Mind training: Wellness coach Alison Canavan on need for mindfulness at you age

Mind training: Wellness coach Alison Canavan on need for mindfulness at you age
Alison Canavan at the launch of Vitality 2019 on the Botanical Terrace at the Iveagh Garden Hotel. Picture: Iain White / Fennell Photography

Wellness coach Alison Canavan says mindfulness is the greatest gift you can give yourself as you age. Rowena Walsh reports.

ALISON Canavan is adamant. “I wouldn’t go back if you gave me a million quid.”

The former model turned wellness coach is evangelical about her new way of life. She believes that mindfulness is the greatest gift that she has ever given herself, and she is passionate that everyone, irrespective of age, can benefit from it.

For Alison, mindfulness is about taking time to be with yourself and to get to know yourself. 

“It’s about being aware in the present moment, with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is.”

The benefits of mindfulness have been widely studied, and there are several areas that are especially encouraging for older adults, including memory, cognitive improvement, digestion, and stress.

Alison says that a regular practice can boost your immune system, give you a better sense of self, promote creativity, and improve decision-making. 

She cites a recent report by the University of Pittsburgh, which states that mindfulness was shown to help those suffering from loneliness.

Alison, who will be appearing at the Vitality Show in the RDS in September, has been working as a wellness coach for six years, and has been practising meditation over 20 years. 

She began when she was modelling in New York, where she felt disconnected from everything and everyone.

She partied hard in her 20s and suffered badly with anxiety and depression. 

“I never felt like I fitted in anywhere, I found some sense of peace when I went on meditation retreats.”

She was taught by Buddhist teachers, and when she returned to Ireland, she began studying at Dzogchen Beara, a Buddhist Meditation Centre in West Cork.

She studied to be a secular mindfulness teacher at UCLA. 

The programme lasted a year, but to qualify, she needed “10 to 15 years’ previous practice and a lot of 10-day silent retreats under your belt and letters from all your teachers. The reason you’re able to teach is that you’ve gone there yourself”.

She believes that taking the time to go within and connect to yourself is accessible to anyone at any age: the key element is that the person is willing to do so.

Once we start to live with an open heart, it doesn’t matter what age you are. If you’re 55 and older, you’ve already gained an enormous amount of life experience and wisdom. We learn and grow from what we’ve been through.

“It brings you to a place of acceptance for where and who you are in this moment. Very often, we’re mourning the past or we’re trying to be somewhere in the future. The beauty of having a practice that brings you home is that you can come to a great sense of peace and acceptance with life as it is.”

Mindfulness shouldn’t be an added extra on your to-do list, says Alison. 

“Take a deep breath, check in with yourself, and be in the garden if you are actually in the garden. Be at dinner with your family if you’re having dinner with your family.”

For Alison, this is the main aim of mindfulness. 

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“Live our life in the present moment, experience life as it’s unfolding and not miss life because we’re constantly stressed, full of anxiety about things that might never happen.”

She believes how you top and tail your day is very important. 

“We’re body, mind and spirit, so if we ignore one-third of ourselves, we can’t be in balance.

“Start your day with purpose, so consciously say a prayer of gratitude, saying thank you three times and taking some deep breaths. In the evening, as you’re lying in bed, do a very gentle scan of your body and a little review of the day.”

She suggests ending the day by thinking of one thing that you’re grateful you experienced.

Mindfulness brings us home to ourselves, thereby giving us back our power. It helps us to build trust within. You’re the only person who knows what’s best for yourself, it’s just that we don’t trust ourselves.

Vitality, a natural health and wellbeing festival, at the RDS Dublin on September 28 and 29

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