Ask An Expert: Cheryl (Mindfulness teacher)

Today’s expert is Cheryl – a mindfulness practitioner who runs courses and retreats through her company Mindfulness 4u.

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Mrs D: How did you get into this line of work?

Cheryl: I was in a therapy/coaching role and went to a mindfulness workshop to learn how I could use mindfulness with my clients. I had learnt a meditation technique when I was young that helped me get to my happy place when the going got tough. I thought mindfulness would be similar but I came to realise it was radically different. Instead of escaping reality mindfulness taught me how to stay with the present moment. Perfect so that I wouldn’t miss all the magic moments of my life, but I wondered why on earth I would want to stay with the present moment when life was difficult. Now I realise the present moment is the only moment I get the power to choose my response rather than to react out of habit. I had missed so much of my life overworking, over analysing, controlling, drinking, blaming etc to save me having to face what was real for me and make the necessary changes. The Mindful approach has transformed my life and the lives of many who I have worked with. It takes courage to be real and present but the outcome is well worth it.

Mrs D: What is mindfulness?

Cheryl: Mindfulness involves paying attention to our present moment experience in a curious and non-judging way; this allows us to become more engaged in life. The benefits of mindfulness are a natural result of this engagement.

Mrs D: ‘Paying attention to our present moment experience’ that sounds  simple, so why is it so hard to do?

Cheryl: It is hard to do because we have spent so many years living mindlessly on autopilot.

Mrs D: Is Mindfulness something you can read a book about or do a course on and then just ‘have it’? Or is it something you need to keep practicing daily?

Cheryl: If you want to be fit you need to exercise, if you want to be mindful you need to practise. To truly know what mindfulness is you have to experience it.

Mrs D: Does mindfulness get easier the more you do it?

Cheryl: It becomes easier to remember to be mindful once it becomes a routine part of your day, just like brushing your teeth. In terms of whether mindfulness itself becomes easier, I find it hardest to do when I need it the most!

Mrs D: Many of the people here at Living Sober are in the early stages of recovery and their minds are consumed with addictive thoughts. How can mindfulness help them to break out of these thought patterns?

Cheryl: Mindfulness practise helps us accept that these addictive thought patterns will continue and realise that we have the choice as to how to respond to these thoughts. What we resist persists, so by allowing and accepting these thoughts, in a kind and non-judging way we start to see them for what they are…simply thoughts. As we learn to drop any story attached to them, they become disempowered.

Mrs D: Ok that sounds a bit more complicated! 

Cheryl: To be honest mindfulness is such a big topic it is always a challenge to express it in written words as it requires a human element and intuition of the people in front of me to do it justice.

Mrs D: Could you recommend a simple mindfulness technique that our members could try?

Cheryl: When you feel that intense discomfort that arises when you cannot act on your craving try this RAIN technique:

Recognise the feeling and label it.
AAccept that it is ok to feel that way. Don’t fight it, resist or judge it.
IInvestigate the body sensations associated with the craving. Be kind and curious.
NNon identify. Change ‘ I am craving a drink’ to ‘I am experiencing a craving passing through me’.

This practise helps us to realise the craving is just a series of body sensations .. and that realisation allows us to respond rather than react to the craving.

Mrs D: Do you have any particular resources (books or talks etc) that you recommend?

Cheryl: Anything by Jon Kabat–Zinn. This TED talk by Judson Brewer on mindfulness and addiction is also really interesting.

Mrs D: What impact has mindfulness had on your own life?

Cheryl: The impact has been profound and has affected every area of my life. The relationship I have with myself, my life and others has improved dramatically. I am now living more in accordance with what I value.  Mindfulness has helped me extend the space between stimulus and response. I feel I can function better as a human being.

Mrs D: How do you see it impacting on the lives of the people you teach?

Cheryl: Those who persevere are often astounded by the results.

Mrs D: Do you think mindfulness is growing in popularity? Is this a good thing? Why?

Cheryl: Yes. There is a real feeding frenzy for mindfulness at the moment. Anything that makes people happier, less stressed and more authentic must be good.

Mrs D: What’s the best thing about your job?

Cheryl: The people I get to work with. There are many online courses available but in my experience it is essential to have the human contact when learning Mindfulness.

