Welcome to The Free Mindfulness Project blog. Watch this space for updates, original poetry, articles and guest blog entries.

In a time of global crisis, some reflections on compassion and action

posted 19 Mar 2020, 09:58 by Peter Morgan   [ updated 22 Mar 2020, 02:07 ]

As communities (globally, nationally and on much smaller scales), we are faced with an unprecedented and fast-changing situation. Together in our various networks, and as individuals, we are all attempting to make sense of and respond appropriately to Covid-19. This article shares some reflections on how we might make wise choices about how to be, in the midst of a prolonged crisis. For further resources, click here.

Taking care of ourselves: Remembering the basics

Something happens to us when we perceive threat: We shift our attention away from meeting basic needs, and towards sources of danger. This makes sense in the face of an immediate danger to life, and can be a really useful mechanism to protect us. However, in situations like the one we currently face, we can easily end up with high threat levels over a prolonged period. This can lead to a situation where we stay on high alert and neglect our basic needs. A short practice we can do at any time is to stop, even for a few seconds, and listen to your body: How is it right now? Am I looking after this animal (the body)? Is it well fed and watered? Has it moved enough today? Is it clean? Does it feel lonely or scared and need to connect with someone? Taking care of our basic needs is both an act of self-compassion, and also supports us to be more present and available to help others.

What can I do to help others?

Many of us have an instinct that kicks in when faced with a crisis, whereby we want to help others. Two broad questions might be supportive in making sense of how you might act over the coming months:

1.)    If I imagine in the future, when Covid-19 is no longer a significant issue locally or globally, and we have all had time to breathe… what would I have liked to have done? In what ways could I have helped myself and/or others? What small or large actions could I take that fit with my values?

And then the second question;

2.)   What is my current context? What capacity do I have to take care of myself and/or those in my immediate environment, and does my expected capacity exceed, match up to, or fall short of what is needed?

I would encourage spending some time with these questions, and discussing these themes with others around you. For some, you may have plenty of spare capacity and be exploring options for action. What many of us (myself included) may find is that the two answers conflict with each other…2.)    What is my current context? What capacity do I have to take care of myself and/or those in my immediate environment, and does my expected capacity exceed, match up to, or fall short of what is needed?

Mind the Gap

There may be a small or even substantial gap between how you would like to act, and what is possible in your current circumstances. Spending time acknowledging the gap and how it feels, and even grieving the loss of how you might like to act, may be helpful in coming to a clearer sense of how best to proceed.

If we know where our capacity intersects with our values we can act accordingly; whether that means letting go of commitments and caring for ourselves and/or family, or continuing our work in adapted ways, or reaching out in various ways to help others, or identifying that we need more assistance and asking for that help. In our various communities, we can honour and respect all of these (and many other) positions. They can all reflect wise choices as we compassionately responding to our individual and collective circumstances.

Final Thoughts

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” Fred Rogers

As the well-known quote from Fred Rodgers implies, looking for the helpers at times of crisis can be comforting. In this crisis, many wonderful, heroic acts of kindness and care will take place behind closed doors. As a short practice, try bringing to mind all the ways in which you and your communities are being kind and caring, however big or small, and especially to think of all of the kindness that is unseen. Perhaps through holding each other in mind, we can cultivate a sense of companionship and solidarity, and feel the warmth of our collective acts of care.

For mindfulness resources related to the coronavirus outbreak, click here.

New Poetry Collection - Words to Sit With

posted 24 Apr 2016, 08:25 by Peter Morgan   [ updated 24 Apr 2016, 08:25 ]
We're pleased to announce the opening of a new home for contemporary, free-to-share mindfulness poetry: Words to Sit With

The intention behind the site is to create a collection of new poetry and short stories that share experiences of mindfulness and can help support mindfulness practice and reflection. If you have written or would like to write something to add the collection, then head over to the site and contribute.

We hope you like the resource, and we look forward to seeing how it grows!

Mental Health Awareness Week 11-17th May 2015

posted 10 May 2015, 12:52 by Peter Morgan

Mental Health Foundation Logo
Every year the Mental Health Foundation (UK) holds a week of awareness, drawing public attention towards the importance of mental health and well-being. 

