It's Ash here
How have you been? How is your mental health and wellness? Have you taken some time to be kind to yourself recently? We often get caught up in the chaos of life that sometimes we forget to take a moment and be gentle with ourselves, and this was very apparent to me on Wednesday when I arrived at London's first silent cafe on Wednesday night...
A few weeks ago my friend Jake asked me to attend the opening of the first silent cafe in London that was created by a friend of his, Tom. When he told me that mindfulness was a fundamental part of the nights set up I told him to count me in! I didn't do much research beforehand, or ask too many questions, so when we arrived I had no idea what to to expect. We were greeted at the entrance in Shoreditch and were told that for the next hour we should not talk, and that if we had to we should do it very quietly (think library!). We were taken to a plush seating area with big cushions and a coffee table that had gorgeous lamps, paper and pencils and a menu for us to order some tea (I think anything other than a round Tetley's tea bag is fancy but this was really fancy - and delicious!). As more guests arrived we were told quietly that the night was about to begin. We had an hour to be silent and this would be followed by a 10 minute opportunity to take part in an unguided mindfulness meditation that would be signalled by a bell starting and finishing. We would then have some live music that would engage us and keep us blissfully in the present moment.
During the first hour I had so much fun in silence! We had some instructions for origami so Jake and I had a go (I wasn't very good!). I then challenged him (by miming) to draw a picture of his dog. He then gave me 5 minutes to write a poem! He taught me the alphabet in sign language and it only took 20 minutes! It is something that I had always wanted him to teach me but we 'never had the time'. Finally, we had a game of hang man, something I haven't played in years! The meditation was perfect, although I could easily have fallen asleep because the room was so peaceful. The music that followed came from an incredible violin player and he had the audience in the palm of his hand - the music was beautiful and watching him play the violin was inspiring. When you are encouraged to be more mindful you see things you don't normally look for and I found myself spellbound by the way the bow moved to create the sound. Tom then concluded the evening by explaining why he felt the need to open a silent cafe in London after experiencing the concept in Vietnam - to bring peace and tranquillity to a busy and chaotic London Town. I honestly felt relaxed, present and had so much fun - all whilst being mindful of everything happening around me.
This got me thinking about how often we take time to be quiet and offer kindness to our mental health. Every day I practise mindfulness meditation where I get to be calm for twenty minutes and, as I have mentioned before, I think this nurtures and nourishes my mind. Wednesday showed me that there is also opportunity to be mindful in other ways - it is not just about meditation! Sure, I love meditation and encourage everyone to try it, but how can you practise mindfulness in other ways? We can eat more mindfully, listen to music like it's the first time we heard it, be more present when with friends and loved ones, approach work with attention and focus, look up every now and then and notice our surroundings. There are so many ways we can bring mindfulness in to our lives and the benefits of doing so are incredible - you just have to consistently try .
If you would like to know more about the silent cafe and are interested in going along to the next event (and I certainly encourage you to do so!) the website is www.silentcafe.co.uk. It promises you will leave rejuvenated - I certainly did .
Have a wonderful weekend. Don't forget you get an extra hour, so why not use this hour to bring more mindfulness in to your life?...
Be kind .
Sam and Ash