Greenwich mindfulness instructor Kelly Robson teaches children and adults to savour the present moment.
What is a mindfulness instructor? What does your job involve?
The job itself consists, beyond actual teaching, of setting up courses, marketing, lots of reading and CPD, and most importantly a strong personal meditation practice. My studies have been ongoing with the Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, part of the university’s School of Psychology, and I work under supervision of one of its faculty members.
How do you teach mindfulness to kids?
I come into schools to teach after-school clubs, assemblies, wellness days, and so on. My favourite group to teach is Years 5 and 6 (ages 9 and 10). They see the usefulness of mindfulness practice, as they face so much pressure from exams, sports, music and drama performance, changing bodies and strong emotions, peer pressure, etc, etc, etc. Teachers also find that they benefit from learning mindfulness and establishing a meditation practice.
I’m qualified to teach the children’s curricula developed by the Mindfulness in Schools Project for primary and secondary students, and teachers.
Can anyone, at any age, start meditating? What’s a good way to start?
I believe that barring serious mental illness anyone can benefit from meditation, but no one should be compelled; it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s very simple in theory, but difficult to get a handle on in practice. Most people find that their minds are very busy, so as they begin to meditate thoughts start streaming in: ‘I’m too busy for this, it’s boring, I can’t sit still, I’m not doing it right, it’s not for me, my foot is itchy, I should be doing something else, what’s wrong with me? What’s for lunch?’ The instruction is simply to watch these thoughts raining down and ‘stand behind the waterfall’. Choose something to focus on, like the breath in the belly or the nose, or the sensations of the body as you sit, walk or do yoga and stay with it for a period of time, maybe 10 or 20 minutes. Each time the mind wanders or you get caught up in thinking, gently come back to your object of focus, without judgement or self-criticism.
What are the main benefits of mindfulness and meditation? What would you say to people who don’t get it, or understand the point of meditating?
There are loads of benefits from meditation! Someone described it beautifully by saying it’s like putting shock absorbers on a rickety car. You begin to be less stressed about the pressures of everyday life, you begin to detach yourself from the running commentary about the past and the future (rumination), you begin to see your unhelpful and automatic patterns of thought, your concentration strengthens so that decisions can be made from clear thinking rather than impulse, and so on.
The main benefit to me, and one of the reasons teaching is such a joy, is when the realisation dawns that you can look after yourself as kindly as you do your friends and your children. Most of us judge ourselves pretty harshly.
Meditation can also allow us to live more comfortably with pain: the arthritis in my hands is still painful but it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.
To those who don’t get it, I’d say just give it a go and see what happens. There are a lot of resources out there now, like the Headspace and Buddhify apps, books like Finding Peace in a Frantic World (with guided meditations included) by Professor Mark Williams and Danny Penman, and websites like www.bemindful.co.uk and Breathworks.
Where do you teach?
I’ve been teaching in Greenwich and Central London for about six years. I teach an eight-week mindfulness course to adults each term at Mycenae House, plus one-to-one sessions with private clients, corporate wellness, university staff and academics, and for five years I’ve even provided mindfulness taster sessions at a summer festival in Grosvenor Square. I guide meditation practice retreats and monthly drop-in practice evenings; plus, of course, my work with students and teachers at schools.
How long have you been meditating?
I’ve meditated on and off (mostly off) since university (a long time ago) with a vague feeling it was good for me. When I was made redundant from my publishing job in 2011, a friend suggested doing an eight-week mindfulness course as a participant and it resonated so strongly that I decided to make it a large part of my life. I’ve been studying, training and teaching ever since.
For more information on Kelly’s meditation courses, email firstname.lastname@example.org