A BLACK Country comedy star has gone from granny to guru to help keep others and herself smiling throughout the pandemic.

Susan Hawkins, a member of comedy trio The Fizzogs - better known as the Dancing Grannies, had started to become interested in mindfulness and meditation prior to the Covid crisis but as work for entertainment professionals completely dried up during the pandemic she began turning her interest into a living - holding regular mindfulness meditation sessions to help lift people’s spirits, and her own, amid the gloom of the lockdowns.

Stourbridge News: The Fizzogs: Susan Hawkins, right, with Deb Nicholls and Jacky Fellows as the dancing granniesThe Fizzogs: Susan Hawkins, right, with Deb Nicholls and Jacky Fellows as the dancing grannies

It proved a simple solution to the problems she was facing and she said: "It’s changed my life so I want to shout it from the rooftops."

A qualified mindfulness meditation teacher, Susan has been offering online weekly sessions, one to one sessions, full day workshops and an eight-week course to help people emerge from the pandemic as she absolutely believes the practise of mindfulness meditation has helped her get through tough times including the coronavirus crisis.

She said: "For me personally it helped me cope massively with two family deaths, the death of a pet, being an executor to a will, having to sell a house and someone writing my car off…all within a four-month period. If that had been me two years previously when I was already stressed then it would have definitely tipped me over the edge."

Mindfulness, however, is not new. It has been practised for many thousands of years - inspired by ancient Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

It has, however, become increasingly popular in busy western society as a way of helping to quieten the mind since it was introduced to the west by the godfather of modern mindfulness Jon Kabat-Zinn, who created the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts in the 1970s.

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Susan, from Wordsley, who trained with the UK College of Mindfulness Meditation, said: "I like to describe it as learning to live in the moment...you're not dwelling on the past or stressing about the future; it's the perfect place to be, having attention on purpose and focussing on what you're doing such as making a cup of tea or having a shower, driving or doing a guided meditation."

She added: "You're never going to get rid of all your thoughts but you can train your mind so you become aware of these but you know to bring your attention back to your breathing."

She told how she began to notice a difference in her energy levels straight away when she began practising mindfulness meditation regularly - and she added: "It's clinically proven to work. There's so many benefits. It can help with depression, anxiety and reducing stress. It can also help with pain. It's really powerful."

As well as helping Susan, aged 49, through the personal challenges and lockdowns, it has also helped others too, enabling people to stay positive and connected despite separation from family and friends and to weather the storm of bad news the pandemic brought with it.

She said: "I did an eight-week course with a lady who was diagnosed with breast cancer literally the day after the last session and she absolutely swears she wouldn’t have been able to cope if she hadn’t have done the course with me."

NHS hospital worker Debbie Woodward, who received the shock diagnosis in April, said attending the online sessions helped her to get through the worry of going to work everyday during the pandemic and through the trauma of breast cancer treatment.

She said: "I don't know what I'd have done without it.

"A lot of people don't understand what mindfulness is but it gives you coping skills. Mindfulness teaches you to be present and not do everything on auto pilot and a lot of us do that. It gives you an inner strength and confidence. It's kept me going."

The 60-year-old, from Sedgley, said: "I had to have lots of painful procedures...but it gives you the focus and ability to overcome it. I can't sing its praises enough."

She even used a meditation Susan had taught her as she underwent diagnostics and treatment and she said after surgery and radiotherapy she has been given an "excellent" prognosis."

Following the lifting of restrictions Susan and her fellow Fizzogs have once again been getting back out on the road as the Dancing Grannies.

There won't be a Christmas pantomime this year but they are busy planning some exciting outings for 2022.

Meanwhile, Susan is continuing with her mindfulness sessions which she says have brought light and hope to those taking part and she's now organising retreats and mindfulness walks.

L-r - Susans mindfulness group members enjoy an in-person get together - Katherine Thomas, Susan Hawkins, Lesley Bossons and Patt Wilkes

L-r - Susan's mindfulness group members enjoy an in-person get together - Katherine Thomas, Susan Hawkins, Lesley Bossons and Patt Wilkes

Although she admits most of her clients are women, she insists "mindfulness is for anyone and everyone". But she said regular practice is vital - adding that she has taken to getting up earlier to incorporate it into her day.

She added: "Morning meditation is really powerful but each to their own...some people like to meditate at night."

But she said people need to want to do it and make time for it - adding: "You've got to put it into practice. If you can binge watch Netflix you can meditate for 10 minutes a day."

Her advice for those starting out would be to try mindfully meditating for five to 10 minutes and incorporate mindful thinking throughout each day while showering or brushing teeth.

She added: "The more you do it the more you're able to do it. You'll still have thoughts unless you're a Buddhist monk and you meditate 10 hours a day.

"If you try to get rid of all your thoughts you're going to give yourself a headache. You just need to be aware and bring your attention back to your breath. "It's your thoughts that create a lot of problems in your life."

During the lockdowns, Susan’s colleagues also busied themselves with their other passions.

Stourbridge News: Susan Hawkins with fellow Fizzogs - Jacky Fellows and Deb NichollsSusan Hawkins with fellow Fizzogs - Jacky Fellows and Deb Nicholls

Deb is a trained Reiki master and has been hosting cacao ceremonies, while keen artist Jacky was able to indulge her passion for painting - and her love of dogs by walking people’s pets.

Anyone wanting to find out more about Susan's mindfulness meditation sessions can contact her on 07980 595178.