This year the Mental Health Foundation have chosen mindfulness as the focus, reflecting the growing interest in mindfulness across the world as something to support and enhance our collective well-being. If you live in the UK, you can find out whether there are any events happening in your area by viewing an activities and events map. During the week, as part of my work with Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, I'll be running a number of mindfulness taster sessions in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

If this is your first encounter with mindfulness, why not take a few moments to explore this site, perhaps beginning with the 'Welcome!' page to read about what mindfulness is, or have a go at a mindfulness practice.

Guest Blog: Free Online Mindfulness Course

posted 26 Oct 2014, 02:26 by Peter Morgan   [ updated 26 Oct 2014, 02:26 ]

This guest blog entry is written by Dave Potter, a mindfulness-based stress reduction teacher based in Idaho, US, whose desire to make mindfulness as widely available as possible resonates with the ethos of The Free Mindfulness Project. He runs the website:

Making Mindfulness Accessible to All by Dave Potter

One way to learn mindfulness is to enrol in one of the hundreds of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses that are offered world-wide. Learning mindfulness through a live, in-person class, where you have the benefit of interaction with the instructor and other class members, and the group support this provides, is the absolute best way to learn mindfulness, but sometimes this is just not possible. Not everyone has access to an in-person course, and even if one exists nearby, it may be logistically or financially difficult to participate in one of these 8-week courses.

The free online course provided on the Palouse Mindfulness website began as a resource for students of the live course taught in Moscow, Idaho (U.S.), and has grown to contain all of the materials used in the in-person course, and then some. Included are audio and video for all the Guided Practices used in the course (body scan, sitting meditation, yoga, etc.), all of the weekly practice suggestions, and the materials to create an MBSR manual identical to the one we use in the course.

Arising out of the desire to make mindfulness as widely available as possible, this online version of MBSR is provided at no cost and does not require any sort of registration or enrolment. Much of this material is drawn from the works of other teachers and writers in the spirit of making mindfulness accessible to all. There is a wealth of material here, including videos and writings by Jon Kabat-Zinn (Wherever You Go, There You Are), Pema Chodron (When Things Fall Apart), Tara Brach (Radical Acceptance), Sylvia Boorstein (Don't Just Do Something, Sit There), Sharon Salzberg (A Heart As Wide as the World), Robert Sapolsky (Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers), Marshall Rosenberg (Non-Violent Communication), and Susan Bauer-Wu (Leaves Falling Gently).


Lost and Found

posted 5 Oct 2014, 14:37 by Peter Morgan   [ updated 5 Oct 2014, 14:50 ]

I set out to run, 
Dressed to move.
Adorning shades to shelter my eyes 
From the leaning autumn light. 
A glimpse of light and shade 
Amongst the waving leaves above 
Tempts the eyes. 
Not far to travel 
Before I am lost and found.

Removing my darkened glasses 
I drink in the fullness of the light. 
A confident breeze touches my skin, 
Tickling the leaves above, 
Which rustle with delight. 
Oh the colours. 
Some trees a subtle shift from green to yellow, 
Some a showcase of fiery amber and reds. 
Vibrant, vivid, unapologetically stunning...

Attention jolts with a momentary shiver. 
Enjoyment, or a reminder that I am under-dressed 
To stand and be with the trees? 
I take a moment to acknowledge the time we had. 

My wish to run has passed. 
With these gentle steps 
I am home.

By Peter Morgan

BBC Radio Manchester - Mindfulness Week 6

posted 5 Oct 2014, 14:19 by Peter Morgan   [ updated 30 Mar 2016, 03:23 ]

Often we practice mindfulness to become more alert, or to 'fall awake'. However, if you do find you have difficulties getting to sleep, then practising mindfulness as the last thing at night (as well as using it at other times) might be for you. In this first clip, hear Val speak a bit about how mindfulness has helped her with sleep:

Week 6 Part 1Download

In our final session, we reconnected with the idea of mindfulness as simply paying attention to what is happening right now, and doing so with curiosity, openness, acceptance and warmth. We then engaged in a slightly longer sitting practice, combining mindfulness of breath, body, sounds and thoughts. In this second clip, Val reflects on her experience of the final session and the course as a whole. We also hear a surprise message from Val's husband to see how he feels she got on!

