Mindfulness exercises can help us identify, tolerate and reduce difficult, painful and even frightening thoughts, feelings and sensations.

Mindfulness can give us back a sense of mastery over how to respond to different situations, thoughts and feelings.  

Mindfulness and relaxation exercises can be particularly useful for people who have experienced childhood trauma and abuse and their supporters.  Flashbacks, triggers, strong emotions and difficult memories can sometimes grab a hold and overwhelm us.  Mindfulness exercises are a useful tool for us to have in our toolbox to obtain some distance and breathing space.  Mindfulness exercises can help calm our bodies and minds, create a circuit breaker, help us develop awareness about what is going on and assists us to regroup and regain a sense of control and choice.   Whatever our life challenges or experiences, mindfulness exercises can be a useful routine practice that helps us to stay on course. 

So what is mindfulness? Below are some definitions: 

  • The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). 
  • The non-judgmental observation of the ongoing stream of internal and external stimuli as they arise (Baer, 2003). 
  • Keeping one’s complete attention to the experience on a moment to moment basis (Martlett & Kristeller, 1999). 

Put simply, mindfulness is becoming aware of your here and now experience, both internally and in the external world around you. It gives you a space in the present moment to be able to more safely deal with the distressing and painful memories of things that might have happened to you in the past. It also allows you to look at and plan for the future, even when you might have fearful thoughts about things that haven’t yet happened, from a secure position of knowing that you are in the present moment. In fact, we are never NOT in the present moment – we just lose track of that fact quite often. 

Recent research indicates that with as little as 20 minutes of mindfulness practice daily the brain actually changes. With frequent practice, the part of the brain that sends messages of anxiety and distress slows down, and the part that sends messages of calmness and comfort to the body becomes more active. So mindfulness is not just a sugar pill, it actually does make a difference. 

Sometimes it is easier to understand something in terms of what it is not. Here are some examples of mindLESSness: 

The opposite of mindfulness: Mindlessness 

  • Not being present in the hear and now. 
  • Being preoccupied with the future or the past. 
  • Not paying attention to your physical body, the space you are in and the people you are with. 
  • Becoming overwhelmed by strong emotions or difficult memories.  
  • Failing to notice subtle or not-so-subtle feelings of physical discomfort, pain, tension, etc. 
  • Breaking things, spilling things, clumsiness, or accidents due to carelessness, inattention or thinking about something else. 
  • Forgetting someone’s name as soon as you hear it. 
  • Listening to someone with one ear while doing something else at the same time. 
  • Becoming so pre-occupied with thoughts that you lose touch with what you are doing right now. 
  • Getting lost in your thoughts and feelings, daydreaming, or being “a million miles away.” 
  • Eating without being aware of eating; looking down at your plate and thinking “gosh, where did my meal go?” 
  • Driving somewhere slightly different than usual and suddenly realising you’ve automatically started the route to your workplace. 
  • Having periods of time where you have difficulty remembering the details of what happened – running on autopilot. 
  • Reacting emotionally in certain ways – feeling like an emotion just “came out of nowhere.” 
  • Doing several things at once rather than focusing on one thing at a time. 
  • Distracting yourself with things like eating, alcohol, media, pornography, drugs, work. 

If you do some or even most of these things at times, then you are probably a normal member of the human race! However they do indicate a disconnect from the now, from awareness, and from being “in the present moment.” 

You don’t have to do it all the time, but once you practice some of the strategies we have made available on this website then you can adjust and modify them, or make up your own, and incorporate them into your daily routine. Like any new skill, they need to be practised, and it is best to practice them BEFORE you really need them so that they are familiar to you. 

We have provided a number of downloadable mindfulness strategies in this section. These pages include audio mindfulness exercises you can download, and also PDF files you can read over. You can download them to a CD or straight to an iPod or MP3 player. Use the ones that seem most helpful to you. After using the recordings for a while you may find that it is easier to just practice mindfulness without them. You might find you are developing your own mindfulness strategies that work well for you. 

