Informal Practices

These brief, or informal, practices are ways to bring mindfulness forward in the middle of a busy day. Using acronyms, phrases, or other mnemonics, the informal practices help us to reset and return to our intention to live with more awareness and kindness for ourselves and others. They are a way of pausing, or finding the gap, when patterns of reactivity and stress are revving up.

The brief informal practices are supported strongly by regular formal practice. Formal practice is setting aside totally protected time as close to daily as possible for mindfulness practice. The length of time (10 to 30 minutes is recommended) is less important than the regularity of it. 

Both formal and informal practice is also supported by retreat practice. Once a few or to spend a day, a weekend, or even a week, in continuous formal practice supported by the structure of the retreat.

On this page find several informal practices. Each is brief, 1 to 3 minutes generally, and very portable. You can do these just about anywhere and any time. The real challenge is remembering them!

Contents below (click or scroll down)

  1. The Three Minute Breathing Space
  2. Two Feet and a Breath.
  3. R.A.I.N.
  4. S.T.O.P.

Two Feet and a Breath

A wonderfully simple but very effective way to create that mindful pause. 

Before entering a room simply:

pause, feel your two feet on the floor, and take one mindful breath. 

Then continue into the room.

This is especially relevant before entering a room in which you will be called upon to be fully present and awake to what's going on. This practice was designed to support doctors in their interactions with patients. The doctors were encouraged to do the Two Feet and a Breath practice before entered exam rooms. Preliminary evidence suggests this can lead to a great improvement in the patient-doctor conversation.

Read a New York Times op-ed describing this work with doctors here.

Download a PDF describing this practice and also serving as an attractive reminder to do it.

R.A.I.N.

A powerful practice for re-assessing what's happening when you feel triggered.

R = Recognize what's happening - see if you can step out of the story line into the experience

A = Allow what's happening to be happening - see if you can soften around any resistance to the experience

I = Investigate - what do you feel in the body, what are the emotional feelings, what's churning in the mind

N = Non-Idenficiation (or "Natural Awareness") - can you let go of the urge to make this about you, to identify with it

Article about RAIN by Tara Brach in Yoga Journal.

RAIN Meditation by Richard Johnson



S.T.O.P.

Download a PDF flyer describing the STOP practice.

The Three Minute Breathing Space

The three minute breathing space is a brief practice and can be used when we find our thoughts or mood spiralling in a negative direction. The first thing we do with this practice because we want to come into the present moment quickly is to take a very definite posture, then begin to check in with sensations in the body and mind and gather your attention. The Breathing Space practice is a wonderful exploration of the process of how we're attending to the present moment.

Step 1: Becoming aware

Deliberately adopt an erect and dignified posture, whether sitting or standing. If possible, close your eyes. Then, bring your awareness to your inner experience and acknowledge it, asking: what is my experience right now?

  • What thoughts are going through the mind? As best you can, acknowledge thoughts as mental events.
  • What feelings are here? Turn towards any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings, acknowledging them without trying to make them different from how you find them.
  • What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scan the body to pick up any sensations of tightness or bracing, acknowledging the sensations, but, once again, not trying to change them in any way.

Step 2: gathering and focusing attention

Now, redirecting the attention to a narrow ‘spotlight’ on the physical sensations of the breath, move in close to the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen . . . expanding as the breath comes in . . . and falling back as the breath goes out. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. Use each breath as an opportunity to anchor yourself into the present. And if the mind wanders, gently escort the attention back to the breath.

Step 3: expanding attention

Now, expand the field of awareness around the breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture and facial expression, as if the whole body was breathing. If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, feel free to bring your focus of attention right in to the intensity by imagining that the breath could move into and around the sensations.  In this, you are helping to explore the sensations, befriending them, rather than trying to change them in any way. If they stop pulling for your attention, return to sitting, aware of the whole body, moment by moment.


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