Life is tough. Everybody hurts. So what’s your escape route when it all starts pressing down on you? For an increasing amount of us, mindfulness – meditation that helps to bring us back into the moment – is a way to regain perspective, take charge of our restless minds, and face the world in an altogether calmer, cooler and more collective way. Works for us, anyway.
So we’re really intrigued by Make Space – a new venture by development coach Jackie O’Carroll and Karen Podesta (of Little Atoms repute). Yes, some self help is wishy washy supermarket therapy for the worried well. But not mindfulness – it’s a spiritual technology that’s stood the test of time. Let’s face it – we’re all fighting for our lives. There’s no harm in huddling together for warmth, eh?
Life: it’s just tough, isn’t it? Times are hard, and only the strong survive – there’s no getting over that, is there?
Life is tough – for everyone, in very different ways. We might look at others and make assumptions about their ‘easy’ life. Once we acknowledge that everyone has challenges in their lives, we can move to a more loving and compassionate place. Being open to feeling compassion for yourself and others brings a big shift in the way we see ourselves and our lives.
Being strong is about working through our pain, hurt and difficult experiences and opening up, first to ourselves, and then to others. Opening up to others with love and compassion, stopping judging people, wanting to share my learning and more fulfilling and joyful days, is what inspired Make Space.
Isn’t self help, really, just an opt-out? It doesn’t really have any practical solutions, does it?
Self help comes down to finding a safe space to explore our values and beliefs, to learn about different ways of seeing ourselves and being enabled to love ourselves in the here and now, regardless of the past. Make Space offers that place and space.
What is mindfulness anyway? And how can meditation really help, practically?
Mindfulness is very much an approach to life, to every day, every moment. When we begin to focus on our everyday actions and thoughts we begin to notice negative thoughts, misplaced emotions and responses to situations and people. Meditation is about focusing the mind on the present moment – in order to calm the mind and the body. Breathing is used as a simple focus, but also chanting, guided meditation, a daily practice of sitting peacefully or whilst walking, waiting or in the middle of a crowd. It’s a way of becoming aware of ourselves, calming our breathing, our thoughts and focusing on this moment. How can this not help us with every aspect of our lives?
Isn’t all this new-age stuff just an excuse for people who can’t be bothered putting their shoulder to the wheel?
We all can find what works for us to become the happiest and most fulfilled version of ourselves. Many of us have experienced counselling or therapy at different times in our lives – not an easy option as you have to work at exploring sometimes painful stuff. Whatever approach we take, ‘inner’ work is hard. Many people wander through their lives having really difficult experiences, feeling angry, pain, misery – finding a way of responding to these that brings peace, happiness, self acceptance and love is not an easy option but it’s the only way. People transforming their lives and sharing that with others is our passion and vision for Make Space.
What about the quasi-religious aspect of it all? Is meditation a gateway drug for indoctrination into religious dogma?
Make Space has no religious connections – following a particular religion is helpful for some people but religious beliefs and spirituality are very different things! For me, my spirituality is all about exploring and discovering a higher self – a self that is more loving, more compassionate, more open…it is definitely me at my very best, and every day I recommit to that. The journey begins and ends within yourself. Accepting ourselves as perfectly imperfect, flawed and fabulous is part of Make Space vision.
So, why come to a session, if I can buy a self help tape?
Books and audio are all really helpful. I have learnt so much from them and in fact a CD of ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers was one of the first self-help tools that I used, many years ago! It enabled me to give a brilliant presentation to over 100 GP’s! But there is nothing quite like being with others, being at an event with a great speaker who wants to share their experience, their journey, and inspire others. New ideas, new thinking, role models that we aspire to being like. Meeting like-minded people offers us support and community.
What can be gained from being in a room with a load of slightly nervous strangers?
There may be a few nervous strangers but there will also be people who have been involved with us for a while, people who are already committed –and Nick Williams, who will enable people to feel relaxed and welcome. And then there is the love and joy we want to share – our reading group, for example, is a lovely, relaxed atmosphere where know people feel comfortable and able to talk.
Why did you think the time was right, for Liverpool, to set up Make Space?
There is now a huge interest in self-help, personal growth and spiritual exploration.
This has spread to events as well and we have been in contact with a number of people who organise events and/or run communities similar to Make Space. There are lots of people we connect with who are just beginning their self-discovery journey, people who want their lives to be different. And of course there is a whole mass of people who don’t know what they don’t know! So reaching out to them will be a real joy.
My vision for what is now Make Space has been evolving for about a year now – I think I had to be in the right place myself and work out my vision, then Karen Podesta (co-director) and I met and Make Space was born!
What has this journey achieved, for you?
The journey over the past year has been about trusting myself, my intuition, my strengths and power. It is really pushing me to practice all the learning of taking control of my thoughts, the self-doubt, the fear…! When you find what you are passionate about, what fills you with wonder and joy then you have to go with it, with lots of positive thinking and affirmations!
What’s in it for me? I’m a bit scared. Can I just sit at the back and watch?
Make Space is for everyone – some people will want to explore, ask questions and it may not be right for them just now. Some people may just want ‘to watch’ but my role is to enable people to feel they can be themselves and bring their own gifts, in their own time.
Make Space’s launch event “Be Inspired and Inspiring” with Nick Williams takes place next Thursday 20th March at the Bluecoat. Nick, an internationally renowned speaker and author will be looking at what inspiration is, how it works, why we often resist it and how we can inspire others by keeping our own inspiration alive. He’ll also be running a more intimate workshop on Friday 21st March, looking more deeply at how we can develop our own sources of inspiration.
Our programme for the rest of the year is shaping up nicely with workshops on journaling and meditation, our monthly Soul Full reading group and visiting speakers.
Launch event tickets can be purchased via the Bluecoat and cost £18 for Thursday (includes a copy of Nick’s book How to be Inspired) and £27 for the workshop (includes lunch).