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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The Bee With No Name

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Thank you so much Levenshulme for welcoming The Bee With No Name!

Here at The Owl and The Coconut we had a super time meeting so many fab local community members from all walks of life, young and old, in our five community consultation sessions and all the online ideas sharing!

What do you love about Levenshulme?

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Continue reading “The Bee With No Name”

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”

New Year! Same You!

I’m not falling for it this year! 36 years on the planet in this life time tells me that the striking of the clock at 12 midnight marking the ending of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 won’t change Jack! Or me! Or you!

Everyday

Everyday is the day to live our intentions. Stand up for want we believe. Do what we love! Be the change! Everyday!

Watch our YouTube vid here for more on intentions

Hype

This ‘New Year, New Me’ hype has become as commercialised as Christmas. Just another opportunity for the capitalist marketing brigade to point out “You’re not really worth it, but let’s pretend you are so you buy our products”. “You aren’t good enough, but buy this while you keep trying.”.

Break Free!

Continue reading “New Year! Same You!”

New to Mindful Art!

A Bit of Backstory

Over the years I have dabbled in various self-care techniques, attended mindfulness sessions, and tried a handful of therapeutic styles. It has only been recently however, that I have engaged in the practice of mindful art. After completing my MA degree in September, I began to feel myself slowly submerging into the realm of post university blues and uncertainty. Finishing university can sometimes feel like you have been plunged head first into the wider world, removed from the cosy bubble of your academic studies, as the fears and apprehensions come flooding in. I began questioning and criticising myself, bundling on heaps of pressure to feel an instant sense of clarity and accomplishment with my career path. To expect people to know what they want from life is an enormous pressure, but in our modern day society this question is repeatedly demanded of young people. After being in education since the age of four or five, for many it can feel incredibly daunting, disheartening, and just plain confusing, to begin taking the next steps.

After finding my own sense of wellbeing was becoming increasingly challenged, paired with a desire to find an area of work which would enable me to incorporate my creativity, love of writing, and dedication to helping others, I discovered The Owl and the Coconut. After meeting with the director for a chat, I started volunteering for the organisation as a proof-reader and assisting with the promotion of their events. As I am relatively new to the practice of mindful art, I have been making my way through the organisation’s 30 Days of Free Mindful Art programme on their YouTube channel. Having found the videos immensely beneficial, the director invited me to contribute a blog post to share the insights that I have gained.

Intentions

On day one Gemma discusses how creating intentions differs from setting goals, explaining how intentions focus on various qualities and ways of thinking that we can incorporate into our lives as part of an ongoing process. I am someone who is constantly on the go and I have noticed that particularly after the intensity of my studies, I struggle to chill out and allow myself the time to check in with my body and just be.  My intentions were therefore centred on learning how to relax and allow myself time for self-care and compassion. I watched these videos whilst ill in bed, stressed out that I couldn’t do all of the things that I usually do, struggling to be able to take the time out, even when my body needed it. These videos reminded me to allow myself that time for self-care, to take a step back and listen to my body, recognising when I needed to relax and give myself a break.

I found a ‘Sew Your Own Owl’ in my sewing box, which I thought would make a perfect mascot for the start of my mindfulness journey with The Owl and The Coconut, and I have used it to stick my intentions to. The process of making my owl, helped me to ground my intentions, crafting something and taking the time to be in the moment of creativity. I have hung it on the back of my wardrobe door where I can see it everyday, to remind myself of the steps that I want to take to improve my wellbeing and self care.

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While setting intentions has helped me to focus on some of the things that I would like for myself, it has also allowed me to reflect on the impact that I would like to have on the people around me. I firmly believe that making the world a better place can be achieved through acts of kindness and compassion to others. As Gemma puts it beautifully, when you care for yourself, you become better able to care for others.

The Benefit of MindfulArt

By becoming more invested in the here and now, the ebb and flow of the world and our day to day surroundings, mindful practice aims to minimise stress and optimise positive mental wellbeing. Often however, this is far more easily said than done.  I have previously practised mindfulness in the form of meditation, breathing practices, and guided CDs but I have often found it quite difficult to reach a state of calm in these ways. In the past I have found that yoga has worked for me, as I find it helpful to combine movement with meditation, tuning in to how my body feels in various positions, allowing myself to take a break from busy, distracting thoughts and acknowledging them calmly if they do come. I really connected with Sherelle’s comment about how art provides a similar means for her. I found that having a creative activity to engage in, allowed me to zone in with what my hands were doing, slowing myself down and taking the time to just be in the moment.

I loved drawing out my breath, as demonstrated by Gemma on day 8. I found that this really helped me to visualise my body’s movements and check in with myself. I noticed how it slowed and became steadily more relaxed as I continued to draw it onto the page. In the video from day 3, Gemma uses water to paint onto paper, to feel the water and see its affects, how it changes and fades. As the videos from the program emphasise, mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and everywhere with the tools that you have available. I used the nearest liquid that I had at the time which turned out to be half a mug of cold coffee! Whilst I am a big lover of coffee, it nevertheless holds associations with the business of life, often functioning as a source of fuel for a chaotic, action packed day, pushing me to do things that are perhaps beyond what my body and mind sometimes should be doing! I found that using the coffee in such a calm scenario, however, was a fantastic experience. The smell, sight and meaning of the coffee began to change, soaking into the paper to become just a brown stain fading across the page. I drew my breath lines over the top of the coffee stained paper and it felt great to see the shape of my breathing traced out over this background. This process helped me to create a visual reminder of the importance of finding the time to slow down and breath, even though the flurry of daily life.

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Letting Go of Perfectionism

Being an art lover, I was eager to get stuck in with the various activities demonstrated in the videos but as I began the first doodling practice, I found that it was a big struggle not to pre-plan and to just let go and draw! I found Gemma’s comment about art not needing to be perfect, really useful. I have always loved sewing and knitting, and I find knitting to be a really useful way to relax and unwind (no pun intended). By paying attention to each stitch, the movement of your hands, the sound of the needles, and the feel of the wool on your fingers, knitting can be a really great way of creating focus and practising mindful techniques. I knitted myself a scarf last winter which was brilliant as it didn’t involve too much technicality, meaning that I could pick it up whenever I felt like it. When I finished my scarf, however, I remember feeling a little disappointed as one end was significantly wider than the other.  Looking at it now, after watching the mindful art videos, I have been taking the time to notice the changes in size, thinking about how the tighter stitches may have reflected the times when I was knitting with more concentration and vigilance, while the loser stitches were perhaps created when I was more laid back, watching TV with my friends. Reflecting on these differences and accepting and embracing them, not as imperfections but as part of life, has been a really valuable experience for me. Now, when I step outside in my scarf each morning, I feel happy in the knowledge that whilst it may not have wound up perfect, consistent and predictable, neither does life, and that’s something that I’m learning more and more to be OK with!

We would really love to hear your comments about this blog post and your experiences of working through the mindful art on our 30 Days of Free Mindful Art YouTube project!

You can also join us at our weekly mindful art sessions in Manchester, Tuesdays 5-6pm at Nexus Art Cafe click here to book.