Mindfulness in practise: A Q&A with Maya Campbell

On Saturday 28th October Maya Campbell will be running CPD with Wimbledon Guid Counselling Training on Mindfulness In The Therapeutic Relationship

We chatted to Maya about her practise both personal and professional and her hopes for her training day with us. 

You trained in psychology, after this training what inspired you to branch out into mindfulness?

I actually started practicing mindfulness before studying Psychology. I had had a heart attack and cardiac arrest in 2009 which left me in a coma for 2 months and subsequently after I awoke, PTSD. In the first two years after this, I undertook a lot of rehabilitation, both physical and mental. And it was during my therapy in the first year that the clinical psychologist I was with suggested I try mindfulness meditation.

I found the practices that I was learning were extremely helpful in bringing me back to the present moment whenever my mind got pulled away by past events. At that point, I was going to drop in Mindfulness classes at the local Buddhist centre and was learning two practices. Firstly, mindfulness of the breath (present moment awareness training) and a compassion practice.

It was after about two years that I started thinking about retraining in a new field. I had previously been a research scientist in natural sciences, chemistry and physics, but now my interests had shifted. I was much more interested in people, in interactions between individuals, how we construct our reality and I was drawn to psychology and neuroscience. I decided to retrain in Psychology and at the same time continued in developing my mindfulness practice and beginning to train to teach others.


How has mindfulness been helpful to you in your own life? 

My mindfulness practice has allowed me to first provide an anchor to which to come back to when emotionally activated. It has allowed me to continue with my life even when circumstances become very difficult. After three years, when I had started my masters in Psychology, I was diagnosed with heart failure and an aneurysm in the heart. Although this period was extremely stressful with my PTSD being reactivated, my mindfulness practice contributed greatly in helping me come to terms with the diagnosis and not to fall in to despair or depression.

I have suffered from depression throughout my life, first diagnosed when I was 14, with many major episodes and it was my newly discovered mindfulness practice that meant I did not relapse again into depression. It gave me the ability to observe my own experience from the outside and not be sucked into and identify with the emotions and thoughts.

When I talk about my mindfulness practice, I am referring not only to the training in present moment awareness that most people associate with mindfulness but also the training in compassion and kindness. It was the combination of the two that allowed me to be with and process my past traumatic experiences and provide a safe cocoon in which to continue my life.


What would you say are the biggest changes you have seen your clients make when adding a mindfulness practise into their lives?

There are a lot of misconceptions about mindfulness, many of which I will mention in my talk.  The most common are that people think that a mindfulness practice will empty the mind of thoughts – especially the difficult and unwanted ones ! Whilst it is true that extended mindfulness practice can result in the lessening in the frequency of thoughts and the more troubling ones but it does not mean an empty mind. The training in mindfulness results in an ability to become aware of thoughts as they arise and have a choice in whether to engage with the thought or let go of the thought.

What I see in teaching mindfulness, both in groups and in individual work, is an increased ability to come back to the present moment. By being able to step out of cycles of worries about future and past events and coming back into the here and now helps reduce anxiety and depression. They begin to see the connection between thoughts, emotions, body sensations and then resulting behaviour.

People who suffer from long term illnesses and pain benefit greatly from the training. Research has shown that 47% of the experience an individual has of pain, is accounted for by the evaluations and judgements that go when one is pain. By training in mindfulness, i.e. having a non-reactive, non-judgemental attitude towards the pain, this reduces the subjective experience of the pain for the individual.

The same principle applies for emotional pain and distress, with people undergoing mindfulness training gaining increased emotional regulation and resilience. Individuals undertaking training gain reductions in anxiety and depressive symptomology and increases in life satisfaction, happiness and compassion.


Could you recommend your favourite book on mindfulness for anyone wanting to learn techniques?

I think there are a number of books that are useful when first starting out:

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book are the ones that I first read about mindfulness and I recommend them to people: Full Catastrophe Living, Revised Edition: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness meditation for everyday life

And for bringing compassion training more explicitly into the work, I would suggest Kristin Neff: Self Compassion


What would you like delegates to take away from you training day with us on Oct 28th?

I would like delegates to take away a clearer idea about what modern day secular mindfulness training encompasses as well as an understanding of its historical roots. Also by doing a number of experiential exercises and mediations, this will give delegates a felt sense of what the training entails.


To hear more from Maya Campbell go to: