As part of the university’s Green Week programme, we have constructed a Mindful Yurt in the Blueprint Café at our High Holborn campus. We cordially invite all students and staff to come and sit inside the yurt, be that to read, to contemplate, to meditate or even to sleep. Since there’s no outside space at High Holborn we have brought a little piece of outside, inside. The yurt is a place for people to come and consider what is important to them, a space to be mindful and in present in the moment.
Come and escape your stresses and worries. Everyone is welcome.
Mindfulness has become something of a buzzword, and in our constant rush to get everything done and to take advantage of all that is on offer, it is easy to forget to take a moment to slow down and to think. Everyone from religious leaders to doctors and celebrities are championing the benefits of mindfulness as a way to overcome, prevent or relieve some of the stresses of everyday life. But what is mindfulness?
It may well have different results for different people or manifest itself in various practices but in general mindfulness is a state of active and engaged attention in the present. It is an observation of thoughts and feelings but rather than being caught up in the tangle take a few steps back, observe from a distance and refrain from judging them as good or bad, as positive or negative, simply let them pass over you. It is a way of being present in the moment rather than fantasizing about the future or worrying about things that have passed. How often do you bring your focus to the present moment?
Research has shown that mindfulness can bring many benefits from boosting out immune system to improving our focus and fostering compassion and altruism. In our society where depression and anxiety are commonplace, one study suggests that mindfulness could be an important tool in fighting depression. For ideas about sustainability to really manifest themselves in our lives, we need space to think, to consider and to be. A place that is free of judgement, pressure and noise.
This may all sound very well. But how do you practise mindfulness? Not just inside the Mindful Yurt but in your everyday life and beyond Green Week. See if these tips help:
- Watch your breathing, particularly when you’re feeling stressed and edgy.
- You don’t need to fill all your time with doing. Take some time to simply be.
- Make a note of the physical sensations of your body. What does it really feel like to get into a warm bath on a cold winter’s day? To see the first daffodils of the Spring?
- Pay attention to what you are sensing right now – the sights, sounds, smells – are you really noticing them? The last time you ate that chocolate bar you were craving did you really enjoy it, really taste it?
- And, remember, your feelings and emotions will pass, they don’t define you.
A bit about the Mindful Yurt
A BIG THANKS to Rebecca Doolan at LCF, who made the yurt from sustainably sourced materials – the whole process took 9 months and a great deal of mindful dedication – she has kindly lent both the yurt and her time to make this installation possible. It took us under two hours to construct the yurt last Friday but what an enjoyable experience it was. The cream cover is made from recycled canvas and the wood was collected by hand from sustainably managed coppices in Kent, Oxford and Devon. The walls and door are made from Chestnut, the roof from Ash, and the central wheel is made from Ash with Hazel spokes. (The Ash wood was sourced early 2012 before the Ash Dieback epidemic).
Each piece of wood has undergone a steam bending process, a woodworking technique where strips of wood are steam heated using a steam box, the applied heat and moisture makes the wood pliable enough to easily bend around a mould to create a specific shape. The wood was whittled and carved by hand using hand tools and traditional methods. Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management which takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level. In subsequent growth years, many new shoots will emerge, and, after a number of years the coppiced tree, or stool, is ready to be harvested, and the cycle begins again.
For Rebecca the purpose of building the yurt was to learn a new skill, to collaborate with like minded people, and to experiment with the power of mindfulness meditation in focussing physical and mental energy to manifest ideas into reality.
A yurt is a portable, bent dwelling structure traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia as their home. The structure comprises a crown or compression wheel, usually steam bent, supported by roof ribs which are bent down at the end where they meet the lattice wall (again, steam bent). The top of the wall is prevented from spreading by means of a tension band which opposes the force of the roof ribs. The structure is usually covered by layers of fabric and sheep’s wool felt for insulation and weatherproofing.