New course of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment in the mind and body while maintaining an attitude of curiosity and kindness (UK Mindfulness AllParty Parliamentary Group).

A Golden Bay resident, Judith Rothstein is a professional counsellor and a mindfulness meditation teacher. Sitting on an expansive foundation of knowledge, Judith has taught mindfulness overseas for 20 years and here in the Bay for the past three.

“Mindfulness gives us a perspective that is non-reactive and non-judgmental," says Judith. "It’s about becoming aware of what goes on in the mind and learning to change our relationship to our thoughts, feelings and sensations. A deep sense of self-acceptance and compassion is cultivated in this way.”

Through her work and experience, Judith understands that we often don’t have control over the stressors in our life. “What’s important is remembering that we can reduce the stress reaction. It’s natural when we don’t like something to wish it were different. What creates the stress in our lives and bodies is when we hold onto things or actively resist them.”

The course Judith runs, Mindfulness in Everyday Life, is a series of six weekly classes including teaching, discussion and a 30-minute guided meditation. Multiple courses have already been held in Golden Bay and there is a solid community of those already familiar with mindfulness meditation.

“Generally, people involved with mindfulness meditation notice that the more they practise, the less old reactive patterns show up. There is also a greater sense of calm in response to difficult situations. Authenticity and compassion are nurtured by mindfulness, and this in turn makes it easier to stay in the present moment.”

Judith reflected on an early teaching that has stayed with her over these years: “To be aware of what opens and closes the heart and nurture what opens it.” She feels that meditation is a beautiful practice for achieving that.

by Tullia Wilson, Golden Bay Weekly, 3 February 2017 "New course of Mindfulness in Everyday Life"

Everyday mindfulness offers tools for stress management

Forty years ago, Judith Rothstein began a personal exploration into mindfulness, which has become her life practice.

In the last year, Judith’s experience as a mindfulness teacher has extended to the development of a six-week course, ”Mindfulness in Everyday Life”.

In 2014 she ran three courses, and the first of 2015 is currently underway. These courses have evolved into a continued “sitting group” of meditators who meet weekly and monthly.

Mindfulness, which stems originally from traditional Buddhist practice, is a way of being that reduces stress and conflict, internally and externally. According to Judith, being mindfully present teaches us to shift our attention to our immediate experience, which changes our relationship to our thoughts and feelings, bringing greater openness and clarity in our ability to respond. This non-judgemental way of being increases our capacity to be more stable, more open and less reactive.

Judith says that, since the mid-1990s, mindfulness has exploded into mainstream psychology and mental health, and is used to offer relief from the stressors of life. Neuroscientists have also taken a keen interest in the neurological changes that occur after daily mindfulness meditation. Studies are emerging showing changes in neuroplasticity, leading to greater feelings of happiness and reduced stress, anxiety and depression. Explains Judith: “No one ever thought that meditation could effectively change the brain after such a short amount of time with daily practice.”

Judith uses the expression “neurons that fire together wire together” to describe the process.

“The more we practise mindfulness, the more we create the neural pathways associated with being mindfully present,” she explains, “so that’s why even the most entrenched thought patterns can shift.”

Judith emphasises that mindfulness meditation is not held in the sphere of self-improvement, or even positive thinking. “With these techniques you’re trying to substitute one thing for another, and yes, it is healthier and more positive, but you’re not working on the underlying difficulty. What you really want to do is find that deep place of self-compassion and acceptance.”

Judith immigrated to Golden Bay eight years ago from Alaska, and opened her own private practice in Meihana Street, where she works with clients as a counsellor. She holds an MSc in Counselling Psychology. She has two grown children who live abroad.

Community worker Glynn Rogers describes the practice of mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose”. Glynn took both Judith’s course and two-day silent retreat last year, and continues to meet monthly with the group. She feels a marked shift in her ability to cope with demands of her job.

“I am more present with the people I work with,” she says. “It’s helped me build resilience and I feel I am able to work more productively and I feel less tired. I am able to see more clearly and respond more effectively.”

Artist, mother and co-owner of Paper Scissors Rock, Hannah Dorman, says she had no idea what mindfulness was when she started the course.

“It gave me a time to focus inwardly,” she says, “to sit as an onlooker and quietly observe the journey my mind goes on, and allowing myself to go within and see patterned responses to situations that I was stuck in”.

Judith says her work as a counsellor and teacher of mindfulness go hand-in-hand. “I think that people who are in a counselling role have the experience of being with people typically where they’re suffering the most,” she says, “so in that sense I have an awareness of how deep the vulnerability is which would not necessarily be seen from the outside. It was my own mindfulness practice which taught me how to be present and hold the space for the kind of difficulties people face.”

by Nina Hindmarsh, Golden Bay Weekly, 24 April 2015 "Everyday mindfulness offers tools for stress management"

Counselling Services in the Bay

The GB Weekly caught up with three of Golden Bay’s counsellors. They are part of a large group of diversely-skilled professionals sharing a common purpose; to lend an ear and assist people through difficult times in their lives.

Judith Rothstein has been a counsellor since 1981 and holds an MSc in Counselling Psychology. She is a member of the NZ Association of Counsellors (NZAC) and provides supervision to mental health providers. Judith works with children, families, couples and individuals.

Judith’s experience in the field includes counselling in relationships and conflicts, depression, anxiety and anger, grief, loss, life transitions and addictions. However it’s not about slotting into a category in order to seek help.

“People don’t have to have major problems to benefit from counselling. Most of us have times when we have trouble coping. We don’t want to burden our friends and they also often can’t necessarily give us much-needed perspective.”

Judith provides various therapeutic interventions including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Presence-Centred Therapy. She is also skilled at translating complex-sounding therapies into plain english. She says that the things that stress us out are real and we often don’t have control over them.

“We only have control over how we respond. So it’s about learning skills to be healthier, have resilience and be more balanced. We look for patterns of responding in the present that don’t work very well and find ways to change our response. You can talk about the past but you can’t change that. Repeating old stories can be destructive.”

Judith says a pattern might be a belief such as “I’m not good enough.” Unfortunately, in some cases, critical self-judgement can stop people from seeking help. “People feel like they’re the only ones, but we’re all in this together.”

A counsellor can offer coping strategies specific to the individual and the perspective of seeing the whole person, guiding them to self-acceptance.

“Each person has their healing quality within them. Change can be threatening and it’s natural to have fear around it, but motivation can be stronger than fear. We have an amazing ability to be able to think in new ways.”

by Rae McDowell,  Golden Bay Weekly,  11 January 2013 “Counselling Services in the Bay”

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