Interview with Karen Atkinson
On a wet and windy Wednesday, Amanda King from Bristol City Yoga, had the privilege of interviewing Karen Atkinson – founder of Mindfulness UK.
Mindfulness UK is a member of the UK Network of Mindfulness Teacher Training Organisations.
AK: How long have you been teaching Mindfulness?
KA: I’ve been teaching mindful movement and meditation for around 30 years now, mindfulness specifically for 17 years.
AK: How did you first get into Mindfulness?
KA: I started my career as a nurse at London South Bank University and St Thomas’ Hospital in my 20s. When I moved down to the West country I continued this work alongside Psychologists, a Pain Consultant and other innovative practitioners.
AK: How did you make the move from traditional medicine to a more holistic approach?
KA: I always leant that way and was more interested in how the mind and body are connected. I taught my patients at the time some simple breathing exercises to complement their healing.
AK: Was that very radical at the time?
KA: Yes, it was. Most often than not it was “under the radar” if you like, as it wasn’t as well-known as it is now. I could see first-hand how it helped my patients, they became much more responsive as opposed to reactive.
AK: What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
KA: Seeing what it does to people. I see them at the start of the course and then how they have almost transformed by the end. One man came up to me at the end of the session and said ‘you saved my life’.
AK: Wow, that sounds pretty powerful.
KA: (laugh), yes, it can be very powerful. It can really transform people’s lives.
AK: Have you come across any problems or difficulties in your years of teaching Mindfulness?
KA: Well, yes sometimes, there are some people who say that it is quite self-indulgent. Some people think it can be incredibly selfish to concentrate on yourself in such a way.
AK: How do you combat that?
KA: Well, there are times when you face problems with all sorts of solutions – some people counteract it with cheering themselves up with a new pair of shoes or a new coat. Mindfulness is something that can bring you changes and help you face those problems long term, whereas the joy of a new coat, even though nice at the time, can be fleeting.
AK: How has Mindfulness helped you?
KA: It has helped me greatly in my personal life. I feel much more confident, it gave me perspective to take a step back and look around. I didn’t want to be a product of my challenging upbringing, I felt empowered to make changes.
AK: Who is Mindfulness for?
KA: Anyone. It is open to anyone who wants more mental clarity. We are very lucky in the Western world as we have choices. We sometimes feel as though we have limited choices. What mindfulness does, is it gives you mental space and more freedom to choose what to do.
AK: How is Mindfulness different to Meditation?
KA: Mindfulness looks at the patterns of how you think and how to adjust bad habits that have been built over time. If you do 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation every day in 5 days there will be a healthy change in your brain and in 8 weeks you can let go of old habits and create new ones.
AK: What is the one thing that you would want people on your course to go away with?
KA: To be more mindfully self-compassionate – for everyone to be kinder to themselves. There will always be critical voices and it’s learning how to deal with those and neutralise them from time to time.
To see Karen in action she will be at the Mindful Living Show at the Business Design Centre in Islington.