What is mindfulness?

A combination of relaxed attention and acceptance that leads to a state of inner happiness.

What is the purpose of the 6 week course?

The course is designed to be an accessible, memorable, effective and sustainable way of integrating Mindfulness into your life.

What can I expect to experience?

Presence

All too often we live in our past or in imagining our future. Now is all there is, so why not learn to live more presently.

FloW

When we are ‘in the zone’, tasks seem to ‘flow’ easily. How do we get into this state of ‘flow’?

Awareness  

Your senses, your surroundings and other people. Seeing life as it is without constant mind chatter.

Acceptance

Realising that some things you can change, but some you can’t. Learning to accept life as it is in front of you whether you like it or not.

Non-judgement 

Mental noise comes from judging ourselves and others harshly. Can you be non-judgemental about your judging?

It works!

Medical research has shown Mindfulness works. It increases levels of happiness, health and performance, and reduces levels of stress, depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.

 

(Mindfulness is non-religious, just a natural state of being. It has been applied to religious or spiritual schools such as Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism and yet can be useful whatever your belief system — Christian, Muslim, Jew, Agnostic or Atheist.)

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Your breath is a reminder of your being. A reflection of the state of your mind. An immediate way to reconnect with your inner power. Anytime, anywhere – make your breath your constant companion.

Belly breathing
The natural way to breathe. More efficient. More relaxed. More centred. It’s how babies breathe.

Nostril breathing
Your nose is designed for breathing. The air is cleaned and warmed. You can control your breath more easily.

Active exhalation with passive inhalation
Your out breath helps to balance your Autonomic Nervous System, reducing stress. By emptying your lungs of all the old air you can fill them more easily, making your breathing more effective.

The breath stills, the mind stills
At the top and bottom of your inhalations and exhalations there is a natural, short pause where the breath stills for a moment. Notice how the mind also stills.

The inner breath
By creating a slight hissing sound in the back of your throat you can internalise your breath. This calms the systems of the body and improves focus and attention on the moment.

The full breath
With a three-part inhalation you breathe from the belly up into the chest and shoulders, then exhale slowly and deeply first from the chest and then from the belly. The exhalation should last twice as long as the inhalation.

Alternate nostril breathing
Breathing in through one nostril and out through the other. This exercise helps to balance the two sides of the brain creating a feeling of calm, focus and clarity. Often used as a preparation for formal meditation.

Practice lying down, in an upright seated position, whilst walking or whenever you feel the need. In time your breathing will naturally revert to a healthy relaxed rhythm.

Controlled breathing has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety and improve sports performance.

Audio Tracks

Practice

Every day practice your breathing formally three times.
Early morning, before lunch and early evening.
Five minutes per session.
Progress through the tracks above at your own pace.
By the end of the week you should feel confident in the techniques with and without the audio tracks.

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When you live mindfully you become more attuned to your senses. More aware of the sensory inputs in your life and how rarely you just sense rather than think about your senses. As your sensory awareness develops, your senses become more heightened. You will notice more details and nuances, experiencing greater pleasure from subtler stimuli.

A non-verbal awareness grows as you perceive the objects of your senses rather than the labels you attach to them. You become a fascinated observer, without analyzing or judging your experience. Your senses bring you back to living in the moment, just like your breath does. Out of your thinking mind you move into an inner place of intuitive awareness.

Taste

Take a small piece of dried fruit. Observe the appearance, take a sniff -notice how saliva starts to form in the mouth. Place it on your tongue and close your mouth. Move it around your mouth without chewing. There are four types of receptors in the mouth to discern taste -sweetness, bitterness, sourness and saltiness. Before chewing, what can you taste? Relate to the taste without naming it. Start to chew slowly. Notice the increase in saliva, the changing tastes and sensations. How do you feel? Do you feel emotionally different? As you swallow the food, be aware of the sensations in your throat and any other feelings in your body. Notice the after taste in your mouth.

