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Recognising aversion

By Uncategorized


‘A great deal of our suffering comes from an expectation that life should be different from how we find it’

Dharma Wisdom

Sitting Meditation



Stressful things are part and parcel of life itself. It is how we handle these things that makes the difference between whether they rule or control our lives, or whether we can relate more lightly to them.

Becoming more aware of the thoughts, feelings and body sensations brought on by events, gives us the possibility of freeing ourselves from habitual, automatic, ways of reacting. So that we can instead, mindfully respond in more skilled ways.

In general, we tend to react to experience in one of three ways:

  • With indifference or boredom: so that we switch out from the present moment and go off somewhere else ‘in our heads’.
  • With attachment: wanting to hold on to experiences that we are having right now, or wishing we were having experiences that we want rather than what we are actually experiencing.
  • With aversion: wanting to get rid of the experiences that we are having right now, or avoid experiences that may be coming along that we do not want.

Each of these ways of reacting can cause problems, particularly the tendency to react to unpleasant feelings with aversion. For now, the main issue is to become more aware of our experience as we react automatically. This awareness is the first essential step towards responding mindfully.

Regularly practicing Sitting Meditation allows us an opportunity to notice when we have drifted from awareness of the moment, and to recognise what it was that took our attention away.  It then allows us to gently but firmly bring our attention back to our original focus. In doing this we are reconnecting with moment-by-moment awareness.

At other times of the day, deliberately using the Breathing Space whenever we notice unpleasant feelings or a sense of ‘tightening’ or ‘holding’ in the body provides an opportunity to loosen the grip of habitual, automatic reactions to stress.



The Stress-Reaction Cycle

Human beings are remarkably resilient to stress. We are expert copers and problem solvers, using our own internal resources, pleasurable and meaningful activities, and encouragement and support from family and friends, to deal with stress. But it’s also true that our usually stable balance can be pushed over the edge into deregulation and disorder if it is taxed beyond its capacity to respond and adapt.

Our health can be undermined by a lifetime of ingrained behaviour patterns that compound and exacerbate the pressures of living we continually face. Our automatic reactions to stress, triggered without awareness, often exacerbate the stress, making simple problems worse, and largely determining how much stress we experience. A lifetime of unconscious reaction to stress significantly increases our risk of eventual breakdown and illness.

We all experience external stressors from the biological, physical, social, economic and political forces that influence us everyday. From the inside, our thoughts and emotions are strongly affected by our perception of these outside forces, and also generate their own stressful reactions, producing another whole set of pressures and demands.

Some stressors affect us over extended periods of time – we call these chronic stressors. For instance, taking care of a family member who is disabled is a form of chronic stress. Other stressors come and go over relatively short periods of time – an example is getting something done by a deadline – these are called acute stressors. We react to stressors in different ways, depending on how far we perceive them as threats to our wellbeing or sense of self. Our reaction can range from minimal (where little or no threat is perceived) to an automatic alarm reaction where the stressor is highly charged for us emotionally, or is perceived as being a definite threat in some way.

The fight-or-flight reaction helps us to survive when we find ourselves in life-threatening situations, but in today’s world it can become a problem. Much of our stress comes from threats, real or imagined, to our social status, rather than to our lives. But the fight-or-flight reaction kicks in even when there is no life-threatening situation facing us. It is sufficient for us just to feel threatened. Our body and mind react automatically, whether the threat is real or not. If this happens often enough, hyper-arousal can become a permanent way of life. This can manifest in chronic muscle tension, shakiness, faster heart rate, and frequent urges to ‘lash out’ in anger, get into arguments or even fights.

What do we do when the fight-or flight reaction is building up inside us, but we feel unable to fight or run because both are socially unacceptable, and we know neither will solve our problems? The common way to deal with these feelings is to suppress or deny them, hiding them from others and sometimes even from ourselves. We internalise our stress reaction and carry on as usual, holding it all inside.

