Upcoming deadlines, relationships, current events: the stress of everyday life can make our heads a little noisy. UK for UNHCR supporter and trained psychotherapist Estelle Earnshaw is helping us all make a little more space in our busy minds for joy and compassion. We spoke to Estelle about her meditation practice and fundraising for refugees around the world.
Q: Thank you so much for supporting us! Why did you decide to support UK for UNHCR?
A; I wanted to support a charity that reaches out and supports people in some of the greatest need in the world, that was inclusive of people with diverse faiths, ethnicity, and gender. My heart is always moved when seeing images of people suffering because they have been displaced through no fault or choice of their own.
I’m very aware that I have been born into a, so far, safe part of the world and have benefited from a healthy, peaceful environment and upbringing. As a result of this, I live in a warm, comfortable home, generally without fear and wanted to give back some of what I have received to those who have so much less. I also experienced the disruption of our family business and home being lost when I was very young so perhaps this explains my empathy with people who have lost so much more. I guess it’s my way of expressing my Christian belief, by attempting to “love my neighbour as myself.” I just want to help the world grow in love and equality.
Q: Tell us about how you came to conduct these mindfulness sessions?
A: After I retired from full time work as a psychotherapist, I rested for a while and recharged my batteries, and then wanted to share with others the way Mindfulness has benefited me. I started running one group about four years ago and then gradually increased the number of groups. At the time the money raised from the sessions went to a different charity of the group’s choice each year.
When Covid-19 hit us, I dithered about continuing the sessions but experimented with Zoom groups and found that they were well received. From there more people seemed in need of connecting to mindfulness to help them survive these difficult times, especially to cope with anxious feelings.
Q: What exactly is mindfulness?
A: Briefly, mindfulness enables, enhances and encourages a healthy lifestyle.
Summarised by Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Mindfulness is about paying attention without judgement, moment by moment, to our experience, using the breath to anchor attention.” The sessions I offer focus on practicing breathing, relaxation, awareness and energising through gentle movement.
Q: How do you think we can all benefit from more mindfulness in our lives?
A: Practising mindfulness, whether for 3 minutes or an hour, enables me to remain focused on the present rather than being fixed on regrets about the past or worries about the future. Practicing breathing through the nose enables the brain and body to pause and settle, leaving me calmer and more able to choose wisely. Hopefully others benefit in a similar way!
Q: Have you thought about bringing these mindfulness sessions to people who are displaced?
A: I hadn’t thought about bringing mindfulness sessions to people who are displaced, but that’s certainly something I’d love to do. All my groups are aimed to be accessible to all.
Q: Finally, when do you run these sessions, and how can people join?
A: Groups meet either weekly or monthly for an hour’s Mindfulness practice via Zoom, some daytime, some in the evening. Some are smaller groups with limited space and others more open to all. I also run ‘Creative Mornings of Mindfulness’ which are longer one-off sessions encouraging shared creativity.
To enquire about availability of sessions please contact me via my website.
You can also visit Estelle’s JustGiving fundraising page here.