Smell

Find somewhere that stimulates your sense of smell. Go outside or go to the kitchen or just start where you are now. Do any smells evoke feelings of hunger, desire or particular memories? Try smelling different things removing any judgement from the experience. Flowers, incense, soap or perfume. Food, spices or plants. Your rubbish bin, your pet’s bed, your coat. Investigate the scents you find. Natural ones and artificial ones. Smell for the sake of smelling. Breathe in deeply, see if you can pick up any new smells.

Feel

Sit down in a chair. Feel the chair, the texture. Feel the weight of your body. Feel your feet, in your socks, in your shoes, on the carpet. Stand up and feel your feet firmly planted on the ground. Walk around and pick up a selection of objects with different textures -wool, cotton, nylon, wood, metal, plastic, food. Touch and feel each one without analyzing. Select items with different qualities -smooth, rough, wet, slimy, hot or cold. Touch your skin. Touch yourself in different ways -tickle (is it really impossible to tickle yourself?), scratch, rub, tap. Use other parts of your body to touch things -your forearm, bare feet, your head. Walk outside and feel a soft breeze against your skin.

See

Take a walk on a route you are used to walking along. See what you can notice now that you are consciously bringing your awareness to it rather than being lost in thought. Choose a colour. Look around you as you walk and see what things you can see in that colour. Can you observe objects without immediately labelling them? Can you see a tree without thinking tree? Stand still for a moment. Without moving your head, become aware of your peripheral vision. How far to the right and left can you see? Look at something close to you. Observe it in even finer detail. (Put on your reading glasses if it helps.) Now look into the distance and see how far you can see. Have you noticed anything new?

Listen

Just listen. What can you hear? Bring your awareness to sounds close to you. Maybe the ticking of a clock or your watch. Put your fingers gently in each ear and listen to the sounds within your body. Can you hear your breath? Your heart? Your stomach? Pick up a pen an tap objects to hear their sound. Notice the different tones that are generated. Bring your awareness further afield to sounds far away. Can you hear any traffic noise? Are they cars, lorries or bikes? Maybe you can hear a TV next door or a distant washing machine. Maybe you can hear the sound of birds singing. Isolate one sound and focus on it. Be interested in the quality of it, the frequency, the feeling of it. What’s the loudest sound you can hear? What’s the quietest? Suspend any judgement of the sounds you hear. They are not good, or bad, they just are.

Practice

Every day continue to practice your breathing formally three times. (5 mins per session) As you sit with your breath, notice sensations as they arise and pass, without judgement.

Additionally focus on one sense per day. Start by listening to the relevant audio track, bringing your attention to the particular sense.

Notice how non-judgemental awareness of your senses changes how you feel.

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Mindfulness is the synthesis of relaxed attention with acceptance. A relaxed state of mind and body bring balance to living more presently. Relaxation is healthy for your body – reducing blood pressure, allowing the systems of the body to run better and giving your body a complete rest.

Relaxation is healthy for your mind – letting go of mental chatter, accepting how you feel and allowing your mind to slow down. When practised mindfully, relaxation helps you to confront issues rather than avoid them. With regular relaxation you become more resilient and less prone to stress and emotional outbursts.

1. Releasing physical tension with stretches (seated)

These simple exercises can be practised at your desk at work, in a chair at home or on a park bench. Let your body guide you from your toes to your head. First take off your shoes. Point your toes away from you and then towards you, alternating from right to left foot. Make circles with your feet to loosen your ankles. Holding onto the back of your thigh, straighten your right leg and raise to stretch out the back of the leg. Release and repeat with left leg. Place your right foot on your left thigh and learn on the right leg to work your hip. Release and repeat other side.

