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8-Week Mindful Self Compassion Course – Cheltenham

Posted on: September 27th, 2016 by admin No Comments

Join us to cultivate the skill of self-compassion

8 week course with Mariana Straton and Brenda Bentley at the Isbourne Centre

Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) is an empirically supported training programme designed to cultivate the skill of self-compassion.

MSC provides a powerful tool for emotional resilience by combining the practices and skills of mindfulness and self-compassion. Mindfulness practice provides a stable landscape whereas self-compassion is the action of bringing gentle and kind action to your experience.

The three key components of self-compassion are:

  • self-kindness – treating yourself like you would a dear friend
  • a sense of common humanity – everyone suffers, you are not alone
  • balanced, mindful awareness – seeing clearly what needs soothing

Research shows that self-compassion is strongly associated with emotional wellbeing, reduced anxiety, depression and stress, maintenance of healthy habits such as diet and exercise and more satisfying personal relationships.

MSC can be learned by anyone. It’s the practice of repeatedly evoking good will toward ourselves especially when we’re suffering. Improvements were linked to how much a person practiced mindfulness and self-compassion in their daily lives.


Wednesday evenings: 12, 19 October, 2, 9, 16. 23, 30 November, 7 December plus a half day of practice 27 November


7:00-9:00 p.m.


£200, concessions £150 (includes all 8 sessions and half day of practice, course handbook, downloads/CDs). Our concessionary rate is for full-time students and those who are unemployed. If you don’t fall into those categories but would struggle to afford the full fee, please get in touch and we may be able to help.

Address: The Isbourne Holistic Centre, Isbourne House,  3 Wolseley Terrace,  Cheltenham GL50 1TH

**Please note that satnav takes you past the back of the buildings via Trafalgar Street (not to Wolesley Terrace) and onto the one-way system.    Click here for alternative map

For more details and to book see http://stillnessandus.co.uk/stillness-and-us/courses/

Please contact Mariana directly

Stillness and Us CIC               info@stillnessandus.co.uk                  www.stillnessandus.co.uk

Workshop: Intro to Mindfulness – Henley-on-Thames, OX

Posted on: September 12th, 2016 by admin No Comments


Want to learn mindfulness? This two-hour introduction to the principles and practices that you can begin to use in your day to day life straight away to enjoy the benefits in your life. Mindfulness is a intentional practice of regulating attention to the present moment experience and has been shown to reduce stress, lessen worry and increase wellbeing of practitioners.

DATE: 26/10/2016 from 12:30pm to 2:30pm. Advanced registration is required as space is limited. Book early to avoid disappointment. Cost £20 and includes light refreshments.

Workshop held in the tranquil setting of St Katherine’s Retreat House, Parmoor, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire RG9 6NN

Google Map Directions to venue: https://goo.gl/maps/U7Brvu9DQpL2

Workshop includes guided meditation mp3 and resources. The workshop and course is led by certified Mindfulness Teachers Mary Niker and Brenda Bentley who adhere to the Good Practice Guidelines for Mindfulness Teachers in the UK.

To book your place, contact Mary Niker on Phone: 07786194391 or send an us a email booking:

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2017 Forthcoming Courses

Posted on: August 3rd, 2016 by admin No Comments

Courses in Birmingham, West Midlands i 2017:

8-Week Mindfulness Based Living Course (MBLC) Course – Birmingham
Thursdays from 19:00 – 21:00
Jan 12, 19, 26; Feb 2, 9, 16; Mar 2, 9 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)
(no session during half-term)

8-week MBLC Winter 2017 - Birmingham

8-Week Mindfulness Based Living Course (MBLC) Course – Birmingham
Thursdays from 17:30 – 19:30
Jan 12, 19, 26; Feb 2, 9, 16; Mar 2, 9 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)
(no session during half-term)
Available Qty: 15


8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Course – Birmingham
Thursdays from 19:00 – 21:00
Apr 13, 20, 27; May 4, 11, 18, 25; Jun 1 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)
(no session during half-term)

8-week MSC Spring 2017- Birmingham

8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Course – Birmingham
Thursdays from 19:00 – 21:00
Apr 13, 20, 27; May 4, 11, 18, 25; Jun 1 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)
(no session during half-term)
Available Qty: 15

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Forthcoming Courses: September 2016

Posted on: July 14th, 2016 by admin No Comments

Two courses are set to start in September 2016:

Certified mindfulness courses in Birmingham.

8-Week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Course – Birmingham
Thursday evenings 19:30 to 21:30
Sep 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; Oct 6, 13, 20; Nov 3 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)

This course will be held at the Selly Oak Friend’s Meeting House
30 Bristol Rd, Birmingham, West Midlands B29 6NB

8-week MBCT Autumn 2016 - Birmingham

8-Week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Course – Birmingham
Thursday evenings 19:00 to 21:00
Sep 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; Oct 6, 13, 20 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)

Available Qty: 2

Certified mindfulness courses in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.

