Bridgeen Rea-Kaya is a wellbeing and mindfulness teacher. In 2014 she took to the TEDxStormont stage to share her journey and the lessons we can incorporate into our daily lives to feel and embrace the human experience fully.
We caught up with her to find out what’s she’s been up to since then and to remind ourselves of how to remain in the present moment…
How was your TEDxStormont experience?
I loved it! It was just so exciting and nerve wrecking to be part of such a great event. I’ve never actually watched it though! But it felt really special to be part of it.
What’s happened for you since?
Well I had already left my day job and I continued to work and grow my business as a mindfulness teacher. It’s 7 years ago now, and I’ve worked for all sorts of companies across NI. I’ve worked for organisations down South, across the water and even delivered workshops in Australia.
I continued to practice and to teach and share mindfulness as best as I can. I continued to study, do retreats travelling all over the world and deepen my knowledge and experience so I could be better at sharing the practice. In 2015 I finished my Masters in Mindfulness Based approaches after 5 years of back and forth to Bangor in Wales.
During the March 2020 lockdown I got on to Zoom straight away, and began teaching online, even offering 3 months of 15 minute meditations twice a day! I’m now really comfortable with online classes – it really saved my business.
Six months after TEDx I met my husband, got married in 2017, got a dog and a now baby!
Why do you think we have forgotten to focus on our breath?
I don’t think we’ve forgotten, I think we’ve never been taught in the first place. Everyone who is alive is breathing. It’s automatic but if we take time to just notice it (the breathing process) for sure we can use the breath as a tool to regulate our emotions and nervous system, to bring our mind and body together and to come back to the present moment. So focusing on the breath is bringing us to life.
In your talk you mentioned we need to become a human being, not a human doing. Why do you think society is encouraged to be somewhere else, and not present?
I think a lot of things in life are painful or just what we don’t want. We want to stay in bed rather than get up for work, we don’t want to think about something that happened in the past, we feel bad about something that was said in a current relationship. We hurt and we don’t want to feel the way we feel so we distract ourselves. The distraction feels good and often the distraction makes money for someone so we’re encouraged to do it for the economy! Alcohol and shopping are two society endorsed means of distraction. We’re constantly encouraged to keep doing, buying, consuming staying busy… “Don’t just sit there – do something” they tell us. And this is human too. We enjoy our distractions – TV, movies, gambling, all the things… but if we spend too much time in distraction we lose our connection to life. We miss the present moment. Mindfulness says “don’t do something just sit there”.
Our true home is inside us, our true home is the present moment, the only moment we have to feel anything, do anything. It only ever happens in the here and now. If we’re too busy being distracted, we miss it. We miss the peace and beauty of simply being.
We don’t need to have status symbols or look a certain way or achieve something to be a human being. Just the fact that we are alive is already a miracle, but mostly we forget the miracle of life. Now that I have a new born I feel the miracle of life so strongly. How amazing is each and every little baby, each one a miracle? But once we ‘grow up’ we don’t see it anymore. We need to stop and look around to take in the world through fresh eyes, activate our senses, to find that place of rest and peace at the centre of our being.
How do you recommend not getting caught up in the tasks of everyday life?
Change your lifestyle to remember what’s important to you. Don’t sweat the small stuff, even big stuff will pass. Keep remembering to return to the here and now.
Know that slowing down, stopping and taking your time is good for you – it’s a necessity, not a luxury. The best way to do this is to establish a daily mindfulness/meditation/self-compassion/ gratitude practice. All of these things can be trained just like any other skill. We exercise, use face cream every day, have lots of contraptions for our body but what about our mind? We clean our teeth every day and call it dental hygiene but what about mental hygiene?
I recommend this to myself too. I’m not on a higher plane offering advice, I need to do this too. I love to be distracted and busy. My baby is only 3 months old and I’ve signed up for baby massage, baby yoga and waterbabies (I couldn’t get into baby sensory!) because I want to do ‘all the things’ to ensure she doesn’t miss out. But she’s just a baby, she’s really got no idea what’s going on. The most important things to her are food, sleep, a clean nappy and of course love. I see parents all the time running themselves ragged doing things for their kids and while it’s totally understandable it’s probably not so wise. I hope I can take my own advice into new parenthood. Each day with a baby is so precious. I think little Beddy will become my greatest teacher.
How can we cultivate an attitude of kindness and compassion?
Neuroscience has shown that kindness and compassion are something we can cultivate, like meditation and mindfulness we can do it as a practice. What we practice or pay attention to in our lives will grow. Just increasing our awareness of our desire to be kinder and more compassionate is already a cultivation. Each step, each remembering and each act of kindness is creating the habit and attitude.
We have an intention to be kind, and then we pay attention to ways that we can practice kindness and, most importantly, bring that attitude to our own wee selves. When we practice self-compassion and self-kindness it’s easier for that attitude to spill out into our interactions with others.
What’s your call to action for people?
I decided my call to action is to STOP more, to do nothing for a change. Even in lockdown most people were too busy. My favourite quote from my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh is ‘there’s no need to run, strive, search or struggle. Just be’. So, my call to action is ironically to spend more time being, less time doing. Know that it’s ok to stop and rest, in fact it’s more than ok, it’s crucial to our wellbeing and to our ability to be kind. We don’t always have to be doing something. We can stop with intention. It can be a deliberate stopping infused with a practice of mindfulness and compassion.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to slowly return from maternity leave. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do evening classes – maybe in 2022 but I’m starting back with my first public (online and on zoom) workshop on Sunday 17 October. I want to keep teaching, I love it so much and get so much from it. I hope I can still offer classes that are relevant and helpful to people and via zoom! I hope to be able to offer an in-person retreat sometime in 2022 as retreats are my favourite! I don’t have any great plans other than hopefully the revamp of my website and taking care of Buddy (my cockapoo) and Beddy (my beautiful baby). I’m so excited about being a mummy and doing all the things with my little girl. She is my priority now