Now place your right hand on the outside of your right knee and turn to the left to twist the spine. Release and repeat other side. Lift up your right arm and lean to the left to give your spine a side stretch. Release and repeat other side. Lean forwards and rest your chest on your thighs to stretch out your back. Straighten up and clasp your hands behind your back. Pull back with your hands to open your chest and work on your shoulders. Roll your shoulders backwards and forwards. Lift your shoulders up to your ears, squeeze and release. Repeat three times. Bring your chin down to your chest and then lift your head up and back. Repeat three times. Drop your right ear towards your right shoulder to give your neck a side stretch. Follow with the left side and repeat three times. Turn your head all the way to the right and then the left. Repeat three times. Keeping you head and neck still look up and down with your eyes three times. Then look right and left three times. Close your eyes, squeeze your hands tightly in a fist and release. Rest your hands on your thighs and sit with your awareness on your breath.

2. Tense & release (lying down)

Starting from the toes working up your body tense tightly then release each area of your body.

3. Auto-suggestion

Lie down in the relaxation position. Start from the toes and repeat silently - “My toes are relaxing, my toes are relaxed ... My feet are relaxing, my feet are relaxed ...” Work your way up to your head.

4. Body trace

Lying down on your back. Trace a line around your body and observe how each part of your body feels as you go (without judgement). Start at the top of the head and work your way down your left side and then up your right side finishing at the place you started.

Always finish with a few minutes breathing from your belly in stillness.

Practice

Every day continue to practice your morning breathing formally. (Increase to 10 mins)
During the day be mindful of both your breath and your senses. Try the easy stretches at your desk, in the car or at home once a day. Every evening spend 5 - 10 minutes following one of the tracks above.

Notice how being relaxed changes how you feel and how you relate to others.

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Anything you do, can be done mindfully. Washing up, brushing your teeth, running, walking, playing music, yoga, swimming or whatever. In fact, researchers in the 1970s coined the phrase flow for athletes, musicians and performers who lose a sense of themselves as they rich the peak of their abilities – in 'flow'.

Moving mindfully is exactly that – being in a state of flow where your confined sense of self is replaced by a liberating one. Finding stillness in movement brings a depth and richness to your experience of life. Regular exercise also lifts your mood, keeps you fit and makes you feel more alive.

1. Walking

Whether as a formal walking practice in pre-defined lines or rambling across country, walking mindfully brings the benefits of meditation and exercise together in a simple daily activity. Firstly, be aware of your feet on the ground before you start to move. Rock forwards and backwards, then side to side on your feet. Be aware of your feet and toes. Walk in a straight line for a few metres inhaling as you raise your right foot and exhaling as you plant it heel first then toes, then the same with your left foot. Next inhale as you raise one foot and exhale as you raise the other. Walk up and down for a few metres feeling you feet and integrating your breath. Become aware of your body moving through space. Now you’re ready to venture outdoors. Walk for 10 minutes dropping all thoughts of destination.

Whenever your mind wanders come back to the feeling of your feet, the movement of your body and the sensations of your breath in your belly and through your nose.

2. Daily activities

Everyday activities don’t have to feel like chores. Simple repetitive tasks can be the perfect opportunity to practise mindfulness. The following are some of my favourites: brushing your teeth, showering, shaving, vacuuming, raking leaves, drinking water, writing this or reading this! Whilst ‘doing’ these actions, use your senses, feel your breath. Notice more, think less. When you find your mind resisting or judging or dreaming, notice that too.

3. Mindful yoga

Traditional yoga was a preparation for seated breathing and meditation practices. Nowadays it has become more about fitness. A simple routine practised daily for 15 minutes can have enormous benefit, both physically and mentally. The following outline is a short, balanced session that enables you to move your spine in all 5 directions -forwards, backwards, inverted, sideways and twisted:

  1. Relax
  2. Warm Up (Cat or Sun salutations)
  3. Forward Bend
  4. Cobra Back Bend
  5. Downward Dog or Shoulderstand
  6. Triangle
  7. Floor Twist
  8. Relax Again

4. General exercise

Why not take up a sport again? Or try something new. Row, swim, play golf, skate! Get your bike fixed. Make your walking practice mindful power-walking! Or put more effort into daily activities -use cans of baked beans to do some arm strengthening while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Use a pedometer to increase the number of steps you take everyday. Make mindful movement part of your everyday life and notice the difference it makes to how you feel.