Staying Present

Remember to use your body as a way to awareness. It can be as simple as staying mindful of your posture. You are probably sitting as you read this. What are the sensations in your body at this moment? When you finish reading and stand, feel the movements of standing, of walking to the next activity, of how you lie down at the end of the day. Be IN your body as you move, as you reach for something, as you turn. It is as simple as that.

Just patiently practice feeling what is there – and the body is always there – until it becomes second nature to know even the small movements you make. If you are reaching for something, you are doing it anyway; there is nothing extra you have to do. Simply notice the reaching. You are moving. Can you train yourself to be there, to feel it?

It is very simple. Practice bringing your attention back to your body again and again. This basic effort, which paradoxically is a relaxing back into the moment, gives us the key to expanding our awareness from times of formal meditation to living mindfully in the world. Do not underestimate the power that comes to you from feeling the simple movements of your body throughout the day.

-Adapted from Joseph Goldstein ‘Insight Meditation’, 1993

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only
have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you about mine,
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving
across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air, are heading
home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over
announcing your place
in the family of things.

-Mary Oliver, ‘Dream Work’, Atlantic Monthly Press, NY, 1986

Home practice following Session 4

1.  Practice Sitting Meditation each day

2. Practice the 3 Step Breathing Space – at least three times a day, taking around 3 minutes for each breathing space. Either practice it when you think of it, or connect it to 3 regular activities you do or places you are everyday (e.g. on waking up and/or going to bed, before a programme you regularly watch, before eating, after washing your hands, on first sitting down in your car or on the bus or at your desk)

Congratulations on completing Level 1 of Mindful Practices. Before moving on to Level 2, I suggest you take a little time to continue with these exercises to consolidate what you have learned and strengthen your meditation practice.

Gathering the scattered mind

By Uncategorized


‘Mindfulness provides a simple but powerful route for getting ourselves unstuck, back in touch with our own wisdom and vitality…..The most important point is to be really yourself and not try to become anything that you are not already….being in touch with your deepest nature, and letting it flow out of you unimpeded’

– Kabat-Zinn, 1986


We just practiced resting awareness on the breath and the body in movement.

The mind is often scattered and lost in thought because it is working away in the background to complete unfinished tasks from the past and strive for goals for the future. We need to find a reliable way intentionally to ‘come back’ to the here and now.

Mindful Movement allows us to

  • Build on the foundation of the Body Scan in learning how we can cultivate awareness
    and ‘inhabit’  body experience/sensations
  • See old habitual patterns of the mind – especially those that emphasize striving
  • Work with physical boundaries and learn acceptance of our limits
  • Learn new ways of taking care of ourselves

The movements provide a direct way to connect with awareness of the body. The body is a place where emotions are often expressed, under the surface and without our awareness. So becoming more aware of the body gives us an additional place from which to stand and look at our thoughts.

The breath and body offer an ever-present focus on which we can reconnect with mindful presence, gather and settle the mind, and ease ourselves from doing into being.

Focusing on the breath:

  • Brings you back to this very moment, the here and now
  • Is always available as an anchor, no matter where you are
  • Can actually change your experience by connecting you with a wider space and
    broader perspective from which to view things

Doing and Being: Two different modes of mind – two different tools to approach
different tasks. One is not better than the other

The Doing mode

It is the logical and problem solving way of approaching the world. Keeps in mind what we want and tries to get rid of what we don’t want. This is the mode of mind we access when we have a project in hand or when we are planning something like a holiday.

The Being mode

It is intuitive. It is in the present. This is the mode of mind we access when we fall in love, or enjoy a beautiful sunset. In this mode of mind we are connected with our body sensations and what the sense perceptions are bringing to us. Meditation practice gives us the opportunity to access the ‘being mode’ independently of external circumstances.

Sitting Meditation

It helps to adopt a dignified and upright posture, with your head, neck and back aligned vertically – the physical counterpart of the inner attitudes of self-reliance, self-acceptance, patience and alert attention that we are cultivating.

