Cosham woman uses her own 'devastating' loss to help others in new wellness studio
Last August Amy Butler took a leap of faith to set up her own mindfulness studio, BeMindful Collective.
But it took a series of life-changing experiences to help her set up her business.
Now 32, she was in her 20s, the time of your life typically for experimenting, embarking on new friendships, falling in and out of relationships – enjoying life and the beauty of it when it all fell apart .
But like so many others who go through traumatic experiences – which Amy stresses are all valid no matter what the circumstance – she often found herself feeling completely alone in that key decade.
Her peers didn’t have to carry the burden of such devastating loss and grief.
It was the seemingly never-ending turmoil of trauma that hindered her life.
At times she was so overcome by the fear of what these negative thoughts were doing to her that she had a tendency to self-destruct, lock herself away, detach herself from everything until her reality was built so strongly on the foundations of her owns thoughts – that her grip on the real world vanished.
And 10 years later, after a difficult journey which led to her own self-discovery, it was as if a a switch came on in her head.
Amy knew she wanted to help others.
‘I wanted to start something that was local and not out of reach for people to learn and practise with us,’ says Amy from Cosham.
‘Sometimes I think mindfulness can be linked to wealthy people because retreats cost so much and to access wellbeing seems to be really expensive.’
At the moment, Amy’s studio in Wickham Square, Wickham, also houses a yoga teacher who aims to help people on their journey to self-care, self-acceptance and self-awareness, and a lady who does sound meditation to aid general wellbeing.
Amy says: ‘Hopefully one day it will be a collective of loads of different mindfulness teachers and speakers because mindfulness isn't just one set thing that you follow. It is a way of life. You have to practise it.
‘We've been conditioned into habitual thoughts that we react in certain ways and it's kind of unlearning everything to change that one reaction. Your whole outcome can be different.
‘I think being around like-minded people too is important, people who empower you, strengthen you, see your vulnerability.
‘I think so often we can find ourselves in circles that don't serve us in the right way.
‘We don't put up those boundaries. It can be really damaging.’
And Amy knows all too well how this feels – not just in terms of the letting go of what no longer served their purpose, but with coming to terms with the fragility of life and how important living in the present can be.
In the space of just five years, Amy Butler lost her dad and younger sister to cancer.
Christie, who Amy described as being ‘so full of life’ died aged 19 after an 18-month fight with an aggressive brain tumour. Amy was 21 at the time.
Two years later a close friend who she’d known since they were at school together, died from a rare form of cancer.
And just five years after Amy’s sister died, her dad Steve died at 58 from a high grade cancer. Understandably – Amy spiralled into a very dark place.
‘It was just my mum, my dad, me and my sister – so I lost half my family very quickly,’ says Amy.
‘My entire 20s I barely had time to get over the loss of one before the other one was happening. It was my sister, my friend and then my dad. That was from the ages of 21 to 26.
‘I was constantly anxious and worried and just fearful all the time that something else was going to happen and then it would. It was all a complete fog.’
For the past 10 years Amy has dipped in and out of mindfulness practices like meditation and observing the goings on around her so she could be more present and self-aware.
And after another difficult year during the pandemic she found some of the techniques didn’t seem to work so she went back to therapy – and it all went from there.
‘I decided: “Do you know what, I'm going to get my diploma in this. ‘I'm going to learn a lot more,” and I completed my diploma in mindfulness and mindfulness teaching.
‘Now I've got myself a spot that starts in February at Oxford University's mindfulness centre which is a world-renowned mindfulness centre.’
Even following these depressingly dark moments, Amy started to come to terms with everything. She explains: ‘I realised I'd spent so much of my own life seeing life just pass me by, it's almost like realising that in death I didn't have to die too.
‘I still get waves of sadness, that's fine. But you've just got to let it wash over you. You've got to feel it be as opposed to ignoring the fact that it happened or pushing it away or making it all your fault.’
Amy has rebuilt herself into someone that she loves and and she lives life to the full with the aim of helping others to do so.
The focus of her studio is to talk openly about mindfulness and where it comes from – Buddhism.
She believes everyone encounters obstacles in life, whether it’s trauma, family issues, mental health and everything in between, and her base at Wickham teaches people how to ease this strain through breath work and mindfulness techniques.
‘It's about compassion, no judgment and living in the present moment. It’s helping people to find those techniques especially when they're feeling incredibly overwhelmed or anxious to step behind their thoughts and be at a place where they cannot be in their thoughts.
‘My life has had a lot of loss but also this type of trauma can happen to people in terms of traumatic family experiences, childhood traumas, anything really can really impact on you and this isn't just a linear thing.
‘It really helped me going back to counselling because it felt for the very first time I saw it all from a bird's eye view. I was able to see myself again as opposed to locking myself away.
‘Sometimes we say “I want to go on a bike ride because I want to lose this much weight”, as opposed to just doing the bike ride and seeing the trees for no other reason than to just enjoy yourself.
‘What's life without joy? There's no point in doing something if there is no joy there?’
Amy will hold a three-week mindfulness practise course from February which can be booked through her website bemindfulcollective
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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