Practice

Every day continue to practice your morning breathing formally. (10 mins) During the day be mindful of both your breath and your senses.

Every evening spend 15 minutes following one of the tracks above. Either walking or yoga. At least once a week try some other form of exercise.

Notice how moving changes how you feel mentally as well as physically.

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For many the bedrock of their mindfulness practice is formal seated meditation. Although this is often the case and has been for many years don’t be off-put if you find this a struggle. Rather than thinking of it as a ‘must-do’, think of your sitting practice as a ‘nice-to-do’.

1. Create a ritual

Rituals have been proven to work in research as an effective way to embed new habits into your life. Make your meditation ritual your own. The more you make it right for you, the more engrained and natural it will be. Here are some pointers:

  1. Time – Early morning is best. Your mind is naturally quieter. The world outside is also quieter. Your kids or partner might still be asleep. The same time every day is ideal. That said anytime is better then no-time!
  2. Preparation – Prepare your meditation area the night before with cushion, mat and blanket with maybe a candle and/or incense. After waking, shower to clean and wake yourself up. Put on some comfortable clothes, drink a glass of water and then sit.
  3. Place – Somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed. Bedrooms can feel a bit sleepy so are not ideal. Your meditation place should be consistent. In time the place itself will help to ground you in your practice.
  4. Duration – 15 minutes per day should be a realistic goal. In time you can increase this to 30 minutes or more. At the same time, if 5 minutes is all you have then still do it! Every morning works but every morning and evening is even better.
  5. Intention – Before, remind yourself why you are practising Mindfulness Meditation. What affect on your state of mind do you observe? And how does that affect people around you?
  6. Gratitude – After, remind yourself of 3 things in your life you feel gratitude for. Repeat to yourself silently - “I feel thankful for ...”; “I feel thankful for ...”; “I feel thankful for ...”

So before you sit, remember your intention and after you sit, remember what you feel thankful for. To get you in the zone I have shared some guided introductions below that my teachers have shared with me. You might use them as a start to your mindfulness meditation sessions.

2. Make a commitment

Make a realistic vow to yourself. “I will sit silently every morning for the next 2 weeks for 15 minutes.” Write it down. Put it somewhere you will see everyday.

3. Share it

Let someone you know about your commitment. Ideally this should be someone supportive. Repeat it to them. Explain why you are doing it. Ask them to support you and remind you.

4. Follow your progress

Write a journal with short notes about how you feel. Be interested in whatever arises. Enjoy this inner journey.

Practice

Every day sit for 15 mins. Use the tracks above with guided introductions – a bell sounds the end of the 15 mins so no need for an alarm. During the day be mindful of both your breath and your senses. Every evening spend time on either yoga, relaxation or walking. Notice how sitting regularly changes how you deal with life.

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Make your mindfulness practice your own.

It’s not my technique, or someone else’s, it’s yours – only you can do it, in only the way you can. So take your own responsibility for it.

Be the change you want to see.

Here are the key aspects of your StillWorks toolkit for Mindfulness Made Easy.

1. Breathe...

… you are always only one breath away from feeling more present.

2. Sense...

… your senses are your constant companions. Appreciate them.

3. Relax...

… learn to let go, completely. Accept yourself and whatever situation you find yourself in.

4. Move...

…realise your mind and body are one. Move with awareness and prescence.

5. Sit...

… find the inner power and joy of just sitting with yourself without any agenda.

And your final checklist:

  • A little bit of all of this is best.
  • Regularity is key.
  • Reward yourself.
  • Use simple triggers.
  • Write a journal.
  • Whatever you do, be.

Finally some words about self-enquiry, happiness and living here now …

Practice

It’s up to you! This is just the begining.

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