Practice on a chair or on the floor. If you use a chair, choose one that has a straight back and allows your feet to be flat on the floor. If at all possible, sit away from the back of the chair so that your spine is self-supporting. If you choose to sit on the floor, do so on a firm, thick cushion (or a pillow folded over once or twice), which raises your buttocks off the floor 3-6 inches.

Whatever you are sitting on, see if it is possible to sit so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees.

Sitting Meditation


Remember the 3 Step Breathing Space is a quick, portable and easy way of practicing mindfulness and can be done as often as you wish during the day.

3 Step Breathing Space

The 3 Step Breathing Space instructions

Step 1: Becoming aware

Of how things are in this moment by deliberately adopting an upright and dignified posture, whether sitting or standing. If possible, close your eyes. Then, bringing your awareness to your inner experience and acknowledging it, ask, “what is my experience right now?”

  • What THOUGHTS are going through the mind? As best you can, acknowledge thoughts as mental events, perhaps putting them into words.
  • What FEELINGS are here? Turn toward any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings, acknowledging them
  • What BODY SENSATIONS are here right now? Perhaps quickly scan the body to pick up any sensations of tightness or bracing and acknowledging the sensations.

Step 2: Gathering

Then redirect your attention to focus on the physical sensations of the breathing itself. Move in close to the sense of the breath in the abdomen….feeling the sensations of the abdomen wall expanding as the breath comes in….and falling back as the breath goes out. Following the breath all the way in and all the way out, using the breath to anchor yourself into the present.

Step 3: Expanding

Now expand the field of awareness around the breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and facial expression. If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, or resistance, take your awareness there by breathing into them on the in-breath. Then breathe out from those sensations, softening and opening with the out-breath. As best you can, bring this expanded awareness to the next moments of your day.

Autobiography in Five Chapters

1.   I walk down the street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in
I am lost…I am hopeless
It isn’t my fault
It takes forever to find a way out.

2.  I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I pretend I don’t see it
I fall in again
I can’t believe I’m in the same place
But it isn’t my fault
It still takes a long time to get out.

3.  I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I see it is there
I still fall in….it’s a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault
I get out immediately

4.  I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it.

5.  I walk down another street

-by Portia Nelson from ‘There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk’, 1994

Home practice following Session 3

1. Alternate the Body Scan practice or the Mindful Movement each day.

The point of movement is to provide a direct way to connect with the body. The body is a place where the emotions often get expressed, under the surface and without our awareness. Thoughts and emotions also affect our bodies. Working with our bodies directly gives us a place to experience more of ourselves, and to connect with our experience of body, feelings and thoughts. The movements activate the body and mind, provide a direct way to connect with awareness of the body, and can dispel tiredness. Record any reactions on your record form if you can.

If you have any back problems or other health issues that may cause difficulties, make your own decision as to which (if any) of these exercises to do, taking good care of your body. You can make a mindful practice out of any movements you do, by bringing your full attention to them.

2. Practice the 3 Step Breathing Space three times a day for about three minutes each time. Do this at times you have decided in advance.

3. Complete the Unpleasant Events Diary and use this as an opportunity to become really aware of the thoughts, feelings and body sensations that are around in one unpleasant event at the time that they are occurring. Notice and record as soon as you can, in detail.  Put the actual words or thoughts that come in, and the precise nature and location of bodily sensations.

Home practice record form Session 3

Record each time you practice on the Home Practice Record Form. Also, make a note of anything that comes up in the home practice.

Download the practice record form here.

Home Practice Record Form _ 3

Unpleasant Events Diary

Be aware of an unpleasant event at the time it is happening. Use the following questions to focus your awareness on the details of the experience as it is happening. Write it down later.

Download the unpleasant events diary form here.

