Body in mind? The need for an integrative approach to compassion in the NHS

Spring 2014
Tamara Russell

I am a clinical psychologist, martial artist and mindfulness trainer. My own personal
practice of mindfulness, using moving meditation (Tai Chi and Qi Gong) and seated
practices, has transformed my clinical work. Not only am I able to maintain and support
my own mental health and ongoing personal and professional development with
mindfulness, I also increasingly notice a massive difference in how I interact with clients
and, correspondingly, in their response to the treatment.Working with mindfulness
really speeds up the process of therapy and working with body in mind opens up a
wider range of information to use in the process.

Summary

Working in healthcare we inevitably encounter suffering and negative emotion. If we cope by cutting off, we disable our ability to empathise or respond compassionately. In a system that routinely asks staff to do more with less, there is an urgent need to improve our ability to cope with our own and our clients’ emotions. Recent findings from the field of neuroscience form a basis for training that helps staff safely engage more compassionately with patients and take better care of themselves.

First Paragraph

It feels appropriate to pause and connect to our own experience and response to what Aidan Halligan has said [see previous article]. I make this invitation because listening to his talk I became aware of some strong reactions in my own body in the region of the chest and the heart. This layered reaction was to both his passion, and the stories he told. I would encourage people now, if you feel comfortable to do so, to close your eyes and allow yourself to connect with whatever you’re experiencing, particularly in the body, and in the torso region. There may be a range of different sensations, and the invitation is to see if we can accept and acknowledge whatever is there, without trying to change anything at all. Alongside those sensations, feelings, emotions you might notice the breath moving gently in and out of the body. (Pause of a minute or so) And then in your own time open your eyes and re-engage with the room. Here we have just connected to our bodies in a micro-mindful moment; something I would very much recommend people build even just for thirty seconds into their professional and personal working lives.