Week 6 Part 2Download

Thank you for taking the time to follow along with this series - it's been lovely to hear from people who have listened in and enjoyed hearing Val's experiences with mindfulness. If you would like to share something of your experiences with mindfulness then feel free to get in touch. And if you feel inspired to practice, then head over to the resources page for a formal practice or simply make a conscious choice to step into the next moment with mindful awareness, whatever the moment may bring.

BBC Radio Manchester - Mindfulness Week 5

posted 4 Sept 2014, 07:55 by Peter Morgan   [ updated 30 Mar 2016, 03:25 ]

We took a few weeks break between sessions 4 and 5, listen to part 1 to hear how Val's been getting on:

Week 5 Part 1Download

In session 5 we consider the value of thinking and how far conscious thought has allowed us to develop, whilst recognising that it also brings some pitfalls. Being able to reflect on the past, to plan ahead and to imagine scenarios that are far from any reality can really support learning and creativity. However, unfortunately, we can sometimes get stuck in a 'thinking mode' where we try (and fail) to think our way out of situations which are out of our control, or we are held hostage by our thoughts about things we wish we did differently in the past or are dreading in the future. Listen to part 2 below:

Week 5 Part 2Download

Trying to push thoughts away or fight them with more thoughts, they often come back. We might argue with them, but often they hold a really rich emotional intensity which is hard to argue with. And herein lies some useful knowledge: We don't need to fix or make difficult thoughts go away. We can acknowledge that they are thoughts, likely fuelled and coloured by our emotions in the moment, and we can let them just be. In this way, we take a step back, creating space for other thoughts to arise and begin to see that all thoughts come and go. This can free us up and break us out of the 'thinking mode', giving us more control and reducing stress into the next moments.

Imagine a man who has built a pond in his garden. All that he wants is for the water to be still and peaceful. He sits and watches, a smooth reflection on the surface of the water. A moment later, a single leaf drops into the pond causing ripples. In a moment of panic, he jumps into the water trying to push the ripples down with his hands. This may sound like an over reaction, but this is often our response to difficult thoughts or emotions. If the man sits a little longer and watches, the ripples settle down on their own. In the same way, thoughts and emotions can and do pass without us needing to 'jump in' and cause more ripples.

Putting mindfulness of thoughts into practice:

Begin by paying attention to the breath, then when you feel ready, just open to thoughts. Noticing them as they arise (even thoughts that pretend not to be thoughts like "I'm not thinking anything" or "I don't have time for this"), see if you can watch them from a distance without getting wrapped up in them. Then seeing what comes up next. If you get lost in a particular train of thought, come back to the breath, then turn back to thoughts when you feel more grounded. 

Some people like to use imagery in mindfulness of thoughts - picturing themselves sat alone in a cinema, and their thoughts appearing and fading away on the big screen in front of them - or sitting by a stream, with each thought represented by a leaf gently flowing downstream - or perhaps watching the blue sky, and thoughts moving across the sky as clouds of varying sizes and shapes. You might have your own image that comes to mind and works for you, that's absolutely fine too.

To try a guided meditation that involves thoughts have a go at any of the 'Sitting Meditation' tab on the Free Resources page. They tend to explore awareness of breath and body before moving to sounds and thoughts. For a shorter sounds and thoughts meditation, here is a short practice guided by Mark Williams.

BBC Radio Manchester - Some thoughts from Val

posted 4 Sept 2014, 07:53 by Peter Morgan   [ updated 4 Sept 2014, 07:55 ]

"Well I'm two thirds of the way through my sessions with Peter Morgan and I'm really enjoying them. I can honestly say I am feeling the benefit already. People who know me have been telling me how much 'calmer' and more 'chilled' I am so that's got to be a good thing. 

In the past I have struggled with anxiety, taking on too much and worrying that I won't be able to get everything done in time. Since starting the Mindfulness training I have been able to focus on the here and now and not worry about the future (something none of us can control) or the past for that matter. Ruminating over what has gone is something that would have bothered me before. 

I have found it easier to relax and have actually been able to stop myself before taking on too much - something I have never been able to do previously. I'm really looking forward to our session today and telling Dr Morgan how I've been able to put the sessions into practice since we last met."