Unpleasant Events Calendar

Living in our heads

By Uncategorized


‘The present is the only time that any of us has to be alive – to know anything – to perceive – to learn – to act – to change – to heal’

– Kabat-Zinn, 1994

Body Scan – guided meditation


Often we think of meditation as happening in a beautiful, still, quiet place and that if the conditions are not right, we cannot meditate. But mindfulness is about becoming aware of what’s happening right now; in the middle of ‘the full catastrophe’ that is life.

It is wonderful that we have some beautiful places dedicated to meditation, but what we are about here is tuning into the life we are actually living, so that we can really live it and know that we are living it.

That still, quiet place can be found within each of us. One of the ways to access it is through tuning into the breath which is with us all the time. The breath can act as an anchor for us.

Working with obstacles

Usually after the first week of practicing the daily meditations, we will start noticing the obstacles to doing this. Some obstacles to the practice are:

  • Sleepiness – falling asleep during the practice, or being too tired to do the practice
  • Restlessness/Anxiousness –  difficulty moving from doing to being, jumping up in the middle of the practice to do other things
  • Doubt – reactions such as ‘is this working? Am I doing this right? What’s the point! I can’t do this!’
  • Aversion – feeling of ‘I don’t like this, I don’t want…’
  • Attachment/Desire – such as ‘I want the practice to be like it was before’

The Body Scan meditation provides an opportunity to practice simply bringing an interested and friendly awareness to the way things are in each moment, without having to do anything to change things. There is no goal to be achieved other than to bring awareness to bear as the instructions suggest. Trying to achieve some special state of relaxation is not a goal of this exercise.

Tips for the Body Scan

Regardless of what happens (for example, if you fall asleep, lose concentration, keep thinking of other things or focusing on the wrong body part, or not feeling anything), stick with it! These are your experiences in the moment. See if it is possible to be aware of them all, just as they are.

  •  If your mind is wandering a lot, simply note the thoughts (as passing events), then bring the mind back gently to the body scan.
  • Let go of ideas of ‘success’, ‘failure’, or ‘doing it really well’, or ‘trying to purify the body’. This is not a competition. It is not a skill for which you will need to strive. The only discipline involved is regular and frequent practice. Just do it with an attitude of openness and curiosity, and then allow the rest to take care of itself.
  • Don’t have set expectations about what the body scan will do for you. Rather imagine it as a seed you have planted. The more you poke around and interfere, the less it will be able to develop. So with the body scan, just give it the right conditions – peace and quiet, regular and frequent practice. That is all. The more you try to influence what it will do for you, the less it will do.
  • Try approaching your experience in each moment with the attitude ‘OK, that’s just the way things are right now’. If you try to fight off unpleasant thoughts, feelings, or body sensations, the upsetting feelings will only distract you from doing anything else. Be aware, be non-striving, be in the moment, and accept things are as they are.

The 9 Dot Exercise


Mindfulness of the breath – guided meditation


Mindfulness of the breath

  • Sitting in a comfortable position, with your spine in a dignified upright position, let the shoulders drop.
  • Closing your eyes if this feels comfortable.
  • Bringing your awareness to the feel of the body breathing each breath, focusing your attention on the sensations of touch, contact and pressure in your body where it makes contact with the floor and whatever you are sitting on. Spending a few minutes exploring these sensations, just as in the body scan.
  • Bringing your attention to your belly, feeling it rise or expand gently on the in-breath and fall or recede on the out-breath.
  • Keeping the focus on your breathing, ‘being with’ each in-breath for its full duration and with each out-breath for its full duration, as if you were riding the waves of your own breathing.
  • Every time that you notice that your mind has wandered off the experience of the breath, softly note what it was that took you away and then gently escort your attention back to your belly and the feeling of the breath coming in and out.
  • If your mind wanders from the breath a thousand times, then your ‘job’ is simply to bring it back to the breath every time, no matter what it becomes preoccupied with. It is just as valuable to become aware that your mind has wandered and to bring it back to the breath as it is to remain aware of the breath.

