meditation retreat

Considerations and Learnings from my Meditation retreat

During our meditation retreat during the Mothering Sunday’s weekend in the Vale of Evesham, Jo  said:

“The capacity to love myself is the direct cap on how much I can love someone else”.

The biggest discovery for me was the realisation and acceptance that learning to love myself is fundamental to being able to give the best of myself, my time and my energy mindfully to others, and to me.

I now understand the importance of nurturing and softening the physical, energetic, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of my whole self.

I am responsible for myself but I walk hand in hand with the Universe. If I work on myself to clear the clutter, I shall have the space to create and grow.

At the deepest level, I have acknowledged my truth that I haven’t prioritised myself enough and that body image is an ingrained issue for me.

However, I left our meditation retreat in Stanton safe in the knowledge that I have all the tools I need to start to address this.

I particularly enjoyed doing the Chi Do moving meditation to birdsong outside overlooking the stunning scenery in the early morning sunlight. With the massage, easy chakra clearing meditation and yin yoga helping me to better nourish and connect to my physical body, I practically floated home.

The “nurturing” quality of our meditation retreat included the location and catering, as well as the people:

Stanton has unique magic and energy of its own which nourishes the soul. From the moment of my arrival, I felt at peace and enveloped in the most nurturing of bubbles. The scrumptious vegetarian fare that Susan cooked and served with love only enhanced this feeling.

Jo is a true expert in her field. She blended her gentle and light-hearted approach with some really powerful and insightful coaching. The camaraderie with the other attendees was amazing and I know I have made some firm friends.

meditation retreat

The image that a participant created based on our meditation retreat

Here’s one more testimonial from another attendee of my meditation retreat:

Sometimes life just gets on top of you. You really need to stop and take a break. I am so glad I booked a place at Jo Summer’s meditation retreat. Indeed, I really needed to get away, take some time for myself, rest and re-group.

After two days of…

  • gentle yoga and deep relaxation by the fire,
  • group discussions and mood board creation,
  • blissful massage in the afternoon sun,
  • al fresco ‘chi do’ before breakfast,
  • delicious home-made food,
  • kind and supportive company in the most beautiful setting in the Cotswolds,

I ticked all those boxes and went home feeling rejuvenated and ready to get back to reality.

The thoughtful little touches like a handwritten welcome note with a trio of mini eggs, a crystal (in my case a yellow jasper) to keep, gluten-free options including biscuits (which never happens!!) made it all the more special.

Jo’s clear, calm, gentle (and often very funny) guidance and wisdom was wonderful and has inspired me to learn more about chakras and chi. Spring is a time of renewal and it was the perfect time for such a nurturing retreat. I need to make this a regular thing…


yoga and meditation retreat

What happens at a yoga and meditation retreat

I recently came back from the Yoga and Meditation Retreat which I held on 29th – 31st March 2019 at The Guildhouse, in the Vale of Evesham.

The impressions and memories are so fresh that I would like to show you through some of the attendees’ words what is like to participate in one of these events.

Don’t just take my word for it.

Find out what happened at my yoga and meditation retreat in the testimonial below:

Why go …

I was at a crossroad in my life. Indeed, I wanted to invest in myself and really get to know myself again.

I had been attending Jo’s yoga sessions and had really hooked into her approachable and inclusive teaching style. So, I was very curious about the retreats she offered. The idea of nurturing myself, taking care of myself and learning strategies to do more of the same was just what I needed.

On the retreat…

It was just like visiting a friend. Someone who made me feel safe, valued and included. There was such an atmosphere of peace and good intentions. I instantly felt at ease … and completely safe to let go and focus on pleasing myself and giving myself what I needed for a couple of days.

The house, the surrounding area, the fresh air….they all enveloped me like a warm blanket. So, I sank into such a deep sense of relaxation and reflection.

Group sessions with Jo felt more like conversations with friends and I felt zero obligation to add more than I was comfortable with. There was plenty of time for myself but also times to come together… there is balance everywhere.

I loved the yoga and meditation – so accessible and always mindfully facilitated by Jo who is able to anticipate and scaffold my needs effortlessly.

