Module 2 - O: Observe

Welcome, to module 2.
In this module we consider how you can bring attention to the body more fully.

This course is broken into a series of modules and lessons. On each module page you’ll find a table, just like the one below, where you can see the lessons available to you, and access the content.
To get started, simply click on the first lesson in the list.

When you have finished all of the lessons in the module, you’ll be returned to this page so that you can click “mark complete” under the table, and move to the next module.

Doing to Being

Doing to Being

With mindfulness we shift from the busy “doing” modes of mind to the more present “being” modes of mind, thereby allowing ourselves to find the pleasant, the joy in the moment. Please note that we can be sitting drinking coffee and look like we’re in the present moment but the mind can still be busy planning, thinking, writing lists etc. 

Here is some elementary neuroscience that helps to explain how mindfulness helps us to be more present, less anxious and stressed.

Autonomic Nervous System

Firstly, it’s helpful to understand what happens when a person is feeling anxious, feels overstretched and stressed. The nervous system is being stimulated and here’s how.

We have a part of the nervous system called the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which is in charge of the automatic functions like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and so on. 

ANS system

The Sympathetic branch activates the stress response, otherwise known as “fight and flight”. The other main branch, the Parasympathetic, helps us calm down, otherwise known as the “rest and digest” and this is generally switched on when practising mindfulness.

What happens to you when you feel stressed? Please write under the Sympathetic nervous system what you feel physically, what happens to your thoughts and how are you emotionally?

Now, do the same for the other branch, the Parasympathetic. How is your body, your emotions and thoughts when you’re calm and relaxed?

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Posture

Our posture during practice is important.

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It is helpful to take some time to find a comfortable sitting posture. Use blocks, blankets cushions, zafus, bolsters, mats, meditation stools or sit on a chair.

    • The knees should be below the hips (support the knees with a cushion if the hip is painful) 
    • The back lengthened and upright (though practices can be done lying down if necessary) 
    • The chin retracted to promote inward exploration but not down on the chest as this may initiate drowsiness
    • Hands on the lap, knees or wherever is comfortable, perhaps left hand over the right with palms up and thumbs touching
    • The arms away from the body if possible
    • The feet on a block if sitting in a chair and the participant has short legs
    • A blanket for warmth and comfort if necessary.
    • Legs resting on a bolster or pillow if lying on the back to relieve the lower back.
    • If you have experienced abuse or feel vulnerable, lying on the back can be too triggering so lying on your side or front can be more comforting.
    • Choose to leave the eyes open, closed or downcast. 
    • Meditating with the eyes open sometimes can also help to appreciate how you can bring a meditative approach to something as mundane as standing in a supermarket queue.
    • Sitting with the back against a chair, wall or pillows on a bed can be helpful.

Short Mindfulness Practices

Short Mindfulness Practices

  • Short practices are an important way of readily integrating mindfulness into daily life.
  • They enable us to interrupt the busyness of our day, breaking through our tendency to run on autopilot, and inquire into the nature of the patterns of our mind at that moment, thereby responding rather than reacting.
  • Opens our awareness to our experience of this moment, our thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviour.
  • It shines a light onto our habitual tendencies, bringing a sense of interest and curiosity onto how we are.
  • They remind us to connect with the body and its senses, as a window to the mind.
  • The creation of a bridge between the longer practices and Mindfulness in daily activities.
  • For a short period, you move into a restful “being” mode of mind.
  • Short practices give us a window of opportunity to enable us to make more choices by standing back from what you are doing and seeing the bigger picture. Widening the torch beam from narrow and direct to open and all-inclusive.
  • They give us the opportunity to become an observer of our current experience, creating space and decentring.
  • This creation of space allows new ideas to arise, stimulating creativity.

 

In the next lesson you'll be introduced to a new, short, mindfulness practice as a way of coping with anxiety and stress.

STOP Practice

Here is a short practice to introduce to your life as a way of coping with anxiety and stress.

STOP Practice (10.33 mins)

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In your journal...

After each practice spend a little time, perhaps a minute or two, in reflection, noticing what the experience was like, asking yourself questions such as these:

You may want to make a note of these questions in your journal for ease of reference.

  • What did you notice inside your body?
  • Did you notice where in your body you felt emotions?
  • Were you aware of what was happening in your mind?
  • How did you react when you noticed what your mind was doing?
  • Did bringing awareness to your thoughts change your experience?
  • Is there a familiar pattern emerging here?
  • Can you identify your experience with other areas of your life, your relationships for example?
  • How do you think it would feel to bring compassion in here?
  • How could you transfer what you have learnt through this practice to benefit your life?

Now move on to Module 3