The Breath

Breath is life. You could think of the breath as being like a thread or a chain that links and connects all the events of your life from birth, the beginning, to death, the end. The breath is always there every moment, moving by itself like a river.

Have you ever noticed how the breath changes with our moods – short and shallow when we are tense or angry, faster when we are excited, slow and full when we are happy, and almost disappearing when we are afraid. It’s there with us all the time. It can be used as a tool, like an anchor, to bring stability to the body and mind when we deliberately choose to become aware of it. We can tune into it at any moment during everyday life.

Mostly, we are not in touch with our breathing – it’s just there, forgotten. So one of the first things we do in mindfulness is to get in touch with it. We notice how the breath changes with our moods, our thoughts, our body movements. We don’t have to control the breath. Just notice it and get to know it, like a friend. All that is necessary is to observe, watch, and feel the breath with a sense of interest in a relaxed manner.

With practice, we become more aware of our breathing. We can use it to direct our awareness to different aspects of our lives. For example, to relax tense muscles, or focus on a situation that requires attention. The breath can also be used to help deal with pain, anger or the stress of daily life. During this programme, we will be exploring this in more detail.


Our aim in this programme is to be more aware, more often. A powerful influence taking us away from being ‘fully present’ in each moment is our automatic tendency to judge our experience as being not quite right in some way.  That it is not what should be happening, not good enough, or not what we expected or wanted.

These judgments can lead to sequences of thoughts about blame, what needs to be changed, or how things could or should be different. Often these thoughts will take us, quite automatically, down some fairly well-worn paths in our minds.

In this way, we may lose awareness of the moment and also the freedom to choose what, if any, actions need to be taken. We can regain our freedom if, as a first step, we simply acknowledge the reality of our situation, without immediately being hooked into automatic tendencies to judge, fix, or want things to be other than how they are.

The 3 Step Breathing Space

The 3 Step Breathing Space is a quick, portable and an accessible way of practicing mindfulness and can be done as often as you wish during the day.

By simply stopping and making a conscious decision to pause, it allows us to shift from one mode to another and perhaps to unstick us when we are in a bit of a mind jam! As best you can finding a quiet spot.

3 Step Breathing Space – guided meditation

Mindful Minute

None of us is so busy that we can’t spare a minute from time to time. Literally, one minute. Just one. When you’re waiting for the train in the morning or waiting for the bus; when you arrive at your desk or you’re waiting for your computer to boot…..Just one single minute.

There’s a really effective meditation practice you can do that lasts exactly one minute. It’s extraordinary, but this time, instead of just watching each breath, you set out to count them. You let the breath just breathe itself, in whatever way you normally breathe, and you pay particular attention to each breath – counting at the end of each in-breath and each out-breath. You just count each breath you take over the course of exactly one timed minute so that – at the end – you’ll know precisely how many breaths you take in a minute.

Begin by sitting in a chair with your feet squarely on the floor in front of you and your body arranged more or less symmetrically. Find a posture that is relaxed, upright and dignified. Then, closing your eyes, bring your attention to the breath and begin to follow each in-breath and each out-breath. Do that for a few breaths and, when you feel you have a sense of the breath moving in the body, start your one-minute timer and begin to count your breaths. Breathe in, and (mentally) count ‘one’, breathe out, and count ‘two’. Breathe in ‘three’, breathe out and count ‘four’…..and so on. Keep going for exactly one minute. Then, when The minute is up, remember what number you were on. The main thing is to remember how many breaths you took in that minute: 14, 18, 20 or whatever. That way, when you’ve got a minute to spare and you want to become more mindful you can set out to count your 14, 18, 20 breaths – whatever you found. You can do this before an important phone call or before getting out of the car on your way to an important meeting. You can do it as a preparation for a presentation or as a way of getting yourself back to centre after a difficuly encounter. You can do it pretty much anywhere, any time and for whatever reason. If you do a few of these through your day it will make things run better – whatever you’re doing.