Mindfulness for mental wellbeing 

It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. Often people can actually use this as a strategy to avoid the discomfort that can accompany stillness. However the research is finding more and more that paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing. 

Some people call this awareness “mindfulness,” and you can take steps to develop it in your own life. Mindfulness, sometimes also called “present-centredness,” can help us enjoy the world more and understand ourselves better. 

Being mindful, and becoming more aware of the present moment, means noticing the sights, smells, sounds and tastes that you experience, as well as the thoughts, feelings and sensations that occur from one moment to the next. 

Mindfulness for mental wellbeing, or being aware of yourself and the world, is one of the five evidence-based steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. 

What is mindfulness? 

Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and Welcome principal research fellow at the University of Oxford, says: 

Mindfulness means non-judgemental awareness. A direct knowing of what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. 

Professor Williams says that mindfulness can be an antidote to the “tunnel vision” that can develop in our daily lives, especially when we are busy, stressed or tired. 

It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling, and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour. 

An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs. 

Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. 

Awareness of this kind doesn’t start by trying to change or fix anything. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives. 

How can mindfulness help? 

Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more, and understand ourselves better. 

When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh many things in the world around us that we have been taking for granted,” says Professor Williams. 

Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience, and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful. 

This lets us stand back from our thoughts, and start to see their patterns. Gradually we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over, and realise that thoughts are simply ‘mental events’ that do not have to control us. 

Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go, and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. We can ask: ‘Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?’ 

Awareness of this kind also helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier, and helps us deal with them better. 

Studies have found that mindfulness programmes – in which participants are taught mindfulness practices across a series of weeks – can bring about reductions in stress and improvements in mood. 

How you can practise mindfulness 

Reminding yourself to take notice – of your thoughts, feelings and body sensations, and the world around you – is the first step to mindfulness. 

Even as we go about our daily lives, we can find new ways of waking up to the world around us. We can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk. All this may sound very small, but it has huge power to interrupt the ‘autopilot’ mode we often engage day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life. 

It can be helpful to pick a time – the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime – during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you. Trying new things – sitting in a different seat in meetings, going somewhere new for lunch – can also help you notice the world in a new way. 

Similarly, notice the busyness of your mind. Just observe your own thoughts. Stand back and watch them floating past, like leaves on a stream. There is no need to try to change the thoughts, or argue with them, or judge them: just observe. This takes practice. It’s about putting the mind in a different mode, in which we see each thought as simply another mental event, and not an objective reality that has control over us. 

You can practise this anywhere, but it can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that, for several minutes, you have been “trapped” in re-living past problems or “pre-living” future worries. To develop an awareness of thoughts and feelings, some people find it helpful to silently name them: “Here is the thought that I might fail that exam.” Or, “Here is anxiety.” 

Formal mindfulness practices 

As well as practising mindfulness in daily life, it can be helpful to set aside time for a more formal mindfulness practice. 

Several practices can help create a new awareness of body sensations, thoughts and feelings. They include: 

  • Meditation – participants sit silently and pay attention to the sensations of breathing or other regions of the body, bringing the attention back whenever the mind wanders. 
  • Yoga – participants often move through a series of postures that stretch and flex the body, with emphasis on awareness of the breath. 
  • Tai-chi – participants perform a series of slow movements, with emphasis on awareness of breathing. 

Mindfulness exercises

The Mindfulness Exercises are available here for free:

If you are interested in checking out and trialling different mindfulness exercisesfeel free to click on the below links and make use of the information and audio files.   

Below is the first mp3 audio exercise in a guided series of mindfulness strategies designed to assist in distress tolerance and reduction. This exercise is an introduction to mindfulness mp3.

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We carry with us our 5 senses – touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight – everywhere, but we often register those sensations unconsciously. By making use of these tools in a more conscious, deliberate way we can become aware, accepting and mindful of the external world. This particular exercise is so effective because we can only see, smell, touch, taste and hear in the present moment – which is precisely what mindfulness is trying to get is more in tune with. Give this example of our audio mindfulness exercises a try by hitting play on the mp3 below. 

