Robert founded Bromley Mindfulness in 2013. Since then, he has taught over 5,000 people at classes, courses, retreats and workshops. Both the general public and in organisations.
Bromley Mindfulness is the most well-known and established mindfulness training organisation serving Bromley, Beckenham and the surrounding districts. A catchment area of over 1 million people.
Robert teaches in organisations of all kinds. Local community organisations such as Age UK, the NHS through regular sessions at Darent Valley Hospital which have run since 2014. Robert also works with international businesses, some of which are household names, government regulators and top ten global law firms. – References on request.
I would like to tell you about me, about the Mindfulness-Based Resilience framework that I teach and how it can help you.
I took up what is the basic practice of mindfulness meditation in 1988 when it was a Zen meditation technique called ‘mindfulness and awareness of in and out breathing’. For a number of years, meditation was a background experience for me, useful but not transformative. I used meditation to help me to get to sleep (I still do) and when I was feeling calm and relaxed in a quiet place, I found that it enhanced my experience. Those moments, however, became increasingly rarer.
in 2009 I found myself in yet another high-pressure job. Managing the stress that resulted had become pretty much a full-time job in itself.
Since then I have realised that not only was I not alone in feeling stressed that way, but that chronic stress is a way of life for many people. I was one of the 85% of people that hated their jobs and feel that life must have more to offer though never quite seemed able to find the thing that makes it all worthwhile.
I was searching desperately for answers to help me understand my experiences.
In 2009, I was in Waterstone’s bookshop in Bluewater running through the shelves, looking for answers to what seemed like an overwhelming multitude of problems, when I picked up a book called ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. It seemed to offer some insight into how I felt, so I bought it and took it home to read.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
The concepts I learned from The Power of Now, changed my life. I have learned since then that not everyone ‘gets’ the concepts in the book as they may just not be at the stage of their life when this knowledge resonates with them. I was clearly ready though, and much of my experience of meditation, and of life, now made sense. I learned for the very first time that: I was not my thoughts, I was not my emotions and that the present moment is all we ever have. That may not sound transformative, but for me it made all the difference. For the first time, I realised that there was an alternative to how I felt and thought. The feeling of liberation was immense. It wasn’t an intellectual concept but an intuitive realisation. I now intuitively viewed the world from a different perspective, the perspective of the present moment.
The key to all of this was what was known as ‘Presence’ or ‘present moment awareness’. This was a ‘way of being’, which we were told, transcended our normal awareness which was often clouded by unwanted thoughts and emotions. I began practising Presence in my day. I was later to discover that Presence had gained a new translation. It had become known as ‘Mindfulness’.
These realisations rejuvenated my meditation practices. I spent more time meditating and learning about meditation and the inner experience of the mind. I embarked on a long period of self-study guided by my inner experience. Each time I encountered a new experience in my meditation or in my life, I searched for an explanation in both the spiritual and scientific literature. I looked for answers that were consistent scientifically, spiritually and also from my personal experience. If I couldn’t find a consistent answer, I kept looking. I studied neuroscience, cognitive psychology, social psychology and behavioural economics. I read spiritual books like the Bible, the Tao Te Ching and the Bhagavad Gita. I attended meditation classes at the London Buddhist Centre and the Buddhist Society in Victoria. I joined groups that were focused on the Advaita Vedanta (non-duality) school of Hinduism, listened to spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle and I meditated and practised Presence in my day.
At first, I discovered that I could only meditate deeply in silent solitude, out in the countryside, alone in nature. My mind was so busy and my thoughts so invasive that any distraction would take my attention or irritate me. When I meditated in solitude, I learned that I could observe my inner experience, how I thought and felt and what my beliefs were. I uncovered these underlying beliefs, along with the fears and needs associated with them that affected how I felt and thought. I slowly worked through those beliefs that were limiting my happiness and I discovered that there were very, very many of them…
I realised that it was the meditation techniques and the concepts that they taught which were the key to this change. I was releasing my unhelpful and self-limiting beliefs. I had never explored or challenged much of what I uncovered and in many cases, I didn’t know a belief existed until I discovered it using the meditative tools I had learned. I learned that meditation was a way of discovering my beliefs, needs and fears, and a way of releasing them. I worked through this heavy load of emotional baggage that I had accumulated over the years. I learned what happiness is. I learned that freedom from suffering is happiness and not the ‘lifestyle’ enhancements that I had been chasing which are actually comfort and pleasure. I learned that Presence was the key to personal transformation and happiness.
In 2012 I had been practising Presence and the meditations that teach it, for quite some time. Presence was beginning to become known as Mindfulness. A course had been constructed in 1979 in the U.S. to help people suffering from chronic pain and terminal illness. This course was basic meditations, yoga, CBT and some stress management techniques. The course had come to the attention of the public and some organisations as a secular way of teaching meditation which was previously the province of hippies, members of eastern religions and new-age spiritual seekers.
Science discovered that mindfulness reduces stress. Many scientific studies were being done on this ‘new’ concept of mindfulness. I discovered that there was nothing new really. This was what I had been doing for nearly 25 years but packaged in a way to market it as a secular product. To be fair to the ‘mindfulness industry’, as a rule, it appreciates and accepts its own spiritual/historical roots can try to distance itself from what it sees as the ‘hippy-dippy’ associations of meditation. I prefer to confront this head-on. There is no conflict between the historical legacy, the science and the experience of the mind. They are all entirely consistent if you take the time to understand them. This is the basis from which I teach and explain mindfulness, its practices and outcomes.
I set up Bromley Mindfulness to teach what I had learned in 2013. I developed the Mindfulness-based Resilience course and have since taught many hundreds of students. We can call what I teach mindfulness, we can call it presence or emotional resilience training. We can call it anything we like, but essentially it offers a different way of being, a way of experiencing life from the perspective of the present moment rather than from the perspective of the past, the future or an oppressive life-situation. We can learn to leave our pain out of our present moment and find the new perspective that really does lead to happiness.