Based on Michael Chaskalson (2011), ‘The Mindful Workplace’. Oxford

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
The one who has flung herself out of my hand,
Who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
Who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know what exactly a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
Into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
Which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

– by Mary Oliver (1992)

Home practice following Session 2

1. Practice the Body Scan each day

2. Once a day practice mindfulness of ‘breathing’ for 10 minutes or do the 3 Step Breathing Space a couple of times a day. Being with your breath in this way each day provides an opportunity to become aware of what it feels like to be connected and present in the moment without having to do anything

3. Complete the pleasant events diary each day

4. Choose a new routine activity to be especially mindful of (for example, drinking a cup of coffee/tea, brushing your teeth, washing dishes, taking a shower, taking out the rubbish, reading to kids, shopping, eating)

Home practice record form Session 2

Record each time you practice on the home practice form. Also, make a note of anything that comes up in the home practice so that we can become more aware of  automatic reactions and thought patterns

Download the practice record form here.

Home Practice Record Form _ 2

Pleasant events diary – Session 2

Be aware of a pleasant event at the time it is happening. Use the following questions to focus your awareness on the details of the experience as it is happening. Write it down as soon as possible afterwards.

Download the pleasant events diary form here.

Pleasant Events Calendar


Automatic Pilot

By Uncategorized


Research shows the average person is on autopilot 47% of the time…..our attention is absorbed in our wandering minds and we are not really ‘present’ in our own lives.

– Harvard Gazette, 2010

Awareness and automatic pilot

In a car we can sometimes drive for miles ‘on automatic pilot’, without really being aware of what we are doing. In the same way, we may not be really ‘present’, moment-by-moment, for much of our lives.  We can often be ‘miles away’ without knowing it. On automatic pilot, we are more likely to have our ‘buttons pressed’.

When we are on automatic pilot, that is distracted, our thoughts are either in the future or in the past. Often when we think of the future we will catastrophise, we decide it’s going to be awful or at least very difficult. When we think of the past, we replay old thoughts and experiences and these are often negative because as humans we have a propensity to negativity.

Events around us – thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the mind (of which we may only be dimly aware) – can trigger old habits of thinking that are often unhelpful, and may lead to a worsening mood or negative state of mind.

By becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice. We do not have to go down the same old ‘mental ruts’ that may have caused problems in the past.

The aim of this program is to increase awareness, so that we can respond ‘in the moment’ to actions with choice rather than reacting automatically. We do that by practicing to become more aware of where our attention is, and deliberately changing the focus of attention, over and over again.

Qualities of a good friend

Attitudinal foundations of mindfulness


Taking the stance of an impartial witness to your own experience. Notice the stream of a judging mind – not trying to stop it but just being aware of it.


Letting things unfold in their own time. A child may try to help a butterfly emerge by breaking open a chrysalis but chances are the butterfly won’t benefit from this help. Being completely open to each moment: accepting its fullness, knowing that like the butterfly, things will emerge in their own time.

Beginner’s mind and curiosity

Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ’know’ stop us from seeing things as they really are – cultivating a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time and being receptive to new possibilities. Each moment is unique and contains unique possibilities.


Developing a basic trust in yourself and your feelings means trusting in your own authority and intuition, even if you make some mistakes along the way. On the other hand, honouring your feelings means taking responsibility for yourself and your own wellbeing.


Meditation has no role other than for you to be yourself. The irony is you already are. Paying attention to how you are right now – observing this. The best way to achieve your own goals is to stop striving and instead start to really focus on carefully seeing and accepting things as they are, moment-by-moment.


Seeing things as they actually are in the present. If you have a sore foot, accept you have a sore foot. We often waste a lot of time and energy denying what is fact. We are trying to force situations according to how we would like them to be. This creates more tension and prevents positive changes from occurring. Acceptance is not passive, it does not mean you have to be resigned to tolerate things. Acceptance is a willingness to see things as they are. You are much more likely to know what to do and have an inner conviction to act when you have a clear picture of what is actually happening.