5,4,3,2,1 Exercises 

These are exercises in noticing what is around us: 

  • Sight: Look around you and name as you look at 5 different objects (variation: 5 blue/black/green objects), then do the same for 4 of those 5 objects, 3 of those 5 objects, etc. 
  • Sight & Touch: Look at, name and touch 5 different objects, noticing their texture, temperature, mass and weight as you do so. Then do the same for 4 of those objects, 3 of those objects, etc. 
  • Sight, Touch and Smell/Taste: Look at (in a garden or a kitchen), name, taste and smell 5 different objects, noticing their colours, texture, taste and aroma. Then do the same for 4 of those objects, 3, 2, and 1. 
  • Hearing: Close your eyes and listen for 5 different sounds. Then 4, 3, 2, and 1. 

Other Exercises on the External World :

  • Mindfulness on washing the dishes. 
  • Mindfulness on walking. 
  • Mindfulness on sitting in the garden. 
  • Mindfulness on driving a car through traffic. 
  • Notice physical sensations through the body – sights, smells, sounds, tastes, touch/sensations. 

Download the transcript

An exercise for practising eating mindfulness, or mindfulness of eating. You can practise this exercise with one simple sultana or raisin, a piece of chocolate or a selection of fruit or biscuits on a plate. 

Before you choose what you will be eating, come to a place of mindfulness: Sense what your body needs. Notice whether saliva production increases as you look at the platter. Take your time to choose one thing. 

Focus with clear awareness on each movement and each moment of the experience as you move your arm and hand and fingers towards the object and pick it up, place it on the palm of your hand or hold it between your fingers. 

Imagine you have just come to Earth and awakened to this substance you have not encountered before. Explore it with all your senses as if you have never seen it before. Scan it; explore every part of it with your eyes as it sits on your palm or in your fingers. Turn it around. 

Notice the texture, the light on it, its shape; whether it is soft, hard, coarse, smooth. Notice any thoughts that arise (like “why am I doing this?”) and see if you can just notice the thoughts and let them be… before bringing your awareness back to the object. 

Take the object beneath your nose and carefully notice the smell of it. Bring the object to one ear and squeeze it, roll it, listen for any sound coming from it. Begin to slowly bring the object to your mouth, noticing that the arm knows exactly where to go and perhaps noticing your mouth watering. Gently place the object in your mouth, or take one bite if it is larger than one bite-size, but do not chew yet. Feel it on your tongue: its weight, temperature, size, texture. Explore the sensations of it in your mouth. 

When you are ready, intentionally bite into it. Does it go automatically to one side of the mouth? Notice when the taste releases. Slowly, slowly chew, noticing the change in consistency, until you are conscious of the impulse to swallow. Sense the food moving down to your throat and into your oesophagus on its way to your stomach. Sit with the experience, noticing any vestiges remaining in your mouth, on your tongue, any taste, feelings… satisfaction, pleasure, aversion. 

Take a moment to congratulate yourself for taking the time to experience Mindful Eating. 

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An exercise for practising mindfulness of walking. Before you start, prepare the space. Removing your shoes is good, if that’s possible. And find a place where you can walk for about 12-14 steps before you have to turn. 

Before you start, prepare the space. Removing your shoes is good, if that’s possible. Find a place where you can walk for about 12-14 steps before you have to turn. 

Now first notice your body as you stand in stillness. Feeling the connection of the body to the ground, or the floor. Becoming aware of your surroundings, taking in any sights, smells, tastes, sounds or other sensations. Notice any thoughts or emotions and let them be. Notice your arms by your sides or if you prefer, hold your right hand in your left hand at the front, or clasp your hands at your back. Notice your breath, moving in and out of your body. No need to change it; just let it be. 

Now shift your weight to the left leg and begin to lift your right foot up. Move it forward, place it back down on the ground. Mindfully shift the weight the right leg and begin to lift the left foot up, move it forward, place it back down on the ground. 

And continue with this walking… walking mindfully, walking slowly, and paying attention to the sensations on the soles of your feet. As each part of the sole, from heel to toe, touches the ground. Lifting, moving, placing. Lifting, moving, placing. Notice how the body moves as you walk. Walk with awareness. One step at a time. 

