Mindfulness: Finding Refuge Within, Angela McCusker

Posted on 27 March 2023

The Bothy Book Blog

‘A bothy is a place of safety in a storm, a place to take shelter and recuperate in the wildest of landscapes. Traditionally open to all, they are a place you may meet others who are also on a journey, similar but perhaps different to yours. A place where you can share in the warmth of a fire, a song or a tale. But you may also find solitude there; space to contemplate where you’ve been and where you’re headed. In each bothy there is usually a book where people can sign their name, tell their story and share their voice. It may include reflections, poems, observations or pictures inspired by their time at or on their way to the bothy.’ 

The Bothy Book Blog is our way of sharing the stories and perspectives of a diverse cohort of individuals across sectors relevant to Venture Trust’s work and policy areas of interest. We invite voices from across the public, private and third sector to spend some time in the virtual Bothy and share their thoughts and ideas across the issues of community justice, employability and wellbeing.

This instalment of the blog is penned by our new Chair, Angela McCusker. A qualified expert in mindfulness, Angela has over 20 years experience at Board level operating in international and multi cultural environments. She has worked in many sectors and now brings that wealth of experience and knowledge to her NXD roles and working with senior teams and individuals.


A bothy is a place of refuge, somewhere to find shelter and warmth.

I have stayed in or camped beside many bothies.

Reflecting on my experiences, it was often with a lot of relief that I arrived at a bothy; with a sense of feeling safe, knowing where I was, and knowing thatI could relax. I often found that relief especially when the weather was wild and closing in – a bothy was a very welcome sight indeed.

A bothy is a physical refuge, a physical place of shelter and warmth.

So, I started to reflect; how do I find refuge which is not a physical presence – how do I find refuge within? How do I find a place of warmth, safety and shelter within. I find this particularly important when life is a bit wild or closing in – I find my internal refuge even more important.

For me, I find that place of refuge through practising mindfulness. Many years ago, I started on my own journey of personal development which led me to meditation and tai chi. And then, in 2010, I started a Masters in Mindfulness at Aberdeen University, which has been completely transforming for me personally.

My Masters in Mindfulness led to me working with many leaders and individuals; bearing in mind we are all leaders of our own life. We are all leaders in finding our own internal refuge; which is part of building resilience.

I think it is important in terms of finding refuge to ask ourselves, “what nourishes me? What depletes me?”, And take the time to find out and put into place in our lives those things that nourish us. This helps build resilience; helps to build our own refuge.

We all face many demands in life today and it can be more difficult to switch off. Often, we can become consumed by the digital world – and perhaps we can ask ourselves – can I have a digital detox? What would that look like?

My own nourishment often takes place outdoors: I love wild swimming, and swim in the sea all year round. I find it incredibly invigorating. Since my 20’s I have been a keen hill walker, and love walking on the beach and in the mountains. It gives me a sense of peace. I even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro! It was my mindfulness practice which helped me get to the summit.

Finding what nourishes us is very personal. For me, as well as wild swimming and hill walking, I spend time with friends and family; listen to music and I am always reading a number of books.

I have worked with many groups and individuals teaching mindfulness. The feedback from people is that they are a lot calmer, happier, and a lot less stressed. It helps people deal with stress and anxiety; helps build resilience, and builds a capacity for dealing with difficult situations.

However, mindfulness may or may not be for you. What I would like to invite you to do is to ask yourself the following questions:

How do I cultivate my own refuge? What nourishes me? What depletes me? How can I devote time to nourishing myself and building my own refuge? What would my motivation be? How would I feel if I was able to spend more time doing things that nourish me?


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