What you get out of it…

So much. No matter what your reasons for being there… could just be about getting away to a beautiful place, eating amazing food and relaxing.

It could also be about you giving yourself the chance to think and really seek something new for yourself.

I went with an open mind and an open heart. The experience was, for me, a true act of self-love. I became filled with such positive energy and also the desire to put things into my life that would support me in continuing to feel that way. Relaxed, nurtured and content within myself.


Yoga For Sleep

Yoga For Sleep

As you might know, I’ve been running Yoga classes in Ealing for 10 years now and today I’d like to share with you some very simple tips on “Yoga for Sleep”.

In my previous article, I shared some tips for a good night’s sleep and today I’m starting a series of posts aimed at really helping you get the absolute best out of yourself by nourishing yourself at night.

The core principle of Yoga For Sleep is the deep nourishment of both body and mind.

The reason why we want to do that is to allow the body enough time to rest, to digest and to repair from your day’s activities. Actually, we want the mind to have the same opportunity to rest, to digest what experiences you’ve had and any sort of repair and restoration that you need. That can happen at night time.

The first idea that I really want you to take on board today is that

It is so unhelpful when talking about sleep, to obsess too much about how much sleep you got and whether it is good quality sleep.

When you’re having a challenging amount of sleep, you can really start to think:

“Oh, I only got 3 hours (or 4, or 6 hours…),  I should be getting 8 hours every night”.

I’m going to ask you, as my first tip, just to put that obsession to the side. You don’t need to create performance anxiety around sleep. It’s not going to help.

Also, if you are perhaps only getting 3 or 4 hours at night, setting this target for yourself straight away to 8 hours, it’s just too much! It’s too much of a leap to go straight from 3 or 4 hours, to suddenly:

“I’m supposed to get eight hours of sleep”.

So, my tip number 1 on Yoga For Sleep is let go of an idea of how much sleep you need to be getting.

You should progress gently and steadily from wherever you currently are. For example, from getting 3 or 4 hours, let’s get you to 5 hours. If you’re getting 5 hours, let’s get you to 6 or even from 5 to 5 1/2 can make a difference.

My tip number 2 is: if you’re experiencing the feeling of just lying there, trying to sleep and you can’t sleep, if you’re obsessing about the fact that you can’t sleep, I want you to switch your mindset into:

“I am still resting my body”.

Yes, I’m not resting my mind so much, perhaps, but I am still resting my body.

“I’m just going to release the need and anxiety that I should be sleeping and allow my body to rest as best as possible. My body will rest better if my mind is more relaxed”.

It’s a core yoga principle that mind and body are really intimately intertwined.

So, if your mind is anxious and running fast and turning things over, your body can’t fully let go. We’ll talk a little bit more in the next articles about what’s happening hormone-wise.

Today, I wanted to begin this “Yoga For Sleep” series with the basic idea of: let’s start with releasing performance anxiety around sleep.

We just take wherever it is that you’re at now, and we’re just going to add a tiny bit.

So, tonight I encourage you, if you find yourself awake in the night, to tell you just:

“OK, so, I’m awake. Yeah, that’s fine. I’m just going to focus on resting my body, then, and allow myself to get as much as possible from just gently lying”.

Check the video version of this article:

I’ll be back with you next week with the next couple of tips on Yoga For Sleep!

silencing inner critic become inner coach

How to become your own inner coach and banish the inner critic for good

The overwhelming majority of athletes have coaches – in fact, we remark on the few who don’t. More and more executives have coaches and mentors to help improve performance. Businesses of all sizes are employing coaches to help create and execute plans that succeed. We have relationship coaches, life coaches, spiritual coaches, money coaches, visibility coaches.

But no coach is ever going to be as effective as you at coaching yourself.

The main thing all those coaches are working for is silencing the inner critic.

The inner critic is the term we use to define the negative voices in your head, that

  • undercut your belief
  • tell you that you’re not good enough,
  • make you second guess people’s intentions,
  • enlist in you in self-sabotage,
  • help you procrastinate,
  • avoid,
  • martyr yourself
  • or whatever you personally choose to do to trip yourself up.