BBC Radio Manchester - Mindfulness Week 4

posted 15 Aug 2014, 00:32 by Peter Morgan   [ updated 30 Mar 2016, 03:26 ]

In week 4 we began by discussing how mindfulness can benefit people who have experienced recurrent depression, as well as hearing how Val got on since the last session. You can listen below:

Week 4 Part 1Download

The focus of session 4 with Val was how mindfulness might be applied to communication. First off we explored stressful interactions and the when/how of bringing mindfulness to these occasions:
  • In preparing for a potentially stressful situation we can think about what we are hoping to communicate, noticing how we are feeling and how we might usually act in similar situations.
  • In the moment we can bring awareness to what is happening, seeing if we can respond rather than getting caught up in reacting to what is happening.
  • After the event, if things haven't gone to plan, reminding ourselves that it is okay not to get things 'right' all the time. We can be kind to ourselves when we wish we had acted differently. We can then be curious about what happened and see what we can learn to take forward.
We also considered how mindfulness can be brought into our day to day interactions, potentially enriching our conversations and relationships with friends, family and colleagues and creating greater feelings of connection. Think about recent times you have been talking to people - We often feel different when we know someone is fully engaged with us (rather than thinking about a million other things at the same time). 

After the session, we returned to the studio to discuss how Val got on:

Week 4 Part 2Download

Putting mindful communication into practice

See if you can bring awareness to your interactions this week, whether with colleagues, friends, family or anyone else (e.g. someone who serves you in a shop). See if you can bring curiosity, openness, acceptance and warmth to the moment, and not needing to be anywhere else. If your mind wanders off, gently bring it back to what is happening at that moment. What is it like to do this? What do you notice? Can you spot how you might habitually act, and choose to do something different?

A short practice that you can do to help you to notice how you are feeling and to bring more awareness to the moment is the three minute breathing space. The aim of this practice isn't to get rid of or fix how you are feeling, it's just to notice what you are experiencing, and to give you the opportunity to respond rather than be caught up in reactivity.

BBC Radio Manchester - Mindfulness Week 3

posted 7 Aug 2014, 23:52 by Peter Morgan   [ updated 30 Mar 2016, 03:28 ]

This week we found out how Val got on with mindfulness of sounds. She responded well to this practice, noticing how we can get caught up in reactions to particular sounds, but that mindfulness allows us to let go and come back to listening to sounds themselves.

Week 3 Part 1Download

We then explored bringing mindfulness to the body, both in stillness and in movement. 

Firstly, we had a go at a body scan practice. This involves slowly moving your attention around different areas of the body. Often we spend most of our time in our heads, so allowing ourselves to spend some time with the body can feel very different. If you would like to try this yourself pick one of the body scan practices from the 'Free Resources' page. There is a range, from 4 minute body scans to 45 minutes, so see which you would like to do.

The next practice we did was mindful walking, followed by some simple stretching.  In movement some people find it easier to stay with sensations in the body, perhaps as there is more to 'listen' to and we are actively involved in making movements. However, there may also be a full range of pleasant, neutral or unpleasant sensations arising and this creates choices to make about what is right for this particular body in this particular moment (e.g. is this enough of a stretch right now, am I noticing a tendency to compete with myself or others?). The 'Stretch and breath' practice below involves some basic standing stretches followed by a sitting practice. Remember to look after your body and only do what is right for you, and consult your doctor if you're unsure about what you are able to do.

 Stretch and breath
 19 minutes 26 seconds   Download

Listen below to hear how Val got on with these practices:

Week 3 Part 2 Download

Over time, we can get to know the patterns of sensations within the body and begin to develop a different relationship to it. This allows us to see how emotions or thoughts affect the body, or how particular sensations in the body might give rise to thoughts and emotions. When we spot a particular negative pattern occurring, we can then observe what is happening and choose to break the cycle. 

Other ways to bring mindfulness to the body

Throughout the day, check-in with your posture, perhaps even taking a quick scan through different areas of the body. Based on what you find choose whether to make a conscious movement or stay with 
sensations as they are. This might be by adjusting your posture or perhaps recognising that you have been sat in the same position for a long time, so getting up and stretching or talking a short walk. Check-in with your eyes - sometimes when sitting at a screen, we blink less often. If you wish, take a few conscious blinks, or even allow the eyes to close for a few moments and let the eyes rest and regain some moisture from the eyelids. When you are walking at any point during the day see if you can bring attention to what it feels like to move or open your awareness outwards and really engage with what you can see.

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