It was a typical winter morning – cold, windy and wet – in fact the perfect morning for a dose of mindfulness. I left on my quest before the sun came out, arriving in an already bustling London Bridge station. I opted for a walk along the river on my way to Tower Bridge, one of my favourite routes in the city. I observed London’s Bankside, its architectural delights peeking out proudly – the view was breathtaking despite the moodiness and greyness of the city.
Arriving at Tower Bridge, we were led up a few stories high, entering the Tower Bridge Exhibition and its famed glass floor. I was there to experience a mindfulness session with Dr. Tamara Russell. Heights have never been my strongest point and I walked very slowly across the edge of the glass, legs shaking and stomach turning. I looked through the glass below and tried not to think about the fact that I was 42 meters high up. However, upon learning that the floor can hold two black taxis or one elephant provided much needed comfort, and I started to feel somewhat calmer.
Dr. Tamara Russell formed the ‘Body In Mind Training’ program by blending her expertise as a clinical psychologist, neuroscientist and martial artist. The program is “a body-based, neuroanatomical-informed mindfulness training protocol suitable for all levels of ability and adapted for use in our busy urban environment.”
Dr. Russell explains that “Mindfulness is a type of training that helps us to gain perspective on our thoughts, emotions and life’s experiences generally. Training on Tower Bridge presents a unique opportunity to learn the basics of mindful movement and use this stunning location to help consolidate the learning. With the views over London, participants will learn that we can be in an “observer” position, with a different perspective on our minds – a key part of mindfulness training. These classes will help Londoners learn that we at all times can have the capacity and means to be calmer, more focused, less reactive and more creative.”
Dr. Russell invited us to take a stance on the glass floor. “Now or never” I thought. I tried not to look down, avoiding the sight of slowly moving cars and people rushing about. We were guided to focus our attention on the breath and gaze at the hustle and bustle below; to simply observe the action below, without forming an opinion or an attachment. I kept my eyes glued to the sky, and eventually with some internal pep-talk, a few deep breaths and visualization exercises, I was ready to look at the world beneath my feet. It was strangely calm. I felt almost detached from the world happening below, as if I was experiencing a different reality – my reality. I felt grounded on a glass floor – something I never thought I’d hear myself say.
We then moved onto another practice – this time a few simple movements of Tai Chi. I was looking ahead, observing the river Thames and the occasional boat passing by. The dark clouds were dancing in the wind, gliding away to another part of the world, relaxing me even further.
I was pleasantly surprised with the result. I didn’t expect to feel such a difference in such short period of time. I felt peaceful and light, I felt good. I have learned that is not necessary to sit cross-legged for hours, or attend a month-long silent retreat to feel calm (nor do we have the time to do so). Simple breathing and staying in the present can be done anywhere and anytime (even whilst doing the dishes or vacuuming), and it can bring much needed calmness into our busy lives.
My walk back to the train station was slower, I was mindful of every step I took and despite the tube rush hour, I felt calm and content. It was definitely worth getting up for!
* The morning one-hour mindfulness sessions are being held at Tower Bridge on February 10th and 19th. Tickets are priced at £20. For more information see http://www.drtamararussell.com/ or www.towerbridge.org.uk