Whose voices make up the inner critic’s cumulative one?

In order to understand this, let’s have a little check. I want you to think about a situation recently when you caught yourself giving yourself a hard time. Maybe you filed your tax return later than you really wanted to. Or was the bill higher than you expected and you hadn’t planned for it? Maybe you were late dropping your children to school. Maybe you’re avoiding making a sales call or dealing with a tricky customer.

What thoughts did you think?

Did you…

  • beat yourself up for not having planned better?
  • imagine the other mums or the school staff rolling their eyes and badmouthing you?
  • worry about the example you were teaching your kid?

What about the sales call? Do you talk yourself into all the reasons why they absolutely should not under any circumstances buy from you…? And therefore not have to make yourself uncomfortable by making the call?

Well. I want to share this little video with you….

Now. In some cases, STOP IT is actually going to be enough.

But in other cases, we need a more nuanced line of attack. Why?

The thoughts we think create our feelings, which create our behaviours, which have consequences.

Those consequences give rise to a new set of thoughts, which create new feelings, new behaviours and of course new consequences.

And if you’ve set off on a negative track, the result is a downward spiral into increasingly negative thoughts, feelings, behaviours and consequences. And that can have a direct negative effect on your physical and mental health.

Let’s play “silencing the inner critic” through…

  1. Take a piece of paper and think of a situation – perhaps the one you thought of earlier, perhaps a new one. Describe the situation in as few words as possible.
  2. Now, was your description true or do you need to retell it without some of the judgements or assumptions?
  3. Ok. Now, start to make a list of the thoughts you had about that situation and about yourself in that situation.
  4. Pick a couple of those thoughts and look at how they make you feel.
  5. So how does the feeling affect your behaviour? How does shame affect your behaviour? How does guilt? Disappointment? Disappointment in yourself? What feelings are you having now? What sorts of consequences might come from entering a life situation or work situation with those behaviours?
  6. Now. Let’s go back to the initial situation. Your job is to come up with alternative explanations for what happened or alternative ways of looking at the situation. It doesn’t matter if they are provable or not, so long as you could credibly believe that explanation instead.
  7. Fantastic. Now, what feelings are you feeling about the situation and you in it? How might these new feelings change your behaviour? And what might the consequences be?

Even neutral thoughts give rise to more helpful feelings.

And we want to actively cultivate feelings that allow us to be resourceful and creative. In fact, the more resourceful and creative you can be, the more you will begin to generate an upswing in both the results you’re getting and, of course, in your feelings about those results and yourself, so that you create an upward spiral.

So. How would this help in silencing the inner critic for good?

Firstly…. When you begin to examine the thoughts and see how outrageously untrue and unfair some of those thoughts are about you… I’m hoping your inner rebel will come out and start fighting on your behalf!!

Who dared tell you that? Where did that idea first come from?

If your inner rebel is asleep, go talk to a dear friend, or a good therapist, to help you get some perspective.

So often these thoughts aren’t actually our own.

Maybe its something a teacher said in passing or an aunt or uncle or mum or dad. But for some reason, it went in and continues to play havoc with our lives. And the more we can name them – and I do literally mean name them – the sooner we will be able to let them go.

Baldy Bob telling me I’m not good enough

has a lot less effect.

Secondly, as you start to see for yourself how direct the link is between what you think and the results you get, you can start to build a positive feedback loop. Build evidence that when you think positive and supportive thoughts about yourself, you feel strong and resourceful. Also, you behave creatively and assertively and you get better results.

The trick is to think it matters enough to listen to what you’re thinking in the first place. If you do, I promise you will soon see better results and you will feel better in yourself – physically, emotionally and mentally.

If you’d like my help to train your inner coach the ways of silencing the inner critic for good, book a discovery session of life coaching in Ealing or by Skype with me!

better sleep tips

Tips for a good night’s sleep

Getting enough sleep is a perennial problem for some, and I sympathise. I’ve had two stress-related periods of exceptionally poor sleep in my life, and as a result, I began to dig deep into the science to help myself and others get a better night’s sleep. Here is what I found.

