Mindfulness? See what happened when one Gants Hill coach introduced the Recorder to the meditative practice

13:56 19 June 2014

Archant staff taking a mindfullness class.

Archant staff taking a mindfullness class.


Three of my colleagues and myself are slowly rolling a raisin between our thumbs and index finger.

Varsha ShuklaVarsha Shukla

Three of my colleagues and I slowly began rolling a raisin between our thumbs and index finger.

“Feel the texture of the raisin, look at the indentations on the raisin,” coos Varsha Shukla, a mindfulness coach from Gants Hill, who has come to our office to give us a “taster” session.

She packed in her high pressure senior management job at Royal Mail nearly four years ago to pursue a career in mindfulness – what you and I would probably recognise as meditation.

“Now slowly bring the raisin up to your lips,” Miss Shukla continued. It is hard not to let your mind wander when focusing on the dried grape.


The mindfulness exercise lasted no more than five to 10 minutes, and, honestly, had almost instant impact on our mind’s state – a positive one, too.

According to Miss Shukla, mindfulness is clinically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

She believes – as do many others, including comedian Ruby Wax – it could have a major role to play in the future in helping to eradicate mental health problems in modern society.

Miss Shukla is setting up the first mindfulness class in the borough at the end of this month.

The meditative practice can be referred by your GP, or you can do a course in central London, but according to Miss Shukla, nobody is offering classes locally.

Mindfulness, which originates from Buddhism, was introduced by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the USA in the 1970s.

The practice encourages ways of paying attention to the moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga.

Mindfulness training helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, we are better able to manage them.

After extracting ourselves from the inevitable pressures of the newsdesk to the conference room in our Ilford office, we all agreed we felt more relaxed, and able to cope with our daily pressures.

“I have seen it transform lives,” says Miss Shukla, who is in talks to return to Royal Mail to put on sessions at her former workplace towards the end of this year.

Mike Gibson, 52 – her colleague of 15 years – saw the impact it had on colleagues when she ran several sessions before leaving the Royal Mail.

“Most of the guys in my team got involved in the classes,” he said. “Everyone got something out of it. It was then I realised it had some meaning to it.

“I think it has its place in many organisations as we work in stressful environments.”

Mindful Mondays will take place from June 30 to July 21 at 7pm at Ursuline School, 2-8 Coventry Road, Ilford. Contact Miss Shukla on 0752 513 7278 or email

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