We always welcome our supporters to get involved in the work. Which is why we were excited when Shahbano Lodhi expressed an interest in sharing her expertise with us. She is trained and qualified from the Centre of Mindful Studies at the University of Toronto and offers talks, sessions and programs on Mindfulness in Karachi. Read her views on her experience of visiting a mental health project in the city.
With the unexpectedly heavy monsoon downpour in Karachi this year, it took a couple of attempts before I finally got to the bright little clinic in Model Colony Karachi, where the streets are pretty narrow and not quite paved. The purpose of my visit was to discuss Mindfulness Practices and its mental health benefits with the community living within this area and with this intention we had chosen to speak with one of the support groups that the clinic offers to women.
The group meets on Wednesdays and as Hufsa, the Mental Health Project Manager, and I waited for the Tabinda – the person who runs the clinic, to become available, two community health officers from the clinic spoke to us about their work of awareness building as they go from house to house in the neighbourhood. They felt that people had a lot of stress in their lives arising from financial issues (stretching small incomes to cover the needs of big families), job insecurity and general health issues. They also spoke about the stigma attached to mental health issues and how worries and concerns were kept under cover until they manifested as full-blown breakdowns.
The women gathered slowly, some coming in earlier than the appointed time and others as they found time from attending to their household chores and childcare responsibilities. We settled into a circle of about 12 or 15 women as I began to lead them through a brief Mindfulness of Breath practice (I had translated and adapted the guidance in Urdu) and tell them a little bit about Mindfulness.
In the discussions that followed, I found a significant amount of engagement (most of the participants closed their eyes and followed my guidance - despite it being an entirely unfamiliar experience to most), some amount of understanding and a large amount of an attitude critical for Mindfulness, which is ‘curiosity’!
My favourite observation, which came from a single mother of two, was that beauty does not come from all these expensive creams that are available in shops but from inner peace. She was explaining how she felt she could benefit from this kind of a practice. Tabinda mentioned the need of a separate support group for men (given the social set up of the community it would have to be a separate one) and the need for these kind of practices for them.
Based on my discussions with Sanaa, the Mental Health Manager at the British Asian Trust and Hufsa plus what I experienced in Model Colony, I see great benefit in adapting and introducing Mindfulness Practices to the current work that is being done in supporting underserved communities. And I look forward to working with them to develop appropriate models.
Shahbano Lodhi, trained mindfulness professional
With the support of our donors, such as CareTech Foundation and COSARAF Charitable Foundation, and the work of local partner organisations, such as Sehat Kahani in Pakistan, The British Asian Trust is determined to end stigma and provide vital community mental health services to help marginalised communities.