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Mindfulness exercise 1

The Three Minute/Three Step Breathing Space

This practice can act as a circuit breaker enabling us to break our habitual ways of reacting and thinking.  The exercise can help you to:

  • tune in and become fully aware of how you are, 

  • then to tune out 

  • then anchor your attention to your breath or any other sensory focus you are comfortable with.

Step 1: Becoming aware

Bring your attention into the present moment by adopting a dignified upright posture.  Then ask: what is my experience right now?

  • What thoughts are going through my mind?  Acknowledging thoughts as mental events (not truths) and identifying them in words if you can.
  • What feelings are here?  Noticing any emotional discomfort.
  • What bodily sensations are here right now?  Scanning the body briefly to pick up on any sensations of tightness or bracing

Observing, acknowledging and naming your inner experience. 

Step 2: Gathering and focusing awareness to breathing

Redirecting your attention to focus on the physical sensations of your breathing.  Following the breath all the way in and out.  Bringing your mind back to the breath as it wanders.  It can help to note 'breathing in' and 'breathing out' in your mind with the breath.  Allowing your breath to be an anchor, to bring you into the present and help you to tune into a state of awareness and stillness.

Step 3: Expanding awareness - embracing experience

Expanding your field of awareness with your breathing to the rest of your body.

Taking your attention with the movement of the breath to any sensation of discomfort, tension or resistance and breathe into the sensation.  Allowing with each out breath a sense of opening to your experience, softening and letting go.  You could say to yourself "It's OK to be feeling whatever I'm feeling".

Widening your attention to a sense of the space around you.  Carry on holding any difficult experiences in wider awareness when you notice them -rather than your mind being in battle with them.

As best you can, bring this expanded awareness into the next moments of your day.

Optional step 4: Action step

The breathing space provides a way to remind us to actively meet and respond to difficulties and unpleasant feelings as they arise.  After reconnecting with an expanded awareness in the breathing space, it may feel appropriate to take some considered action.  In dealing with the difficult times the following activities can be particularly helpful:

  • Do something pleasurable.
  • Do something that will give you a sense of satisfaction.
  • Act mindfully 

Note: Adapted from 'Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy'. Siegal, Z. Teasdale, J & Williams. M. 2002. Guildford.

Sally Rose February 2019