Letting be

This is a way of letting things be, of accepting things as they are. We let things go and we just watch. If we find it particularly difficult to let go of something because it has such a strong hold on our mind, we can direct our attention to what ‘holding’ feels like. Every time we notice the mind wandering and come back to the breath or body, we are practicing letting be.

Compassion and kindness

Bringing some compassion towards ourselves can have a very healing affect and can allow us to be more compassionate towards others. If we don’t have feelings of kindness or compassion for ourselves right now, we can have the intention to feel compassion for ourselves in the future. Cultivating patience and non-striving requires kindness towards ourselves.

Generosity and gratitude

Whether it’s the need to give to others, or perhaps give to ourselves more, as well as being grateful for some of the things in our life we often take for granted.

Finding a quiet, comfortable space, somewhere you won’t be disturbed for the next 20 minutes of this body scan meditation.  If possible lying on a mat on the floor or a bed and ensuring you have a blanket or enough warm clothing as the body can, when lying still, very quickly become cold.  Or if lying down isn’t an option then sitting on a comfortable chair.

Body Scan – guided meditation


During this session we brought attention to different parts of the body as a focus to anchor our awareness in the moment. We will also be training ourselves to direct our attention and awareness to different places at will. This is the aim of the body scan exercise, which forms your main home practice exercise this week.


Befriend who you are

Loving-kindness towards ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything. It means that we can still be crazy, we can still be angry. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whatever we are right now, just as we are. That’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

– Pema Chodron, ‘We Can Still Be Crazy’

Home practice following Session 1

1. Practice the Body Scan meditation each day

2. Choose one routine activity in your daily life and make a deliberate effort to bring moment-to-moment awareness to that activity each time you do it. For example, brushing your teeth, showering, taking out the rubbish etc. Simply zoom in on knowing what you are doing as you are actually doing it

3. Eat at least one small meal ‘mindfully’ each day (piece of fruit or cup of tea etc), really slow down and pay attention to only the experience of eating or drinking

4. Try the 9 Dot Exercise
Please try this exercise, noticing your reactions, thoughts and feelings as you complete the task

Home practice record form Session 1

Record each time you practice on the home practice form

Download the practice record form here.

Home Practice Record Form (1)

9 Dot sheet: Session 1

Download the 9 Dots exercise sheet here.

Nine Dots Exercise

Welcome to Mindful Practices

By Uncategorized


‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way:
on purpose in the present moment and without judgement’

– Kabat-Zinn, 1990

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness teaches us to direct our attention to what is happening right here, right now, with an attitude of kindness towards ourselves and our experience. This ‘being with’ ourselves is in contrast to more habitual states of mind in which we are often preoccupied with memories, fantasies, worries or planning.

Although we are often unaware of the currency of our thinking, it has a profound effect on how we live our lives, as well as on our mental and emotional health.

Mindfulness promotes self-awareness, personal development and general well-being. In mindfulness we learn skills which support us in developing this quality of attention, and the capacity to come back, again and again, to the present moment, with patience and compassion.

This programme is not group therapy, although there can be healing. Instead, it is very practical and educational, teaching us to apply the practices of mindfulness to our day-to-day lives.

About this programme

The programme is divided into two levels 1 and 2 and each level has four sessions. Both levels are best completed sequentially taking at least three days between sessions.

Level 1 will help you understand what mindfulness is and develop greater awareness. It starts with an introduction to your meditation practice and to develop awareness of your internal experience, moment to moment; to enhance your relationships with others and with the environment; to take better care of your mental and physical health; including ways to work with stress, anxiety and low mood.

Level 2 further develops your understanding and awareness of your habitual thought patterns and how you can better deal with stress. It helps to create the conditions for you to understand what’s important to you and recognise your own needs.