When it is time to turn, maintain the flow of mindfulness and bring your awareness to the intricate process of turning. Slowly, and with attention to each movement necessary to turn, begin to walk back to where you started. One step at a time. Lifting, moving, placing. Lifting, moving, placing. 

Find a rhythm that suits you. That suits your body and your balance. As you move forward, notice your body, notice your head sitting on your shoulders, your arms & hands, your torso, your legs, moving you forward, step by step. 

Notice any thoughts that arise and let them be. Returning your focus to the sensation of walking. Lifting, moving, placing. Notice your breath. Has it moved into a rhythm; a rhythm that fits with your pace of walking, step by step? There’s no need to change your breathing, but you might find that it has changed without you noticing it. 

Continue walking, taking care to notice each intricate movement required at the turns. One step at a time. Practice this for a moment. 

And next time you return to your starting place, be still. Notice the sensations in your body; bring awareness to your breath. Notice the stillness when movement ceases. And appreciate the time you have spent today, practising mindfulness of walking. 

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The purpose of this exercise is to simply notice, accept and be aware of your breath – it is not about relaxation or stress reduction, although this may well occur. Breathing is something we all do – if you have a pulse then you breathe. Your body knows how to do this; it has done it since birth. This is simply about breathing mindfully. Breathing is something you carry with you everywhere; you are just not usually aware of it. 

Sit quietly in a chair with both feet on the ground and your hands in your lap. Allow yourself to feel centred in the chair. Bring all of your attention to the physical act of breathing. Start to notice the breath as it enters your body through your nose and travels to your lungs. Notice with curiosity whether the inward and outward breaths are cool or warm, and notice where the breath travels as it enters and departs. 

Also notice the breath as your lungs relax and you inhale through your nose. Don’t try to do anything with your breathing – simply notice it, pay attention to it and be aware of it. It doesn’t matter if your breathing is slow or fast, deep or shallow; it just is what it is. Allow your body to do what it does naturally. 

You will start to notice that each time you breathe in, your diaphragm or stomach will expand… and each time you breathe out your diaphragm or stomach will relax. Again, don’t try to do anything – just be aware of the physical sensations of breathing in and breathing out. If you find that thoughts intrude, this is okay. Don’t worry, just notice the thoughts, allow them to be, and gently bring your awareness back to your breath. 

Start this exercise initially for 5 minutes, building up daily. You can also do this exercise lying down in bed if you have difficulty sleeping. It is simply a way of allowing you to have more mindful and conscious awareness of your body and its surroundings, its breathing and its capacity to relax. When our breathing relaxes our muscles relax. 

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The purpose of this body scan mindfulness exercise is simply to notice your body. It is not necessarily about relaxing your body, however this may occur as a kind of side effect. It is simply about being aware of your body, in this present moment. 

Usually, our response to bodily pain or discomfort is to distract ourselves or to try and numb the pain. In this exercise you will accept and notice with gentle curiosity your body in its comfort and discomfort. 

Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, making sure that you do not have any constriction. Loosen any tight clothing. 

Starting with your feet, pay attention to the physical feelings in them: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever. Simply pay attention to the physical feelings and sensations. Don’t judge them as good or bad, don’t try to change them, just be aware of them. 

Slowly allow your awareness to drift up from your feet to your lower legs, again simply paying attention to any physical sensations in that part of your body, including any tightness, pain or discomfort. Then slowly let your awareness drift further up your body, doing the same gentle noticing for all of the parts of your body – your upper legs, hips, buttocks, pelvic region, stomach, chest, your lower back, upper back, fingers and hands, lower arms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, your head, forehead, temples, face – eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth, jaw line. 

Then let your awareness drift gently and slowly back down your body, noticing any other places where there is pain, discomfort or tension and simply noticing this, until you awareness settles back at your feet. 