Tips for a good night’s sleep: environmental factors

Our circadian rhythm is influenced by external factors such as light and darkness in the environment.

So one thing we can do is to manage exposure to light to ensure that it works for our biological and mental processes and not against them.

For example, the hormone melatonin is responsible for good sleep and is produced in the mornings. Getting outside in the morning, therefore, can help your body to create more melatonin, which will help you get your snooze on at night.

Similarly, ensuring that you use blackout blinds and turn off blue light devices (phones, tablets, laptops) at night will mean that you are creating the right environment for your body to understand it’s time to rest. Especially given that reading on a tablet, say, can stimulate your brain so much it delays sleep onset for up to 90 minutes!

Finally, in terms of sleep hygiene, it’s important to keep your bedroom cool and to use the bedroom for sleep not work, housework or storage.

No more working from bed or watching the TV while you do the ironing in the bedroom. Make it a sacred space and have a ritual at bedtime instead. Perhaps, you fold your clothes away, get into bed and spend a few minutes thinking about what went well that day. Then, turn the bedside lamp off and go to sleep.

Tips good night's sleep bedroom sanctuary

Photo by Tan Danh from Pexels

What we eat or drink

You probably know what’s coming next… the bad boys of beverage stimulants – caffeine and alcohol.

As you may know, caffeine stresses the body through the impact it has on your blood sugar, causing spikes and collapses that make your energy levels rollercoaster through the day. The general advice in relation to improving your sleep is to avoid caffeine (e.g. in tea, coffee, chocolate) after midday and perhaps switch over to herbal tea. I found drinking Chamomile very helpful, and also the last thing at night a combination of Limeflower and Passionflower helped me to drop off.

The advice on alcohol may be trickier in some ways.

The “ideal” time to drink alcohol from the perspective of a good night’s rest is actually 5.30/6pm.

So that’s good news for the after-work drink and bad news for the drink with or after dinner. It is best avoided close to bedtime too as, whilst it can appear to help you to get to sleep – it can also cause you to wake in the night. The best advice is not to drink every night, and especially to avoid drinking on consecutive nights if possible.

Tips for a good night’s sleep in terms of what to include in your diet.

Magnesium can be very useful. You may even choose to get checked for magnesium deficiency as too little can reduce the production of neurotransmitters that help to balance mood. Supplementing with magnesium works for many people I talked to. Generally, professionals seem to recommend 500mg, especially when combined with a specific amount of calcium. You can find a professional near you by searching for the British Association of Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine website.

Mental factors

One of the most important things I learned during my flirtation with insomnia was that the more I worried about not being able to sleep the worse things got.

Cultivate a determined attitude that your body is still getting some rest if you lay down for several hours. Refuse to count how many hours sleep you feel you actually got. This will slowly but surely begin to work. With that in mind, I’m not a great fan of the smart devices that show you your sleep pattern. Use them sparingly in my view – perhaps as a source of information – but watch out for obsessing over how much and what type of sleep you did or didn’t get.

In general, I recommend focusing on relaxation and breathing exercises instead.

My own favourite breathing exercise: imagine that your breath is like a wave, entering through your feet and washing up the body to the crown of your head. Then, on the out breath, it washes back down the body and out the feet. You can imagine that the incoming wave brings anything you need more of in your life – my go-to is calm – and then the outgoing wave carries out of you anything you don’t need any more. It’s a beautiful relaxing visualisation. Breathing out my worries, disappointments, tensions, busy-ness, helps me enormously to wind down and let go. And then I find I can sleep.

And the remaining thing you can do is get help – talk to a professional if you are concerned. I have found Reiki has helped many clients get better rest, as does yoga nidra (yogic sleep) and yoga itself.

So please do contact me to discuss how you could benefit and get a better night’s rest, or go ahead and book an appointment.

The land of nod awaits!

Retreats at Joanne Sumner Wellbeing

Cleansing relaxation script

This relaxation script is based on a cleansing practice in yoga. It works with the different layers of the human energy field.

Within yoga, the physical body is seen just as the densest part of your being.

The other component parts are:

  • The energy body
  • emotional body
  • mental body
  • and the bliss body or spiritual body.

