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How mindfulness will help you stay strong

Are you able to deal with the stresses and strains of life?

Ups and downs are a normal and natural part being human. Life does not travel in a straight line; is not a plateau but a series of valleys and hills. But it can be tough, especially if you feel you’ve been stuck in the valley for too long. Sometimes we just have to stay strong and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

A little while ago, I wrote a guided meditation for Sally, a young woman who had lost touch with her inner strength and lost faith in her own ability to cope. Her mother and brother had both died in a car accident. Her marriage was in trouble too. Sally was beginning to crumble under the weight of her grief.

She made good progress as we worked together over 5 weeks and started to feel more positive but, just at the point of returning to work, she had a wobble. We started to practice meditation together. It helped her to stop fearing the future and accept there were things she could not control no matter how much she worried about them.


Mindfulness meditation is about surrender rather than demand. It is not about forcing things to go our way. It is relaxing into the way things are. It’s letting go.

It’s a time when we can rest in the presence of our breath, our body and our emotions with a detached, kind and gentle curiosity and in doing so; we befriend our breath, our body and our emotions.

We befriend ourselves.

This is one of the meditations I wrote for Sally. It’s designed to be spoken or read slowly and with periods of silence for introspection and insight.

The therapeutic suggestions are in bold as are the embedded seven pillars of mindfulness as outlined by MBSR creator Jon Kabat Zin.

I wrote a haiku for Sally too and that is at the end:

Guided mountain meditation

Either close the eyes, or half close the eyes, soft focusing on an area of floor about two feet in front of you:

Begin to notice the breath, saying silently ‘I am breathing in, I am breathing out.’

As you follow the breath you might notice the warmth or coolness of the breath as it passes over the upper lip

After a little while, the out breath may naturally extend as you begin to relax

Observe the breath as it moves down the diaphragm and then gently back up again.

Set aside the focus on the breath and simply begin to notice the rise and fall of the abdomen allowing the attention to ride and rest where it will

In your mind’s eye, bring up an image of a mountain

And, as you begin to pay attention to the mountain, you might notice its shape

It may be a small, wide mountain or a tall, narrow mountain. It doesn’t matter for, as you look more closely at the mountain, you may have a sense of it being the most beautiful, graceful and elegant mountain you have ever seen

And this mountain has a secret; it has been here since time began and the mountain has been a witness to many things

As you observe the mountain, you might notice how the sun passes over it, creating pools of light and shadow and, as the sun sets, how it is gently illuminated by the soft glow of the moon

Each day passes in this way

The mountain does not judge the day or the night, does not prefer one to the other, does not cling to the heat of the sun or the coolness of the moon, does not pull or push

The mountain appreciates both sun and moon, day and night, with a simple yet immovable presence

And so it is with the seasons: as you observe the mountain, you might notice how the green leaves on the trees, rooted in its crags and crevices, bathed in the full sun of summer, begin to redden and wither and fall to the ground. In time, autumn transitions to winter. Now snow caps the top of the mountain and cloud descends

And the mountain is silent and still with a wise strength that knows there is no need to fight the wind or repel the rain and in this way remains free from pain and free from suffering, trusting in the rhythm of the seasons and waiting to emerge from those passing clouds as the frozen earth is caressed by the first rays of early spring

The mountain is patient and present to each moment. It knows there is no reason to hurry. The buds on the trees will unfold in their own time

And isn’t it amazing how you can be an observer of the mountain in all its detail, moving in close to see the crags and crevices, the buds on the trees as they emerge, the little spring flowers bursting through the warming ground

And, if you wish, you can travel in your imagination, around to the other side of the mountain and see it for the very first time as though seeing with new eyes, perhaps noticing how different it seems from a new perspective

And you can, if you wish, in your imagination, drift into the mountain, become the mountain and have a sense of the mountain, with its solid base, like your seated base of hips and legs that extend firmly to the floor

Your spine and neck and head can extend tall like the lofty peaks of the mountain

We can all be like the mountain with its patience, trust and acceptance

We can be a witness to our experience and see with new eyes

We can choose to let go of attachment and striving

We can set judgement aside and understand there are things we cannot control.

We can accept times of darkness and winter chill

We can stay strong and steady

We can trust and wait for the sun to shine again

The mountain knows a secret

The air does not breathe

Water has no mind to swim

Snow is simply snow

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