Commence doing this exercise just for 5 minutes. It can be done sitting down in a chair or lying in bed. Over time, don’t worry about how long it takes – just allow yourself to pay attention to the sensations in your body. If, while doing this exercise, thoughts intrude, that’s okay – just notice the thoughts, notice yourself noticing the thoughts and gently guide your awareness back to your body. 

Note: One variation on this is to focus on parts of your body that you don’t like – do this in front of a mirror, noticing your thoughts & feelings as you do the exercise. 

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An exercise in noticing the world around you and how it comes into contact with your body, and your breathing, mindfulness of external world and breath. 

Sitting comfortably and symmetrically on your chair or cushion, close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so, or otherwise let your focus fall softly on the floor a meter or so in front of you. 

Become aware of your body and the places where it meets something solid: your feet on the floor, perhaps the backs of your legs against the chair… your thighs, buttocks, back, maybe shoulders resting where gravity lands them. 

Notice where your hands touch – each other, or your body – notice the fabric of your clothes on your skin, and maybe the air on your skin. Notice your head resting on your shoulders and your arms hanging from your shoulders. Let your senses move to the sounds around you: not needing to think about them, but just letting your attention move from sound to sound. Perhaps you can detect some odours, or some taste in your mouth… let yourself simply notice them. 

Leaving all of that now to focus on your breath… your simple natural breath. Bring all your attention to the breath as it moves in and out of your body, so the only movement you are aware of is the movement that is caused by your breath; in and out. Notice it wherever it is easiest to detect it. In and out of your nostrils or mouth, cool air in, warm air out. Or at your chest, rising and falling, or your abdomen. 

As thoughts arise, as they inevitably will, simply notice them and let them move on. No need to chase after them. Just bring your attention back again to your breath, your normal, natural breath… as it moves in and out of your body. You have nowhere else to be, nothing else to do. Simply notice with gentleness and non-judgment your breath. Practice this for a moment. 

Now, expand your awareness outside of your body, to the sounds around you, to whatever feelings you have in your body. Notice any changes, any tensions, tightness, looseness, floatiness. Sense the world around you as you feel your body again in the chair or on the cushion… and open your eyes when you are ready to return to this space. 

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We often treat thoughts as if they were facts. You may have the thought “I am no good at this,” or “He’s is a jerk,” or “Nobody understand me,” or even “I am brilliant!” Does thinking it make it so? 

When we have a thought many times, over and over, it can condense into a belief. So a belief is a thought, or a number of connected thoughts, that we have a lot of the time. Beliefs are then quite often taken as facts. 

For example: “The world is flat.” Enough people had that thought, or held the assumption, often enough for it to be assumed to be a fact for centuries! 

When we start to pay attention to our thoughts, with a gentle curiosity, then we start to think about our thinking. We can then move away from believing that the thought is a fact. 

Then there’s this: If the thought does have evidence pointing to it being a fact, ask yourself a different question. “What does buying into this thought do to me? Does it help? Is it working?” 

If the answer is no, then simply move on from the thought. Choose not to get caught up in it. 

Start this activity with mindfulness of the breath.  Allow yourself to notice any thoughts that come into your head as you are aware of your breathing. Notice, pay attention to and accept these thoughts, without judgement. Thoughts are not bad or good, positive or negative, they just are what they are – the thought that you happen to be having at this particular moment. 

You may become aware that you are having difficulty thinking about your thoughts – so think about that. You may be thinking: “I can’t do this very well.” Well, that’s a thought too. Allow yourself to think about that. 

Some people like the metaphor of allowing the thoughts to just float like leaves on a stream, or clouds in a sky, noticing each passing thought and then the one that comes after it, and then the one that comes after that. A Buddhist idea is to think of thoughts as pages written on water. 

You may notice that just at the moment you become aware of a thought, it passes and is replaced by another thought. That’s what happens – thoughts come, and they go. 

Finally, bring yourself back to awareness of the breath. 