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Cheryl is based in Wellington and is offering a 10% discount to Living Sober members keen to do a Mindfulness4u course. Simply add the promo code “helpful” when booking online. 

9 Comments
  1. Yoga For All - Ovio 8 months ago

    […] This article was orginally featured on Living Sober […]

  2. ginnyleesober 9 months ago

    Hi Krystle,
    I really feel for you– you have a lot on your plate and you are doing the best you can with twins, your home, pets, your job and your anxiety and addiction problems. The latter (anxiety and drinking) will catch up with you and throw a wrench into making a good life for your kids. I didn’t think my daughter noticed much or cared about my drinking until she told me she was thinking of hanging herself at age 11. We were involved in a casual conversation on the way to her swimming lesson and she came out with that bombshell. The very next day I got her into therapy and got myself into AA. I stayed sober for 7 years, and then relapsed. I thought because she wasn’t around as much, she didn’t need me to stay sober. Then my anxiety began to spiral out of control. Now I’m on day 4, working on sobriety with the help of LS, blogs and (yes!) Mindfulness.

    You and your kids deserve a happy, healthy life. Sobriety and mindfulness will help you recognise and enjoy those precious moments so much more. Stay connected.
    I’m sending you love and best wishes!

  3. Anonymous 1 year ago

    Hi! Im wondering how Does Mindfulness help a person that is overly self conscious? Wont Mindfulness make it worse? My focus is Always inward and not truly engaged in whats happening, For instance Im not processing the words from another person in conversation! My mind goes inward and also goes blank!! When i want to describe something i get self conscious in the middle Of conversation and the mind goes blank and do not find the words about the topic

  4. Anonymous 2 years ago

    Krystle.

    Big hugs.

    Knowing is the first step.

    Keep ready all the blogs you can on the topic. You will find your path away from alcohol. Your anxiety will reduce with no booze over time.

    We are all on our own journey.

  5. Krystle 2 years ago

    I live in the states, kinda just stumbled upon this site while reading an article “drunk mommy”. Which I thought this article was going to read along the lines of its ok in moderation as long as everything is taken care of and you can keep ur job, ur house, etc.. well this article was quite the opposite it basically said the road ur on will eventually lead u where u think ur above. I am a single mother of 7 year old twins. I have been at my job now as a dental asst. For 6 years I own my own home we have a puppy and a cat. My kids are doing well in school, well one of them my boy is kinda struggling. But I come home at 4 of clock weekday and pour a drink then another I have about 6-7 jack and cokes a night. But I am never falling down drunk or incoherent. I drink while I make dinner watch TV with the kids and then get them off to bed. Lately my kids have been saying that all I do is watch TV and drink “soda” and it makes me sad. Cuz it really is all they see me do. But I am not sure I am ready to change. I have really bad anxiety so sometimes I am scared to leave the house. So when they go to their dad’s on the weekends I will start drinking at 6am then take a nap and start again I don’t like getting to drunk so I sleep when I think I have had enough. Guess I will just leave part of my story here and see where it goes ……… much love krystle

  6. Cheryl 2 years ago

    Thanks for your comments. For anyone who is interested I do private Mindfulness sessions/courses via Skype which could be useful for those of you who live outside of Wellington or who don’t want to do a public course.
    Here is the link to find out more or get in touch.
    http://mindfulness4u.co.nz/mindfulness-courses/

  7. Tryingagain2505 2 years ago

    This is a great interview, thank you for sharing. I have been “dipping in & out” of mindfulness for about 18 months, but found I use it when things are tough, rather than making it a regular habit, so this has motivated me to start looking at this again, in fact, I have just signed up for a Mindfulness Workshop this coming Sunday 🙂

  8. tnt8030 2 years ago

    Thank you for this, very helpful!

  9. Prudence 2 years ago

    Thank you Cheryl for taking the time to explain this to us. I also listened to the Ted Talk which was very good.
    I have been resisting “mindfulness” because it seems to annoy me in a similar way that the word “journey annoys Mrs D. It annoys me because it has become the latest “fashionable fad”, not because I don’t see value in it. It is also very obvious in it’s simplicity so I have not understood why a person would need to do a course in it. However, I am going to open myself up to the possibility of pulling my stubborn little head in and perhaps either attending a course they have here in Christchurch, or at least learning more about online. If you have any online recommendations I would be grateful. Have a gloriously minful day xo

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