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Mindfulness: achieving greater balance in life

Mindfulness: achieving greater balance in life


Today was Teacher Training Day at my school.

I've sat through dozens of them in my ten year teaching career ranging from the highly stimulating to the mind-numbingly dull. I regret to report that the large majority would slot rather nicely into the latter category. It was little wonder, therefore, that I was less than excited to attend today's session and had to psyche myself up as I drove to school, chanting over and over again in my head: "must stay awake GW, must stay awake..."

It turns out that I did almost fall asleep at one point but it's ok.  I was meant to.

The concept at the centre of today's session was Mindfulness, an attentive awareness of the here and now, the practice of focusing your energies and attention on the present moment and accepting all thoughts and feelings, without judgement. According to the lovely German lady who was delivering the session and whose name escapes me, Mindfulness helps us to achieve balance, adaptability and resilience at work and at home. She had me and my undivided attention at the word "balance". I constantly seek it and have as yet, to find it, elusive little devil that it is! Such is my desire to acquire a greater sense of equilibrium in my life that I am willing to give anything a go, so long as it's (semi) legal. 

To help us get our heads around just what it meant to be Mindful we were asked to turn to our neighbour and, for one minute, talk about our journey to school that morning.  With over 100 staff present the hall was soon filled with noisy chatter. We were then asked to sit in silence for another minute and to do nothing but focus on our breathing.  The contrast, as you can imagine was stark. We were reminded that the silence is always there, it's what the noise comes from, and we can tap into it whenever we feel the need. Blatantly obvious, perhaps, but this truly resonated with me. I fill my life with so much noise and distraction - music blaring from my iPad/iPod, the t.v., the radio, chatter (my own and that of others) - that I rarely give silence the opportunity to bring a much needed sense of calm and clarity to my life. Does this sound familiar to you?

To delve deeper into the art of developing Mindfulness we were introduced to The Three Step Breathing Space:


Adopt an upright, alert sitting or standing posture. Bring your attention to what is going on for you right now in your mind and body. Notice what thoughts and feelings are present.  Do not try to change or control anything, be open to how things are right here, right now.


Shift awareness to your breath, closing your eyes if it helps. Notice where your breathing is strongest. Is it in your stomach? Your chest? Listen to each breath that you take and be aware of the physical sensations of breathing.


Expand your awareness from your breathing to the rest of your body. Be aware of your posture, be aware of your feet on the ground, the hands on your lap. Hold your entire body in awareness just as it is right now.

Now re-engage with the world around you, ensuring that you bring with you the focus you found whilst meditating.

What do you think? Does it all sound a bit wishy washy and new-age? Mindfulness does have its roots in Bhuddhism yet since the 1970's clinical psychology and psychiatry have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on Mindfulness for helping people suffering from a variety of psychological conditions.  It's also interesting to note that Mindfulness is endorsed by the NHS (the UK's National Health Service) and is considered by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) as playing an important role in improving our physical and mental health.  Sure enough, during my most serious bout of anxiety in 2006 I saw a therapist who taught me several techniques to deal with my then worrisome thoughts, one of which I now realise was a form of Mindfulness (there are many forms and you need to find the one that is right for you). And did it help me?  Without a doubt. When I felt the storm of anxiety rise within me I would look at my surroundings and fixate on an object, a table for example. That object symbolised the here and now and would slowly draw me back into the present and the anxiety would eventually subside.

For the vast majority of people, GW included, Mindfulness is not easy to practice, at least not at the beginning. As with any new skill it takes effort, perseverance and TIME - yup, we need to take time out of our busy lives to learn how to relax.  Who amongst you is saying right now, "but GW, I don't have time to relax!"? Then you, my friend, are the perfect candidate for Mindfulness and I would urge you to give it a go. You have nothing to lose and only a greater sense of well-being to gain.

And that is something I wish for all my Warriors.

GW, over and out.


P.S. To read more about the huge benefits of Mindfulness and its various methods read THIS article. 

P.P.S. As usual, I would love to know your thoughts.  Does this sound like something that could have a positive impact on your life?