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Feelings are often labelled as positive (happy, confident, joyful, brave, etc) or negative (sad, scared, hurt, angry etc). In mindfulness practice, feelings are not good or bad; they just are what they are – emotions that might be comfortable or uncomfortable, easy or difficult. We are often taught to feel that the experience of some feelings is wrong – “You mustn’t feel like that,” “Be positive,” “Don’t be sad/scared/hurt” – and that the experience of some feelings is right – “Be happy/brave,” “Lighten up,” “Move on, get over it.” This exercise is simply about noticing whatever you are feeling, at the moment you are feeling it, with a gentle, non-judgemental acceptance and curiosity. 

Start off this exercise by becoming mindful of your breath. 

Allow yourself now to notice any emotions or feelings you are experiencing. If names for these emotions come that is fine – if they don’t, just be aware of them vaguely. 

Notice where they are located in your body – your head, throat, chest, stomach, abdomen, gut? Notice if the physical sensation moves, drifts or shifts. 

Notice what they make you feel like – nauseous, queasy, calm, relaxed, tense? 

Notice any thoughts that come with the emotions – be aware of them just as thoughts, curiously and without judgment. 

Allow yourself to just sit with and notice with awareness the shifting and movement of thoughts, feelings and physical sensations in your body. 

Finally, bring your awareness back to your breath for a couple of minutes. 

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In Sanskrit there is a word: metta. It doesn’t have an exact translation in English. The closest we have is the idea of compassion or loving-kindness – it is that sense of deep and abiding care that you can feel towards another human being; a sense that you wish no harm to come to that person and a feeling of holding them in kindness and care. Sometimes it is possible to get a sense of that feeling by imaging how a parent may feel towards their child. 

This is an exercise in feeling compassion towards yourself. Self compassion often doesn’t come naturally – it is a skill you need to learn, practice and consciously engage in. 

Now, allow yourself to notice your breath. Don’t feel that you have to do anything to your breathing – just be aware, curious and attentive to the physical sensations of breathing in and breathing out. 

Allow yourself now to bring your awareness and attention to that feeling of compassion, loving-kindness or deep and abiding care and concern. Bring to mind someone in your life who is dear and precious to you. Imagine yourself enfolding this person in that feeling. 

Allow yourself to have the following thoughts towards this person: 

  • May this person know a decrease in distress. 
  • May this person know peace and tranquillity – at least for a while. 
  • May this person know happiness and joy – at least for a while. 
  • May this person be able to deal with their suffering. 

Continue to imagine this person, holding them in your mind and sending to the image you hold these loving, kind and compassionate thoughts. Notice how this feels in your body. 

What are the physical sensations that come to you when you connect with feelings of loving-kindness and compassion? What are the images and thoughts that come? Just notice these thoughts, physical sensations and emotions – note them with gentle curiosity, without judgement. 

Now, if you can, see whether you can direct some of that loving-kindess, compassion and deep abiding care towards yourself. See whether you can have the following thoughts for yourself: 

  • May I know a decrease in distress. 
  • May I know some peace and tranquillity in my life – at least for a while. 
  • May I know some happiness and joy – at least for a while. 
  • May I be confident that I can deal with my own suffering. 

Now bring your attention, mindfulness and awareness back to your breath. Notice your inward and outward breath for a few moments. 

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Become aware of the present moment by deliberately adopting an erect and dignified posture, whether sitting or standing, as though you are a mountain. A mountain is completely natural and at ease with itself, however strong the winds that batter it, however thick the dark clouds that swirl around its peak. So like a mountain, let your mind be steady, knowing that all things pass. 

Allowing your eyes to close if that is possible or appropriate in this moment, otherwise keeping them open and in either case resting in an awareness of our inner experience. Sensing the body: the spine in a natural curve, the head lifted as though suspended by a golden cord, without any tension. 

Opening to your experience and asking: “What is my experience just now?” As though before you is a vast ocean, open and limitless. 

What thoughts are going through the mind? As best you can, note these thoughts as mental events, perhaps even becoming aware of their content and words. What feelings are here? Turning towards them and opening to any sense of emotional discomfort or unpleasant feelings. 

What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scanning the body to pick up any signs of tightness or bracing. 

