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Tenterden Mindfulness Group is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered in England and Wales

Charity Number 1181209

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Dr Neil Pillai is a GP from Ivy Court Surgery, Tenterden.  He has been trained to teach Mindfulness based courses at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, Oxford University. He is an enthusiastic Mindfulness teacher who is keen to bring the benefits of Mindfulness to the widest possible audience.

How and when did you first hear about Mindfulness?

I remember the period in my life very well and was in the winter of 2012. I was going through a difficult time, as we all do at times. A sequence of events including family bereavements and increasing personal and professional duties created a perfect storm, in my own mind at least. I had a wonderful family, home, job etc but I was just not happy. I came to the realization that I needed to do something to turn this around.

I remember the period in my life very well and was in the winter of 2012. I was going through a difficult time, as we all do at times. A sequence of events including family bereavements and increasing personal and professional duties created a perfect storm, in my own mind at least. I had a wonderful family, home, job etc but I was just not happy. I came to the realization that I needed to do something to turn this around.

I didn't think I was depressed, though I may have been heading that way, and I didn't like the idea of taking medication or even talking to someone. When you are feeling down for whatever reason, even if you're in the medical profession, it can be difficult enough to admit these feelings to yourself, let alone anyone else!

I had heard about Mindfulness as something a friend of a friend was 'into'. I watched a couple of YouTube videos where Jon Kabat-Zin and Mark Williams delivered lectures which made a lot of sense to me.

So in January 2013 I started my own 8 week course after buying the wonderful 'Mindfulness- How to Find Peace in a Frantic World' and diligently worked through the chapters, and most importantly each day did the 8-10 minute meditations which came on the CD.

Initially I went through the frustrations, irritations and boredom that most people experience, even dozing off during the practices! But as instructed, I stuck with it, and then after a few weeks, something changed, in such a positive way.

I then went on to take a more in depth Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy ( MBCT) Course at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and continued with my teacher training there to be able to teach MBCT courses myself.

 

It's been an amazingly rewarding learning curve that continues to this day

Does it work for everybody?

Mindfulness is not a panacea, and no, it doesn't "work" for everyone although even the question implies it being some sort of therapy or way to fix a certain problem. Although understandable, this is not really true. Mindfulness is more about learning a new skill which can help in how we approach the reality of our lives.

The evidence of Mindfulness' benefits is strongest for those people who have been depressed in the past and for people with anxiety symptoms. In the last few years there has been an exponential growth in research suggesting its potential benefits in improving happiness, wellbeing and productivity across the spectrum of society, from schoolchildren to sportsmen and from healthcare workers to business leaders in the corporate world, to name but a few.

Doing a Mindfulness course may not be the right thing to do if you are going through a particularly difficult time or suffer from certain psychological problems, in which case talking things through with your GP is probably a good idea.

I think that we could all benefit from paying a bit more attention and Mindfulness has the capacity to benefit a great variety of people.

What effect has Mindfulness practice had on you personally?

We all have ups and downs in our lives, and Mindfulness practice hasn’t altered that but it has altered the way I relate to them. I still have the same difficult personal and professional challenges as I did before, if not more, but they don't affect me in quite the same way.

 

I somehow am able to see the reality of a situation with more clarity and equanimity and so can respond in a much more productive way, without getting caught up in the unhelpful chatter of my own mind- well most of the time anyway. It has also helped me to appreciate the good things in life , that we all have, but often goes unnoticed when we are feeling stressed or under pressure.

One of the biggest changes that Mindfulness has given me is the calmness that comes from the confidence in feeling more able to cope with whatever may come up in the course of the day.

And this has been immensely helpful in my role as a GP. Because of this, I have become particularly interested in how Mindfulness can help health professionals counteract where the increasing pressures in the NHS can impact not only on our own wellbeing but also on our ability to deliver the compassionate care we would all wish for our patients.

 

I have recently conducted some research into the effects on Mindfulness on a group of local GPs, which yielded some very positive results and which is currently being written up for publication in the medical press.

Mindfulness has been a wonderful gift in all aspects of my life and given me a sense of contentment, happiness and self-awareness that was available to me all my life, but up until recently I had never been taught how to access.

As chairman of TMG, what are your plans for the group?

The main aim of TMG is to support Mindfulness practice locally. I am fortunate to have the help of an enthusiastic and dedicated committee and together we are looking at how best to achieve these aims. We have regular Mindfulness meetings where we are able to practice in a group and share experiences and will be organising Mindfulness days and possibly other events to support practice locally.