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Kay Buckby

The Mindful Trainer


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Mindfulness: inviting your learners to stop before they start


Distractions, distractions, distractions… this of how we live our working lives today. Packing too much in, a mobile with constant social media bombardment, open plan offices meaning all day distractions, emails constantly pinging and a ‘to do’ list that we never seem to get to the end of.

Our learners have all this to contend with. Then, on top of this, a course invite arrives into their calendar! Yes, most people want to learn new things, because they want to improve themselves. The reality of these distractions means our learners can arrive into the training room with a blur of emotions within them, like waves in the ocean.

Within one person, the thoughts and emotions could be a real mixture; ranging from annoyance at something a colleague has just said to them, joy at completing a task, and fear of not being as good as everyone else on the course. They may be unaware of these emotions and thoughts as they arrive into the room.

Mindfulness gives us the opportunity to be in a moment in time. When we stop and rest we allow something within us that has gone a bit sleepy, the chance to re-awaken.

When I am on a retreat, the practice of stopping and being in the moment is often by sound of someone ringing a bell. When the bell sounds, (and it sounds three times), it is a chance to stop, whatever I am doing, until the final bell sound has rung out.

In the training room, I use a technique called coming into the room. It is an opportunity that enables my learners to have a stop moment, like the bell sounding.

Most courses start the moment everyone turns up. Whatever emotions, thoughts and physical sensations we bring into the room blur into the learning experience.

Coming into the room

I often work with corporate clients, and for many years I have used this technique to encourage all of us to be in the room. To be. I don’t introduce it as a meditation, although some learners have asked if it is meditation, and some learners have requested longer sessions (meditations).

This is how I use it. Once people settle into their seats, ask them to take a minute or two to fully come into the room:

“Before we start on our learning journey… let’s fully embrace this moment. Sit back in the chair, rest your hands by your side, or in your lap. Softly close your eyes. Take three full breaths. Then breathe normally. Feel the weight of your feet on the floor. Bring awareness to the noises outside the room, and let the noises pass by, without holding onto them. Notice the weight of your body in the chair. Let’s enjoy a few more seconds of breathing, noticing your stomach expand as you breathe in, and contract as you breathe out. {Breathe with them}. I’m inviting you to come back into the room. Softly open your eyes when you are ready.”

I join them in the meditation. I softly close my eyes when I ask my learners to, and I take three full breaths. It isn’t a script; I speak whatever I experience. If you hear a car driving by, invite the sound, for the sound to drift over them. You can use all the senses, so you can say ‘What is the light quality like in the room?’ (even though we have our eyes shut, we will be aware of the light). I am stopping. I am meditating. I am inviting myself to stop, too.

Asking questions

Once everyone has opened their eyes, take a couple of breaths before asking them questions such as:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What was that experience like?
  • Would anyone like to share anything?
  • What did you notice, in your body?
  • What thoughts did you notice?

This is a gentle enquiry, and use your own questions. All we are doing is exploring what has happened. We may have awakened things that could enhance, or get in the way of, the learning process.

I’ve had learners say:

“I actually feel agitated, and I’d prefer to go and make a phone call before starting.”

“I noticed a real ‘nip’ in my back. I hadn’t noticed that pain before.” (He had an emergency operation on his kidneys later that week – how disconnected can we be from our bodies?)

“I feel energised. Thanks, I’m so ready to start.”

“This is really important to me. I’m nervous about the programme, but I’m excited.”

“I’m anxious about this course. I don’t think I will be good enough.”

“I’m in a really bad mood today. I’ve only just realised it.”

“I am so exhausted. I’m shocked at how exhausted I am.”

Whatever is said, embrace it. You’ve invited people to stop. It might sound like a simple technique, but most courses start the moment everyone turns up. Whatever emotions, thoughts and physical sensations we bring into the room blur into the learning experience.

We are inviting people from a world of busy, busy, busy…to stop, and open their distracted minds to learn.

Slowing the body and the mind for a better learning environment

The ‘Coming into the room’ activity is powerful, because you are inviting everyone to stop. For some people, it might be the first two minutes that they have fully stopped in for a long time. I have enabled two people to reconnect with their bodies in the time I have been doing this – both visited their GP just in time (as in the back pain above).

In mindfulness meditation, stopping physically is the first stage. When the body stops, we can slow our mind down. We can feel the current of the water, the thoughts, the emotions, like waves in the ocean.

Sometimes the waves can cause us to carry on, and move forwards, unaware of our state. Then we go into a learning event with all of this happening. We cannot reach our full potential if body and mind are disconnected.

It’s not that the anxiety, worry, excitement, to do list etc. won’t stop happening. Of course, they will. What this exercise does do is enable us to really see something, that our busyness doesn’t. Mindfulness allows us to notice.

It can be helpful to remind ourselves that the learning process is complex. We are inviting people from a world of busy, busy, busy…to stop, and open their distracted minds to learn.

Coming into the room can be used as Coming back in the room (for after a tea break), and  Welcoming to the room (first course). Use whatever words work for you. I’ve run a meditation for up to 10 minutes without using the word meditation. Those ten minutes of stopping can pay back dividends in the long term.

I look forward to hearing your experiences using this technique.


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Kay Buckby


Read more from Kay Buckby

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