And now gathering and redirecting your attention to focus on the physical sensations of the breath just breathing itself. Moving in close to the sense of the breath in the belly. Feeling the sensations of breath in the abdominal space, as it expands with each in breath and falls back with each out-breath. With full awareness following the breath all the way in and all the way out, using the breath itself to anchor you in the present moment. Practice this for a moment. 

And now expanding the field of awareness around your breathing so that in addition to the sensations of the breath, it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and your facial expression. How do they feel from the inside? If you become aware of any feelings of discomfort, tension, or resistance, experimenting gently with breathing into them on the in-breath and breathing out from them on the out-breath. Perhaps feeling a softening and releasing with each out-breath. If you care to, perhaps saying to yourself with the outbreath: softening, releasing, accepting. “It is as it is. I feel it.” 

And now, as best you can, bringing this expanded, more spacious and accepting awareness to the next moments of your day, whatever circumstances you find yourself in, as it continues to unfold. 

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An interesting fact about your nostrils is that you don’t breathe through them equally all the time. Right now, you will be favouring either your left nostril or your right nostril. This is simply an exercise in doing so consciously and mindfully. It sounds a bit weird, I know, but this can actually be a really helpful mindfulness exercise! 

Sit with your back straight and gently seal your lips. Rest your left hand on your left thigh, palm facing upward. Take your right hand in front of you with palm facing you. Put your index finger and middle finger together and take these fingers to your eyebrow centre. 

Take some gentle normal breaths in this position. Relax your shoulders. 

You are going to use your right thumb to close your right nostril, and either your right ring or little finger to close your left nostril. 

Start by closing your left nostril with your ring or little finger. Inhale through your right nostril and exhale through your right nostril. Repeat five times. 

Then release your left nostril and close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale and exhale gently, five times. Don’t force your breath and if you need to take a break and breathe through both nostrils, then do so. This exercise should feel refreshing and balancing – not like hard work. 

The next step is alternating the breath between nostrils. So close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with your ring or little finger. Lift your thumb and exhale through your right nostril. Then inhale through the same nostril. Close your right nostril with your thumb and lift your finger to exhale through your left nostril. This is one round. Repeat 3 – 5 rounds. You can build up the rounds done when you have practiced this exercise and become confident. 

When you have completed your rounds, rest with your hands on your thighs, palms upward, taking normal natural breaths through both nostrils and being mindful of any subtle changes in your energy, your mind, your balance. 

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With mindfulness we purposefully observe our experience as it takes place, including any discomfort or pain that may be present. 

The mind naturally tends to see discomfort or pain as being a “thing,” and to give it a degree of solidity, permanence, and coherence that it doesn’t in fact have. 

In mindfulness we train ourselves to see the many different sensations that actually make it up. We may even gently make mental notes of the most prominent sensations that we notice. For example we may note the presence of “tingling,” “pulsing,” “throbbing,” “heat,” “cold,” “aching,” or “tightness.” We can notice these sensations without judging them as “bad” or trying to push them away. 

When we let go of the rather crude label “discomfort” or “pain” in this way, and instead note what is actually present, we can find that each individual sensation is easier to bear. 

Bring your awareness and attention to your breath. Just notice your breathing with a gentle curiosity about the physical sensation of taking air into your body and breathing it out again. 

After a couple of minutes, bring your awareness to your physical sensations. Notice what is happening in your body. What feels comfortable and what feels a little bit uncomfortable? 

Bring your awareness specifically to some part of your body where you are aware that you have an itch, or a slight discomfort. It might be a sense that you want to shift weight, to scratch or rub, to wriggle into a more comfortable position. Just allow your awareness to sit with that sensation – don’t act on it. 

Notice the thoughts that occur in your mind – notice them simply as thoughts. You can choose to act or not act on these thoughts. The thought might be: “I have to scratch this itch,” or “I need to shift my weight.” Just let the thought occur without acting upon it. 

Notice the thoughts and notice the feelings and sensations in your body. Notice how the sensations shift and change; they might become more intense or they may diminish. 

After focussing on one part of your body that has some discomfort just allow your attention to drift around your body until it discovers another place of mild discomfort. Repeat the exercise with your awareness of this new discomfort. Allow your awareness to sit with this discomfort, without needing to do anything about it. You can continue with other areas of your physical sensations. 

