Breath is an important tool, and by altering the way in which we breath we can alter our state. Additionally, observation of breath is a very useful tool for both formal and informal mindfulness practice. I think that all FAF walks should start with a breathing exercise of some sort. In the beginning we will use the some-what exaggerated technique of deep breathing with held breath in order to make people aware of their breath.
It is important to point out the following:
1. We do breathing exercises to become more aware of our breath, so that over time we can use it as a useful tool to change our state.
2. In all we do you should be comfortable, so don’t strain yourself, this is not a competition. If it is uncomfortable to breathe in, out or hold your breath as long as we count for that is ok. Just be aware of it and do what you can.
3. Then explain what we are going to do prior to doing it.
Deep breathing with held breath (repeat three times)
1. Breath in deeply, stretching your lungs as far as possible, feeling your breath extending as deep as you can.
2. Hold your breath for a few moments
3. Slowly exhale.
4. Pause for a moment before breathing in again.
5. Repeat twice more.
When it is complete, encourage people to pause for a moment and just notice how they are feeling – no judgement.
Being in the present moment is one of the key skills that FAF is designed to encourage. For most of us any pain, stress or discomfort comes from things that have happened in the past or from things we think may, or may not happen in the future.
Training our brain to spend more and more time in the present moment is a path to a much happier and more contented life. This moment is actually all we have, so being in this moment is crucial. Most people find it difficult to stay in the present for more than a very short time. In the first session we encourage people to take notice of what is around them and inside them, using all their senses.
1. Explain the above.
2. Ask attendees to spend a few moments just seeing what they can see.Whilst they can point things out to other people, ask that while they do this they don’t chat about other things past and future while they do so. This can feel awkward, but if you can relax, that is good – there is no hurry.
3. Ask people to notice what they can hear. Make no judgement of the sounds , not labelling them good or bad, just notice. Allow a couple of minutes to elapse before moving people on. You may want to time it, as two minutes can feel like a long time.
4. Can people now smell or taste anything?
5. Now ask what are people are feeling externally. So What does the ground feel like under their feet? Are there any sensations of hot or cold?. Can they feel fabric on their skin?. Is there something they are drawn to touch to experience that?. Sometimes it can be helpful to start either at peoples heads or their feet, scanning and just notice up or down. Just to notice what is going on for them on in different parts of their body.
You may choose to stop and ask people how they found this. How was it for them, was there was anything that they found particularly easy or hard?
People will be in very different stages. Encourage people always, so always encourage them. If someone says they weren’t very good at it, just remind them that this needs practice. There is no wrong experience, there is only experience. There is no such thing as failure only feedback.
If you are an experienced mediator I am happy for you to do what ever is comfortable for you to do. You need to bare in mind that for many people this is an introduction for many people. They may have never tried this sort of relaxation or meditation before. on Fresh Air Fridays we are about introducing people to skills and ideas that they might like to explore further. We needed to keep it simple and approachable. For someone who has never meditated before, my opinion is that it is much easier to be led than asked to just sit and contemplate.