It’s a beautiful summer’s evening and a group of people are sitting in silence next to St Michael’s and All Angel’s Church in Enborne.
In a busy world, it’s a rare sight to see people sitting so still and peacefully – there’s no sound at all apart from the occasional bird call.
This is one of Carolyn Sykes’ meditation sessions for busy people looking for a bit of time to calm the mind and give it space to recalibrate.
Carolyn has been teaching meditation for seven years – long before mindfulness became fashionable, and she is well-known locally as a reiki healer, acupuncturist and Kennet Radio host.
After a career in the horse-racing industry, Carolyn sought a different lifestyle and trained with renowned meditation expert Sandy Newbiggin and the Barefoot Doctor. She now runs bespoke meditation sessions, plus monthly “MindCalm” group courses for people who wish to experience guided meditation plus a more spiritual and ethereal session weekly in Enborne on Thursdays.
Her mission is to help people declutter their minds to enable them to focus on what’s important.
She said: “I initially started teaching reiki in my hometown of Swansea but then saw a need for busy professionals to try meditation. Back then, meditation was seen as something a bit ‘woo-woo’ and out there but since I’ve moved to Newbury, I’ve noticed a real need for busy professionals who need a bit of peace and a break from the stresses of work. Meditation can really help with issues such as anxiety, sleep problems and depression and really help you get your life back on course and improve your outlook. Things don’t bother you so much. While you can’t turn your mind off, you can make peace with it and become empowered to use elements from the class in daily life.”
Carolyn’s sessions typically include an introduction incorporating elements of tai chi and yoga followed up by a talk and up to 30 minutes of meditation.
For a beginner, a half hour can be a long time to sit still and one of Carolyn’s clients Sandra Izoulet jokes that her first experience was “extremely difficult with thoughts flying through my mind and an overwhelming sense of itchiness all over my body!”
However, within just a couple of sessions, she started to find it hugely beneficial and has now been attending session for 18 months. She said: “Lots of people have remarked on how I seem different now. I’m much calmer and less likely to react to daily life.”
Carolyn describes these feelings as normal as meditations removes the distractions of work and life, making your mind more inclined to listen to your body, bringing aches, pains and itchiness to the fore.
She said: “It happens to everyone but it really doesn’t matter. After a session or two, you’ll settle in and after all, it really only takes a moment of tuning in to benefit from meditation. It does get easier with practice.”
As well as giving peace and calm, meditation is said to help with everything from reducing blood pressure to boosting your immune system and even can assist with sleeping problems and attention span.
Classes cost £10. For more information, click onto www.carolynluckygirl.com
Tips for newcomers to meditation
1. Wear comfortable clothes
- Start by relaxing your body before your mind with a five minute warm-up and stretching
- Choose the time of day that best suits you and your body -some people like to start their day with meditation while others prefer the evening or after work.
- Carolyn recommends avoiding apps as they become too much of a prop and people can believe they’re meditating when they’re not.
- Don’t worry if odd thoughts fly into your mind. Just acknowledge it and let it pass.
- Don’t panic if you can’t sit still. Just one minute of meditation is better than none and a good place to start.
- Get outside where possible. Sitting in nature is a good way to reconnect.
*First appeared in Out and About magazine (with the Newbury Weekly News) in Sept 2016.