The importance of practice

It can be challenging to find the time to do the home practice but it really is worth it. It is good to have an open mind going in to the cource and judge if it was of benefit to you after or if this is something you would like to continue with. We have spent years developing habits of the mind which we are now working to change. We have to apply real commitment to unlearning our automatic habits of mind in order to form new habits, bringing mindful awareness to more and more aspects of our lives.

Facing difficulties

A central aim of the approach is to learn how to be more fully aware and present in each moment of life. The good news is that this makes life more enjoyable, interesting, vivid and fulfilling. On the other hand, this means facing what is present, even when it is unpleasant and difficult. In practice you will find that turning to face and acknowledge difficulties is, in the long run, the most effective way to reduce unhappiness. In this course you will learn gentle ways to face difficulties and will be supported while doing this.

Patience is also needed

We will be investing time and effort in our meditation practice and home practice exercises, the effects of which may only become apparent later. In many ways, this is much like gardening: we have to prepare the ground, plant the seeds and ensure that they are adequately watered and nourished and then wait patiently for the results.

Research supports these practices

Over the last 35 years there has been lots of evidence based research carried out in the area of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  This indicates that a regular mindfulness practice helps the body/mind to respond rather than react to stress, leaving resources for taking care of our general health and well-being.

Extensive research has shown that developing mindfulness has a significant positive effect on:

  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Reducing tension, anger and fatigue
  • Enhancing relationships
  • Aiding better sleep
  • Developing stronger immunity
  • Developing greater self-awareness
  • Increasing ability to manage stress
  • Improving physical and psychological health
  • Increasing vitality

Studies from the University of Wisconsin showed that mindfulness practices lead to an increased activation in areas of the brain responsible for positive emotions and lowered anxiety states (Davidson et al, Psychosomatic Medicine 2003, vol.65).

Mindfulness programmes are also being used to support the treatment of: addiction, cancer, eating disorders, chronic pain, anxiety, suicide, borderline personality disorder, relationship enhancement in couples and many other areas.

There is also a growing worldwide problem with depression and anxiety. According to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that by 2020, depression will be the second largest health issue globally. Zylowski et al., (2007) argue that mindfulness meditation “has emerged as a new approach to stress reduction and an important innovation in treating psychiatric disorders”.

Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness prevents depression and also positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to-day stress, irritability and anxiety. Studies show regular meditators have improved attention, memory and faster reaction times (Williams, 2011).

Recent developments in neuroscience regarding the plasticity of the brain reveal that with mindfulness training the brain can even change! Neuroplasticity, the rewiring that occurs in the brain as a result of experience, now highlights how regular mindfulness meditation has numerous health benefits including increased immune functioning (Davidson et al., 2003; Lazar et al., 2005; Siegal, 2007) and has been shown to also improve wellbeing (Carmody & Baer, 2008) and reduce psychological distress (Coffey & Hartman, 2008; Ostafin et al., 2006).

Why are we getting stressed?

Evolution explains our need for the Fight or Flight response (Sympathetic Nervous System versus the Parasympathetic Nervous System (Rest & Digest)). However in the 21st Century, we are not really like the wild gazelle – after surviving an attack by a leopard, we are not going back to grazing! However, like the frequently watchful gazelle, we are still in a constant state of Hyper Arousal.

How can we reduce these hormones in the body?

Mindfulness is a technique to allow us to come into the present moment and move from the fight or flight response to the rest and digest response. By doing this we are lowering hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in the body. This is done by bringing our attention to the breath, the body and our senses. As well as starting to approach rather than avoid what is happening with our thoughts, emotions and body sensations.

Attention is like a puppy – it needs training

We ask the mind to ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ in a certain place – but it is not very good at staying for long. Like an untrained puppy,  it wanders off, keeps fetching things we didn’t ask for and sometimes makes a real mess.

Motivational reflections for doing this course

There may be many reasons for you coming to this course. Some of them are explained above but there are others. Before starting the course you may find it helpful to write down your responses to the questions in the link below. You can then reflect back on your original reasons for coming to the course when you have completed it.