Britomart People: Nick and Danica

Meditation has proven benefits when it comes to mental wellbeing and concentration. From now until Christmas, a yogi and a bike advocate will be running free lunchtime meditation sessions in Takutai Square.

You’re going to be hosting two 20-minute mindfulness sessions each lunchtime on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Takutai Square until December. The sessions are free and open to anyone. What can people expect when they turn up? Danica: A warm welcome and a unique opportunity to “exercise your mind” in the middle of the city. You’ll find a mix of business people, students, inner city folk, guys, girls and our dog – Yogi.

You’ve both been practicing mindfulness for some time. What benefits does it give you – and how long will it take newcomers to experience those benefits? Nick: The practice has given me the ability to create space in-between thoughts, gain perspective and to respond to life, rather than reacting. These benefits and many others can be felt by some instantly, however for others it can take days, weeks or months of practice. Although in saying this, I’ve never heard anyone say to me, “Well, that was a waste of time” because even just one mindful breath will benefit you in some way.

People tend to associate meditation with quiet zones or lush outdoor spaces in good weather. How easy is it to achieve mindfulness in busy urban places like Takutai Square? Danica: Ironically, it can be easier to meditate in busy outdoor spaces! The sounds, smells and city vibes help to keep you present rather than in your head. We have been running yoga and meditation sessions in outdoor spaces for the past three years and our community often says the same thing! What happens is you learn to surrender, all the sounds eventually fade and you are simply present with each breath. This quote by Jon Kabat-Zinn sums it up quite beautifully.

“Give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are.”  Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

What are the most common barriers people have to participating in meditation sessions – and how do you persuade them to give up a little bit of their time to mindfulness practice? Danica: People think they are not “good” at meditation because their minds are too busy. This is exactly why we meditate! To learn tools and techniques to calm the mind and bring peace into our lives. The results of meditation often are subtle and it may feel like little progress is made. However, rest assured time is never wasted practicing meditation. I like to think of it as a artist carving a sculpture into stone: little by little the shape takes form and eventually something truly beautiful is created.

Do people need to do anything to prepare for your sessions? Nick: Just arrive, exactly as you are. Everyone is welcome. No active wear needed. Although remember we will be outdoors, so a hat / sunglasses / jumper / water bottle may come in handy!

Photographs by Joe Hockley