8-Week Mindfulness Based Living Course (MBLC) Course – Bromsgrove
Tuesdays from 19:00 – 21:00
Sep 6, 13, 20, 27; Oct 4, 11, 18; Nov 1 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)

This course will be held at Wellbeing at The Wishing Well, 6 St John St, Bromsgrove B61 8QY

8-week MBLC Autumn 2016 - Bromsgrove

8-Week Mindfulness Based Living Course (MBLC) Course – Bromsgrove
Tuesdays from 19:00 – 21:00
Sep 6, 13, 20, 27; Oct 4, 11, 18; Nov 1 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)
Available Qty: 9

Spring Courses

Posted on: April 3rd, 2016 by admin No Comments

8-Week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Course – Birmingham
Tuesday mornings from 09:00 to 11:00
May 3, 10, 17, 24; Jun 7, 14, 21, 28 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)

Venue: Harborne Complementary Health Clinic, 321 Harborne Lane, Birmingham B17 0NT

8-Week Mindfulness Self-Compassion (MSC) Course – Stratford upon Avon Thursdays from 19:00 – 21:00 May 5, 12, 19, 26; Jun 9, 16, 23, 30 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)

Venue: Lifeways, 30 Albany Road, Stratford upon Avon, CV37 6PG


Forthcoming Course: Birmingham MBCT

Posted on: February 8th, 2016 by admin 1 Comment

8-Week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Course – Birmingham

Tuesday mornings from 09:00 to 11:00

May 3, 10, 17, 24; Jun 7, 14, 21, 28 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)

at Harborne Complementary Health Clinic
321 Harborne Lane
Birmingham B17 ONT

Click course title for more details on the course.


8-week MBCT Spring 2016 - Birmingham

8-Week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Course – Birmingham
Tuesday mornings from 09:00 to 11:00
May 3, 10, 17, 24; Jun 7, 14, 21, 28 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)

Available Qty: 5

Forthcoming Course: Stratford upon Avon

Posted on: February 8th, 2016 by admin 1 Comment

8-Week Mindfulness Self Compassion (MSC) Course – Stratford upon Avon

Learn more about MSC

Thursdays from 19:00 – 21:00

May 5, 12, 19, 26; Jun 9, 16, 23, 30 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)

8-week MSC - Stratford upon Avon

8-Week Mindfulness Self Compassion (MSC) Course – Stratford upon Avon
Thursdays from 19:00 – 21:00
May 5, 12, 19, 26; Jun 9, 16, 23, 30 + Day of Mindfulness (optional)

Available Qty: 4

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Courses will take place at the beautiful space at

Lifeways Centre
30 Albany Road
Stratford upon Avon


Sleepitation: Mindfulness of Sleep

Posted on: January 20th, 2016 by admin 1 Comment

We all experience the occasional bout of restlessness when trying to sleep. Chronic lack of sleep can have serious health issues such as increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, depression and obesity. Our ability to perform and sustain our energy for our responsibilities is hindered and this can also affect our mood making us grouchy, impatient and susceptible to overwhelm.

A few of my participants have shared that they are experiencing trouble getting and staying asleep in recent times. During the course, I refer to one of the obstacles to our mindfulness practice as ‘sleepitation’ which means we set out to practice mindfulness and become so relaxed we fall asleep. While some participants could relate to this, some could not and I noticed a trend began to emerge and I wondered about correlations of their experiences I did some research.

“Sleep is the best meditation.” Dalai Lama

Research published in the Journal of Science indicate that our brains are more active in sleep than wakefulness. In this article on the Huffington Post the Duke University professor Dr. Murali Doraiswamy suggests the brain works harder as it organises, tidies up, purges and flushes out toxins along the way. These metaphorical brain teams can be understood as a janitors that take out the garbage, librarians that organise the books returned to make order out of chaos and lastly, it boosts our immunity and is essential foundation for all of our health.

According to the National Health Service (2013) there are many factors that contribute to difficulty in falling and staying asleep include such as stress, anxiety and pain. With one in three people having difficulty from time to time and one in ten people regularly, how can mindfulness and compassion practices help?

During a pilot study at Stanford Medical Centre (Ong, 2008-2009) improved sleep of 30 insomniacs using Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy course that lasted six weeks. Approximately 60% of participants no longer experienced chronic symptoms of sleep difficulties and this disqualified them as insomniacs. Benefits were sustainable according to the follow up to this study where participants reported they were falling asleep twice as quickly as they did prior to the course.