And you can see them as almost like a set of Russian dolls with the physical body as the smallest central one.

The spiritual body is the most expanded and least dense but they interpenetrate each other, so you can’t fully separate one from the other. And we don’t need to try!

Cleansing relaxation script 5 koshas

Actually, we  want to recognize that physical things that are happening in our body have an effect on:

  • our energy,
  • our emotions,
  • mental state
  • our feeling of being well in ourselves
  • and on our feeling of joy, which I think is the thing I associate most with the spiritual body.

The same is true the other way: if something happens that affects your spirit, you’re in low spirits, then it can weaken all the other layers too. So, we might be more likely to get colds for example.

In this meditation practice, we’re going to work with cleaning these layers.

We’re cleaning them of all the sticky residues from life events. These can be things like arguments, or something that happened on the tube, or things that you’ve been thinking through, and you’re worried about. It can all leave a sticky residue that you’re then carrying around.

The problem is that, because it’s sticky, it attracts other things that stick to it. For example, as a result of an argument, normally and very humanly, we carry that residue from the argument into the next conversation that we have or the next meeting that we have and we can end up being more prickly ourselves. Then, of course, if we’re more prickly in a new conversation, we make it more likely that the person we are speaking to, then, gets a bit prickly. So, you can see how it builds.

What I want for our meditation today is to just release some of that, letting go, releasing and smoothing out the energy field.

So, we can have a smoother experience in our life and a happier one.

We’re going to start by imagining that we’re lying down inside an egg-shaped energy field.

You’re in the centre of this egg shape: it extends maybe about a foot out from your body in every direction.

When we breathe in, we breathe gold light up, around the edge of the egg and also fill the right side of the egg with gold light.

When we breathe out, we are breathing silver light from the crown of our head all the way down the left side of the egg, filling the left side.

So, we have the gold light on the right-hand side and the silver light on the left.

Gold relates to solar energy, which is our drive to get things done. Silver energy relates to the lunar, receptive, replenishing energy.

Our yoga class sits more in the left side, it’s in the giving-back side. We’re balancing the two things out with this visualization, too.

You could add as the final element a very simple affirmation. You just say the affirmation inside yourself in your own mind, very simply:

I am calm and relaxed.

We typically use nine breaths and we all breathe at different paces. So I’m just gonna hand over to you to count.


Now, Imagine a smaller egg, about a hand’s breadth out from your body. It has 2 layers and it represents the energy and emotional bodies.

Keep breathing gold light in and out the right-hand side breathing silver light out and down the left-hand side. Keep repeating:

I am calm and relaxed.

Count nine breaths, starting when you’re ready…

Now, shrink your attention even further, coming to your spinal cord.

So, you’re breathing up and down the length of the spine, coming right up to your brain and then back down.

Breathe nine times gold light up the length, and silver light down and out. This time, an affirmation that works for me is

I am at peace.

Then, release the focus on the breath and just expand your attention to notice how you feel, just a light check on how your energy and mental state feel.

Joanne Sumner runs Yoga Classes in Ealing and Meditation Classes in West London.

giving and receiving

Giving and receiving: wrap-up session of “Feel Good With Jo”

This is the last of this current series of Feel Good With Jo, your Friday guide to leading a happy and healthy life. These are my thoughts on how to look after yourself and manage the busy stressful lives that we all seem to lead.

What I’d like to talk about is getting a balance between giving and receiving.

I’m a holistic therapist and life coach. I run Yoga Classes in Ealing and  Meditation Classes in West London. From my experience, I often tend to see more people giving more of the time and not actually taking enough time for themselves to receive.

One thing that is very important is time.

If you give people time, but you also allow yourself time, that will really increase your level of feeling happy and healthy.

Children, for example, want your time more than they want the latest X Box. The same is true for you, to some extent. Giving yourself time will actually nourish you more than buying anything that interests you.

A similar related point regards giving and receiving attention.

And this is about the quality of attention. When you are with somebody, you don’t have the phone out, don’t have the iPod out, don’t have the computer on. Just have your attention on them, give them your attention.

