Breathworks Blog

Stories, tips, and articles about mindfulness, daily meditation, compassion, living well with illness and chronic pain, and more.

Mindfulness for the New Year 2017

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Here are some tips to make New Year resolutions that are achievable and satisfying. One top tip is to make your resolutions SMART.
  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Realistic

  • Time-bound


Your resolution might be the rather vague "I want to get fit" which is, in all likelihood, doomed to fail because you haven't worded it in the right way. Think about the following points:

How do you define "being fit?" Is it walking five minutes outside the house a day, half a mile a day, swimming, lifting weights? Are you going to do this daily? Weekly? If you are too vague it is difficult to measure progress and so, all too soon, you are likely to give up.

It is helpful to answer five "W" questions when trying to be specific:

Who: Who is involved in this goal?

What: What do I want to achieve? Be very specific about how much you'll do of whatever activity is your goal.

Where: Where will I work on this goal? Identify a location gather any information you might need e.g about gyms, swimming pools, health clubs etc.

When: When will I work on this goal? Establish a time frame.

Why: Why do I want to work on this goal? (Identify your deeper values as to WHY you want to get fit – maybe it is so you can play with your grandchild, or attend a course. If you are clear about the WHY of your resolution then you are much more likely to achieve it.

A specific short-term goal would be "I will join a health club and swim for ten minutes three times a week in order to get fitter".


It is important to choose a goal where you can measure your progress. In this sense it needs to be concrete and tangible. Say your goal is "I want to be less dominated by my pain and have a better quality of life". Again this is far too vague. A measurable goal might be something like "I will go to the cinema twice in the next month as a way of improving my quality of life and being less dominated by the pain". You can then measure very clearly at the end of the month if you have managed to follow through this intention or not.


Ideally a short-term goal should stretch you slightly, but should still be within your abilities, skills and financial capacity. For example, if you want to lose weight, it is foolish to say "I will lose 20 lbs in one week". This is neither achievable nor healthy. Setting a goal of "I will lose 1lb pound a week for six weeks" is much more achievable and sensible.


Realistic is not another word for easy! Rather it means that we should choose short-term goals that are meaningful, sensible, achievable, and appropriate. By appropriate I mean relevant to your financial means, your age, your family situation, your health and so on. The goal needs to be realistic for you at the moment. If you make a goal to never eat anything sweet whatsoever, when you are a person with a very sweet tooth, then this is not realistic! A more realistic goal would be to replace one sweet item a day with a piece of fruit for two weeks, and then to gradually phase out cakes and chocolate progressively by setting new goals every two weeks in this way.

A realistic goal is one that you are both are willing and able to work towards. This is important. You have to be both motivated to achieve any goal you set and capable of achieving it practically. Often we can fail at goals because of either lack of motivation or practical problems.


Set a timeframe for your goal! This is very important. By setting an endpoint to your goal then you have a clear target to work towards. It will also provide motivation and keep you on track. If you don't set a clear time limit, then you don't have a way of monitoring your achievements, nor have a motivation to start! Simply saying "I will join a gym" means you can easily get away with continually putting it off till next week. But if you say "I will join a gym by this Saturday and then I will go and swim 10 lengths three times a week and review after one month" then you have a very specific, time bound goal that will be both easier to achieve and measure.

By using these SMART guidelines you should find it easier to identify goals that you will succeed at.
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James Belton

Conscious Commuting – Finding beauty in the city through mindfulness

London Commuter Blog Image - Beauty in the City


One morning recently I had to commute for over an hour across London for work. For some of this time the train was very crowded and I had to stand, increasing my back pain. I arrived feeling rather sorry for myself and already quite drained of energy. As I started the final part of the journey, a 15 minute walk along a busy four lane road, I was hunched over and walking really quickly, thinking how unlucky I was that the end of my commute was through such an 'ugly' part of London and dreading the day ahead.

I noticed the tension in my body and how these negative thoughts were colouring my feelings about work and I decided to slow down and take a breath. I then decided to actively look for the pleasant on the final part of my walk, though I noticed an almost simultaneous judgement that there wouldn't be much here by a busy, noisy road!

Almost immediately, however, I came across a silver Birch. Its base was in concrete but it was tall, slender and strong and it looked beautiful, with its silver bark reflecting light. I stopped and felt it: it was shiny and smooth in parts, broken up by darker ridges and bits of bark that were peeling off. It was lovely. I then noticed another Silver Birch further along the busy road and stopped to look at that too, feeling a happy anticipation as I approached it.

Next I noticed that one of the houses nearby had a Box Hedge in the garden – the very ordinary kind that I may usually have dismissed as common and not very interesting. However when I looked closely the leaves were all reflecting light in a different way, some shiny, some dull, some lighter, some darker and there were many, many different shades of green. I felt one of the little leaves and it was soft, delicate and smooth– a deep dark green. I felt a sense of wonder and appreciation.