Finally, bring your awareness and attention back to your breath. Notice your breathing, notice each breath as you inhale and each breath as you exhale. Simply sit with the awareness of your body breathing.

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Thoughts are not facts, they are simply what your mind is saying or creating at any given moment. They may be based in factual events, but they are simply the mind thinking. This is an exercise on being mindful of thoughts you may find difficult, and accepting them without judgement. 

Start with a mindfulness of the breath. Sit with your breath for a few minutes. 

Now bring your awareness to something that is difficult for you in your life. It may be thoughts of an event in the past that was painful or distressing, it may be something in your life in the present time that is causing you painful feelings, or it may be something you are worried about in the future. Allow yourself to bring your attention to focus on one of these worrying thoughts. 

Notice what is happening in your body right now as you have these thoughts. Are there places or tension or tightness? What is happening to your breathing? Don’t try to modify the sensations in your body, just allow yourself to notice them with curiosity. 

Notice now the thoughts that that are going through your mind; just notice them as thoughts. Remember, thoughts are not facts, they are simply what your mind is saying or creating at any given moment. They may be based in factual events, but they are simply the mind thinking. Think about the thoughts you are having. Notice them as they change and notice each new thought as it replaces the previous one. 

As you continue to notice the sensations in your body, see if you can put words to some of the feelings that come with these difficult and painful thoughts. They may be feelings like sadness, hurt, anger, loneliness, fear or pain. Feelings may be difficult, they may be deeply uncomfortable, but they are not wrong or right. They are simply part of your present moment experience. 

Allow your awareness to move between the thoughts you are having as you notice them, the physical sensations you are having as you notice them, and the feelings and emotions you are having as you notice them. 

Finally, bring your awareness and attention back to your breathing for a while, noticing the physical sensation of taking breath into your body and releasing it. 

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In this exercise you become like an empty bowl, and when you become an empty bowl, all is still in the present moment. 

Sit comfortably and quietly with your palms up and open and placed on your knees, like empty bowls. Open your mouth slightly, and touch the tongue to the roof of the mouth, behind the front teeth. Closing your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so. 

Begin by paying attention to your breath. Let your lungs breathe with no effort on your part. Simply watch the movement of your breath. Inhale. Exhale. 

During inhalation, the air touches the inside of the nostrils or mouth. Be aware of that breath. 

During exhalation, again air touches the nostrils or mouth. The ingoing air may feel cool, the outgoing air warm. For a fraction of a second, enter into your nose. Sit in the nostril and watch your breath: ingoing, outgoing, ingoing, outgoing. Let your lungs do their job. 

You are simply sitting and watching. Practice this for a moment. Ingoing, outgoing; sitting and watching. 

After a few minutes, follow the breath. When the lungs inhale, go with the air into the nose, to the back of the throat, the trachea, lungs, heart, diaphragm. Go deep down behind the navel, where you will experience a natural stop. For a fraction of a second, the breath stops. Stay in that stop, and then when the lungs exhale, again follow the breath as it reverses its course. Come up from the navel to the diaphragm, heart, lungs, trachea, throat; back to the nose then out of the body. 

During exhalation the air goes out of the body to about 10 centimetres in front of the nose, where there is a second stop. Again, stay in that stop for a moment. 

These two stops are very important. The first stop is behind the navel, the second outside the body in space. As your awareness rests in these two stops, time stops, because time is the movement of the breath. When breath stops, mind stops, because mind is the movement of the breath. When the mind becomes quiet, you simply exist, without body, without mind, without breath. 

In that stop, you become like an empty bowl, and when you become an empty bowl, all is still in the present moment. Sitting quietly in the stop, the stop as a door: a door to tranquillity and peace surrounding you. 

Present moment stillness… as you sit as an empty bowl… tranquillity and peace surrounding you. 

And when you are ready, bringing your awareness back to your body sitting on the chair or cushion. Opening your eyes and moving forward with your day… imprinted with the sense of stillness and peace. 

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