While there is no one size fits all solution to our sleep problems, there is some advice that you can consider when addressing your individual needs:

  1. Lifestyle. Diet and exercise matters. If we are eating nutritionally empty foods and consuming stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, sugar and similar additives in abundance, we will be affected. Just like our vehicles need the right type of fuel to keep them running smoothly so does our bodies. Exercise is essential part of our daily routine and can help with the body releasing stress held in the body.
  2. Conditions. We need to create the conditions for restful sleep. This means turning down stimulation and settling into a bedtime routine that supports restfulness. At least an hour before bed, turn down the volume on sensory stimulating devices – TVs, smartphones and choose instead restful activities such as reading, bedtime yoga or breathing exercises. Any activity that intention is to cultivate rest and relaxation can support you to wind down naturally.

Mindful.org has shared some more tips on this on their website here that’s worth checking out.

A technique I teach clients is a modified body scan practice that can be done when you are having trouble falling or staying asleep:

  1. Lay on you back in bed. Hands and legs uncrossed. Set intention to witness your awareness and be restful. Consider your motivation for doing so such as health and wellness. For example, “My intention is to be present and aware of my attention and my motivation is to be healthy and well.” You may want to consider the impact of this benefit and the wider result of being well rested on those around you.
  2. Follow the breath moving in and out of your body wherever this is most obvious to you. You may want to slightly deepen the breath to regulate the in and out breath for the same length and duration. Some people find it helpful to count the breath in to 3-4 seconds and releasing the breath the same. You may want to experiment with just labeling the in breath ‘in’ and the out breath ‘out’ as well so breathing in you are aware you are breathing in and breathing out you are aware you are breathing out.
  3. Once you feel settled on the rhythm of your breathing, you can begin by moving your awareness around the body. You may wish to do this is a systematic way, although I prefer random approach. For example, bring your attention to the following areas randomly, “left eye, tip of nose, back of head, right knee, chin, right foot, left elbow…”
  4. Once you feel like the mind is actively engaged in this practice, bring your attention to settle on your core – the lower part of your torso, near the belly button and hold your attention here for a count of 10 breaths. If the mind wanders, that’s okay, as soon as you notice, just gently and kindly return to random moving your awareness around different body parts and returning to the core every so often.
  5. Keep repeating for as long as you need to.

This practice meets an active mind with an intentional active practice that is interesting enough to engage it and tame it. It’s important that when the mind wanders this is not a problem, it’s the nature of the mind to have thoughts and this happens on it’s own – thoughts are self arising, self displaying and will go on their own if we don’t engage with them and turn thoughts into thinking. Using the attention to cultivate awareness of the body and hold our attention with a gentle and kind attitude can be soothing.

UCLA has a recording of a form of the body scan for sleep here (albeit I don’t really like the music you may!)

Watch this space as I am going to record my own version. You may wish to sign up to the mailing (bottom right corner of page to sign up) to get notified when it’s available.

Here’s a great video about how Smartphones affect our brain by Dan Siegel:


National Health Service (UK). (2013).

Ong, J. C., Shapiro, S. L., & Manber, R. (2008). Combining Mindfulness Meditation with Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for Insomnia: A Treatment Development Study. Behavior Therapy, 39, 2. 171-182.

Ong, J. C., Shapiro, S. L., & Manber, R. (2009). Mindfulness Meditation and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia: A Naturalistic 12-Month Follow-up. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, 5, 1. 30-36.

Courses starting in February 2016

Posted on: January 4th, 2016 by admin No Comments

These are structured group courses that teach the concepts, principles and practices of mindfulness in a secular learning experience for personal development.

Space is strictly limited and advance booking is required. Each class is two hours and includes all materials including handbook and guided meditation audio mp3s for home practice + Day of Mindfulness (optional)

Cost: £200.00 – concessionary places available for those on low income and benefits (contact to discuss).


8-Week Mindfulness Self Compassion (MSC) Course – Bromsgrove
@ Wellbeing at The Wishing Well, 16 St John’s Street, B61 8QY
Tuesdays from 19:00 – 21:00 Feb 2, 9, 16, 23; Mar 1, 8, 15, 22

8-Week Mindfulness Based Living Course – Birmingham
@ Harborne Complementary Health Clinic, 321 Harborne Lane, B17 0NT
Wednesday evening from 19:30 to 21:30 Feb 3, 10, 17, 24; Mar 2, 9, 16, 23

From Frazzle to Dazzle During the Holidays

Posted on: December 17th, 2015 by admin No Comments

This time of year is stressful for most people with the holiday season weighing down on them, and an endless list of to-dos and social invitations. The weather outside is getting colder, and our motivation is waning with the adjustment to shorter and darker days. With so much to do and seemingly much less time to do it, we can become easily overwhelmed. Even the predominant message of the season, to be Happy and Joyful, can bring about a layer of pressure when we are feeling anything but that!