I enjoyed the rest of the walk to the office and arrived in a completely different mood, feeling positive about the day ahead and able to greet my colleagues warmly and cheerfully. I feel grateful that my mindfulness practice enabled me to notice my tension and negative thoughts and not to let them spoil any more of my day. My mood was affecting what I saw and how I saw it and changing this around enabled me to enter a very different space, possibly changing the whole course of my day. I can't control my commute, and all the delays and cancellations and lack of seats I often come across, but I can control how I respond to it and that knowledge is really helpful. The memory of those trees in such an 'ugly' and built up part of London has often come back to me since and made me smile.

By Sophie Matthew, Breathworks Mindfulness Teacher - London

Sophie Matthew is an Associate Teacher for Breathworks in London. She also teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses, and is a qualified Mindfulness in Schools teacher. She is currently doing a Masters in Teaching Mindfulness Based Approaches at Bangor University.


Free Commuter Meditations - These 10 minute meditations have been recorded specifically to help commuters connect more deeply and compassionately with their experience as they travel too and from their place of work.

Recorded by Singhashri Gazmuri , Breathworks Program Director 

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James Belton

Conscious commuting – travelling with fellow humans

London Commuter Blog Image

When I moved to London 15 years ago from Germany, I found that I could be incredibly judgemental of the many walks of life I found myself alongside as I travelled on the tube.

Take the person listening to loud music – I recall thinking, "How impolite and inconsiderate! Why can't they turn down the music?" Or the person occupying two seats at peak travel time: "How rude to take up so much space!"

I had all sorts of judgements about the people commuting with me, judgments about what they looked like, their clothes, how they behaved.... My head was often filled with harsh, critical and unkind thoughts about my fellow commuters.

These judgements and negative thinking about others affected how I was feeling. My mood was often low when I commuted – I felt on edge, tense, grumpy and isolated - it felt like me against all the other people on the tube.

Applying a different lens

Having practised mindfulness and meditation for almost nine years, I'm glad to say I now look through a very different lens when I travel on the tube. I see people as they are, in all their shapes, forms, moods, expressions, behaviours, odours, voices.

And when I do sometimes engage in judgement, particularly when someone is rude or listening to loud music, I am much more aware when I do it and can catch myself in the act.

And it is only when our judgements become conscious that we can choose to let them go, to stop engaging in them and to instead see what's actually happening in the moment, i.e. people travelling to work, to home, to see friends or family, just like we are. We can let them be.


Today I travel with a much gentler and more open heart, I feel more connected to my fellow commuters, to the many different people on the same journey as me – through London and through life.

By Karen Liebenguth

Karen is passionate about helping others experience the benefits of a mindfulness practice. An accredited Mindfulness teacher through Breathworks, Karen teaches 8-week Mindfulness for Health and Mindfulness for Stress courses. Karen is also a qualified Life Coach, specialising in coaching while walking in green space, a certified Myers Briggs Personality Type (MBTI) facilitator and Focusing Practitioner.


Free Commuter Meditations - These 10 minute meditations have been recorded specifically to help commuters connect more deeply and compassionately with their experience as they travel too and from their place of work.

Recorded by Singhashri Gazmuri , Breathworks Program Director 

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James Belton

A week in the life of a Breathworks Mindfulness Volunteer

Hi there. I'm Maree, a Breathworks teacher from Auckland, New Zealand. I'm also on the Breathworks training team in Australia. I'm spending a few months in the UK exploring the home of both Breathworks and the Triratna Buddhist Order. So I've been doing a real mix of things - Breathworks retreats, helping out at Adhisthana (a retreat centre in Herefordshire) and going on longer Buddhist meditation retreats. I'm here in Manchester this week to meet everyone in the Breathworks office and help out where I can. It's a small team, so an extra pair of hands is always welcome.IMG 20160818 113919

Who says it always rains in Manchester?! I arrived in the Breathworks office to a view of blue skies and sunshine. Having just finished a 10 day silent meditation retreat, I was thankful for the relatively quiet atmosphere – just 3 or 4 of us in today and it was a little hive of productivity, everyone absorbed in their work. Although Sarusavanna roused us all for mindful movement breaks and we hit the floor for a body scan around 3pm. Walking the talk – I like it! My task was to find a way to map out the location of Breathworks teachers around the world on the computer, so the team can provide regional maps in information packs and also just display the maps on the office walls as a global snapshot of Breathworks (somewhat unusually for a Breathworks teacher, my background is in IT). Lovely to see little dots marking Breathworks teachers slowly spreading all the way from Iceland down to New Zealand...


