Hi everyone, Ash here
I am often asked why I am so passionate about mindfulness and how I am able to confidently say that it is because of mindfulness that I am in the happy place that I am today. I guess there is never going to be any 'proof' that I will ever be able to show, all I can ever really stress is how much I know my mindset has changed...
I have always been a creative person. I was in to drama and art at school and was always writing short stories for friends to read. We didn't have a lot of money growing up so much of my creativity had to be inspired by myself - there weren't any drama lessons or dance classes or clubs after school for me! I loved getting lost in my own mind, being another person for a while through performing or writing or day dreaming. As I got older I joined local theatre clubs that were free and soon found my passion for performing was more than just a hobby, it was something I was good at and I soon went to performing arts college which then led to me moving to London when I was 19, after touring the UK with a musical production of Aladdin. I met Simon and we bought our first flat, after 6 months together, and I soon realised I needed to get a 'proper' job (another story for another email!). My career in the fitness industry started when I was 23 and I became a manager at 25 - I was fortunate to find something else that I loved and was good at! As my career progressed though I found that my creativity dwindled and the person I had become was no longer dreaming about 'what if's' and 'one day this will happen...' When I look back at that time I can see that the creative part of my personality had got lost somewhere between working hard and picking up the pieces of my hectic personal life that had experienced many ups and downs between my late twenties and early thirties...
Every day during the low periods my energy was being used to constantly try to 'pick myself up'. After reluctantly starting mindfulness practise my mind began to calm down and over the coming year I felt my creativity spark reignite. I was getting more in to my fitness training, I started writing little stories that went nowhere but helped me feel creative again. I began to imagine again all the endless opportunities available to me - I got my spin qualification in 2016 and took the steps towards teaching classes at the beginning of 2017. I started my personal trainer qualification course, embraced the challenge of running and SMASH was born last summer!
I can honestly say that without mindfulness, none of this would have happened. You see, this may not be what you think should happen in mindfulness practise but, when I meditate I drift off. This is what the mind does, it is an expert at wandering off in different directions! Through mindfulness practise you learn to come back to the body and breath, and this is what is most important. You learn that some days your practise will be better than others, just like day to day life in general. You learn not to get angry when your practise doesn't go as you think it should - just like real life has a habit of doing. You learn that by concentrating on your breath and calming the mind you will make better decisions, and this follows through in to real life too. And for me, in those moments I get lost in thought, I tend to find that it is because my creative mind starts going in to overdrive and ideas start racing around like a tornado! I will always recognise that I am getting lost in thoughts but I also accept that it is at these times when I quiet the mind that my creative 'engine' works best so, before I come completely back to the breath, I slow that tornado down and summarise the thoughts in one sentence, which I will repeat a few times before I concentrate on my breath and body again. This way, once my meditation is over, I can repeat that sentence and write it down, or tell Simon... or text Sam telling her about an idea for SMASH!!!
Not every practise results in a brainstorming exercise (and this is a good thing as the main objective is to try to quiet the mind - whatever that means for each of us!). But on those days when I do have a 'light bulb' moment I accept my busy mind and am even more grateful for mindfulness. It is helping me to reclaim the person I was (that inner child coming out again!), someone who was creative and wanted to make people smile and be happy. It has helped me rediscover parts of myself again and make sense of those turbulent years of my twenties. It has helped me love and appreciate those who have been by my side for years, as well as open myself to new friends who are helping me be even better in my future. It has allowed me to be present right now and plan for today what will help me tomorrow.
Our minds are powerful and they need to be nurtured and trained. Amongst other things, mindfulness gave me my creative spark back - what will it spark in you?
Sam and Ash
P.S. If you get a moment, we would really appreciate it if you could please leave SMASH a review on Google (via the Fitness First Angel page - you can also review anything else about the club here too). It will really help spread the word to others that there is a class that can help train your mind as much as it does your body Thank you!