of Manchester during summer 2018. Both the local councillors and the Levenshulme Traders Association were keen to secure a Bee for Levenshulme, to take pride of place on the high street, and we are delighted to have been asked to run a series of community art workshops to get the design for the Levenshulme Bee from you, the people.

 

 

The Bee arrives as a blank canvas, and what goes on to the Levenshulme Bee is for you to decide! What do you love about Levenshulme? What makes you proud to live in Levenshulme?

 

For me, it’s the friendliness of the people. Knowing I can walk into any local pub,café or shop, to be greeted by a smile and chat happily for ages! It’s walks on Highfield County Park with my dog surrounded by silver birch and pine trees. It’s the school runs to Alma Park and swimming lessons at Arcadia. Summer festivals at the Klondyke, brews in Trove, cocktails in the Dice Lounge, beers in Fred’s Ale House and yummy food from the many fab traders at Levenshulme Market. I really do think Levenshulme is an amazing place to live.

What makes you proud to live in Levenshulme? What do you love about our Lev? Come and tell us all about it, have a draw and a play. No pressure to be an amazing artist, we have Jodie for that! Jodie will pull together the themes from the thoughts and designs that you share, to paint onto the bee.
So come along to one or all of the Levenshulme Bee workshops, show us your love of Levenshulme, and let’s work together to make the Levenshulme Bee something to bee really proud of! Let’s make our bee great and help raise loads of money for The Lord Mayor of Manchester’s charity – We Love MCR Charity, to improve the lives and opportunities of Manchester people. Just think of all the sightseers that will swing by for a peek! All stopping off for a brew and a shop on the high street no doubt!

Workshops to share ideas and images for the Levenshulme Bee:

Saturday 21st April 1-3pm Levenshulme Old Library

Saturday 28th April 10am-4pm Levenshulme Market

Tuesday 24th  April 6-7pm Levenshulme Old Library 

Tuesday 1st May 6-7pm Levenshulme Old Library 

 

If you can’t make one of those please do email your ideas and designs using the Bee template above to owlandcoconut@gmail.com by 1st May 2018

Let’s help Levenshulme Bee amazing!

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How my Mindfulness orientation changed my relationship…with my bed!

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I recently started the on the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course offered by Mind in Salford.  The course starts with an orientation and then 8 subsequent Mindfulness based sessions.  

While I was keen to take part in the course to further my training, I hadn’t given much thought to the possible benefits it might bring to my emotional well-being, an oversight which was soon rectified during orientation.  

As the course leader discussed the content I was very quickly reminded of my issues with insomnia, and I was excited to see if the course would help.  By the end of the first meditation, a brief body scan, I had already realised how tired I actually was, and I could barely keep my eyes open (it was not due to being bored I must add).  By the second meditation, it had come into my awareness that I have a love/hate relationship with my bed, often avoiding it all together, dreading my nightly routine of jumping into bed exhausted and then finding myself wide awake as soon as the lights are out!  I realised that my newly found love affair with Netflix, was not due to a love of TV and film, but was a means of avoiding my nightly dance of ‘I’m tired, I’m not tired ’.

Once I’d had my sixth sense moment, I couldn’t wait to get home to bed!  I kept imagining the softness of my pillows, the warmth of my duvet, and my flannelette pyjamas!  Within the space of two hours, my love affair with my bed was back on!

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Now I’d love to say that I’ve been sleeping like a baby ever since my orientation but unfortunately that hasn’t been the case.  However, now I no longer dread bedtime. When slumber evades me, I use Mindfulness and self-compassion rather than becoming angry and agitated.  Rather than winding myself up about how tired I’m going to be tomorrow, I make a mental note to be extra kind to myself the next day. Rather than visualising the bad day I’m going to have, I focus on the now and trying to relax, so that even if I can’t sleep, I still manage to get some rest.  If that still doesn’t help, then I focus on the softness of my pillows, the warmth of my duvet, my flannelette pyjamas, and before I know it, I’m either fast asleep or my sleepless night has passed by without me becoming stressed.

To learn more about our Mindfulness sessions coming to Levenshulme contact us at owlandcoconut@gmail.com

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Mindfulness is a Political Act

Mindful Self compassion

IMG_2116I have just returned from the idyllic location of Trigonos in North Wales, where I attended a Mindful Self compassion course(MSC). The course was ran by The centre for Mindfulness research Bangor University.
A five day intensive retreat training course devised by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer.
We were skilfully eased into some beautiful practices, 23 in total over the five days, by Vanessa Hope and Colette Power, amazing teachers! I love Self compassion and the practices, as it embeds for me the saying, “you can not give from an empty cup” So on my return I feel my cup is spilling over.
I felt it was a privilege to be able to attend this intensive course, and it makes me feel even stronger about my wish to share mindfulness and Self compassion with everyone, particularly people who may not  seek out theses practices for what ever reasons.

Being Awake

Continue reading “Mindfulness is a Political Act”