Mindfulness - why you may need more than a colouring book
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Janet Reeder gets spiritual in Sale with therapist Daniel Donachie
Mindfulness. It’s the currently trendy idea of being ‘in the present moment’ that has manifested itself in the rise of adult colouring books.
And I have to admit, that although I am a yoga dabbler and pretty open minded, even I am sceptical about the idea that crayoning in a picture would somehow make me a more chilled and accepting person.
But I had yet to meet mind coach Daniel Donachie and I never expected to be staring into his eyes for 20 minutes on our first encounter.
I went to interview him at the Sale home he shares with wife Ruth and his three children and there wasn’t a colouring book in sight but what he had in store for me was far more intense than I had ever anticipated. It was a practice called by some, ‘circling’ and it is he says an experience of the deepest work he does.
We stare at each other and I suddenly descend into rapid blinking but after a while I am breathing deeply and ‘connecting’ with Daniel and my own inner thoughts on more than just a verbal level. The effect on me afterwards is profound. I feel lighter and much more peaceful within myself.
So why has mindfulness become so popular in recent times I ask Danny (who looks about 12 but is actually a wise old 42).
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‘ I thinks the reason for its popularity at the moment is down to stress, stress release and poor sleep. And that’s the surface layer of mindfulness really,’ he says.
‘I just feel society is crying out for it because we’ve basically got everything you could ever need materially and everyone realizes that’s not the answer.’
Danny doesn’t just teach mindfulness but has a repertoire of techniques and approaches to help clients that until recently included Everton Football Club. His expertise includes cranial osteopathy, Somato emotional release and yoga which he’s learned over 30 years.
In fact he was just a boy when he got into Buddhist meditation thanks to his dad, Manchester City player Willy Donachie.
‘My father had a big influence on me because he’d meditate twice a day and do that every day,’ says Danny.
‘He used to get me and my sister doing little mindfulness practices. In those days it was very unusual in the 1970s. Quite unique.’
Danny became a footballer himself but a couple of critical injuries and a deepening interest in the more spiritual aspects of life eventually led to a change of career.
‘I went to uni and did physio, but I’d always dreamed of being a footballer so after uni I signed for Carlisle United. Unfortunately, I dislocated my ankle early on. But even before that I remember I while I was there, contacting the monk at the local monastery and go and spend a week there.
‘After that I went to New York as a physio but I was always more interested in the mind and spirit really so I got into working with the body in an emotional way - an emotional release from the body and how that impacted on pain and it just opened a whole new world for me.’
It was while he was in the Big Apple he encountered a patient who convinced him that dealing with the emotions was just as important as treating the physical injury.
‘He was a 19-year-old elite oboe player the best oboe player in the world and he came with wrist problems. He’d come in three times a week religiously week after week but it made no difference and there was something about him that made me think there was more to it than just the physical pain, so I phoned the doctor (because in America you have to get permission to do anything) and he said, ‘look why don’t you just ask him?’ So the next time that’s what I did and he just broke down in tears. It turned out his mum had had cancer and this had all this impact on his subconscious. He’d put all his emotions into playing. Incredibly following his crying, the pain went and it never came back.’
Danny worked at Everton for 15 years as head of medical service and sports science (some of the players are amongst his growing number of private clientele)
‘They’ve got everything you could ever dream of – materially and just to see that, you know it doesn’t give you anything really,’ he says.
‘The most important thing about mindfulness to me is to live it, so that is how I would say I applied it mostly. But there were lots of different ways I worked with the players. I taught physical yoga practices, I worked one-on-one, coaching and doing mindfulness practices and I got interesting people in there to speak as well, just to make them (the players) more rounded human beings. ‘
Since giving up his role at Everton Danny has been coaching individual clients and they don’t have to be athletes to benefit from his therapy sessions.
‘With business people I work as a coach as well, so if they have practical things they want to deal with I work with that. Ultimately, it’s about taking them into a place of relaxation and being able to operate from there. So many people feel tense in their lives and it becomes a normal way of being - they can’t sleep and things like that, so it’s about taking them deeper than that and when they get to that place they operate much more effectively.’
You can contact Danny through his website www.meetup.com/Embodyism/