A full crew on deck today, with every chair filled and boxes being packed with materials for upcoming training events. For me, today was all about laying out meditation diary templates, which will be support materials for Gary's upcoming book for the Mindfulness for Stress course. So pleased to see the resources for this course growing over time. Gary and I need to review them later in the week – I offered bribes of ice-cream (yes, it's still ice-cream weather), because let's be honest, how many of us feel inspired by a meeting to review document templates, useful though they may be?! I led a body scan for us all in the afternoon, our mats arranged on the floor around desks and tables – we were a bit like sardines in a can. Funny having to check if everyone could hear me from behind the filing cabinets!


Today's afternoon meditation break gave way to mindful eating of ice lollies – thank you, Elaine! I was back to playing with electronic maps today, creating a custom map for the UK to make it easier for the office to identify teachers who may be able to pick up work in different areas as it becomes available. Very much enjoying sunny Manchester and the relatively mellow atmosphere of the Breathworks office. An office of mindfulness practitioners does have a decidedly less stressed-out vibe!


I love a good, random day. The main thing I need to do before I leave is document how to use the open source image editing software I used to create some of the teacher maps, as well as how to update and create new maps. So the morning was largely devoted to documentation and the eating of second breakfast. I'd been rather admiring of James' second breakfasts all week and this morning, along with a cup of tea (they're very good in the Breathworks office about offering everyone cups of tea when they go for one themselves - a humbling habit... I've come from an "every man and woman for themselves" work environment) he delivered a croissant to my desk as well. Marvellous! In the afternoon, Jules and I co-led a Breathworks drop in session downstairs at the Manchester Buddhist Centre. We had about 8 or 9 people join us and I was feeling decidedly chilled out after a body scan and some mindful movement. It was an odd juxtaposition to return to my desk for more...documentation. Then (and you could be completely forgiven at this point for thinking all the team does is eat delicious things - but it's really not true), we had cake to celebrate Gary's birthday. Colin assured me I was there during an unusual week. I had no complaints.


My last day! Rather sad, really. I enjoyed spending time with the Breathworks team very much. I'd happily stay another week, but have some big weeks ahead and after being on the road for three months already, I need a break. I am about to head to Herefordshire for a week of downtime and am having visions of lying on a sofa and doing very little indeed. I spent some time with Colin today, catching up on where the Breathworks research is at and what's to come in future. He also gave me some helpful advice on how to use the existing research in proposals for funding bodies back in NZ.

I finished off my documentation marathon, too, and spotted Helen using the custom Google map I created for UK Breathworks teachers. Good to see the fruits of my labour being used.

Not that it felt much like labour... been a rather lovely week. And great to get a sense of the team and see all the hard work that does go on to keep Breathworks going. Like I said yesterday, it's not all cake and ice cream! But my impression is that the team works with thought and care both for each other and the people they're serving. A real delight. I shall sign off now and head out into the Manchester rain (the weather had to pack in sometime, right?).

by Maree Beverland

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The Compassionate Commuter Blog

Image of commuter looking content next to tube train

I step onto the Hammersmith and City line heading west. It's the end of a long day in the office, I'm tired, and there are no seats left. I look around, people are on their phones, playing games, listening to music, reading or generally zoning out. No one looks particularly happy.

I begin to feel my entire body contracting. A tightening against the next 10 minutes of standing in a crowded, hot train hurtling through an underground tunnel. But then I remember that I have a choice. I take a deep breath and become aware of my feet on the floor of the train. There are subtle vibrations there and as I tune into them the train begins to move. I sway. Air moves past me from the open window at the end of the train. I open to the sounds all around me. The whir of the train as it picks up speed, screeching wheels, a baby crying, muffled voices, music coming from someone's headphones.

I close my eyes. I remember that we are all at the end of our day. That everyone is probably as hot and tired as I am. That each of us is full of the memories of our day, the people we've encountered, the conversations we've had, the things we've done and places we've been. That we are each headed somewhere important to us, home, work, shopping, an appointment, to visit a friend. That we each have joys and worries, hopes and fears. That each of us carries the love of people close to us in our hearts. That we were all born and will one day die. That there is more that connects us then separates us.

I open my eyes. The train comes to a halt and I carefully make my way through the crowd, off the train and onto the platform. I walk alongside a young mother pushing a pram and an old blind man, met by a transit worker there to assist him. I notice how others take care to move around him and appreciate the sensitivity it takes to notice him in the crowd.

I look around and see humanity unfolding all around me. I forget my tiredness and how hot it is.

By Singhashri Gazmuri, Breathworks Program Director


Free Commuter Meditations - These 10 minute meditations have been recorded specifically to help commuters connect more deeply and compassionately with their experience as they travel too and from their place of work.

Recorded by Singhashri Gazmuri , Breathworks Program Director

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