I got the email on a Friday morning in June. As part of celebrations for Volunteer Week, Valleys Steps were holding a picnic for their volunteers in Ynysangharad Park and details were attached. My mind reacted something like this:
Oh, I?d love to do that, but…I haven?t been on a picnic for years. What should I take? Do I even have a suitable blanket? What about food? All the food I like is so unhealthy. I bet everyone else will have something healthy. I don?t like eating with people I don?t know. Oh God, there might be people I don?t know! My social anxiety will be through the roof. And what if it rains? It won?t be worth going then. Should I drive there or walk? If I walk I?ll be all sweaty and look a mess once I get there, but I?m not sure where I could park the car. What will the ?outdoor mindfulness? activity be like? What if I can?t do it, or I don?t like it? Are people walking through the park going to be staring at us and laughing while we all sit around on the grass, cross-legged and eyes closed? That?s it, I can?t go! But I want to go! What am I going to do? Arrrgh!
I?m not kidding and I?m not exaggerating. That?s my internal voice. If anything, I?ve toned it down because you wouldn?t believe the stuff that goes on in my head. Or maybe you would? Maybe you have a similar voice too?
But here?s the thing: after a minute or two I became aware of what my mind was doing and I stopped this anxiety monologue. I took a deep breath, brought myself back to the present moment by focusing first on my breath and then my body, and calmed down. Two years ago I probably couldn?t have done that, but using simple stress control techniques and practicing mindfulness exercises learnt on Valleys Steps courses has helped me deal with stress and anxiety so much better than before.
So I went. And I loved it!
Everyone was really friendly, and we had a wonderful time. At the start of our picnic the Valleys Steps practitioner Paul guided us through some simple mindfulness exercises. I felt the sun on my face and the gentle breeze ruffling the hairs on my arms. I heard the sounds of children playing and the wind in the trees. I sensed the smell of the grass and felt the slight dampness of the ground under my fingers. The past and future dissolved away and for a time only the present moment existed.
Look out for Valleys Steps outdoor mindfulness sessions coming soon! All are welcome whether you?ve never tried mindfulness before and are curious to give it a go, or are a regular meditator who wants to do something different. Bring a friend, bring a rug, and leave your stress behind.
If you?d like to attend an outdoor mindfulness session, we are starting with a session on Wednesday 15th August, 6pm-7:30pm in Ynysangharad Park. Keep your eyes peeled on our website for further details in the next couple of weeks!
By Ryan Emmett