In this week’s blog I’m delighted to share an interview I recently did with Catherine Morey-Nase from The Wellbeing Corner. Catherine runs nourishing and restorative mindful hikes and 6-week “learn to meditate” courses. I was lucky enough to meet Catherine in a workshop, where I was excited to learn that we shared a similar passion for mindfulness. In the short time that I’ve known Catherine she’s struck me as a warm, sincere and thoughtful person. Refreshingly, Catherine is someone who doesn’t just talk the talk of mindfulness, she walks the walk too.

How would you define mindfulness?

While there are various definitions of mindfulness, each with a particular emphasis, I think of mindfulness as paying attention to one’s present moment experience in a deliberate and non-judgemental way. When I think about mindfulness two words in particular come to mind: ‘awareness’ and ‘acceptance’. When we are being mindful we are attending to our experience with openness and curiosity.

What was it that drew you to mindfulness initially?

I started meditating in my early 20s as a way of managing anxiety. My mother had been interested in meditation for some time and kept suggesting I try it. I’m not sure why, but I resisted initially. Finally I gave it a go and have meditated regularly ever since. I found meditating quite challenging at first but I stuck with it and over time found that I could tap into a profound sense of inner peace. Meditation became something I wanted to do as opposed to something I felt I ‘should’ do. I don’t recall mindfulness being the ‘buzz’ word it is today back when I started meditating but without realising, or even intending it, my meditation practice has, over time, definitely helped me become more mindful in the rest of my life.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you incorporate mindfulness and wellbeing into your hikes?

Certainly! The idea behind my Mindful Hiking Days is to bring small groups of women together to experience the healing and restorative power of nature. Engaging our senses consciously and deliberately is a great way of being more mindful. When we do this, our minds come into the present moment and we naturally start to relax. We shift into an alpha brain wave state, which we experience as a calmer and more present state of mind. As a keen hiker and someone who loves the natural world, I can’t think of a better place than in nature to consciously engage the senses and experience a calmer state of mind! There is still plenty of chatting and laughing that happens on the hikes, but we stop intermittently along the way to enjoy short meditations and mindfulness exercises to enhance the experience of our surroundings. We also enjoy a longer period of silent walking, which often turns out to be an unexpected highlight of the day for a lot of people.

Which aspects of mindfulness do you explore in your workshops?

I run 6-week courses that are designed to introduce meditation to women with little or no meditation experience. My aim is to introduce a variety of meditation techniques in a way that is accessible and enjoyable. While all meditation techniques are, at their core, based on the same underlying principles, I encourage people to experiment with different techniques to find which one(s) resonate most. What works well for one person won’t necessarily be a good fit for another. We also explore the principles of meditation and mindfulness, to try to debunk some unhelpful myths about meditation and build confidence with the practice. I like to introduce people to the concept of short mini meditations, that can be practiced anywhere, anytime, as well as longer more formal meditation practices. While it’s not essential to meditate in order to be mindful, I do believe that establishing a regular meditation practice is an extremely beneficial way of developing an increased capacity for mindfulness in everyday life.

Is there a particular aspect of mindfulness that you find challenging personally?

I think the aspect of mindfulness I’ve struggled with most has been in relation to accepting aspects of myself without judgement. I’ve always had a pretty strong ‘inner critic’; the voice inside my head that seems to enjoy telling me I ‘should’ be better at something or that I’m not good enough. Meditation has helped me develop a much greater level of self-awareness. I’m now much better at noticing unhelpful thoughts without necessarily believing or buying into them. This is still an ongoing challenge for me but meditation and mindfulness have been, and continue, to be enormously helpful in this regard.

Do you have a personal theory about why mindfulness seems to resonate with so many people nowadays?

Given the frenetic pace of modern life coupled with the high levels of stress and anxiety that so many people are experiencing, it is perhaps not surprising that mindfulness is now resonating so strongly. Humans are not meant to operate under such high levels of stress for prolonged periods and mindfulness and meditation are invaluable ways of helping restore balance both mentally and physically. I also think that the enormous number of scientific studies that confirm what people have experienced through meditation and mindfulness practices for many thousands of years has also contributed to the dramatic rise in the level of interest in, and acceptance of, of these practices.

Do you mind if we ask what do you do to take care of your own wellbeing?

Not at all! My daily meditation practice is fundamental to my wellbeing. While I began meditating as a way of dealing with anxiety, meditation has, and continues, to support me in so many unanticipated ways. Running and practicing yoga are also absolutely essential for my wellbeing as are connecting with friends and family; spending time in nature; live music and reading. I also try to eat a healthy, wholefoods diet without being overly rigid or restrictive!

If you are interested in giving mindfulness a go, mindful hiking is a wonderful way to get started. Nature is the perfect setting for turning down the chatter in the mind and consciously engaging your senses. You can find out more about Catherine’s upcoming mindful hikes and 6-week learn to meditate courses by visiting her website: www.thewellbeingcorner.com