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  1. On being comfortable with silence
    Many years ago, I was squeezed into a small car with 4 other young people travelling back from a boisterous day at thee beach in Brighton. On the way home, we stopped in the grounds of the LDS London temple. While there, someone suggested we said a prayer before continuing, and I was asked to voice it.
    Because we had been so boisterous, I paused before speaking to recentre by thoughts on the peace inside my soul – mindfulness perhaps. After some 15 seconds of silence, one of the girls in the car cried out, “Don’t do that! I cant stand silence!”
    I was stunned. What could possibly make someone so uncomfortable with silence? What inner turmoil might exist that needed to be covered by constant noise and activity?
    I have often reflected on that experience – like right now! – and find myself grateful for knowing about the deep peace that can be found in that inner silence – that constant well of personal spirituality.
    I know how to find it when I need it, and it brings me comfort.

    • The Ginger Warrior

      Loved this post, Jeremy.It does make you wonder why the silence was so unbearable for her. I know people may not believe this, but I rather enjoy silence every now and again. Quite often I’ll sit against the radiator in the my kitchen and eat my dinner with no background noise. Bliss! Thanks, Jeremy. x

  2. I’ve actually had a 6 week course of mindfulness. My bosses sister ‘teaches’ it for a living. It worked a treat for me. Even though it was over 18 months I still use it sometimes. I was a bit sceptical at first but certain areas really do work…..thank god!!

    • The Ginger Warrior

      It sounds like it’s a good tool to turn to in times of need. I’m definitely going to look into it more closely. xxx

  3. This is beautiful! I have been running thin for the past three years since going back to school and then countless project after project. I’m looking forward to my near future where I can create more balance or mindfulness rather when I settle in California. One thing that used to bring me mindfulness and balance was writing in my journal. I have slipped away from this habit and plan to reintroduce it into my life to create more self reflecting time. Always too much noise in life and for me journal writing helps me embrace silence and peace. Love ya GW!

    • The Ginger Warrior

      Journal writing sounds like a plan, Nise Nise. Can’t wait for our Californian road trip!!! C xxxx

  4. It all links in really well to the idea that your brain works on a number of levels – the so called Reptile Brain (controls your ‘unconscious’ actions such as breathing), the Dog Brain (how you react emotionally) and your Monkey Brain or Human Brain (deals with higher order cognitive processes and sets us apart from the animals).

    In order to access the Human Brain we need to deal with the other two brains first – satisfy your most basic needs such as sleep, hydration etc. then you can start to work on your emotional response and ensure that you don’t just ‘fly off the handle’ when faced with a challenge. This means consciously engaging your Human Brain by pausing to consider the situation – your Mindfulness techniques are perfect for this!

    Great post GW keep up the good work :-)

  5. I do this every morning. It’s called my yoga practice. It’s very similar. If you are unfamiliar with yoga you might think its just crazy contortionism but the whole root if it is to practice being present with the ups and downs of life. It had helped me with anxiety and depression. It’s a great practice to incorporate into your life. However you name it.

    • The Ginger Warrior

      Hey Sora, thanks for that. It really all comes down to accepting your situation as it is. And you’re right – it doesn’t matter what helps us to reach that point whether it’s yoga, meditation, Mindfulness or copious amounts of chocolate. :) Te pup.

  6. I totally need to try to make time for this in the mornings before work. However, when the kids have left the school building and I’m just sitting in my classroom working, I do enjoy just a 2-3 minute chill. Schools are such frantic places aren’t they, as is the rest of the world. I’m just grateful for those minutes between the kids leaving and the next pile of paper work landing on my desk, or the next meeting, or person coming in to ask a question about a lesson/scheme of work/pupil.
    But I hadn’t thought of my couple of minutes in this way and I’m definitely going to make a concentrated effort to enjoy it more now and make time for it every single day!

  7. Thanks Ceri, I used your anxiety-control technique of focussing on an object when Duncan was up a wobbly ladder pruning a tall tree and it really helped :-)

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