Facilitator Focus: Mo Sanders
Our lovely Mo started her Fresh Air Fridays journey as a member. Regularly participating on our monthly community sessions, before training to be a facilitator and running sessions herself in Bristol. We often referred to her as a ‘model member’ because she’s always ‘walked the talk’, as you’ll see from her delightful account of the highlights of her journey with Fresh Air Fridays to date…
Freedom to Explore
Over the last few years I’ve got so much from my time with Fresh Air Fridays and the amazing community of members and facilitators. The themes, with their strong rationale, resonate so deeply and have reconnected me with my innate knowledge that I’d somehow forgotten along the way.
Engaging with everything Fresh Air Fridays does and provides has benefited me enormously, and has genuinely changed my life. I’ve had countless revelations, transformations and breakthroughs. So, if Fresh Air Fridays is so fantastic you may naturally be wondering why am I moving on. The simple answer is because I can. The things I’ve learnt, insights I’ve gained and tools I’ve developed have equipped me in a way I didn’t know was possible. I can see that I have unfulfilled potential which I’m excited to explore. In order to fully focus on my next adventure, it’s time to “finish” this one. However Fresh Air Fridays will stay with me in my heart and mind, no matter where I go or what I do.
I want to share my top 6 take-aways, revelations, transformations and breakthroughs. My hope is that you give Fresh Air Fridays a try. Even if you only get a tiny bit of what I have, you’ll be pleased you did. Because this stuff really works!
1. Filling Yourself Up First
The first ever session I went on we explored the theme of “Filling Yourself Up First”. It blew my mind! Truly understanding the importance of meeting my own needs and prioritising them has been transformational for me. I knew intellectually that selfcare is not selfish, but practically I had no clue what or how to do it. I naively thought it was about massages and spas, but it is so much more than that.
Figuring out what does and doesn’t resource me, and then making a plan to do those things little and often, made sense. It wasn’t until I understood this, and was given the external permission and encouragement to make my needs a higher priority, that things started to change.
I have new insight into what resources me and what doesn’t. I am more aware when I’m under resourced, and in tune with what I need to fill myself up again. Being “filled up” and well resourced means I can be the best version of myself more of the time. How can that be selfish?
2. Being Present
What a game changer this is! Being present is about bringing awareness to the moment we are in, rather than our minds jumping ahead to what’s next or thinking back to what’s already happened. Meditation is a formal way to practice being more in the moment, but it’s not the only way. Fresh Air Fridays sessions always start with a breathing exercise and an opportunity to tune into our senses. Noticing what there is to see, hear, smell, touch or taste. Being aware of any thoughts and judgements, acknowledging them and gently bringing our attention back to the moment. Learning to notice whatever there is to notice, without the need to change or fix anything is so powerful. Just notice.
For someone with a history of squashing down my emotions (often by comfort eating which typically lead to more uncomfortable feelings) the simple act of observing what I think and feel provides me with space, freedom and choice. It still amazes me that just by acknowledging something, like a thought or feeling, might be all that’s needed.
For me Being Present and Gratitude go hand in hand. When I am present I notice more things to be grateful for. And when I am truly grateful it is often because I am present in that moment. I vividly remember the instant when I realised this. My son was one year old and in a phase of needing to be held to go to sleep, which I found frustrating at times.
There was one evening when instead of looking at my phone to pass the time, I just watched him. I was present to how his warm little body felt in my arms, his skin and hair smelt fresh and clean after a bath. Hearing the sound of his snuffling breaths as he drifted contentedly to sleep. I was present to how much love I felt in that moment. Present to how deeply grateful I was for him, my home and my family. Four years on and that memory is as clear today as it was then. What a precious gift to myself, and one that I could so easily have missed.
3. My aha! moment on Gratitude
I’ve touched on gratitude already but it’s so amazing it gets its own entry! I didn’t fully understand what gratitude was before Fresh Air Fridays. I had always thought of myself as a grateful person – saying thank you and appreciating people and things. But there is much more to gratitude than that. Our brains naturally seek more of what we give our attention to. So, when we notice the good stuff in our lives, our brains automatically seek more of the same. Gratitude is not about putting a positive spin on things. It is about finding and acknowledging things to be thankful for, even in difficult circumstances.
An “aha!” moment was realising that I had been doing the opposite of practising gratitude. Since I can recall, I have periodically felt sad, low and hopeless – usually without knowing why. With Depression often there is no single cause. But in my attempts to justify my feelings I would find reasons to explain (mainly to myself) why I felt as I did. This trained my brain to seek out more of those negative things, adding additional layers of complexity that kept me in a negative spiral. Learning to look for the big and little things that bring me joy, peace and comfort retrained my brain to have a more positive outlook on life. Practising gratitude regularly makes me more appreciative of everything and everyone in my life. Plus I’m more mentally and emotionally resilient too.
4. Breakthroughs in Self-belief
Wow, this is another huge one for me. I used to be such a bully to myself, with negative and critical self-talk. Noticing this and using a kinder, more generous internal dialogue makes a massive difference for me. Learning to use posture to influence my mood and self-confidence, along with positive affirmations, is both powerful and effective. I highly recommend an amazing book called “I can do it” by Louise Hay.
Regularly hearing the phrase “you are enough” in Fresh Air Fridays relaxations, and using positive affirmations to update my self-talk, meant that I began to believe it, and now I know it to be true. I am enough, I am complete and I do not need fixing.
Alongside that I truly came to understand that “I am not what I do” meaning that my work does not define me. This was massive for me as so much of my value and self-worth was wrapped up with my career. Knowing that “I am not what I do” means that I no longer need to prove or justify myself, allowing me the freedom to move on and follow my dreams.
5. Big Dream, Comfort Zone and Control
Like most people lockdown has been a useful opportunity to pause and reflect. “Your Big Dream” also happened to be the theme we explored as a community in June. That month I also read “The Bullet Journal Method” by Ryder Carroll. He talked about the importance of where and how we spend our two most precious resources – our time and our energy. I began to look more closely at this and question if what I was doing was still part of my big dream. I’m fortunate to have already achieved many of my life goals, but continuing to dream gives life purpose and direction.
I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to be more creative. When I was younger I did dream of a creative occupation. I loved art at school, but I stopped after A levels to pursue an academic career. I considered doing art foundation but chose not to. On reflection it was then that I switched off the creative part of me. Since then I tried getting back into art by doing classes and workshops but with little success.
More than twenty years later I now have the self-belief and courage to follow this dream, which is definitely stretching my comfort zone. Who knows what will happen, but purely by giving it a go I’ve already succeeded. Normally during times of change I seek to be in control, but strangely not this time. It feels natural, relaxed and simple. I can enjoy the freedom of not knowing and have fun exploring and trying out different things, trusting that I will make the right choices for me.
6. The People are at the heart
I have met so many amazing people who I am blessed to now call friends. It’s a special thing to be in a group of people, some of whom you’ve only just met, and feel a connection.
The facilitators, led by Ruth and Rose, truly are the beating heart of Fresh Air Fridays and why the programmes are so transformational. I’m clear my life would look very different without them and part of me will forever be Fresh Air Fridays.
So this is not a goodbye. This is a “I’m going off to explore this path and will catch up with you later!” If you’re curious about what I’m up to “watch this space” on my website morwennasanders.co.uk .
Find out more
If you’re interested to know more take a look at the following pages:
Fresh Air Fridays For You