I had the good fortune to deliver workshops to our new and returning students at Queen's University on Sunday.

The scene was set: we were located in a beautiful marquee on the lawn outside the main Lanyon building and there were several of us delivering on the theme of Compassionate challenge which is the theme for Queen's this year.

I also had the luxury of being a participant as other tutors guided us through the day of Compassion and Gratitude. Annette Kelly from Carrickmore, who is known as social influencer Little Penny (based on a penny for your thoughts), spoke of the need for gratitude and the benefits for ourselves as we deliver random acts of kindness.

Annette spoke of how her life changed through simply adding an attitude of gratitude to her day, from as simple as recording three acts of gratitude towards others. She spoke of the internal benefits for her wellbeing. She told how this opened her heart to her senses and she was able to notice the beautiful scenery on her journey from Carrickmore to Queen's campus.

She advised her audience to hunt for the good and not to focus on what we haven’t got but rather be thankful for what we had and to build on that.

Sarah Stewart, a member of the Students' Guidance Centre, explained to all present the recent findings of the benefits of compassion towards ourselves and talked us through a presentation of slides around the great work of Brene Brown. If you haven’t come across Brene I would highly recommend that you look her up on YouTube.

Brene, like myself, is in recovery and is an American professor, lecturer, author and podcast host. Brene highlights the link between courage and vulnerability, which she describes as “having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome”.

PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS: Frank Liddy with Ms Little Penny Annette Kelly at QUB

PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS: Frank Liddy with Ms Little Penny Annette Kelly at QUB

Check out her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. She describes the difference between empath and compassion: compassion is the key to self care and the byproduct is kindness to others. I was amazed how we connected on Sunday. From a room full of strangers, mostly international students, we transitioned to cohesive working groups.

The sun was kind to us and allowed other breakout groups to take place on the lawns, from Tai Chi and drumming to how to make your own emotional tool kit.

My workshop was called Calmpassion and I was blessed with a great turnout. I was delighted at how open and willing the guys were in wanting to know how to access our compassionate selves in a world of craziness. I took them through some simple mindfulness exercises to reduce stress.

Students were amazed at how they could become aware of their breathing and their bodies. I call this learning from the feet up and not to get trapped in the head. I was also aware of the universal language of mindfulness that connected us.

The marquee was beginning to ooze kindness, seen through smiles and friendliness.
My gratitude didn’t end there later in the evening, I had a wonderful speaker on Zen in the online Recovery Zoom, which was well attended. The speakers name was Marya Hornbacher again I would suggest that you look her up. 

She’s an amazing woman, full of life. She's also in recovery and is a professor and a Pulitzer Prize nominee. I’ve know Marya through the rooms and zooms of recovery meetings and I can endorse her zest for life and living.

She worked with disadvantaged groups and her heart is wide open to how we need to alleviate suffering through constant thought of others. She spoke of a woman in one of her groups who was dying of cancer and had no family or friends. Marya visits that lady and cooks meals. Marya explained that no one should be alone in that dark place and it was up to us to reach out and bring a little light into others lives.

I am glad to say that’s how my day ended and I was filled with gratitude.

No candle’s light lessens, through lighting another.Keep er lit 🙏