One of the things I’ve been studying recently is around eye contact in coaching or listening contexts. Maintaining eye contact encourages somebody to think as creatively as possible. For this reason, you need to have almost continual eye contact. Now, their eyes will be off in every other direction. That’s fine. That’s part of the thinking process, but you, as a listener giving really good quality attention, keep the eye contact, so you just keep looking at them softly. Not like a crazy person, just softly. Then, it will really increase their ability to think. The fantastic research on Thinking Environment® by Nancy Kline demonstrates that.

But also you need to receive attention.

If you’re not getting that from your significant other, from your friends, from your family, you need to ask for it. And this is where my message is about being soft and strong. You need to be able to assert that you need somebody’s attention. It is something you have the right to ask for.

The third most important element for me in giving and receiving is love.

Really, just understand that it is in infinite supply. There’s no end to how much love you can contain or you can receive. In fact, the more you give love, the more you get it. So, just don’t be afraid to show that you love people. And don’t be afraid to be loved.

Also, in terms of balance, I’d like to invite you to a balance between grounding and inspiration.

When we get stressed, one of the things that happen to our energy is that it rushes up out of the body. This leaves us in that sort of status that we tend to describe as “a headless chicken“.

One of the ways to deal with that is grounding.

You can do it by walking in nature, gardening, eating foods that literally grown on the earth, like potatoes and carrots. Also, don’t leave your electrics on in your house. Between the friends who are “grounding” and the ones who are “ennervating”, just spend now a bit more time with the people who are “grounding”.

My final point is this: the balance is in inspiration, too.

We’ve all had at some point in our life at that time when we got locked into routine and life, is boring because it’s just the same old, same old. If that’s something that you’re resonating with at the moment, even if it’s 5 to 10 minutes a day, I really encourage you to go back to something that sets you going. Whatever it is, whether it’s listening to music that you haven’t listened to for 20 years, whether it’s playing golf, painting or whatever you have felt in the past that has really lit you up, or that you discover now that lights you up, make time for it. People don’t seem to think it’s important. But in terms of well-being, it’s absolutely critical.

Listen to this recording

A Simple Beginner Yoga Sequence

For this simple beginner yoga sequence, begin by resting in this position for 5 minutes.

Lie down on your back with knees bent, feet close to your buttocks.

Beginner Yoga Sequence by Joanne Sumner 1

Read more »

how to feel more confident with meditation

How to feel more confident and powerful – more you!

Today we will talk about how to feel more confident, more powerful, centred and whole.

In the last two meditation classes, we have been exploring the concept of “magnetising yourself”. It helped us focus on how to make life more fun and manageable.

We leave parts of ourselves in the activities and emotions of our day. So, by the end of the day, we are often quite frazzled or tired. We can restore our calm by gathering back those pieces of ourselves that we’ve left dotted about the day (week, month, year, years). This is quite simple to do on a daily basis.

Here’s how.

Take a few minutes now to sit quietly. Feel into the solidity of your body. The pressure of your body on the floor. Your back on the floor or up against the wall or chair-back behind you. Give yourself time to arrive in your body, so that you begin to feel a pleasant weightiness. Maybe give yourself five minutes just to do that. Feel your body present here.

Now, see that awareness or presence as a magnet to help you gather back the pieces of yourself from your day. Begin to run your day again in your head, like images on a movie screen but without going into the emotion of the events too much. Just remind yourself of what your day contained. Begin to draw the pieces of yourself you left in those activities back to you now.

Keep going until you’ve completed the day and you’re back – awareness and body in the same place at the same time – and notice how you feel.

When I do this, I find everything feels brighter, colours are clearer, the edges are crisp, and I feel mentally awake. And above all, I feel more powerful and able to cope with my life.

Now, I’ve given you a practice to use as a daily clear up. We can use similar practices to heal far older wounds, and you may find it helpful once you are familiar with the daily practice to begin going back further in time. But, my recommendation is that if you want to gather back parts of yourself from traumatic experiences in the past that you do so with the help of a qualified practitioner. By all means, get in touch and I will connect you with someone if I cannot help you myself.


