Why Beyond Mindfulness?

I don’t mind admitting that I developed the ideas and methods that form the Beyond Mindfulness approach in the first instance to support myself! Beyond Mindfulness was a response to my own personal need, and arose from many years of inner noticing, questioning my existing learning, seeking new perspectives, practice and reflection. At points long the way I cautiously introduced the ideas to other therapists and coaches, gathering feedback, and eventually to clients, and now Beyond Mindfulness forms a foundation to my work and remains a source of personal support. Beyond Mindfulness in its current form is a number of supportive principles paired with practical, embodied, or somatic and psychosensory methods. It is quite different to CBT, different to DBT and different to positive psychology and has a number of differences from other embodied practices. The experience of Beyond Mindfulness can feel ‘mindful’, but the underpinning ideas enabling direct inner engagement and inner facilitation mean it is quite literally ‘beyond’ standard mindfulness practices.

In recent years, many people seeking support and healing, and also counsellors and therapists are discovering the benefits of somatic, or ‘embodied’ approaches to mental health and wellbeing. These embodied approaches are sometimes referred to as ‘bottom-up’ approaches to resourcing and healing, whilst traditional talking therapies and cognitive-led approaches can be described as ‘top-down’. What I have noticed is that whilst embodied approaches can offer the opportunity to be in a gentler, less conflicted, more integrated relationship with ourselves, the way these approaches are delivered, the particular emphasis given, often does not explicitly emphasize the inner-relational dimension. I came to understand that clients who have trauma, particularly complex and developmental trauma, and clients who are neurodivergent, are often least able to engage with a psychotherapeutic or self-help modality without also dissociating parts of themselves, and are often less likely to feel the benefit, even when engaging with the ‘bottom-up’, somatic and embodied approaches which have the potential to offer so much benefit. When we are told we should undergo a particular therapy, or engage in a self-help practice, particularly when we are told it is evidence-based, if that practice or therapy doesn’t suit us, or if it feels too much of a strain, it a very normal response to then blame ourselves, to further alienate ourselves from our own felt sense, our own internal feedback, and to defer to the external source of authority and find ourselves wrong, or lacking. Moreover, the entirely normal inner reaction to this is for our internal critical parts to be triggered, giving us messages that we aren’t trying hard enough, we are lazy, a failure, we can’t possibly want to get well badly enough. All this increases the stress, shame and blame on our already over-burdened systems and can increase feelings of anxiety, depression and hopelessness. But what if the problem isn’t with us, what if it is something about the process that we have been advised is good for us?

Somatic, embodied approaches can undoubtedly be an inner-relational approach, meaning they have the potential to bring us into closer connection with ourselves, but this aspect isn’t always emphasised, so when I use Beyond Mindfulness, I’m not just doing another technique to myself, I’m not *trying* to fix myself. Instead, I use the key ideas and practices to engage gently and directly with my autonomic nervous system and the multi-facetedness and wholeness of my inner experience and create an inner context in which stress releases and I become more connected with my intuition, inner sense of what is ok for me and what is not, and more of my inner resources for taking action, creativity, inner healing and recharging and connection with others. I developed Beyond Mindfulness because mindfulness, box breathing, 7-11 breathing, gratitude, relaxation techniques, and even the self-help methods I personally liked and believed to be effective, did not truly not support my traumatised and neurodivergent system. I became aware that anything top-down and willpower-led just increased the demands upon my over-stressed system, and increased the overwhelm, stuckness and shut down. I needed an inner-relational approach that enabled me to meet myself wherever I was at in any moment, gently, and then respond from there.

Beyond Mindfulness creates the possibility of healing by facilitating helpful internal shifts, and accessing and building inner safety and resources. We can learn to meet ourselves gently and kindly, and with a respect for ourselves that many of us weren’t given when we needed it from those who were meant to protect and nurture us, or by those systems and individual authority figures which we were led to believe were meant to act justly, and protect and not harm.

A further point about Beyond Mindfulness – it is both remedial and developmental: we can use the ideas and methods in the moment when we need to feel better right now. Over time, regular engagement with the ideas and practices supports a baseline shift in our experience and functioning, towards greater inner safety, stability, and improved functioning in our daily lives. It brings us back into and expands our ‘zone of capacity’. It is not a trauma ‘treatment’ as such, but it can be highly supportive for traumatised people, whether officially diagnosed with PTSD/CPTSD or not. In 3-phased trauma therapy, it is an important component of phase 1 safety and stabilisation work.

For neurodivergent people, including myself, Beyond Mindfulness starts from a position of validating our inner experience, and fundamental way of being in the world. It honours the way we are, and the way our mind-body systems operate. It does not aim to ‘normalise’ us and allows those of us with PDA or demand-avoidant profiles to meet with ourselves kindly and what possibilities exist that remain congruent with our sense of ourselves.

Another key area of difference is that Beyond Mindfulness does not attempt to reduce distress to ‘maladaptive’ or ‘negative’ thinking. Beyond Mindfulness does not ignore your thinking and meaning making/beliefs, but this approach does not start out by trying to find things ‘wrong’ in the way you make sense of the world. Years of working supportively with clients has shown me that once people are better resourced inwardly, outdated and unhelpful beliefs can shift and update to the current realities, without massive and repeated ‘top-down’ efforts. When we are connected with our inner resources, racing and distressing thoughts can automatically calm. This is very different from ‘trying’ to relax. I often tell my clients, “You’ve already done all of the trying and all of the effort!” My job is to help them find whatever degree of inner ease is available in any moment, and assist them to build on this over time. How very different it feels, just typing the previous sentence! Can you notice the shift towards comfort in your inner felt sense as you read this?

A final, but important point: through Beyond Mindfulness, I aim to honour the reality of lived experience, including systemic and institutional causes of suffering and ongoing adversity, and the intersectionality of oppression and marginalisation, and my goal is to offer a source of support to those whose who may feel their experience is at times invalidated or minimised by established psychological interventions and self-help recommendations. One way of thinking about the help that Beyond Mindfulness may offer, is that it can support inner healing and resourcing in the face of ongoing adversity, and I am keen to explore how I can make this help available to oppressed and marginalised people, and also people working for social justice, by removing financial barriers wherever possible.

Thank you for reading, and watch this space for updates! Beyond Mindfulness is incorporated into my one-to-one therapy sessions, and is tailored to each client. To book a free phone consultation, use this link https://gentlechanges.youcanbook.me/

Beyond Mindfulness is an embodied, inner relational approach to becoming present and better resourced to cope with life.

Beyond Mindfulness is an embodied, inner relational approach to becoming present and better resourced to cope with life.

Beyond Mindfulness is an embodied, inner relational approach to becoming present and better resourced to cope with life.

Why Beyond Mindfulness?

What I have noticed is that whilst embodied approaches can offer the opportunity to be in a gentler, less conflicted, more integrated relationship with ourselves, the way these approaches are delivered, the particular emphasis given, often does not explicitly emphasize the inner-relational dimension. I came to understand that clients who have trauma, particularly complex and developmental trauma, and clients who are neurodivergent, are often least able to engage with a psychotherapeutic or self-help modality without also dissociating parts of themselves, and are often less likely to feel the benefit, even when engaging with the ‘bottom-up’, somatic and embodied approaches which have the potential to offer so much benefit.

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