Our meditations are written and read by Gemma David of @thequietheart in Bristol, UK (pictured above). Gemma is a trained yoga and meditation teacher and practises Chinese medicine including acupuncture, cupping and moxa.
As well as operating a private practice, Gemma hosts small urban retreats and gives talks and workshops at events around the UK.
“Living with a connection to the seasons is an important part of my work, and the philosophy of Chinese Medicine and yoga are integral to my teaching,” explains Gemma. “I link all three practices to guide my clients to connect with their inner wisdom – their quiet heart – to help them slow down and really be in their body again.”
This is a technique to use any time you wish to connect with your breath. This can be practised almost anywhere and at any time. It forms the basis of all meditation techniques and can be used to bring calm to your body and mind.
Wherever you are in this moment, bring your awareness to your breathing. Don’t try to force or alter your breath, allow it to come into and out of your body in its own, natural rhythm.
Notice the cool temperature of the air coming in through your nostrils or mouth. Notice that your breath reflects the warmth of your body as it leaves on the out breath.
Now deepen your breath, just slightly: in and out. Do this a few times then allow your breath to return to normal.
Feel the gentle rhythm of your natural breath now, and know that at any time, you can return to the rhythm or the sensation of your breath to bring you into an awareness of your present moment.
Breath awareness using sound guided meditation
This is similar to the basic breath awareness, but adds sounds for an extra element of connection.
Use this exercise to notice the sound of your breath when you’re in a quiet place.
Take your attention to your breathing. Notice your body breathing in and out for a few gentle breaths.
Now, notice the sound of your breath as it enters your body and leaves your body.
Slow your breath down and see if you can gently elongate each breath, raising the sound of your breath as you do so.
Perhaps you notice the similarity between your breath and the sound of waves, or the sound of trees swaying gently in the breeze.
Stay with this practice, breathing in and out, listening to the sound of your body. And if thoughts arise, gently return to the sound of your breath.
Mindful breathing guided meditation
This technique is adapted from the style of mindfulness taught by Thich Nhat Hanh and is used to identify and connect consciously with your breath. Mindful breathing helps calm thoughts in your mind and allows a wonderful sense of peace, uniting both body and mind.
Use this technique whenever you want to welcome mindfulness.
Begin by noticing your breath, coming in and going out.
On the in-breath, say to yourself ‘breathing in, I know that I am breathing in’, and on the out-breath say ‘breathing out, I know that I am breathing out’.
Repeat this for the next few breaths but reduce the amount of words each time as follows: On the next in- and out-breaths, say to yourself: ‘I am breathing in, I am breathing out’.
Then, on the in-breath ‘breathing in’, and on the out-breath ‘breathing out’.
Finally, on the in-breath say ‘in’ and the out-breath say ‘out’.
Mindfulness of this moment guided meditation
This technique is designed to bring your awareness into your surroundings in the present moment. Use it when you wish to engage with your senses for a total body experience.
To start, bring your awareness to your breath. Take some full deep breaths in and out, then let your breath return to its natural rhythm.
Wherever you are, notice how your body feels in this moment. See if you can allow your body to relax a little, maybe let your shoulders drop. You might unclench your jaw and feel the forehead soften. Allow yourself to slow down and settle into your body in its present position.
Keep breathing in and out and notice where you are. What can you see? What sounds can you hear? Try not to judge your observations. Just label them as ‘sky’ or ‘table’ and so on, and sounds as ‘sound’ or ‘bird’ or ‘voices’.
Then, notice the parts of your body that are making contact with the floor or a surface. Sense yourself in this space, with the gentle flow of your breath.
Stay with this as long as you feel comfortable. Then take a few deep breaths and continue with your day.
Breath enquiry guided meditation
A breath enquiry is designed to help you connect with the physical aspect of breathing. Use this when you’d like to notice where in your body you are breathing at this moment.
Know that there is no right or wrong way to do this. The natural movement of your breath is right for you right now.
Bring your awareness to your breathing and notice the part of your body that moves on the in-breath and on the out-breath.
If you like, you can place one hand on your sternum and the other on your belly. Then, follow the natural movement of your breath, noticing which hand moves first.
Notice if you breathe in through your nose or your mouth. Notice if there is a difference between the inhalation or the exhalation. Try not to judge your breath or alter it in any way. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the physical sensation of the breath.
Simply stay with this for a few minutes, then end the practice by returning to your natural rhythm of breathing.
Important notes for meditators
There is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. The purpose of mindful meditation is simply to bring you into a state of non-judgemental awareness of the present moment. This is a practice and it does become easier. The more you bring your attention to your breath, the more your brain will adapt.
You’ll find yourself noticing the smaller details of life more often. To practice mindfulness meditation, simply sit comfortably with both feet on the ground, or lie down if you prefer.
Don’t try to empty your mind. It’s impossible. We’re humans and designed to think! Instead, with regular mindfulness practice, you will begin to notice thoughts as and when they crop up, which is part of being mindful. Resist the temptation to judge yourself, instead returning your attention to your breathing.
Practising mindfulness encourages your brain waves to slow right down. This enables you to access a state of relaxation more often, bringing your body out of the ‘fight or flight’ mode we so often inhabit. Most of the techniques that follow can be practised at any time of day and in any location.
If you are in a busy environment, get creative with your space; escape to the bathroom if necessary!
A gentle word of caution
Please don’t force your breathing. If connecting with your breath triggers emotions that feel uncomfortable or overpowering, stop. And, if at any point you feel you need extra support with any feelings or emotions that arise, please seek professional help