Meditation is a simple and powerful way to relax, quiet your busy mind, and connect with your deeper self. Meditation teachers variously describe the practice as going within, stilling the mind, finding inner peace, and experiencing being rather than doing.

Joanne’s Meditation classes in West London teach you to switch off deliberately so that your body moves from fight and flight to rest, digest and repair; they will also help you feel confident and content, and bring a sense of clarity to your life.

Evening classes are held at On Route, and private appointments at both On Route and Alexandria Healing Centre, so please ensure you check the location of any classes and private appointments.

On Route

44-46 South Ealing Road
London W5 4QA

T: 0203 761 2964

Alexandria Healing Centre

39 Alexandria Road
London W13 0NR

T: 020 8579 7230


Emotional resilience and self containment

In our yoga classes in Ealing, this week we’ve been discussing the idea of emotional resilience and self-containment.

What it means to be able to contain our energy, our thoughts, our emotions, our actions. So, we can look after ourselves and we look after the people around us.

What does it mean to contain oneself? Colloquially we use the term to mean to be able to hold our feelings or behaviour within bounds.

To literally contain them from spilling over (and by inference, affecting other people). We might say it positively – “I’m trying to contain my excitement” – or more pejoratively “For goodness sake, contain yourself”.

In class, I wanted to explore what the concept of containment had to offer our emotional resilience and health.

When I consider what containing myself means to me, I am struck by the way I use it to mean self-care. It means being able to hold my own feelings – tenderly, with consideration for myself – without splurging them out on anyone who will listen. It feels like self-respect. I acknowledge these feelings, and I hold them as precious. It means I will share them as necessary for my greater insight and wellbeing with people who’ve earned the right and will show me and them the respect they deserve.

There is strength in containing myself, until the appropriate moment when I may unburden myself to someone who can hold me and those feelings with care. And there is also respect for others.

Perhaps it’s a hazard of the job that I sometimes find myself pigeonholed by people who just want to let go, to let rip, to make their problem someone else’s, anyone else’s… but when it happens it feels like being hijacked. I’m sure you’ve experienced it too, especially if you are a good listener.

Of course, over the years I’ve got better at handling the situation and compassionately putting boundaries back in place. Yet still –

there is an energetic invasion when you splurge on someone whether they are interested or not, and we should take responsibility for that.

I’ve certainly done it, and later acknowledged it and thanked the person for their forbearance in dealing with it.

So – containing myself means treating myself and others with respect. It entails strength and compassion. It also assumes in practice that I will disclose and unburden myself appropriately because that too is part of containing oneself. If I am completely overwhelmed by my feelings they will either overflow or have to be suppressed. Neither of those, in the long run, is helpful to our health and wellbeing.

Continually overflowing feelings can leave people paralysed and unable to take action; continually suppressed feelings can leave people able to act but not to enjoy their life.

So we have a sense of measured unburdening, forbearance, and personal responsibility to add to self-respect. That sounds like a powerful cocktail for emotional intelligence to me. What does it require?

It requires us to know what we are capable of containing. So, we put in place support measures to help.

Over the years I’ve used psychotherapy, holistic therapies, retreats, personal study, yoga, friends and colleagues to help me process the emotional experience of life and keep me as available and centred as possible. This is the way I choose to live my life. In fact, that process has undoubtedly inspired the creation of classes and retreats as a place for people to do the same.

Do let me know what you do? Or if I can help by providing a safe place and careful listening while you take inventory of your own emotional holding, it would be my privilege.

Meditation classes provide a space to develop resilience

Meditation practice is a simple and powerful way to relax, quiet your busy mind, and connect with your deeper self. Mindfulness and meditation teachers variously describe the practice as going within, stilling the mind, finding inner peace, and experiencing being rather than doing.

For me, meditation is all these things, and a healer of body, mind and spirit. It will help you:

  • improve your cardiac health
  • strengthen your immune system
  • switch from fight and flight to rest, digest and repair
  • calm your emotions
  • bring clarity
  • help you feel content and confident of your purpose in life
  • know who you are
  • release stress and anxiety in your everyday life.

Joanne Sumner runs meditation classes in West London. She also runs regular retreats.