Being able to hold it all together is a delicate balancing act of handling our responsibilities, along with taking care of ourselves. When we are edging toward overwhelm, our emotions can be raw with frustration, and outbursts of anger are common.  Unfortunately, it’s not until we’ve hit a breaking point that we realize that we need to take time for self-care.  By that time it’s harder to recover and bounce back into the game with a sense of optimism and goodwill.

The other day I was waiting in line at the petrol station to fill up my car. There were two cars in front of me, and the car at the very front pulled off and exited.  The car behind me jumped ahead toward the first pump. Instead of waiting his turn, he cut me off by squeezing past my car and the car in front of us. This made it impossible for the car in front of me to exit, so both of us had to wait even longer in order for him to finish. Both the driver in front of me and myself were miffed about his inconsiderate action. I didn’t say anything in order to avoid a confrontation, but the other driver engaged this rude behavior by the other driver, and was met with a few inappropriate words and gestures that I don’t care to repeat. Things escalated from there and it turned into a yelling match between the two. As I sat in my car, feeling thankful I wasn’t directly involved, I wondered how to handle this situation in a balanced way.

So what do we do when find ourselves at a crisis point, or at the receiving end of someone’s inconsideration and rudeness? How can we tune into our own sanctuary of calm contentment in the maddening rush of our responsibilities? How can we be more compassionate and gentle with ourselves and others during this high-stress season?

First, be prepared for the madness. Yes, you must expect drama from others. Remember we are all trying to get things done, and we are all taking very little time to care for ourselves in the mad rush. When we expect that drama is likely to happen, we are less likely to be taken aback with shock or horror in the face of it. We can more readily accept this as part of the (albeit not as joyful) holiday season.

Once we have accepted the inevitability of drama we can begin to implement some self-care into our routine. Let’s look at that petrol station drama. Instead of provoking and amplifying the drama, you could use this as a moment to recall times when you’ve also been hasty, impatient, inconsiderate and rude (yes you!). We all have been guilty of this. You could remind yourself that, “Just like me, everyone is trying to get things done. Just like me, everyone gets stressed. Just like me, everyone can be inconsiderate.”

By reminding yourself of our own shortcomings, you can create a more compassionate approach toward those who are caught up in a moment of drama. We are then much less affected by the negativity, as we are less reactive and more responsive with compassion towards ourselves and others.

Secondly, whatever you are left with after a high-stress incident; let it be. The Beatle’s were right when they said, “Whisper words of wisdom; let it be.” Perhaps this is a good time to whisper or hum this to yourself in your head to tap into the sentiment. We often carry the drama with us long after the moment has passed. Remember  to let it go, and let it be.  This is a good practice. Rumination is the killer of joy, and learning some practical ways to deal with it will go miles toward your health and wellbeing. Here are three doors you can choose to enter to interrupt a ruminating habit  that you can try:

  1. Check-in with your body. You can check-in by dropping down from your head to your body, and by paying close attention to all of your bodily sensations and sensory perceptions. A simple way to do this is to enquire: “What do I see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and feel right now?” This is a ‘below the neck’ felt sense of the moment which can help you ground your attention by using the body’s awareness, which lowers stress levels.
  2. Follow the breath. The breath is always happening in the present moment’s experience whether you are aware of it or not. Most likely you aren’t aware, as you’re living above the neck in your thoughts. When we follow our breath by paying attention to how it feels to breathe, we engage our parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect. This effectively lowers stress levels.
  3. Be kind to yourself. Being kind to yourself can entail a soothing touch such as placing your hand over your heart or touching your own hand in a gentle way. It’s treating yourself the way you would treat a dear friend who was suffering. Speak to yourself with a nurturing tone such as, “This is hard. Let me be kind.” Research shows that people who are compassionate within themselves are more caring and compassionate toward others, and can handle life’s challenges with more ease.
  4. If you’re already a frazzled mess, then take skilful action after trying steps 1 and 2, and then change the scenery. Take yourself outside for a long walk, breathe deeply as you do this, and come back to your senses as you do. Research shows that walking is beneficial and helps to lower stress levels.

Finally, send a wish for all those stress-heads out there trying to survive the storm of their overwhelming situation through the understanding of peace and harmony. You may be surprised how far this goes to soften your own demeanor when you’re in the fray of a hustle and bustle situation. This practice of imagining that you are paving your future moments with good intention will result in you feeling healthy, happy and well. Even if our good intentions do not manifest, we can still appreciate the fact that gladness in our heart promotes goodness in our lives. All these practices can help you to bring balance to a high stress moment, and remind you that it’s only a brief moment of madness. We’re all yearning to be happy, healthy and well. May you be kind to yourself and others and have a joyful holiday season.